With a SeaWorld, Six Flags, wax museum and waterpark called Schlitterbahn, within the boundaries of San Antonio, Texas, the city is a draw for families in the state looking for a variety of summer activities. But travelers from Canada can find all these things closer to home, so it’s the sights and festivals unique to San Antonio’s downtown heart that need to inspire travel abroad (and justify a five-hour flight).
Does it deliver? If a deeply-rooted history, Latin festivals, real Mexican food and beautifully landscaped central River Walk – the feature of the city – is a draw for you, then San Antonio meets the criteria. It’s also host to a lot of amateur sports tournaments, which is how my football playing nephew end up there recently. When not on the field, there’s got to be something for family and fans to do.
Stay at one of the many hotels adjacent to the four-kilometre long River Walk, because strolling along the well-landscaped water’s edge with rock gardens and waterfalls is an afternoon activity of its own, and a tour on a pontoon boat gives you the best view and history lesson about this San Antonio River waterway originally designed to avoid flooding. There’s a water taxi service too used for transportation between downtown and the city’s museum district where you can visit the Witte, a museum of natural history complete with kid-pleasing dinosaur bones, and avoid city traffic getting there.
When downtown skip the generic Ripley’s attractions (found anywhere) and check out the quirky 131-year-old Buckhorn Saloon & Museum: half museum dedicated to Texas Rangers (which includes Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled car used in their final standoff) and half odd array of taxidermy animals representing an era when sport hunting was celebrated over ecological preservation. But now these specimens gather here (along with a city favorite Gorilla that once stood outside) to teach viewers about the importance of preservation. Along with them are eerie exhibitions dedicated to early 20th century carnivals and circuses.
Down the street of course is The Alamo – San Antonio’s historic crown jewel. A Spanish mission built in the 1700s, it was later (and more famously) the site of a dramatic standoff between occupying Texas Revolutionaries and the defending Spanish army, which has come to represent Texas’s fierce independence and Davy Crockett’s’ final undoing. The city has built up to the Alamo walls, but inside is a garden courtyard, costumed interpreters, free tours and admission, and plenty of Texas pride.
originally published in Mom and Caregiver Magazine, June 2014