San Antonio, Texas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, but it’s so much more than that. As a native San Antonian, I’m a bit biased, but the city is full of fun and exciting things to do.
San Antonio is famous for its Hispanic culture and Spanish colonial missions. It’s also known for the Alamo, SeaWorld, and the Riverwalk.
But there are a lot more of things that San Antonio is famous for.
To show you how cool San Antonio is, I’ve come up with a list of my favorite things about the city.
1. The Alamo
This monument is probably what San Antonio is most famous for.
It technically is one of the Spanish Missions, but it is best-known for the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. This battle inspired multiple movies including the 1960 epic starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett.
It’s less known that the Alamo was originally designed as a church. The original chapel can still be visited, but the Alamo was not used for religious purposes for very long and was quickly converted to a military fortress after its founding.
Today the Alamo is one of the most-visited historical landmarks in the country and features historical exhibits.
2. Spanish Missions
When the Spanish colonized the area now known as Texas, they established missions to convert Native Americans. Most of the missions still operate as churches, and with the exception of the Alamo, all four missions are part of the National Historical Park. The Missions are regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The earliest mission was founded in 1690. The rest were built during the mid-1700s and are excellent examples of Spanish colonial architecture. Though partially in ruins, the missions are still in good condition today.
At one of the missions, the Piedras Creek Aqueduct that was built in 1731 is still used to provide water to the local priests. This makes it one of the oldest irrigation systems in the New World still in use.
3. Hispanic Heritage
As the Missions attest, San Antonio is home to a unique blend of many cultures.
San Antonio is especially known for its Tex-Mex culture and having the largest Hispanic-majority city in the United States. The Spanish Governor’s Palace downtown is another testament to the Spanish and Mexican history in the city.
Nowhere is Hispanic influence more evident than in San Antonio’s food. From puffy tacos to enchiladas and nachos, there’s no shortage of good Tex-Mex food here. No matter what area of town you’re in, you’ll find a good Tex-Mex restaurant on practically every street in the city.
4. World-Class Museums
There are several spectacular art museums in the city including the San Antonio Museum of Art and the McNay.
The McNay Art Museum was the state’s first museum dedicated to modern art and features art by some of the world’s most prestigious painters and sculptors.
Unfortunately, my artwork didn’t make the cut. I tried to sell them a piece when I was in kindergarten after visiting their Picasso exhibit.
In addition to art museums, San Antonio is known for the recently renovated Children’s Museum and the Witte Museum, which is dedicated to Texas history. Both museums are great for family outings and are loved by tourists and locals alike.
Several universities are located in or near San Antonio. The most well-known universities in the area are Trinity University, University of the Incarnate Word, St. Mary’s University, and UTSA.
For some presidential history, President Dwight Eisenhower was once the football coach at St. Mary’s University while he was stationed at the local military base. Today the university is less known for its athletics and is better-known for its academics.
With the exception of UTSA, the universities have historic campuses. UTSA is the biggest university and has a contemporary urban campus. All of the universities are well-renowned and attract students from all over the country.
6. Amusement Parks
For those looking for some fun, San Antonio is full of exciting places. The most well-known theme parks in the city are SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
Though SeaWorld is known for its orca shows, the San Antonio location has stopped its breeding program and is shifting its focus to conservation efforts. It still has, however, exciting attractions such as the longest, tallest, and fastest wooden rollercoaster in the state.
San Antonio is also known for Morgan’s Wonderland, a non-profit theme park designed for children with special needs. It was the world’s first fully accessible theme park.
For small children, the Kiddie Park features old-fashioned amusement rides. It is the oldest children’s theme park in the country and has been operating continuously since 1925.
7. The Tower of the Americas
When San Antonio hosted the World’s Fair in 1968, the Tower of the Americas was designed by the famous Texan architect O’Neil Ford. At the time, it was the tallest observation tower in the United States.
The top of the tower has an observation deck where visitors can learn about the history of Texas and the tower’s construction. It also has a bar and a revolving restaurant, so during their meal diners can have a panoramic view of the city.
8. Cultural Festivals
Throughout the year, San Antonio hosts many events and parties. The most famous and biggest event is Fiesta, a 10 day party with events throughout the city. Fiesta commemorates the Battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto.
Fiesta began in 1891 when several women decided to commemorate the Alamo by throwing flowers. This day became known as the Battle of Flowers Day, and on this day there is a huge parade downtown.
Other celebrations include Cinco de Mayo celebrations, the stock show and rodeo, and Christmas lightings along the Riverwalk.
9. The Riverwalk
Aside from the Alamo, the Riverwalk is San Antonio’s most famous attraction. It is technically regarded a city park and is most-loved for its walking path.
Along the Riverwalk you’ll find the Arneson River Theater, which became famous worldwide for being featured in the film Miss Congeniality. The river also is known for the romantic marriage island, a popular location for weddings and proposals.
The walking paths feature easy access to most of the city’s tourist destinations like the Missions, San Antonio Art Museum, and Pearl Brewery area. The only boats allowed on the river are tour boats, and no swimming is allowed. During Fiesta, the Riverwalk is the location of the exciting River Parade.
10. Sports Teams
If you ask any San Antonio native what their favorite sports team is, the answer will without a doubt be the San Antonio Spurs. This NBA basketball team has a huge fan base and has been the home team of several of the league’s best basketball players.
The city also has a minor league baseball team, the San Antonio Missions, and college sports teams. Despite not having a professional football team, the city has a large football stadium, the Alamodome, which hosts the annual Alamo Bowl and was the temporary home stadium of the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina.
11. Military Bases
Given San Antonio’s important history in the Texas Revolution, it’s not surprising that the city is considered home to many military families.
The city has the largest concentration of military bases within the United States. It’s even been nicknamed “Military City.”
In addition to an army base and two air force bases, the city has one of the military’s largest medical facilities in the country.
12. Big Business
Several national and international businesses call or have called San Antonio their home. Many of Texas’s largest companies are headquartered here, such as Valero Energy, iHeartMedia, and HEB. HEB is the state’s largest and most popular grocery chain and is one of the largest held private companies in America.
In addition to the businesses located in San Antonio, there are many conventions hosted annually in the city. The convention center near the Riverwalk hosts over 300 events per year, making it one of the top destinations in the United States for business travel.
13. Beautiful Parks
There are many public parks in San Antonio. The Missions can be considered one of them, but others include Brackenridge State Park and San Pedro Springs Park, which is the oldest park in the state of Texas.
San Pedro Springs Park is the location of the earliest colonial foundations in the city. It was officially declared a park in 1852. Though the original foundations are gone, the park now has a popular theater as well as sports facilities.
In Brackenridge Park there are several attractions loved by tourists and locals alike including the San Antonio Zoo and the Japanese Tea Garden. A kids’ train runs throughout the park stopping by all of the major locations, making it a popular spot for families.
14. Davy Crockett’s Tomb
Every Texan has heard of Davy Crockett, the legendary frontiersman who inspired a series of Disney films. While many of the legends surrounding this folk hero are myths, he was a real person and he fought at the Battle of the Alamo.
There are plenty of stories about Davy Crocket’s death and his last stand at the Alamo. It’s questionable whether the ashes in the tombstone are really his, but his name is written on a tomb in San Fernando Cathedral alongside the names of other men who died at the Alamo.
15. San Fernando Cathedral
Davy Crocket’s grave is not the only interesting thing about San Fernando Cathedral. Some claim that the cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the United States, but this has not been confirmed and there are several other cathedrals claiming this title.
Even if the cathedral is not the oldest, it is without a doubt one of the country’s oldest churches. The foundations date back to the mid-1700s.
In addition to the tomb of Davy Crockett, the cathedral claims to have relics of St. Anthony of Padua. It is also known for being the location of a Papal visit by Pope John Paul II during the only Papal visit to Texas.
16. Historic Hotels
San Antonio is known for its historic hotels as well as its military and religious history. One of the city’s oldest hotels is the Menger Hotel, which is supposedly haunted by several ghosts. The hotel pre-dates the Civil War and the historic bar was a recruiting location for Teddy Roosevelt’s Roughriders.
Since its founding, the Menger Hotel has hosted many celebrity guests, but you don’t have to be a celebrity to visit. The restaurant in the hotel is known for its Sunday Brunches and the lobby has a display on Texan history that is free for visitors.
Another hotel San Antonio is famous for is the Fairmount Hotel. This hotel was built in 1906 and was completely moved in 1985, making the Guinness Book of World Records for one of the heaviest buildings to ever be moved completely in-tact.
17. El Mercado
This downtown market is the center of Hispanic and Tex-Mex culture.
It’s a fully operational food and cultural market, so if you’re looking for some good food, this is the place to find it. The Mercado also hosts cultural events such as folkloric dancing competitions.
18. Pearl District
Situated around the historic Pearl Brewery, San Antonio has recently come to be known for this lively district. It is a favorite location for nightlife, but there are also many restaurants and shops in the area that are frequented by families.
19. Giant Cowboy Boots
Anyone who’s driven down the highway in San Antonio is familiar with the giant cowboy boots in front of North Star Mall.
For visitors, the boots might seem a bit strange. But for Texans, there’s nothing weird about having a pair of giant boots out front of the mall. How else would you know where to buy them?
20. German Heritage
This might come as a bit of a surprise given the prevalence of Hispanic culture in San Antonio, but during the mid-1800s San Antonio and the surrounding area had a huge wave of German immigration.
In fact, at the turn of the century in 1900, there were more German speakers in San Antonio than Spanish.
The remnants of German culture almost entirely disappeared during the World Wars when many German families stopped speaking German. Today, Texas German culture is most alive in the nearby Hill Country.
A unique dialect of German known as Texas Deutsch can still be heard by the older generations, but the language is unfortunately dying out.
21. Natural Bridge Caverns
The Hill Country is also home to the largest commercially operated cavern system in the United States.
Natural Bridge Caverns takes its name from a 60 ft. limestone bridge suspended underground. The caverns are known for their unique stalactites and stalagmites and special geology.
What else is San Antonio famous for?
There are probably a million more things to write about San Antonio, but hopefully this has helped give you an idea of the things for which the city is most known and famous for. But what do you think? Have I forgotten something about San Antonio?
Let me know what you think and, in the meantime, thanks for reading!