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Best Historic Sites in San Antonio

Explore San Antonio's Beautiful Old World at These Historic Sites


The beautiful city of San Antonio is one of the oldest cities in America with an amazingly rich history. Established by the Spanish missionaries, as well as the Canary Islanders and German immigrants, there is so much to see and do here that gives you insight into days gone by. 

Hot Wells is one of the newest historic sites that opened up recently to the public. These ruins were once a renowned hotel and hot springs destination that was visited by famous movie stars and other VIPs of its time. You can still capture the feel of the bygone festivities that took place here. 

Of, course, the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is a must for history buffs! Plan a self-guided tour of these Southside missions, which are all located quite near each other. Plan to spend a full morning or afternoon exploring, and if you're feeling adventurous, rent some bikes and enjoy the S. Texas weather while you're at it!

Located in the heart of downtown, the Spanish Governor's Palace is a gorgeous historic site, now a museum, that has some really lovely grounds worth exploring. For locals, it's easy to forget it's there sometimes, but it's truly unforgettable! 

 

 

 


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San Antonio
Pearl Brewery
Photo courtesy of Kimberly A. Suta


The Pearl Brewery is one of the coolest places you can visit in San Antonio. This brewery, established in 1883 and once home to Pabst beer, has recently been transformed from a historic brewery to a thriving multi-use space where you can eat, shop, learn, work and live. The Pearl is situated next to the recent Riverwalk expansion, so you can catch a tour boat or walk from the Pearl all the way downtown, past the San Antonio Museum of Art and numerous artistic elements that have been carefully built into the landscape. You'll find fine dining to street food restaurants, a great coffee shop run by the Culinary institute and more. The Culinary Institute and the Aveda School have facilities at the Pearl and both are open to patrons. Every Saturday, the Pearl is host to an amazing Farmer's Market and has become a traditional Saturday event for locals.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Pearl Brewery shows what one visionary can do to an old brewery.

Kimberly's expert tip: Plan on going for lunch or dinner –" the restaurants here are some of the best San Antonio has to offer!

Read more about Pearl Brewery →




To fully experience the wide range of diversity that San Antonio has to offer, San Antonio's El Mercado (a.k.a. Market Square) is the best place to take the kids for a unique, fun day. It was once home to a bustling produce market. Today, it's a festive and exciting representation of all of the colorful cultures and flavors that make up San Antonio. On the weekends, you can expect to find all sorts of activities, live music, vendors and events designed just for kids. Mom and Dad will also have fun shopping. There are plenty of leather and papier-mache goods, blankets, pottery and numerous other hand-made and imported items.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Market Square has been a part of the fabric of the city for decades and is still one of the best places to shop.

Kimberly's expert tip: Make sure to take the kids to the nearby Mi Tierra Restaurant and Bakery for some enchiladas or handmade pan dulce and Mexican hot chocolate!

Read more about Market Square (El Mercado) →


River Walk
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta


Travel + Leisure ranked the San Antonio River Walk as the #1 River Walk in America. Also known as Paseo del Rio, this major tourist attraction brings in over five million visitors a year. Delight yourself with a relaxing dinner at one of the numerous restaurants or cafes that line the river. Spice it up by visiting one of the numerous night spots or enjoying the sounds of mariachis and other live music. Adults and children enjoy floating on river boats piloted by San Antonio's humorous tour guides. The River Walk is the perfect place to hang out with family or sit quietly with your date while you enjoy the sounds of a bubbling waterfall.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The river walk is one of the most popular historical sites in the city and should not be overlooked.

Kimberly's expert tip: If it is a warm day, become a part of local culture by choosing a restaurant with an outdoor patio. Next, sip a margarita in the sunshine. Ask your server for chips and salsa to compliment your drink.

Read more about River Walk →


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One of five missions established in the early 1700's, the Alamo is nearly 300 years old. It is perhaps the most cherished landmark in San Antonio. If you ask around, you will find that all children here and in surrounding towns take at least one field trip to the Alamo as part of their education. Visitors to the Alamo stroll inside and view artifacts preserved in the onsite museum. Texans feel emotion imagining the defenders waking to General Santa Anna's army that fatal morning. The Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836 became the turning point in the Texas Revolution. Due to the stories of cruelty, many were inspired to join the Texian army. Just over one month later, the Mexican army met defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto. Go back in time, take a few photos and Remember the Alamo.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Alamo is the most iconic historical site in San Antonio.

Kimberly's expert tip: Take your time and plan to spend a couple of hours here. Research and share stories with your children before you visit. This can help them stay more engaged as you tour the grounds.

Read more about Alamo →


Camanche Lookout Park
Photo courtesy of Joshua Simmons


Comanche Lookout Park is a 96-acre public park with an almost five-mile nature hiking trail. The park includes the fourth highest point in Bexar County with an elevation of 1,340 feet. Vegetation includes native ash juniper, Texas and Mexican buckeye, chinaberry, graneno, Lindheimer hackberry and honey mesquite, to name a few. Comanche Lookout is a historic park that was so named because Native Americans used the hill as a vantage point during war or for hunting. The Apache were the first to control the area, followed by the Comanche Indians, who hunted along waterways, including nearby Cibolo Creek. Ruins of a medieval-style stone tower, built by a retired Army Colonel in the 1920's, can still be seen. The park also sports a few picnic tables, but the highlight is the great hill and history of this landmark.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Comanche Lookout Park is a great site for a morning hike and the ruins are just icing on the cake!

Kimberly's expert tip: One of the few parks in San Antonio with a great hill, perfect for a cardio workout!

Read more about Camanche Lookout Park →




If you only visit one museum in San Antonio, make sure it's the McNay. Not only do they have a superb art collection, the museum itself is a work of art. This 24-room, Spanish colonial revival-style mansion and its own sizable collection was donated by Marion Koogler McNay, an American painter and art teacher. The museum focuses primarily on 19th and 20th century European and American art and has some impressive pieces by artists such as Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keeffe, Diego Rivera, Mary Cassatt and Edward Hopper. Also, be sure to visit the absolutely stunning interior courtyard, complete with a Japanese-inspired garden and fishpond. It's a nice place to sit and ponder.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The McNay was once a privately owned resident of an art collector and just stunning grounds to walk around.

Kimberly's expert tip: Check the website for current and upcoming exhibits –" they're usually worth the trip!

Read more about McNay Art Museum in San Antonio →




For the best view in San Antonio, go directly to the Tower of the Americas, which was built for the World's Fair back in 1968. Located downtown, this 750-foot-tall structure in the middle of Hemisphere plaza offers the most spectacular views from its observation deck, as well as a fun-tastic 4D Theatre ride the kids will love! If you want to go all out, grab a bite to eat at Chart House, the fine-dining restaurant that sits atop the tower, revolving slowly, much to everyone's delight. Make sure to take time to enjoy Hemisphere park, which is made up of beautiful grounds, waterfalls and fountains, a children's playground, historic buildings and is also home to the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Children's Magik Theater.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: See the city of San Antonio the way they did 100 years ago!

Kimberly's expert tip: Let the Tower know that you're planning on eating at the Chart House and you won't have to buy a ticket to the observation deck!

Read more about Tower of the Americas →


Spanish Governor's Palace


Constructed in 1722, this adobe structure is now a national historic landmark. It didn't officially serve as a palace, but it was used as government offices during the 18th century and is a rare Texas example of an early Spanish aristocrat's home. The building has been restored and is now filled with period furnishings and artifacts. The simple structure is quite revealing in how the wealthy lived during these early days. The grounds include a lovely patio and courtyard, and the home's wooden doors are said to document Spanish American history via carved symbols.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: This historic National Historic Landmark and museum represents the last visual remnants of the Presidio San Antonio. A must see!

Kimberly's expert tip: From here you can walk to the also historic San Fernando Cathedral, which is one of the city's gems.

Read more about Spanish Governor's Palace →




There were five missions established in the early 1700's. These Spanish missions were more than churches. They became towns with a focus on encouraging the natives to become Catholic in order to be citizens. The Spanish king was able to extend influence outward from Mexico. Four missions are linked on this trail. San Jose, San Juan, Concepcion, and Espada. The fifth was the Alamo. With the exception of the Alamo, all four of the missions are still active Catholic parishes. Beautiful architecture remains almost as it was nearly 300 years ago. Step back into a beautiful history as you tour the San Antonio Missions. Family friendly and educational.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: These missions are a fascinating educational opportunity for families and history buffs to enjoy.

Kimberly's expert tip: Rent some bikes and enjoy your own bike tour of the missions!

Read more about San Antonio Missions National Historical Park →


Hot Wells of Bexar County
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Suta

Hot Wells is a historic ruin with a fascinating story and a beloved icon of San Antonio. Without knowing the history of this place, you might escape its lure. The ruin itself is fun to explore, however, it's the history that will have you going back for a visit time and time again. Once upon a time, movie stars and other celebrities took in the healing waters at Hot Wells, when it was a hotel and hot springs spa of sorts. There was just something special about it and still is. Even after it burned down, people still visited and snuck in the hot springs. Just recently, Bexar County put some work into and opened it up as a historic park that everyone can enjoy for free. Located along the southern stretch of the riverwalk, known as Mission Reach, bring your friends, bring your dog and take a part of San Antonio's history.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Hot Wells ruins are truly one of the most interesting historic sites in San Antonio and only recently available to the public.

Kimberly's expert tip: Swing by nearby Carnitas Lonja and grab some fantastic tacos after visiting this beautiful site.

Read more about Hot Wells of Bexar County →


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Meet Kimberly Suta

Kimberly A. Suta is a professional freelance writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur with a background in marketing, advertising and social media. Her first business, Midnight Sun Innovations,...  More About Kimberly

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