Best Historic Sites in San Antonio

Fascinating Old and New Historical Sites in San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas is a city rich with history and historical sites. Of course, when you're talking about historical impact, there's simply no landmark that is more recognized than the Alamo. It's so important that there's a city ordinance that restricts any construction that would cause a shadow to fall over it. San Antonio wouldn't be the city it is if it weren't for the battle at the Alamo. 

The Alamo was originally built to be the church for the Mission San Antonio de Valero, which was founded in 1718. In fact, there are five other missions that were built in the 1700's that still exist today and tell a much more detailed story of what life was like back then. The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is a must-see for history buffs.

The riverwalk is more than just a fun place to shop and eat. It's been around for almost a century and millions of dollars and untold lives and organizations have influenced its development over the decades. Certainly, it's one of the most well-known landmarks in the city.

Cultural landmarks include the Majestic Theater and now, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, which was recently renovated and is a magnificent SA site. 

Old is made new again at the Pearl Brewery Complex where a once abandoned old brewery has been transformed into a bustling hub of the city. Restaurants, bars, shops and a new hotel can all be found here. Explore these sites and more!




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 →

The Tobin Center is a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose 1,759-seat (2,100-seat with flat-floor configuration) performance hall, a 250-seat studio theater, and an outdoor performance plaza connected to the river walk with a permanent 30 foot video wall and water taxi portal. The building itself is an architectural accomplishment. The Tobin is situated along the banks of the river walk and within walking distance of some of the city's finest hotels, such as the Havana Hotel and Tropicana, as well as San Antonio's enchilada-colored library and many fantastic restaurants. What was once a historic Municipal Auditorium, with its original facade preserved, has been transformed into an incredible venue that will be a huge draw for acts of all kinds, from opera to music and A-list comedians and speakers. A wide variety of stellar acts and performers can always be seen at the Tobin!

Recommended for Historic Sites because: The Tobin is a greatly admired accomplishment and the perfect way to enjoy your time here.

Kimberly's expert tip: Check out their online calendar to buy tickets in advance.

Read more about Tobin Center for the Performing Arts →

Mercado O'liva
Photo courtesy of City of San Antonio

Mercado O'liva, located in a courtyard at the Plaza de Armas and Spanish Governor's Palace in San Antonio, is akin to a family-friendly block part. Mercado O'liva will be a place where locals and tourists can explore and buy original goods from local artisans and entrepreneurs, such as hand-crafted jewelry, photography, artwork, pottery, handmade soap, clothes and other wares. The festivities will also include food demos, refreshments and live entertainment. "This will be the first mini mercado-style market downtown San Antonio has seen in many years and the whole city is invited!" says owner and Executive Chef, Chuck Hernandez. Plaza de Armas is a unique downtown historic block between Commerce Street and Dolorosa, conveniently located to a majority of downtown hotels. The upcoming Mercado dates for 2014 are June 14, July 5, August 16, September 6, October 4, November 1 and December 6 from 10 am to 3 pm. Starting in 2015, Mercado O'liva will take place on the first Saturday of each month.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Constructed in 1722, the Spanish Governor's Palace is a slice of San Antonio's history and this monthly mercado is a great way to enjoy it!

Kimberly's expert tip: If you're planning on doing some cooking while visiting San Antonio, make sure to inquire about their Gourmet CSA!

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If you have time to plan ahead a romantic night out be sure to check you who is performing at the Majestic Theatre. The Majestic Theatre is San Antonio's oldest and largest atmospheric theatre. The theatre seats 2,311 people and was designed by architect John Eberson, for Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Theatres in 1929. This beautiful and elegant theatre is host to all the top performers from musicians such as Willie Nelson to comedians such as Aziz Ansari and Broadway shows such as Wicked. They're also home to the very talented San Antonio Symphony. Majestic Theatre San Antonio was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1975 and also designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993

Recommended for Historic Sites because: A stunning theatre, the Majestic shows an elegant side of San Antonio.

Kimberly's expert tip: Make sure to check out the website months in advance to ensure the best tickets.

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Southtown, San Antonio's arts district which abuts the King William District, one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city, is a prime site-seeing location. In Southtown you'll find local arts and local artists. Galleries line the main thoroughfare, Alamo Street, with Blue Star being one of the coolest places to visit. Blue Star not only has a contemporary arts center, but restaurants, bars, shops, theatres, more galleries and lofts which are inhabited by, you guessed it, artists. In recent years, this district's been booming with some of the most unique gift shops, restaurants, bars and businesses in San Antonio. It's beloved by locals, who think of Southtown as a small town within the big city. You may not call it home, but once you see it, you'll wish you did!

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Southtown and the King William Districts have been around since the inception of this city and are fun to explore.

Kimberly's expert tip: Be sure to check out the residential part of the Riverwalk in this neighborhood. It's a gorgeous stretch of the river lined with all types of trees and other vegetation. You'll most likely be greeted by some hungry ducks so bring some bread!

Read more about Southtown →

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.

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Phil Hardberger Park

Phil Hardberger Park is the amazing creation of San Antonio's Mayor Hardberger, who has an eye for beauty, art and community projects. This classy park, if there is such a thing, is a relatively new 311-acre park located on either side of Wurzbach Parkway between N.W. Military Highway and Blanco Road. Visitors will enjoy the trails, brand new playscapes for the kids, dog parks, picnic facilities and basketball courts. Construction is also underway on a state-of-the-art Urban Ecology Center. It's worth a visit just to see the Makin' Hay Art Exhibit – giant, fanciful characters made of hay that sit in the center of the park.

Recommended for Historic Sites because: Phil Hardberger, the once beloved mayor, left his mark on San Antonio and at this beautiful park.

Kimberly's expert tip: The walking trail is secluded among a large expense of forest and feels like your own private retreat!

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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 →

San Antonio
Pearl Brewery
Photo courtesy of Kimberly 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!

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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 →


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