Most people who have visited San Antonio mention the city’s River Walk. That’s because it is one of San Antonio’s leading tourist attractions. Basically, the River Walk is a pedestrian-only paved walkway that follows along the San Antonio River as it winds through and beyond the city.
The downtown portion of the walk is set one story below street level. The area feels like a completely different world from the modern, bustling city above it. The Walk follows along both sides of the river, and the setting includes charming pedestrian bridges across the water. Gondola-like boats dot the river, creating a picturesque environment reminiscent of Venice, Italy.
The route through the city is filled with restaurants, bistros, cafés, bars, hotels, specialty shops, and even strolling musicians and mariachi bands. The river is lined with cypress trees strung with twinkling lights that look enchanting at night. Large multicolored umbrellas shade riverside tables for daytime diners.
When it comes to cuisine, every taste or craving can be satisfied along the city portion of the River Walk. There are so many options available that making a decision can be a real challenge. Menus feature classic Tex-Mex, traditional barbecue, contemporary southwestern fare, Italian dishes, and more.
Although parts of the River Walk are accessible to people with mobility issues, there are spots that are difficult - if not impossible - to maneuver with a wheelchair or other walking aids. According to the San Antonio River Walk’s “official” website, the city has been “active in eliminating architectural barriers and in creating wheelchair accessibility to and along the River Walk” while “maintaining the unique character” of the original site. Ramps, enhanced pathways, and elevators have been added and renovations continue.
I was able to enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of the River Walk on foot. Often, visitors choose to take a tour boat cruise or even rent a bicycle. The busy city portion of the Walk can get a bit congested with visitors at times. I decided to move on when I started to feel a little overwhelmed by the growing crowd. Beyond the city area, however, I found that the walk became a more peaceful, less hectic experience.
I am an animal lover and wildlife enthusiast. I always have been. Most children ask their parents for a dog or cat. I asked mine for an elephant or monkey. When my father gave me an unexpected gift of a silver elephant charm on a necklace, he told me it was as close as I would ever get to having either of the pets I so desired. He was right, of course.
Now, I donate money to wildlife charities whenever I get a chance, especially those working to save endangered species. I visit zoos and nature preserves as often as possible. So there was no question about a visit to the San Antonio Zoo, which is consistently ranked one of the best zoos in the country.
The San Antonio Zoo has been in operation for more than 100 years, which means it has housed countless animals and attracted countless visitors. This particular visitor was pretty impressed. The zoo is clean, well maintained, and easy to traverse. It could use a little sprucing up in a couple areas, but renovations are made on an ongoing basis. The staff is friendly and helpful. Parking is free. Wheelchair rentals are available, if needed.
A large and impressive collection of animals are currently living at the zoo. As I walked through the property, I came across all types of wildlife. I saw animals from the Amazon and the plains of Africa. There were lions and tigers and hippos. There were reptiles and exotic birds. And, yes, there were elephants and monkeys. One of my favorite exhibits was the zoo’s butterfly house. The space was completely filled with the beautiful winged creatures. I was surprised and thrilled when a few landed on me. In fact, one rested on the back of my hand for quite a long time.
The Alamo is one of five missions established by the Franciscan priests along the San Antonio River. I was familiar with some of the history of the Alamo and, of course, the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo.” However, reading about a place like the Alamo is not the same as standing in the very spot where so many brave people lost their lives fighting against such overwhelming odds. In 1836, a mere 200 Texas soldiers and volunteers valiantly defended the Alamo for 13 days against a troop of over 1000 before finally being overpowered.
I was a little disheartened to see where the Alamo is located. Today, the Alamo is a small, but quite striking, stone building sitting on a tiny patch of land right in the heart of downtown San Antonio. I guess I expected the Alamo to be out in the countryside in a majestic setting. Instead, it is completely surrounded by modern-day skyscrapers. Despite its diminutive size and rather unbefitting location, the Alamo is an impressive historic site that is truly fascinating and awe-inspiring. As I approached the building, all the noise and bustle of the city dimmed, and I was quickly overtaken by a sense of wonder and reverence.
My visit to the Alamo lasted hours, far longer than expected. First, I watched a short movie about the history of the Alamo, which I highly recommend. Even though guided tours are provided, I decided to look around on my own so I could take my time and really experience the feel of the place. I took little notice of the other visitors often rushing by me. I was in my own little world as I looked very carefully at every exhibit, enjoyed the site’s beautiful gardens, and shopped in its unique gift shop.
Here are a just few of the spots I visited while in San Antonio:
* Just one "seasoned" (older) traveler's observations. Not to be considered a review or endorsement by Seasoned Times.
I also was rather surprised at how much there is to do in San Antonio. We stayed for just a few days, but we could very easily have filled a full week or more with a new place to visit or activity to try each day. My favorite adventure was an impromptu outing to a traditional Tex-Mex barbeque at a big ol’ Texas ranch, complete with a pasture filled with Texas longhorn steer and a scaled down - but absolutely spectacular – rodeo show.
I had never thought about vacationing in San Antonio, Texas. It never crossed my mind. Not in my more youthful days. Not in middle age. Not as I entered my seasoned years. But, when a few friends recently decided to visit San Antonio and invited me along, I thought… "well, why not?" So, I packed my bags and joined them… and I’m very glad I did!
Typically, I do some investigative research before heading off on vacation, but I didn’t have enough time before this trip. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and no itinerary of any kind prepared. Looking back, I think the unaccustomed spontaneity of the trip had a lot to do with why it ended up being so much fun. Perhaps, I should make a habit of “winging it” more often.
For some reason, I did not expect to find many great resorts in San Antonio. But, upon my arrival, I quickly discovered that there are actually quite a few. I saw hotels and resorts that were beautifully landscaped. Many featured pools and lazy rivers for sun and water worshippers, as well as lush, green golf courses. Come to find out, San Antonio is considered one of Texas' top golf destinations, with championship level as well as public courses.