San Antonio – The Venice of Texas
San Antonio – The Venice of Texas
They say everything is bigger in Texas. Should you find yourself in San Antonio here are some big attractions you can visit to create some lasting memories of the Lone Star State! If your impression of Texas is that of Cowboys and oil rigs, well you are not wrong. However, San Antonio might just change your perception of the state when you see that it offers many unique places to experience. So here are a few you shouldn’t miss.
The Tower of the Americas
In 1968 San Antonio hosted The World Fair and was forever transformed by the internationally acclaimed event. Its crowning structure is the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas. By far this tower is the tallest structure in the entire city. Once you enter the tower, you can take an elevator ride all the way to the top to attain a spectacular view of the city below.
The view is worth the trip. However, you can also learn a bit of history should you decide to read the exhibits along the inner walls. Six Flags is a household name if only because many folks have visited the amusement parks that bear that name, but few people know that the term stems from the fact that Texas has had 6 different flags in its history. So should you like to learn about them, the Tower is a great place to read up on Texas lore.
The view is simply amazing from the top. It is recommended that you head close to the end of the day so that you can enjoy the view both during the day and at night. Plus, the sunset over Texas can be a beautiful sight unto itself. You can see for miles. And at the same time, you can see local attractions such as the Alamo.
The tower also has a small but exciting 4D theatre. 4D includes sights, sounds and movement as your seat moves and shakes in reaction to the movie you watch. You can see a movie about the culture of Texas which includes such activities as football, the rodeo and flying around the plains in a helicopter. For the kids there are cartoons featuring the characters from Ice Age and the superhero sensation Wonder Women featuring Gal Godot!
Finally, the tower has numerous dining options should you want to grab a meal. A casual café is open for quick on the go lunches. However, the Tower has a bar and restaurant should you want a drink and even a full meal.
If I told you a city in Texas has a true European Feel, you might not believe me if you have not seen it for yourself. However, the Riverwalk of San Antonio conjures images of the great Italian city of Venice. Located along the San Antonio River, the Riverwalk is just below the street level making it a shady place no matter what the time of year. This is crucial to Texas tourism since the temperature can soar to over 100 degrees in the summer. Along the walk are numerous art installations such as statues, sculptures, murals and water features. Though not as old and historic as its European counterpart, the Riverwalk has every bit of culture reflected in its place.
Much like Venice, you can walk up and down the riverbank and encounter new shops and new restaurants to dine at. You can find all types of fare such as Barbecue, German, Irish and Mexican. Many of the restaurants offer 4-star cuisine at bargain prices. You can easily eat at a different restaurant with a different type of food every night of the week. And should you like to shop, the Riverwalk has plenty of places for souvenirs.
Many of the important places open directly onto this walk making it a very convenient way to traverse the city. It connects the hotels, the convention center, museums, and restaurants. It is a pedestrian highway that is below street level. However, when you consider there are no streets to cross, walking these paths is the easiest way to get around the city.
Venice has its famed Gondolas that you may take to tour the canals of the city. Not to be outdone, the Riverwalk has its own version in the river boats. You can purchase a ticket to ride along the river where a tour guide will tell you about the history of the river as well as point out interesting spots along the way. You may want to forgo the Italian romance since the boats are strictly a group activity.
Texas allows you to purchase adult beverages and walk about the river with them. Many stands are ready to fill your cup should you want a drink along the way. Frozen alcohol drinks are abundant, which is great on those hot summer days. So, grab a pina colada or a frozen daiquiri and take a stroll along the water.
Remember the Alamo or at least Remember Pee Wee’s Big Adventure when he tried to find his bike in the basement of the Alamo. A true national sight, the Alamo became a famous landmark due to it being the last stand of a group of courageous soldiers who were fighting for Texas independence. 300 men held out against over 3000 soldiers as they sieged the tiny mission. At the end, there were no survivors among those defending the Alamo. “Remember the Alamo” became the rallying cry to never forget the sacrifice of the those who died. At the same time, the Texans needed to remember to fight like the devil since the enemy would take no prisoners.
Names such as Davie Crocket and David Bowie have been etched in the American legend. Crocket became a well know figure due to the Disney television series that briefly made racoon tailed hats fashionable. Although some may only associate the name Bowie with the music of Ziggy Stardust, in Texas his name is known for two things – as a hero of the Alamo and for the very large “Bowie” knife that bears his name. Everything is bigger in Texas, even the knives.
The original Alamo was a mission with a small church. Only the Church is original, with much of what can be seen is a reconstruction. Entrance to the Mission is free, however you do need to obtain a ticket first. Should you want a comprehensive guided tour, there is a fee of course. The gift shop looks like an old building but is somewhat modern, being built in 1930. I’m sorry to say the Almo does not have a basement, but you may be surprised to know that the shop does.
The Buck Horn Saloon and The Texas Ranger Museum
If you have a love of learning and history, then The Buckhorn Saloon has something for you. If you like zoology, carnivals, and Chuck Norris – well the Texas Ranger Museum covers nearly all of the bases. It was a truly unique and inspiring experience and a must see in San Antonio.
The Buck Horn Saloon in and of itself offers much. It serves basic family fare while the bar is fully stocked with drinks and alcoholic beverages. The interior has the look of an old western saloon that one might only see in a classic Hollywood movie or video games like Red Dead Redemption. Within the café, you can see plenty of exhibits without even paying a fee. Numerous taxidermized animals line the walls as well as a massive model ship. A small arcade is tucked off in a back room for the kids play.
The Texas Rangers are more associated with baseball in modern times. Or perhaps you were a fan of the Chuck Norris television show Walker Texas Ranger. It should be noted that the Texas Rangers are a real law enforcement group that has jurisdiction across the state of Texas. This museum tells the tale of their origin as well as features prominent members and their stories.
Among the museum you will learn the origin of the rangers and see the various historical weapons used by the officers as they enforced the law on the plains of Texas. Muskets and revolvers grace the early period only to give way to modern firearms such as the Colt 1911, the infamous Tommy Gun and even a sawed off shot gun. A replica of the car used by Bonnie and Clyde is showcased since it was the Rangers who aided in the ambush of what is considered the most notorious criminal couple in modern American history.
A recreation of a wild west town is enclosed within as well. It features a sheriff’s office perfect for locking up friends for a photo op. But also, it has a blacksmith shop, a telegraph office, and another small saloon. Yes, the saloon has a smaller saloon inside it but this one is only a replica and does not serve drinks. The many exhibits in this section alone could take many hours just to ingest.
However, that is not the only feature of this museum. For the price of admission, you can also head upstairs where even more exhibits await you. Over 300 animals are featured of various taxidermized species from nearly every part of the world. You will see a zebra, a rhino. wolves, lions, and bears to name a few. But the animals are not limited to just those on the land. You walk through a mock shipwreck to see fish, sharks, and stingrays.
But wait, there’s more. Yet another section of the museum pays homage to Americas sideshows. A Carnival and Freak show section showcases numerous old school special effects. One room distorts gravity as you watch water run uphill! Another room distorts your size and makes it appear as if you are a giant or by switching positions, you appear tiny. Classic attractions of the sideshow are shown such as the Fiji Mermaid, a half monkey half fish creation. You can see a Jackalope, a combination of a jack rabbit and an antelope.
You can spend a few hours, or you could spend a whole day at the museum. Tickets are for a full day so you can leave and return when you like. There is far more in this museum than meets the eye. At the end you exit through the gift shop where you can pick up some cowboy souvenirs.
Yippy Ki Yay as the cowboys say! San Antonio is an amazing city with much to offer. It is both thoroughly modern and highly historical. So, if you find yourself in the Lonestar State, be sure to stop by. The stars at night are big and bright and San Antonio is the heart of Texas.