Karla News

A Brief Guide to Visiting the Alamo and San Antonio

River Walk, The Alamo

Hailing from the Midwest, I knew little about San Antonio, Texas, and its famous shrine, the Alamo. An avid history buff, I was eager to find out more. I quickly learned the Alamo represents just one small part of this energetic city.

The somber reality of the events at the Alamo didn’t strike me until I saw the IMAX movie Price of Freedom at Rivercenter Mall. We had previously visited the shrine just down the street, that rather plain, stone edifice seen in countless photos.

However, with all of the tour buses and surrounding modern structures, I had trouble visualizing the scene where 189 men died. The well-versed tour guide recounted the important details and we all nodded at the appropriate times, but the impact was minimal.

Not so at the IMAX. The 13-day siege between the Texans and the Mexican troops of Santa Ana becomes all too real on the giant screen. Seeing the story played out with historical accuracy created a strong emotional bond between the audience and the chief characters. When Davy Crockett met his fate, fighting to the end for his convictions, tears welled in my eyes and a lump, big as a goose egg, lodged in my throat. When the final credits began, the crowded theater was absolutely silent – even the youngest children sat quietly.

It was just like watching the latest Titanic movie. You already know how it’s going to end, and it’s not happy. But you realize you should see it to truly understand the meaning of bravery and sacrifice. If you venture to the place they call the Cradle of Texas Liberty, don’t miss the IMAX movie, as it adds enormously to the Alamo experience.

See also  Finding Outdoor Jobs: Get Paid to Play

One of the most-visited sites after the Alamo is the famous River Walk.

This winding waterway is situated below street level and should be on your must-see list. With colorful outdoor umbrellas, a number of attractive stone bridges and old-growth trees framing the scene, it is enchanting. Slow-moving boats filled with passengers meander through the area.

Also at the Rivercenter Mall, on the lower level, you can get tickets and board one of the sightseeing boats. On the busy Sunday afternoon with the temperature at a lovely 80 degrees, we had a short wait of about 20 minutes before stepping aboard. Our guide joked and laughed his way through the 40-minute excursion, pointing out significant landmarks along the two-and-a-half mile waterway.

Delicious aromas wafting from the restaurants along the River Walk will tempt you into trying real Southwestern cuisine. Boudro’s or the Zuni Grill are two good options. Just be sure you have plenty of water to wash down those spicy hot peppers.

If you’re interested in Spanish colonial architecture, save half a day to visit the missions. In addition to the Alamo, which was the first mission, San Antonio has four others that lie along the Mission Trail. We were able to see three of the missions in just over two hours.

Although they had Apache and Comanche raiders to contend with, the missions reached their peak between 1747 and 1775 and were the basis for the modern city of San Antonio. It’s best to make your first stop Mission San Jose – the “Queen of the Mission” – where you’ll find the visitor center. The short movie provides historical information about the missions’ functions.

See also  Top 5 Florida State Parks for Beachcombing

Except for the Alamo, all the missions continue as parish churches today. Mission San Jose hosts numerous weddings throughout the year. When we arrived, an outdoor photography session was in full swing, with a young bride posing in full regalia. The weathered stone made an excellent backdrop and was a striking contrast to her immaculate white dress. Cameras in hand, we left our guide in mid-sentence to take advantage of the unusual photo opportunity.

Another stop was the Institute of Texan Cultures, now operated by the University of Texas at San Antonio. The area claims a remarkable 27 different ethnic and cultural groups. Exhibits give background details on each group. Our group had no idea the Lone Star State was peopled with Germans, Japanese, Poles, Lebanese, Irish and so many others. Each summer, that diversity is celebrated at the Texas Folklife Festival.

A visitor to San Antonio isn’t likely to run out of attractions. In fact, you could easily fill a week. The toughest part is narrowing down the list. Other museums of note are the Cowboy Museum, Hertzberg Circus Museum and the San Antonio Art Museum.

If you prefer to stay downtown, there are plenty of fine lodging options. The Plaza San Antonio, operated by Marriott, is a peaceful, lush oasis. The hotel incorporated several historic structures within its grounds, which is now used as meeting space and a fitness center. The staff is first-rate and will cater to your every need.

Mother Nature has been especially kind to San Antonio, blessing her with more than 300 days of sunshine a year and an average temperature of 70 degrees. Outdoor pursuits are popular – if you’re a golfer you can pick from more than 30 courses. A word of caution, though: Mid to late summer temperatures can be very hot.