San Antonio Travel Guide

San Antonio is a city in the U.S. state of Texas. It is the county seat of Bexar County. San Antonio has an estimated population of 1,282,800, greater than that of Dallas; it is now ranked as the 8th largest city in the United States, and the second largest in Texas.

Famous for its Riverwalk and the Alamo, the three-time NBA Champion Spurs basketball team, the Tower of the Americas, and being home to SeaWorld and Fiesta Texas theme parks, San Antonio is visited by 20 million tourists per year. The city is home to Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, Randolph Air Force Base and Brooks City Base. San Antonio is home to the first museum of Modern Art in Texas, the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum.

San Antonio is a popular tourist destination. The jewel of the city is the Paseo del Rio, or River Walk, which meanders through the downtown area. Lined with numerous shops, bars, and restaurants as well as the Arneson River Theater, this attraction is transformed into an impressive festival of lights during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

The downtown area also features HemisFair Park (home of the Tower of the Americas and the Institute of Texan Cultures), La Villita, El Mercado, and the city's most widely recognized landmark, the Alamo.

Other places of interest include Brackenridge Park (home of the San Antonio Zoo), the missions of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the Witte Museum, the McNay Art Museum, SeaWorld of Texas, and the Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park.

Every April, San Antonio hosts Fiesta San Antonio, a 10-day celebration of the city's diverse cultures and of the heroes of the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto, featuring over one hundred events held throughout the city. Visitors can also experience something of the cowboy culture every February at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo; year round, they can also see the 40 ft. tall cowboy boots at North Star Mall.

Beyond taking in the sights and sounds of San Antonio, tourists can sample some of its world famous Tex-Mex cuisine at the many fine restaurants located throughout the city. San Antonio also has no shortage of establishments offering Texas style barbecue, and for the truly intrepid barbecue aficionado, a day trip to some of the more renowned barbecue pits and smokehouses of Central Texas is both necessary and easily manageable. It is also home to local punk rock heroes, Red Reverse

San Antonio has a robust nightlife that centers on several key areas: The Riverwalk is home to several night clubs, all with a 2am or later closing time, depending on what night it is. Notable clubs in this area include the Hard Rock Cafe, the DANCEPLEX (formerly Polly Esther's), Club RIVE/TABU and Dick's Last Resort. Downtown San Antonio, away from the river, has several clubs, including the popular Coyote Ugly franchise bar, gay nightspot The Bonham Exchange, and the Rivercenter Comedy Club. Away from downtown, a strip of Main Street near San Antonio College includes predominantly gay clubs, such as The Electric Company (for younger crowds), The Saint, The Silver Dollar Saloon (a country-western themed nightspot), and the Heat. Also in the area is the North Saint Mary's Strip, located to the east of main street. On this strip, several bars can be found, such as Paparay's, Joey's, the Mix, Tycoon Flats, small coffee shops such as The Candlelight, and the latino-themed video bar, Arriba. San Antonio's underground hip hop culture is best represented by the Prhymemates Crew and infuses local clubs and bars with an urban feel through DJing, breakdancing, and MCing.

SBC Communications, Valero Energy Corp, United Services Automobile Association, Tesoro Petroleum Corp, Southwest Research Institute, H-E-B supermarkets and Clear Channel Communications are headquartered in San Antonio.

The Fairmont Hotel, built in 1906, is in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the heaviest buildings ever moved intact. It was placed in its new location, three blocks south of the Alamo, over four days in 1985, and cost $650,000 to move.

The San Antonio International Airport is located in north central San Antonio, approximately eight miles from downtown. It has two terminals and is served by 12 airlines serving 28 destinations including 3 in Mexico. An extensive bus and trolley system is provided by the city's metropolitan transit system, VIA. VIA offers 78 regular bus routes and four trolley routes, including express routes from downtown to the theme parks. VIA also offers a special service to city events, including Spurs games and city parades, from its Park and Ride locations. San Antonio serves as the southern terminus for Amtrak's Texas Eagle train service, originating in Chicago.

San Antonio has several neighborhoods of interest: The Monte Vista National Historic District is located one and a half miles north of downtown San Antonio and is home to approximately 3,000 people. Its distinguished residential architecture, primarily from San Antonio's "Gilded Age," defined as extending from 1890 to 1930, forms the most extensive and intact neighborhood of this era in Texas. The King William Historic District is just south of the central business district of San Antonio. It comprises parts of some twenty-two blocks with seventy-nine historic structures, most dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. The northeast suburb of Windcrest is known for its tradition of elaborately decorating homes with lights every Christmas.

The North Central side of San Antonio contains some of the most valuable residential property in the city. The city of Alamo Heights is populated with historically wealthy families. Castle Hills is a little further North, located around Loop 410 and Blanco. Castle Hills is another upscale community with houses dating around the 1950's era. Inwood just inside Loop 1604 is where many newly upper class residences are located. The southeastern suburb of China Grove has a song written and sung about it by the Doobie Brothers entitled "China Grove." Downtown has a growing residential population. It is surprisingly affordable to live in the downtown area, although there can be a waiting list for an apartment to open up. Another benefit is that rush hour traffic is generally going in the opposite direction. The only thing missing is a grocery store! While the bus system is not ideal, it is far better than most mass transit systems in the US.

Henry Cisneros was the mayor of San Antonio from 1981 to 1989. He was the first Hispanic mayor of a major U.S. city, and later went on to serve as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton. NFL players from San Antonio include Keith Cash and Kerry Cash (Holmes High School), John Hagy, Priest Holmes and Ndukwe "N.D." Kalu (Marshall High School). Shaquille O'Neal graduated from Robert G. Cole High School, having led his team to a 36-0 record and a state championship his senior year. Professional wrestler Shawn Michaels grew up on Lackland Air Force Base, where his father, an Air Force colonel, was stationed. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Josh Davis was born in San Antonio on September 1, 1972, the same day Mark Spitz won one of his seven 1972 gold medals and made Olympic history. Native actors include Carol Burnett, Ann Prentiss, Hal LeSueur, and Joan Crawford. While not a native of San Antonio, actor Tommy Lee Jones makes his home just outside the city on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch. Syndicated advice columnist Heloise was born in San Antonio and still resides there. American Juniors runner-up Jordan McCoy, who is now signed with Sean Combs, also hails from San Antonio. Businessman and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt. Best selling Christian author, Max Lucado, serves as minister to the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio.

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