What first comes to mind when you think of San Antonio?
After living in the Alamo City for 10+ years, I’ve been able to pinpoint what, exactly, makes our city so special. Curious about what makes San Antonio famous? These 13 icons are essential to the soul of San Antonio.
1. The Alamo
I mean, we can’t talk about San Antonio without talking about the Alamo. Originally built as a mission in 1727, it’s famous for the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Today, it’s a huge tourist trap, of course: with over 2.5 million visitors annually, the Alamo is the most-visited attraction in the state of Texas. Yeehaw!
2. The River Walk
Located in the heart of San Antonio’s downtown, the River Walk is a bustling area where you can find shops, walking trails, and even tour boats. The River Walk has been around for well over 80 years, but it’s most famous for its various riverboat parades for just about every holiday.
P.S. They even dye the river green for Saint Patrick’s Day!
When I first moved to San Antonio, I had no idea what Fiesta was. I remember shopping with my friend who was buying Fiesta medals when I innocently (and maybe too loudly) asked, “Oh, what’s Fiesta?” I kid you not: the entire store stopped and stared. Apparently, that’s a stupid question to ask in San Antonio, a city that prides itself on this annual festival that celebrates Latino heritage.
Fiesta runs from late March to early April every year and boasts a huge variety of events. From beauty pageants to parades to Night In Old San Antonio, the city nearly shuts down for Fiesta every year. It’s not unusual for offices to completely close on the day of the Fiesta parade!
4. Sea World
You can’t talk about San Antonio without acknowledging its more touristy destinations. As a kid growing up in North Texas, we would always come down to San Antonio during the summers to check out Sea World. Sea World San Antonio is one of just three Sea World locations in the US, so it’s not unusual to see license plates from across the US lining up at its gates. Yeah, it’s overpriced and can get crowded, but Sea World still brings in millions of visitors to San Antonio every year.
5. Six Flags Fiesta Texas
If you’re in town visiting Sea World, you’re probably going to stop by Fiesta Texas, too. Fiesta Texas is an amusement park owned by Six Flags, but it has a Latino-inspired theme as a nod to San Antonio’s rich Mexican heritage. It’s been around since 1992, but Six Flags acquired the park back in ’96. If you want rides, entertainment, and greasy Texas food, Fiesta Texas is a must-see.
6. The Missions
San Antonio is home to more than the Alamo. We actually have the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the state of Texas: the San Antonio Missions. The National Park Service manages the beautiful missions, which you can tour either on your own or with a guided tour. The area around the Missions is known for its natural beauty and walking trails. And yes, they still hold mass at the missions, too!
7. Market Square
If you want to see the pulsing heart of San Antonio in action, you’ve got to stop by Market Square. Grab some down-home Mexican food, listen to a mariachi band, and buy cool trinkets from 100+ local vendors. The Market Square is a bustling, family-friendly event that happens nearly every weekend, and it’s the perfect way to experience San Antonio’s culture.
8. Natural Bridge Caverns
When we made the trip down to San Antonio every summer, we always made it a point to stop at Natural Bridge Caverns. The beautiful limestone formations are absolutely breathtaking and one of the most unique things to do in San Antonio—which is no surprise, given that Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest cave in the state of Texas.
P.S. Be sure to wear solid shoes if you go on a cave tour. It’s definitely slippery and requires a certain level of physical fitness, so keep that in mind!
9. Taco Cabana
Or “Taco C,” as the locals call it, originated in San Antonio. Actually, the OG location was just down the street from my university, so I nursed many a hangover at Taco C. We’re proud of Taco Cabana, so if you’re in our neck of the woods, swing by for a cheap bean and cheese taco. They even offer a margarita and nachos special during happy hour!
San Antonio is also called Military City, USA. We have several military bases here in town, so it only stands to reason that USAA, a company that serves military members, would be based here in SA. In fact, USAA is one of the biggest employers in the city, and it isn’t unusual to bump into USAA’s employees or contractors anywhere you go.
11. Puffy tacos
When my husband took me to eat a puffy taco for the first time, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure how a taco was supposed to be “puffy,” but when I took my first bite, I became a believer. Henry’s Puffy Tacos is the go-to joint in town for a perfectly crisp, deep-fried taco, but there are several small family joints on the South Side that do it right, too.
12. Los Spurs
I still don’t 100% get it, but San Antonians are absolutely WILD about our basketball team, the San Antonio Spurs. We might not have a lot of high-profile sports teams in San Antonio, but we’re definitely famous for our diehard devotion to the Spurs.
P.S. Google “San Antonio Spurs Jesus.” You won’t be disappointed.
It wasn’t until recently that I stayed in The Menger, a haunted hotel in downtown San Antonio. Fun fact: this hotel is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited men for The Rough Riders. The historic hotel is said to be the most haunted hotel west of the Mississippi, although I didn’t see anything creepy during my stay there. My husband had a friend who worked here and they said they will never step foot in the hotel again, though, so…
If you REALLY want to scare yourself silly, you can book the King Ranch Suite. The founder of King Ranch, Captain Richard King, died here in 1885. Guests frequently report seeing his ghost looking over them while they sleep, so this is only for the truly brave.