Vacation with the Past and the Present in San Antonio

by Carolyn Koehn on January 15, 2024 in Travels,

Make History with Your
San Antonio Vacation!

On a recent visit to San Antonio, my travels reminded me of the array of experiences that San Antonio’s downtown has to offer – for all ages, for all budgets, and for all preferences, intertwining past with present…history, entertainment, indoor experiences, outdoor escapes, cuisine, shopping, art, nature, and more. And its future continues to build on its past.  

UNESCO recognizes San Antonio’s five missions as the only World Heritage Site in Texas. Photo Courtesy Visit San Antonio.

UNESCO World Heritage Site:  Experience the History

San Antonio is a vibrant city with a rich history, both recognized and celebrated. The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park captures the city’s Spanish heritage. This park is the first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas, and only one of 24 World Heritage Sites in the entire United States.  

Conceptual rendering of The Alamo Visitor Center and Museum. This 2027 project will share more chapters of Texas’ 300 year history. Photo Courtesy The Alamo.

The Alamo and Its Expansion

One of five missions, The Alamo is of worldwide importance, telling the story of early exploration to Texas independence. The Alamo plan will expand the site’s representation of Texas history. The development includes the adaptive reuse of the historic Crockett and Woolworth buildings. These two buildings will become a future museum and visitor center in 2027. Its future 100,000 square feet will include a 4D theater and recreate a wall where its mission perimeter once stood. In combination with The Mission Gate (opening later in 2024), the museum’s wall will allow visitors to experience the size of this four and half acre mission site.

The Saga is a visual narration of Texas’ history. Photo Courtesy Visit San Antonio.

The Saga at Main Plaza

Another recount of San Antonio’s history comes with no words at The Saga. The San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest in the United States, transforms its front facade into a stage with video art projection. This show is free, open to the public, and offered year-round, every Tuesday through Sunday at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. I recommend bringing a chair or getting there early to find a seat for this amazing 24-minute visual narration.

The culture of San Antonio comes alive at Historic Market Square. Photo Courtesy Visit San Antonio.

UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy:  Experience the Cuisine

San Antonio’s cuisine embraces its history also. UNESCO recognized the city as a Creative City of Gastronomy for its role in the development of the widely-known Tex-Mex fusion, as well as Mexican cuisine in America. Historic Market Square richly embodies the culture and history with shopping, dancing, music, libations, and dining. Make a reservation at the square’s famous restaurants spanning eighty years and four Cruz family generations, Mi Tierra Cafe or La Margarita, birthplace of the sizzling fajita. 

Experience the Past with
Future Innovation

San Antonio Brewing Association’s campus lives on at The Historic Pearl. Photo Henry Becerra on Unsplash.

The Pearl

The culinary and historical past makes way for future innovation, evolving with the city’s culture. The mixed urban development, The Pearl, revived a former brewery into a modern landscape with lodging, restaurants, retail, music stages, residences, and open markets. With almost thirty eateries, you can taste a myriad of cuisines such as Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery’s haute Southern, French Brasserie Mon Chou Chou, Peruvian-Asian Fusion Botika, South Texas Carriqui, and more. 

Beyond food, take in live music at Stable Hall, the brewery’s former home for its horses. Come back in the spring when Samuels Glass Company reopens as Pullman Market. This latest addition will provide a farmer’s market, a specialty grocer, five quick eateries, four distinct restaurants, a butcher and a bakery.

The Tower of the Americas is a tall beacon to Hemisfair Park. Photo William Pate on Unsplash.

Hemisfair Park

Another mixed urban development giving the past a modern makeover is Hemisfair Park, a redevelopment of the 1968 World’s Fair site. This park dedicates a large portion of its footprint to outdoor spaces for all abilities: playgrounds, fountains, springs, splash pads, family lawn for picnics, large chess and checkers, cornhole, and more. You can live, eat, or entertain here. Brunch anytime at Box Street All Day, a former food truck now with a brick and mortar location.  The park’s expansion will include a hotel, additional outdoor areas, and business space.

Take a sightseeing cruise of the River Walk with Go Rio. Photo Courtesy Visit San Antonio.

The River Walk

All of these hangouts are in close proximity to the iconic River Walk. The canals of San Antonio’s river are lined with every stop imaginable and connected by footpaths and bridges. Eat, drink and be merry, by foot or by boat. Go Rio cruises can tour you through the heart of the River Walk as well as through lock and dam to The Pearl. You can also make a reservation to include dining with your cruise. It’s a little bit of splurge but well worth it. If you are lucky, you will ride by La Villita’s stage during a performance. There are many hotels to choose from on the River Walk and nearby.

Beyond Downtown

Just a short drive from downtown, more exciting attractions await: San Antonio Botanical Garden, Natural Bridge Caverns, Sea World, Six Flags, and San Antonio Zoo. Most of these stops are favorites for children and for children at heart.

Planning Your Vacation Experience

Your San Antonio vacation will be historical! Consider traveling at Christmas when every destination adds their Christmas displays the size of Texas and offers pop-ups like ice rinks and Holidays on Houston Street. Purchase a city pass if you are visiting multiple attractions. There are a few options for San Antonio like City Pass and Go City. Leverage Visit San Antonio. The team can tell you about upcoming events, share its visitor guide, and offer sample itineraries.

Make your own vacation history in San Antonio!


Cover Photo Courtesy Visit San Antonio

Have passport, will travel. Motivated by her first international trip at twelve years old, Carolyn Koehn pursued a career that would take her around the globe. Following a global career as a finance executive, Carolyn leverages her Latin heritage, Southern upbringing, expat living, Texas residency, and world experience into her travel, lifestyle, and culinary writing.