Forget the Alamo – Experience the Real Downtown San Antonio

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A walking tour of downtown San Antonio is a great way to see some of the key landmarks and attractions along with possibly stumbling across some hidden gems. This is exactly what we did following the culmination of our San Antonio Mission Trail. Given our time constraints, we did drive from each of the Missions to the final stop – the Alamo, but after parking downtown, we headed on a tour of the city for the afternoon.

Rather than relying on public transportation or someone to give you a guided tour of a city, why not grab your backpack and start wandering around the streets the next time you take a trip somewhere. If your next trip is to San Antonio, we hope that this post will give you an insight into some of the great attractions that you can see as you wander around the River Walk or head to the Tower of the Americas.

Please join us on our journey around one of the most beautiful, unique cities and hopefully this will give you some inspiration to explore San Antonio for yourselves.

Tower of the Americas

Tower of the Americas

I have a real passion for exploring skyscrapers and observation decks, so it is natural that we headed to HemisFair Park to check out the tallest building in San Antonio. Standing at 750ft tall, the Tower of the Americas is a great way to see all downtown San Antonio from an aerial perspective.

I tend to take a few minutes to stand in awe at the architectural genius of these building designs and contemplate the processes that occur to construct a tower like this. Although the Tower of the Americas may not be one of the tallest structures you will ever see, it does warrant taking some time to see in person as it stands proud in downtown San Antonio.

HemisFair Park

Tower of the Americas Garden

After staring at the Tower of the Americas that is located inside the grounds of HemisFair Park, why not take some time in front of the spectacular fountain display and relax on one of the various benches that line the walkways inside the park.

La Puerta

La Puerta Hemisfair Park

Walking through HemisFair Park, one of the noticeable attractions are the various monuments that are scattered around. One in particular that caught my attention is La Puerta which essentially is just an open door way.

I could get all philosophical here and go into details on my thoughts about the ‘open door’ meaning but I will let you all come up with your own suggestions as to the meaning behind this monument. In a nutshell, I would say that San Antonio is ultimately the gateway to happiness for many especially if we look at the close relationship with Hispanic communities and the proximity to the Mexican border.

Aztec Tower Statue

Aztec Statue Tower

Another of the monuments that caught my eye as we wandered around Hemisfair Park was this Aztec Tower statue. With the Tower of the Americas towering behind, it really looks like this Aztec figure is guarding the tower. Perhaps during the Aztec era this would have been a stereotypical representation.

Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

Art-Convention-Center

Even though we had no desire to visit the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center while exploring downtown San Antonio, I am so glad that we did as we came across this amazing art piece on the ceiling.

Made up from hundreds of Pepsi and Coca-Cola cans, this star shaped design really gives you a reason to walk through the Convention Center, even if you are passing through to get to the HemisFair Park which is directly on the other side.

Torch of Friendship

Torch of Friendship San Antonio

Situated in the heart of downtown San Antonio, La Antorcha de la Amistad or ‘Torch of Friendship’, is an iconic abstract sculpture. This piece of architecture was passed as a gift from the Mexican government to San Antonio in 2002 and stands at almost 65ft tall.

The sculpture is an iconic representation of the relationship between Mexico and USA. The sculpture can be viewed from many different angles and interpreted in many ways, just like the “harmonious yet sometimes complex relationship” between the two nations as quoted by the artist himself, Sebastián.

River Walk

San Antonio River Walk

San Antonio is probably most famous for the River Walk district that intertwines it’s way through the downtown metropolis. Located along the banks of the River Walk are a variety of attractions including shops, restaurants, bars and of course the stereotypical market stalls that attract visitors from all parts of the world.

San Antonio River Walk

In addition, the River Walk offers visitors the opportunity to hop on a 35 minute guided tour of the district. For only $8.25, this is a great way to explore the various channels that make up this part of San Antonio’s steeped history.

San Antonio River Walk

San Antonio Trolley

San Antonio Trolley

If hopping on a cruise around the River Walk district is not really your taste, try experiencing one of the archaic looking trolley’s to navigate around downtown San Antonio. Now this is what I call public transportation!

Post Office and Court House

San Antonio Post Office

Including the San Antonio Post Office and Court House in a list of downtown attractions may seem a little trivial, but just look at the design of this building. Perhaps the picture doesn’t do this enough justice, but the intricate details make this a landmark worth experiencing.

Emily Morgan Hotel

Emily Morgan Hotel

The building in the background of this picture is the Emily Morgan Hotel, a Double Tree by Hilton establishment. Renowned as being a perfect blend of Texas charm and historic archictectural grandeur, this is certainly a recommended hotel choice should you prefer to stay in the downtown vicinity.

Samuel Gompers Statue

20th Century Labor Statue San Antonio

The statue of Samuel Gompers speaking to a group of workers is particularly interesting because it typifies many of the labor issues faced by the 19th Century workers, yet these still remain prevalent today.

“What does labor want? …
We want more schoolhouses and less jails,
More books and less guns,
More learning and less vice,
More leisure and less greed,
More justice and less revenge.
We want more … opportunities to cultivate our better natures.”

The above quote is what is listed on the plaque directly under the statue and are in fact the words used by Gompers to the union workers.

Summary

Depending on your personal taste, there is something for everyone in downtown San Antonio. My recommendation is to just get out and start exploring. You will notice that this list of attractions doesn’t even include The Alamo, proving that there is so much more than just the stereotypical top spots in any city.

Have you visited San Antonio before and if so what is your favorite downtown attraction?

24 COMMENTS

  1. I have heard that San Antonio is the most interesting city in Texas, and possibly the only one worth visiting. I am not a big fan of cities, even less so when they are all modern (coming from Italy/Europe, it is hard to beat antique cities). But I must say, the river walk district looks pretty 🙂

  2. Love the river walk! It’s great when North-American cities take advantage of their waterways – just like they did in Indianapolis. Lovely post, San Antonio will have to fit in our schedule whenever we return to the US. Good luck!

  3. It has been years since I was in San Antonio and of course the part I remember the most is the river walk. Good to see it still looks as good as it always has.

  4. River Walk looks really neat – it kind of reminds of me Chicago (that plus the trolleys). I also thought the Friendship Torch was neat in its representation of the relationship between Mexico and the States!

  5. I love just wandering around when I visit new cities. It’s such a great way to stumble on different things you might not see otherwise. I’ve never been to San Antonio but it seems like a cool city! I love the Riverwalk pictures.

  6. The river walk district looks great, really lovely and picturesque. I would also love to go on a ride on the trolley! If I visited the area, I’m sure I would spend most of my time eating and enjoying the sunny weather. Looks like a great place!

  7. Never been to this place before, to be honest I guess it’s not very known by Europeans (like us).
    Travel means discover places, but reading blogs too! 🙂
    The advantage I have now is that when I ever pass or end up in San Antonio…I will already know some of the POI’s! Thx.

  8. I just didn’t realise there was so much to see in San Antonio – the tower seems the most perfect place to start I’d say. I also love a view of the city, wherever I am.

  9. Wow – the Tower of the Americas looks pretty high! I’ve got no idea how high 759 feet is but it seems close to the one we saw in Toronto, which I believe is one of the highest on the planet. I always love going on them because it gives you a great sense of direction and an immediate overview of the surroundings!

  10. I was in San Antonio a couple of years ago with the family – we did the River walk and the Alamo of course and then took a lovely cycle along the river to the missions. Seems there was a whole lot more that we missed too

  11. I haven’t been to San Antonio for many many years. It looks like it might be time to go back. Thanks for including information about HemisFair Park. I know I would really enjoy myself there.

  12. San Antonio is our need to visit travel list. I’ve been wanting to go there and couple it with a visit to Austin for a long time. These pics just make me want to get there so much sooner. Thanks.

  13. Hi guys! I have been to San Antonio a few times and we like staying at the Menger Hotel by the Riverwalk. Supposedly it is one of the most haunted buildings in the USA. Great meeting you at TBEX!

    • Great meeting you too Andrea! Back to reality though now that we are home, well at least until later today when we head off to Copenhagen and Scotland 🙂

      Kudos to you for staying in the Menger Hotel, I am sure it was a great location in downtown San Antonio but one of the most haunted buildings in the US – not sure I could do that!!

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