This post is in partnership with Hotels.com.
The state of Texas may be known for being the second largest state in the United States, the live music capital of the world and home to delicious Texas style BBQ, but did you also know that the Lone Star State is home to a rich colonial heritage and distinct history throughout the state? If you are looking for the perfect Texas getaway to learn all about this rich history and much more, look no further than experiencing an epic weekend in San Antonio.
While 48 hours in Texas is hardly enough time to barely scratch the surface given the magnitude and size of the state, spending a couple of days exploring the city of San Antonio is perhaps the perfect length to enjoy a rich historical tour of the missions, explore the gorgeous downtown River Walk district and gain a better understanding why this city is such a popular location for visitors from all corners of the globe. From an eclectic range of global cuisine, including a myriad of awesome local spots, to a blend of modern and historic attractions, San Antonio is the perfect weekend getaway destination in Texas.
Let’s take a look at how to enjoy an action-packed weekend in San Antonio.
Where to Stay in San Antonio
Finding the perfect place to stay in San Antonio will come down to a few factors that you will need to consider – budget, location and style. San Antonio is home to a vast array of modern and historic establishments, ranging from regular chain style hotels to luxury boutique accommodation options.
With a number of options to choose from in the Riverwalk neighborhood, this is perhaps the ideal spot to explore the downtown vicinity but there are a number of other neighborhoods worth exploring such as Stone Oak, Live Oak, North San Antonio and Balcones Heights.
The Emily Morgan San Antonio, while affiliated with the Hilton brand, is perhaps one of the most impressive in terms of architectural grandeur and history given that it dates back to 1924 when it was originally constructed as the Medical Arts Building on the Alamo Plaza.
Weekend in San Antonio Itinerary
As with any city around the world, trying to experience all the iconic attractions can be a challenge when you only have 48 hours. Our recommendations focus on the rich history and heritage associated with the Spanish Colonial era in Texas, along with some of the other iconic spot’s worth visiting across the city, but we always encourage folks to allocate some time to add some spontaneity to their visit.
Spontaneous travel is when you uncover hidden gems that perhaps are not listed in guidebooks, and we have found this to be the best way to enjoy a new destination as a local would. Here are some of the highlight attractions worth visiting during your weekend adventure in San Antonio:
- San Antonio Spanish Mission Tour – The Alamo
- San Antonio Spanish Mission Tour – San Jose
- San Antonio Spanish Mission Tour – San Juan Capistrano
- San Antonio Spanish Mission Tour – Concepcion
- San Antonio Spanish Mission Tour – Espada
- River Walk District
- San Fernando Cathedral
- Tower of the Americas
A trip to San Antonio wouldn’t be the same without visiting the most iconic of all the Spanish Colonial settlements – the Alamo. It’s where the Battle of the Alamo started in 1836 and today is the most frequently visited tourist attraction across the city. While this landmark is certainly catered to the large number of visitors that want to explore this historic location, there is a lot to learn here and it’s the perfect place to start on your San Antonio Mission trail adventure.
The Alamo is to texans what washington d.c. is to americans, a historical landmark that definitely deserves a look see…STEPHEN A, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (TheAlamo.org)
The history of the Alamo dates back to its original construction in 1718 as Mission San Antonio de Valero. Over 300 years of history can be found here, and what better place to learn about Spanish Colonialism in Texas than the birthplace of this at the Alamo.
Visitors to the Alamo can enjoy either a guided tour of the battlefield or a FREE self-guided tour. The self-guided option is definitely the option we would encourage, especially if you are planning a relatively short visit to ensure you can experience the rest of San Antonio, but there are definite benefits of the guided tour option.
For the free self-guided tour, visitors will need to reserve their free ticket to enter the church ahead of visiting at the following: The Alamo Free Tickets.
Mission San Jose
Established in 1720, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was an iconic mission organization and a major social establishment for the Hispanic Catholic community. It is the largest of all missions in San Antonio and during the height of its activity, it provided shelter to over 300 Indians.
The San Jose church is home to an active service every Sunday and regardless of when you visit this historic location, it’s a cool experience to walk around and admire the architecture of many of the original buildings and structures that are still standing today.
The intricate details of the church is particularly impressive and the continued restoration of these buildings is a crucial aspect of ensuring preservation of such an integral part of Spanish colonialism throughout not only San Antonio but across the state of Texas.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
One of the smaller missions in San Antonio, yet still filled with plenty of rich history, heritage and character, is Mission San Juan Capistrano. The quaint church still stands as an active Catholic parish and visitors can enjoy exploring the original colonial ‘square’ which once would have been the integral heart of this community. The bell tower is one of the iconic landmarks at this mission and you cannot afford to miss the Romanesque archway at the entrance gate.
For those of you that want to add a little hiking to your visit, head over to the nearby Yanaguana Trail which runs along the original San Antonio River. This “oasis” in the middle of San Antonio is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life before heading back to explore more of the San Antonio Mission trail.
Mission Concepcion is frequently considered the most aesthetically appealing of all the San Antonio colonial settlements, primarily because much of the architecture can still be seen in its original form. Dating back to its construction in 1755, Mission Concepcion appears very much as it did over two centuries ago and stands proudly as the oldest unrestored stone church in the United States.
As you make your way around this historic site, pay a quick visit to the visitor center to stamp your mission passport which is definitely a great keepsake to reminisce on your experience visiting these locations across the city. A self-guided tour of Mission Concepcion gives you the opportunity to explore inside the church and admire the intricate details of the design that dates back almost 300 years.
Mission Espada is located the furthest south of all the settlements on the San Antonio Mission trail. While this mission was first established in 1690 as San Francisco de los Tejas, it was in 1731 that it was transformed to Mission San Francisco de la Espada and located in its current position in the San Antonio River area. The nearby Espada Aqueduct is an iconic attraction and much of the original irrigation system still operates this along with the dam.
Unfortunately, a fire destroyed many of the buildings on this settlement in 1826 and only the chapel, granary, and two of the compound walls remained standing. Self-guided tours are available throughout regular hours and visitors can also enjoy guided tours on the first Saturday of each month.
River Walk District
The San Antonio River Walk is undoubtedly the heartbeat of the city, home to an eclectic blend of restaurants, bars, boutique establishments and much more. Take a stroll walking along the banks of the river, but for the ultimate experience you need to hop on one of the boats and experience the River Walk district on the water itself. Those opting to take a boat will will have the opportunity experience the Museum Reach, an additional 1.3 miles, with a boat landing at the San Antonio Museum of Art.
With over 100 stores to satisfy your retail therapy needs, the Rivercenter Mall is a four-level shopping complex that is also home to a variety of restaurants and other attractions. For those looking to celebrate more San Antonio history, head to the Esquire Tavern which is the oldest bar in the River Walk district. Opening its doors in 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition, today this bar is the perfect spot to enjoy an aperitif or two before heading out to explore further.
San Fernando Cathedral
One of the most historic buildings in the downtown area of San Antonio is San Fernando Cathedral which dates back to its original construction in 1731. It was founded by a group of fifteen families that arrived in Texas from the Canary Islands and to this day, it continues to serve local communities and is the longest standing religious community throughout the state and plays an integral role in the local Catholic community.
Located less than half a mile from the Alamo, this is definitely a structure that you won’t want to miss during your walking tour of the downtown area. With a combination of Colonial and Gothic Revival architectural styles, visitors can simply stand and admire the inherent beauty of this design from the outside before heading indoors to experience more architectural masterpieces throughout the interior.
Tower of the Americas
While the majority of this itinerary is focusing on architecture that dates back to before the 18th century, one of the more iconic modern structures is the towering 750-ft Tower of the Americas that provides breathtaking views across the city from the observation deck. If you are looking for the most spectacular views of the Alamo City from a bird’s eye perspective, head to the summit of this tower for panoramic scenes unlike anywhere else in the city.
The Tower of the Americas may look like an ultra-modern design, but actually this structure is still over 50 years old and dates back to its grand opening in 1968. Between 1968 and 1996, it was the tallest observation tower in the United States before being surpassed by the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. Today, it still stands as the tallest building in San Antonio.
48 hours in any city is going to require visitors to organize their itinerary accordingly but if you are interested in exploring Spanish colonial history and heritage during your visit to San Antonio, this is definitely feasible during an action-packed weekend getaway. While history isn’t always associated with destinations across the United States, San Antonio is one of the few cities which can embrace the rich heritage associated with the colonial settlements that have created such an epic Mission trail.
Whether you are inspired to explore the various Missions or simply want to enjoy exploring the arts and culture throughout the River Walk district and surrounding neighborhoods, San Antonio is a city that has plenty of attractions to keep visitors occupied for 48 hours and beyond!
As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are comfortable with traveling, please travel responsibly and within regulation as any travel is at your own risk.
If you do decide to travel at this time, we strongly encourage you to follow our following recommendations:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute.