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PHOTO BY: joe daniel price
Explore a Verdant Oasis
Originally opened in 1941, the San Antonio River Walk is a city park and network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story below street level. It provides millions of visitors a year with easy access to historic sites, hotels, shops and other attractions, as well as a wide variety of riverside cafés and restaurants. You can ride a river barge or just see the sights on foot. The city has been improving wheelchair accessibility along the River Walk by installing ramps and elevators.
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PHOTO BY: Randy Faris
Go Back in Time
Established in 1718 as Mission San Antonio de Valero, the former mission now known as the Alamo has drawn visitors for 300-plus years. As a former Spanish mission, the Alamo enjoys a rich history but is probably best known as the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Although admission is free, there is a charge for guided and audio tours. The original flagstone floors are uneven in spots, so visitors should watch where their step when touring the site. Wheelchairs are available (with no rental fee) for checkout at the information desk inside the mission’s original chapel.
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PHOTO BY: Eric Gay/AP
Entertain Your Grandkids
If you’re traveling with little ones, the San Antonio Zoo is the perfect place to spend a day. With more than 750 animal species from around the world on display across 56 landscaped acres, no one will get bored. Check out the largest collection of birds in the world. Ride a kiddie train around the grounds, or let the kids take a spin on the carousel. Be sure to check the zoo’s website for special daily events.
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PHOTO BY: Gloria Ferniz/Newscom
Enjoy the Outdoors
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is a 38-acre natural area located in the heart of the city. Stroll through the gardens and see plants native to Texas as well as flowers from all over the world. There also are interesting historic buildings within the gardens, including a log cabin built in East Texas in the 1850s. You can take a stroll along the Texas Native Trail and around the Water Saver Garden and Rose Garden. Admission is $16 weekdays and $18 Fridays and Saturdays for adults; $13 weekdays and $15 Fridays and Saturdays for children 3 to 13, with free admission for kids under 3.
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PHOTO BY: Busà Photography/Getty Images
Soak Up Some Culture
The historic Majestic Theatre, in the heart of downtown, was built in 1929. Designed to be the most modern building in South Texas, it was the first in the state to be totally air-conditioned. In 1989 the theater was renovated, and in 1996 the stage was expanded so that it could accommodate major Broadway musicals. Today the 2,264-seat theater is home to the Broadway in San Antonio series as well as a wide variety of concerts and performing arts attractions.
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PHOTO BY: Jim Nix/Getty Images
Shop Till You Drop!
Market Square is a historic outdoor plaza with a little bit of everything, from food and drink to clothes and arts and crafts. The three-block plaza is lined with not only shops but also restaurants, food carts, band pavilions and produce stands. The indoor market adjacent to the plaza offers the experience of shopping at a traditional Mexican mercado, with numerous locally owned shops and stalls. This colorful retail mecca is described as the largest Mexican market in the United States. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Winter hours may vary, so check online before you go. Market Square is the site of a festive Cinco de Mayo celebration as well as many other events and fiestas throughout the year. It’s also home to the new Centro de Artes gallery, an exhibit space that tells the story of the Latino experience in the U.S. with a focus on South Texas.
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PHOTO BY: Derek Slagle, Getty Images
Learn About the City's Rich History
San Fernando Cathedral is said to be the oldest standing church building in Texas; the cornerstone was laid in 1738. Now you can see this major tourist destination like never before by watching a 24-minute show by French artist Xavier de Richemont, in which lights projected onto the cathedral tell the saga of San Antonio from its early days to the present. Showtimes are 9, 9:30 and 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Over the years, the cathedral has hosted presidents, governors, senators and even Pope John Paul II, who visited in 1987.
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PHOTO BY: Getty Images
Discover Centuries of Culture
Visit the San Antonio Missions Historical Park, which officially opened in 1983, and learn about hundreds of years of history and culture. A great way to enjoy the park is by walking, biking or driving along the Mission Trail, a pathway along the San Antonio River. You’ll see four missions: Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission San Francisco de la Espada. It’s about 2.5 miles from one mission to the next. There is no admission fee at any of the missions; however, donations are accepted. They’re all partially wheelchair accessible, with wheelchairs available for loan at each. Restrooms also are wheelchair accessible.
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PHOTO BY: Robert Alexander
Tour San Antonio's Newest Museum
The Briscoe Western Art Museum interprets and showcases the vast and multifaceted story of the American West with engaging exhibitions, educational programs and public events. Located along the San Antonio River Walk, the museum includes nine galleries on three levels in a 1930s art deco building that was once the San Antonio Public Library. Among the items on display are Pancho Villa’s saddle, a diorama of the Alamo and an authentic chuck wagon, as well as a handsome, full-scale, red replica of a nine-passenger Wells Fargo & Co. stagecoach. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors 65 and older.
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PHOTO BY: Jim Nix/Getty Images
Have an Adventure
Since opening to the public in 1964, the Natural Bridge Caverns has become one of the most popular natural attractions in Texas and one the grandkids are sure to enjoy. But since you’ll be walking along steep, wet surfaces, this is an attraction designed for those with no mobility issues. There are a variety of ways to experience the site. The most popular excursion is the Discovery Tour, a half-mile trek 180 feet belowground past stalactites and stalagmites. Another popular tour is the Lantern Tour for early risers, during which you walk down the Discovery Tour path with only a lantern to guide your way. No matter which tour you choose, you’ll walk along the 60-foot limestone bridge at the cave’s entrance that the caverns were named after. Ticket prices range from $19 to $29.75 per person, depending on the date you go and the number of caverns you tour.
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PHOTO BY: Barna Tanko/Alamy
Stay at an Historic Hotel
The elegant Menger Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi. Built in 1859, the five-story hotel is just steps away from the Alamo, on Alamo Plaza. It’s also just a block from the Shops at Rivercenter and close to other family-friendly attractions along the River Walk. The hotel features the popular and always proper Colonial Room Restaurant and the historic Menger Bar, a replica of London’s House of Lord’s Pub. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you can order a drink at the bar and take a self-guided tour of the property using a map the hotel provides online. Over the years, the hotel has hosted such notables as Gens. Lee and Grant and Presidents McKinley, Taft, Eisenhower and Clinton. Fun fact: Teddy Roosevelt recruited Rough Riders in the Menger Bar.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 15, 2018. It's been updated to reflect new information.