By Karl Weisel (USAG Wiesbaden)April 28, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany -- Visitors to San Antonio may not realize the city is one of the United States\' 10 largest cities and the second largest in Texas. That's because, despite its share of high-rises and infrastructure, San Antonio has the feel of a much smaller city.
Spread out in the San Antonio River Valley, the city is full of historical landmarks, museums, markets and more.
As Texas' most visited city, the southern metropolis features plenty to do and see for short and longer visits. For those in town on business or for only a few days, San Antonio's River Walk will most likely be among the first stops.
An early morning run along the banks of the River Walk takes one past riverside eateries, bars, statues, waterfalls and underneath a series of bridges. With the sun not yet reaching down into the two-and-a-half mile River Walk set far below the street level, one is free to race along while enjoying the cacophony of local bird songs and avoiding stepping on one of the still slumbering ducks on the path. A morning introduction, before visitors descend on to the River Walk in force later in the day, is a great prelude to a city visit.
Visitors can also check out one of the city's rent-a-bikes to explore the River Walk and beyond, available at various stands around the city, by simply sliding in a credit card and removing a bike for use during a 24-hour period. Heading north on the river bank beyond the River Walk takes one up past a series of locks and dams to the San Antonio Museum of Art and Pearl Brewery complex. Head south on the river to reach the King William Historic District, Steves Homestead Museum and Blue Star Arts Complex.
Of course most visitors will want to head to the Alamo first to remember the roots of Texas independence and those who sacrificed their lives for freedom during the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. After wandering through and around the former Mission San Antonio de Valero where nearly 200 defenders fought to the death against overwhelming odds, consider heading across town to the San Fernando Cathedral where a memorial is said to contain the remains of these Alamo heroes including Jim Bowie and David Crockett. A small marble coffin in the cathedral's entrance serves as the final resting place for the bones of these Alamo defenders after their bodies were exhumed in the 1930s.
No visit to San Antonio is complete without a good Tex-Mex meal and a little souvenir shopping. Head west on Market Street to eventually reach Market Square where indoor and outdoor stalls feature a wide selection of Mexican handicrafts and several cantina restaurants offer heaping helpings of tacos, enchiladas and other mouth-watering dishes.
Need an overall perspective' Head to Hemisphere Park for a bird's-eye view of the city and beyond from high atop the Tower of the Americas. After reading about the history of Texas, the six flags flown over the territory at different times and taking a look at the historical photos of San Antonio on display in the viewing platform, head back down the tower for a 4-D viewing experience. Visitors are invited to sit back while wearing 3-D glasses for a large-screen feature presentation on Texas as chairs rock and other physical surprises make an impression.
There are oodles of other attractions in this visitor-friendly international city. If there is time, hop on a river boat for a ride along the River Walk, head to the San Antonio Zoo, visit Six Flags Fiesta Texas or book a river ride on the nearby Guadalupe or Comel Rivers. Other nearby sights include Natural Bridge Caverns, Sea World San Antonio and the Enchanted Springs Ranch.
Whether on the way with 1st Armored Division to Fort Bliss, Texas, or planning a visit to the state sometime in the future, be sure to include San Antonio in the travel plans.
Visit your local library for more information before planning a trip or check out visitsanantonio.com/index.aspx.
See more photos on the garrison's Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/wpao.