Beckendorf Gallery houses a gargantuan selection of storied prints by Texan artist Charles Beckendorf, whose dedication to detailing the flora and fauna of his native state continues to entice art enthusiasts after his passing in 1996. Bluebonnets and Gulley-Stone House ($25) depicts a humble abode against a backdrop of verdant hills, trees, and cobalt fields, and Bald Eagle ($35) illustrates the impact the iconic bird had on Telly Savalas.
The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country connects visitors of all ages with the area's natural and cultural history through elaborate displays and well-preserved artifacts that live on as bridges to the past. Both self-guided and guided tours explore the museum's expansive collection, which includes a cache of Native American relics, as well as an expansive outdoor display of farming equipment used and autographed by celebrity pioneers. Museum-goers can also weave through the collage of native plants lining the heritage garden, or investigate dinosaur tracks that have endured roughly 100 million years of changing seasons. After their journeys through time, visitors can retire to the outdoor picnic area or stroll through the onsite gift shop.
Named San Antonio's Best Museum in the 2010 Nickelodeon Parents' Choice Awards, San Antonio Children's Museum has ushered more than two million guests through its educational wonderland since opening in 1995. Tykes can explore permanent exhibits such as Science City, with hands-on exhibits covering physics, engineering, and how to extract highlighter ink from lightning bugs. In PowerBall Hall, children man simple machines to send orbs up to a lofty cage until the chamber fills and unleashes a spherical torrent down upon the delighted little ones. Other exhibits impart lessons of financial responsibility and proper nutrition in a make-believe bank and market. Membership is calibrated for any permutation of the family unit, and grants amenities including unlimited visits for a year, a subscription to the museum newsletter “Spark!,” and access to more than 40 classes where kids can submit theses on baking-soda volcanoes for peer review.
The Witte Museum was born from many minds seeking a singular goal: to create a public forum that promoted lifelong learning. From a $65,000 gift bequeathed to the city of San Antonio after Alfred Witte's death in 1921, this museum of science, natural history, and South Texas heritage was built along the San Antonio River and named after the late Witte's parents.
Today, the Witte Museum still pursues this wide range of knowledge with hands-on scientific and historical exhibits. The museum's long-term features portray the natural wonders of southern Texas, including ancient rock art from the lower Pecos, examples of local ecology, and dinosaur fossils found locally while trying to uncover lost time capsules.
“It’s the rare visitor who won't discover here that his or her ethnic group has contributed to the history of Texas,” noted the New York Times in its description of the Institute of Texan Cultures. The 26 different ethnic and cultural groups represented at the educational center incline one to agree with the Times. The article went on to list the institute as a top San Antonio attraction due to its “imaginative, hands-on displays” and kid-friendly features, including an adobe home and one-room schoolhouse. Along with heritage festivals and other events, the institute features both long-term and rotating exhibits, as well as a photo archive with more than three million images.