“Remember the Alamo.” This became the battle cry of Hispanic Texans and Anglo-American settlers who fought for independence from the Mexican government in 1836. They didn’t win the battle, but the loss of The Alamo, lit a fire under the state’s revolutionaries and Texas won its freedom less than two months later. Like the fighters before them, modern-day Texans find The Alamo pretty hard to forget—it’s now the state’s most visited tourist attraction. But the former mission isn’t the only draw in the nation’s eighth most populous city; there’s plenty to do and see in San Antonio.
The Alamo makes up only one-fifth of the historic Spanish missions, clustered around the San Antonio River. The largest—and most beautiful, according to Lonely Planet —Mission San José, lies just 5 miles south of downtown, and its famed rose window is once again on display following an extensive renovation.
The inspiration for another San Antonio highlight also came from across the Atlantic, not from Spain, but from Italy. In the late 1920s, architect Robert H. H. Hugman designed an urban park around the San Antonio River—a space he envisioned as an American version of Venice, where people could shop and dine along the waterfront. Completed in 1941, the 2.5-mile River Walk still serves as a vital artery in the heart of San Antonio as it wends its way past cafés, hotels, bars, and shops. For a taste of Texas’s signature spicy fare, locals and visitors alike stop into [Boudro’s](http://www.boudros.com), where the staff mashes guacamole right at your table.
A new extension connects the River Walk to the four-story San Antonio Museum of Art, where curators have collected more than 25,000 sculptures and paintings that range from Roman antiquities to contemporary art. Head one block from the River Walk for a completely different breed of exhibitions at The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum. Here, mounted-and-stuffed animals with out-of-the-ordinary genetics deck the halls, including a 1,056-pound black marlin and a deer dubbed the “78-point buck” for its unusual antlers. Also of note, the on-site saloon—still decorated with many of its original furnishings—is where Teddy Roosevelt once recruited men to join the Rough Riders, a voluntary cavalry unit formed during the Spanish-American War.
San Antonio also boasts easy access to natural landmarks, though you’ll have to go 180 feet underground to find some of them. Just outside of the city, the Natural Bridge Caverns house breathtaking stalagmites, stalactites, and caves, such as the Castle of the White Giant, where dangling rock formations are reflected in light-blue waters. Visitors to the caverns will find a whole host of things to do, starting with early morning lantern tours, climbing and rappelling tours, and panning for gems at the on-site mining sluice.
Certain times of the year, there are river parades and one can even take a river taxi from one end of the River Walk to the other.