Before the introduction of museums to the Old West, cowboys preserved local history the only way they knew how—by branding it onto the backsides of cattle rustlers. Today's Groupon opens a less painful path to knowledge: for $10, you get two tickets (up to a $36 value) to the Buckhorn Museum & Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum, located within walking distance of the Alamo and Riverwalk.
A proud purveyor of drinks and information since 1881, the Buckhorn Museum & Saloon gathers curious minds and wildlife exhibits inside a 129-year-old San Antonio staple. The saloon's founder, Albert Friedrich, originally accepted horns and antlers in lieu of payment for whiskey, acquiring the first pieces of a collection that now includes more than 520 species from all over the world. Each showroom is packed from the floor to the ceiling with land, sea, and airborne animals ranging from a prehistoric Irish elk skull and antlers to stuffed alligators to a 1,056-pound black marlin—which scientists believe to be the only unexaggerated fish a human being has ever caught. A wax museum showcases authentic pieces of Texas history, some donated and others unclaimed from the saloon's century-old lost-and-found box. After a long day of knowledge rustling, belly up to the saloon's bar—which is still equipped with many of its original furnishings, including a back bar hand-made of sumptuous marble and cherry wood—and knock back its famous prickly pear margarita.
Law lovers and order enthusiasts will prefer to wander the Texas Ranger Museum, which houses hundreds of authentic Ranger artifacts such as automatic handguns, badges, sawed-off shotguns, and photographs. Crime buffs will want to take copious notes throughout the museum's Bonnie and Clyde exhibit, which centers on the beloved bandit couple's recreated (and severely aerated) 1934 Ford V8 Deluxe. For people looking to experience the past without rewriting history and preventing Teddy Roosevelt from kissing their mother at the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance, "Ranger Town" recreates San Antonio at the turn of the twentieth century with its own jail, saloon, and blacksmith shop.
The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum and Texas Ranger Museum
Albert Friedrich poured the first foamer at The Buckhorn Saloon in 1881. Early in his bartending days, Friedrich began accepting horns and antlers in exchange for whiskey and beer, leading to a unique collection now exhibited in The Buckhorn Museum. The historic tavern claims that Teddy Roosevelt once recruited Rough Riders from among its patrons, and it is also rumored as the place where Pancho Villa plotted the Mexican Revolution. An original handcrafted marble-and-cherry-wood back bar and other historic furnishings still reside in the saloon, where guests now swig locally brewed beers and challenge each other to taser duels. Visitors come face to face with the taxidermal heads and other artifacts from more than 520 species, including a 1,056-pound black marlin and a prehistoric irish-elk skull and antlers. The museum also lays claims to a preserved whitetail deer and the rattlesnake rattle artwork of Friedrich’s wife, which guests can show to their own pet snakes as a cautionary example of what happens to misbehaving reptiles.
Adjacent to The Buckhorn Museum, The Texas Ranger Museum houses Texas Ranger paraphernalia such as sawed-off shotguns, badges, and photographs. At Ranger Town, young whippersnappers delight in glimpses of life during turn-of-the-century San Antonio, as depicted by a re-created jail, smith, and telegraph office, as well as the Bonnie and Clyde exhibit, where a '34 Ford V8 Deluxe sits anxiously awaiting its next adventure. On their way out, visitors can drop in at a museum gift shop that traces its own origins to 1920, when it was a curios store.