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Everything’s Bigger and Better in San Antonio

They say everything is bigger and better in Texas and San Antonio certainly lives up to the hype.

San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the United States, blends big hats and cowboy boots with Mexican culture, flavour and music. The combination makes San Antonio one of the most vibrant and colourful cities on your destination bucket list.

Where to stay, work and play in San Antonio

San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter on the River Walk is the ideal base for both business and leisure travel needs while in San Antonio. The hotel is within walking or wheeling distance of the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center and the entertainment precinct of the River Walk.

Marriott Rivercenter offers spacious accessible accommodation, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool with access via a pool seat, business centre, bar and restaurant. I was a regular at the Starbucks located in the hotel lobby during my stay, shamelessly fulfilling my pumpkin bread addiction given it’s not available at Australian Starbucks outlets. It’s a convenient spot for picking up a snack or drink on the go.

San Antonio River Walk

When dining with friends and colleagues, the River Walk’s extensive dining choices offer a mixture of local fare including Texas barbecue, Mexican feasts (with a cheeky Margarita on the side) and traditional American options. Live music and the colourful flotilla of riverboats passing by make the river a tourist gathering hub at night.

By day, the River Walk is a visitor’s delight with the option of wandering the pathways that run either side of the river or hopping on a barge with guided commentary to learn more about the city’s architecture and history. Wheelchair access is available to both the pathways and the barges. 

A canal running down the centre of the San Antonio River Walk with trees over the top and buildings on either side
The San Antonio River Walk draws visitors and locals alike.

The Alamo

Within walking distance of San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter on the River Walk hotel is the Alamo, one of the city’s and indeed the country’s best-known attractions.

The most recognisable structure within the Alamo grounds is the church. Originally a Spanish mission church, it later played a vital role in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Visitors are now able to tour the church grounds and the Alamo Exhibit which houses a range of artefacts gifted to the State of Texas by musician Phil Collins.

Historians will revel in the live demonstrations at the Encampment behind the church which are conducted by the Alamo’s living historians. The guides provide hands-on demonstrations about daily life at the time of the Texas Revolution. 

All areas of the Alamo are wheelchair accessible although the stone walkways are uneven in areas.

The Alamo building at night illuminated from below
It’s impossible to forget the Alamo when you see it illuminated at night.

San Antonio’s Flower Power

Meandering through some of the 38 acres of the San Antonio Botanical Garden will charm nature lovers. The gardens offer a mixture of formal gardens, native Texas plants and a conservatory filled with plants and flowers from around the world. The Botanical Garden offers a range of educational programs for children and adults.

Our group visit involved a cocktail making class using fresh herbs from the garden – a delicious way to begin a visit. 

Accessible pathways lead through the gardens but some have an incline that might need a bit of extra push. 

Neat flowerbeds and grassy areas at San Antonio Botanical Gardens with a bush shaped like a dragon
The carefully cultivated San Antonio Botanic Gardens will delight nature-lovers.

Japanese Tea Garden

Once a limestone quarry, the Japanese Tea Garden is a gorgeous oasis in San Antonio which attracts locals and visitors alike. In 1915 Ray Lambert, the city’s parks commissioner thought the space would make a nice lily pond and from that idea a beautiful Japanese style garden, complete with waterfall and koi pond has become one of the most photographed spots in San Antonio.  

On the day I visited, there was much needed rainfall which hampered our exploration of the gardens, but many others were undeterred. The Japanese Tea Garden is a magnet for graduating school leavers and their families looking for a pretty backdrop for their commemorative photos. 

The upper garden and pavilion areas of the historic Japanese Tea Garden are accessible by ramp.

Historic Market Square

If you’re looking to embrace the colours, flavours and atmosphere of San Antonio, then the Historic Market Square is the place to do it. This is the largest Mexican market in the US and definitely geared to tourists wanting to be transported to Mexico without crossing the border.

Restaurants and stores are brightly decorated and it’s where you can tap into all those Mexican flavours, purchase jewellery and souvenirs.

Historic Market Square in San Antonio, with brightly coloured buildings and bunting across the wide paved area
Historic Market Square gives visitors to San Antonio a taste of nearby Mexico.

San Antonio’s Missions

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park includes nearly 300 years of history and culture. Four separate mission sites can be explored.

Short of time while in San Antonio I chose to Uber to just two, Mission Concepcion and Mission Espada. Scurrying around like one of the many squirrels in the grounds, I made my way around the two missions trying to get an insight into life in the past. Far more than just churches, they were communities as each was a fortified village, with its own church, farm and ranch. 

Access around the grounds is via paths or hard surfaces but due to the historic nature of the San Antonio Missions accessibility to the buildings is limited. As an example, stairs lead to the top of Mission Concepcion.

Exterior view of the Missions San Antonio Espaada Mission, a large stone facade next to a tree and a grassy area
My quick trip to Espaada Mission in San Antonio was well worth it!

Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island

Don’t miss a visit to Morgan’s Wonderland & in summer to Morgan’s Inspiration Island if you’re staying in San Antonio. Find out more about the world’s first ultra-accessible™️ theme park here.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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