Walk back in time to colonial Spanish days at one of San Antonio's five 18th-century missions that spread European culture and converted the native people to Christianity— forever changing the face of the Southwest. Wander the streets of La Villita, one of the first Spanish settlements, and later home to German and French pioneers. Or head to the King William neighborhood, a national historic district lined with impressive restored homes. Sit at the bar in the Menger Hotel where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his "Rough Riders" years before. See where Texas' history begins, in San Antonio.
San Antonio is currently the seventh-largest city in the US and sits at the crossroads of IH-10, which goes from east to west, and IH-35, which goes from north to south. San Antonio is home to the Alamo, symbol of Texas liberty and freedom. Market Square, or El Mercado, in downtown San Antonio is patterned after an authentic Mexican market. From early morning until late at night, fans can browse through the 32 shops. In addition, there are 80 specialty shops in Farmers Market Plaza. This is the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico. The River Walk is currently being expanded and has opened the first phase, adding an additional two miles linking it with the San Antonio Museum of Art, famous for its Latin American folk art collection, and The Pearl, an historic brewery converted into a collection of restaurants, including the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio school and restaurant. The Pearl also is host to the producer’s only farmers market, which is open on Sundays and Wednesdays.
The downtown area features the Cathedral of San Fernando, HemisFair Park (home of the Tower of the Americas and the Institute of Texan Cultures), La Villita (an art community), El Mercado, the Spanish Governor's Palace, and the historic Menger Hotel. On the northern side of the Alamo complex, beside the Emily Morgan Hotel, is the San Antonio Cavalry Museum, which features cavalry artifacts and exhibits and is frequented by local reenactors. San Antonio has an amazing zoo! The San Antonio Zoological Gardens and Aquarium is a bus ride away, and is next to Brackenridge Park, home of the Japanese Gardens. The zoo’s bird collection is now one of the world's largest, and contains the world’s second-largest aviary.
And of course the River Walk is mere steps from the convention. Even in the heat of summer, this is a cool, shady walk. The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks lined with restaurants and shops, connecting the major tourist draws from the Alamo to Rivercenter mall, to the Arneson River Theatre close to La Villita, to HemisFair Park, to the Tower Life Building, to the San Antonio Museum of Art.
What food comes to mind when you think of San Antonio? Tex-Mex, of course! But while you will find some of the spiciest, most flavorful Tex-Mex (and regional Mexican) food downtown, you will also find barbeque, steaks, seafood, burgers, Chinese, Japanese, and more! Have tacos for breakfast and fajitas for lunch, and don’t limit yourself--that tiny place you pass on the way to the convention may be the best food you’ve ever had.