9 Best Things to See in San Antonio (And Do, And Eat, And Photograph)

Everyone’s heard of San Antonio Texas. I’m sure many of you may have even been there and experienced it. But as for me, I must say I was relatively ignorant before I went there. The one thing I had heard of frequently was The River Walk. So, I knew it existed, but I basically knew nothing about it. Well we had a family wedding in San Antonio so we were not going waste this opportunity to see this city we knew so little about.  And from the result, we created this great list for you, “The 9 Best Things to See in San Antonio”!  That way, you can travel to to San Antonio much more easily knowing you have experienced the best, most interesting sights and flavors.

Step one, do a little research. My wife is so crazy good at that and she did her magic finding all the gems that we must see.

We also had other insiders that we could rely on to help with this trip. We had some relatives on my mom’s side of the family that I visited way back in college at the HofBrauHaus in Germany. That was a quick visit, but at least we got to know them a bit. More recently we had become Facebook friends and got to know them better in a remote way. They were now in San Antonio and they had lived there for 30 years.

We reconnected with them to see if they could be our tour guides for a part of the day. Shirley, being the incredibly social person that she is, gladly accepted the request and she and Fred led us on a fabulous tour of the city.  So let’s get going.

9) Cornerstone Church

Why is a church the 1st thing I mention when visiting San Antonio? Well, it turns out the wedding was at a “small chapel” at Cornerstone Church. So I was able to see an inside view of it. The small chapel is bigger than most churches across the country.

Corner Stone Chapel

Cornerstone Church is what they call a Mega church. A “Mega Church” is defined By Wiki as being a protestant church having 2000 or more people in average weekend attendance.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Cornerstone Church John Hagge
Headquarter Entrance of Cornerstone Church San Antonio Texas

Cornerstone has a membership of 17000 people at this non denominational church, That’s sanctuary seats 5400 people. Frankly, in an interesting way it makes me think of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, not in architecture but the same vastness and it is obviously The worldwide headquarters of a very significant religious organization.

After the wedding, the staff person responsible for making sure everything flows well gave me a behind the scenes view of the ginormous church. I must say, it is very impressive.

Interior of Cornerstone Church San Antonio Texas

Check out this article for more details on the church: https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/cornerstone-church/

So it doesn’t matter if you’re affiliated with any religion at all, this place is still very interesting to see. – Best Things to See in San Antonio

8) Eat All the Amazing Food

My wife and I are unofficial foodies. What that means is my wife’s a great cook, and eating great food is one form of our entertainment. We are the type of people that try not to hit the same restaurant twice.

When you come to San Antonio and you’re looking for interesting food two of the things you hear all of the time are ,Mexican and Barbecue.

Mexican Restaurants

For this trip, we decided to stay close to family that was going to be participating in the wedding. The family blocked out a hotel close to Cornerstone Church which happens to be on the North side of San Antonio.

Hotel Note: We were booked in the Homewood Suites by Hilton right by Cornerstone Church. They were $91 a night for a fabulous sweet interesting breakfast and an open bar reception during the week Down in the lounge restaurant area. Truly it felt like home!
Other interesting note, the concierge could not or would not give restaurant recommendations. It is possible he was new from out of town and just didn’t know the local fare.

Hungry for Mexican food and ready to try the best of the best we set out. Being we were on the North side of town we assumed we would find chains and other uninteresting varieties. Nevertheless, we turned to Google and started doing some searches and reading some reviews.

Marioli

Oh my God, we found Marioli. With a 4.4 review on Google, Decided we probably could not lose. We got in there about 7pm and there weren’t very many people there. Looking at all the amazing items in the counter, both entrees and desserts we knew we were in the right place.
When the server came over to take our order she could not speak English and she had to get somebody else to help. 2nd clue that we were in the right place.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Mexican Food Marioli's Amazing Selections
Mexican Food Marioli’s Amazing Selections

Everything looks so amazing, so we decided to ordered a variety of items so that everyone could try everything.

One thing I distinctly remember was, they served two different kinds of pork. They were so totally and completely different yet so amazingly delicious that it boggled the mind.

This is not an old world classic style Mexican restaurant. This is much more like a fine art chef run restaurant.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Mexican Food Marioli's Amazing Deserts
Marioli’s Amazing Deserts

Everything was outrageously amazing!

Eventually the father in law of the owner came over to chat. He did speak English so we had a great conversation. It turns out he had learned the restaurant business in Minneapolis years and years ago. His daughter-in-law was actually from Cuba Creating a very interesting mix on the Mexican style of food.

Of course we had to try all of the deserts. Yup they had to roll us out of the place but we were happy and satisfied.

Casa Rio – On the Riverwalk

The next day we were exploring around downtown, at lunchtime we were still hungry for interesting Mexican food. Our tour guides love taking their guests Casa Rio, the oldest Mexican Restaurant on the riverwalk. This place has an amazing view of the river area and I’m sure has been a highlight for years and years.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Good Times with Family at Casa Rio San Antonio
Good Times with Family at Casa Rio San Antonio

The view is much more classic Mexican. What I learned on this trip is every Friday Lackland Air Force Base graduates approximately 600 new recruits from the Air Force basic training camp. Many of these recruits come out with their families to celebrate their wonderful accomplishment.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Casa Rio Oldest Mexican Restaurant on the River Walk San Antonio
Casa Rio Oldest Mexican Restaurant on the River Walk San Antonio

So the riverwalk area and Casa Rio were crawling with excited new recruits. It was a very festive. – Best Things to See in San Antonio

Michin Grill Kitchen and Tequila Bar

That evening we were back to our hotel with more family coming in town and we were still looking for great Mexican.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Amazing Mexican Food - Michin Grill Kitchen and Tequila Bar San Antonio
Michin Grill Kitchen and Tequila Bar San Antonio

Being the concierge just not come to give us a restaurant recommendation we had to rely on trusty Google again. Michin came just as highly recommended on Google with even more reviews right in the same area so we tried our luck again.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Amazing Mexican Food - Michin Grill Kitchen and Tequila Bar San Antonio
Amazing Mexican Food – Michin Grill Kitchen and Tequila Bar San Antonio

This place has a very cool vibe. 1st of all it had live music. No not that common mariachi band, this had 2 guys, 1 on the keyboard and one guy singing to a recorded trac.  Wow they rocked the place. They did a Carlos Santana piece which frankly sounded better than Carlos Santana. Now that is a very very high bar.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Amazing Mexican Food - Michin Grill Kitchen and Tequila Bar San Antonio
Michin Grill Kitchen and Tequila Bar San Antonio

This was also more of a modern a Mexican restaurant, with many interesting flavor mixes. Many of the items were seafood combinations that were certainly interesting for us northern inlanders.

Of course I had to try my hand at a couple varieties of tequila.


Tequila Public Service Announcement

Best Things to See in San Antonio

Barbecue

The next day we were going be running around town more Which would mean we would have an opportunity to look for more interesting food. This time it was time to look for barbecue.  For us we kind of struck out. We found a place that was highly rated, but when we got there, there was nothing there.  We ended up going to another barbecue place close by, but it was average fare with average service.

I know there are many great options around the city, but we struck out. Do you have any fabulous recommendations for barbecue please post them in the comments below.

7) Market Square – El Mercado

Market Square is an amazing place, filled with it looked like hundreds of vendors. If you are interested in Mexican crafts etc, this is certainly the place to go. We are not really shoppers but we still had to go into this place just for the pure entertainment value. We were quickly overwhelmed by the dazzling array of stuff.

7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Exterior Market Square - El Mercado
Exterior Market Square – El Mercado

At one point my wife and I joked wondering, how much of this stuff was actually made in China???

 7 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Interior Market Square - El Mercado
Interior Market Square – El Mercado

Visit Website: Best Things to See in San Antonio – Market Square – El Mercado – 

6) Shops at RiverCenter

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Shops at RiverCenter
Shops at RiverCenter

This is a major shopping hub and an entertainment complex right in the midst of the riverwalk. Again, we are not shoppers, we’d much rather be out National Park or something but I’m sure many of you love to shop and would love this place.

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Shops at RiverCenter
Shops at RiverCenter

Best Things to See in San Antonio

5) Briscoe Western Art Museum

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Briscoe Western Art Museum
Briscoe Western Art Museum

Of course when you think of Texas, many of us think of Western movies and the Wild Wild West. So of course you need have a fabulous Western Art Museum.
It truly is a wonderful museum filled with all kinds of facts and history. You could spend a whole day there. But,what I loved most is the wonderful, rich, sculpture garden.

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Briscoe Western Art Museum
Briscoe Western Art Museum

The museum is situated on the northern section of the Riverwalk. With the opening of the Gloria Galt River Landing in 2009, it now anchors the “Museum Reach” expansion of the celebrated Riverwalk.

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Sculpture Garden - Briscoe Western Art Museum
Sculpture Garden – Briscoe Western Art Museum

When the museum opened it specialized in art of the Americas including pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, and Latin American folk art. It also included eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century American and European paintings, photography, sculpture, and decorative arts. In 1985, it received collections of Latin American Folk Art formed by former Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller and Robert K. Winn.

 8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The Duke - Sculpture Garden - Briscoe Western Art Museum
The Duke – Sculpture Garden – Briscoe Western Art Museum

In the 1990s the museum expanded considerably with donations from Gilbert M. Denman, Jr., the addition of the Stark-Willson Collection which established a comprehensive collection of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art, and a collection of Chinese ceramics from trustees Walter F. and Lenora Brown. The Chinese collection which also included other Asian objects resulted in a 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) wing named after them, The Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing, which opened in 2005 is now the largest Museum for Asian art in the southern United States. – wiki

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The Clothes - Briscoe Western Art Museum
The Clothes – Briscoe Western Art Museum

Visit the Website: http://www.briscoemuseum.org

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Briscoe Western Art Museum
Briscoe Western Art Museum

Best Things to See in San Antonio

4) San Antonio Missions National Park

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Mission San José
Mission San José

We knew early in our research we were gonna do everything we could to get to all the mission sites in San Antonio. The area is so rich in history and this National Park does a great job to capture the history both in actual restored sites, and also in movies and other media. The sites were truly spectacular

What we like best about these types of places is that they are staffed with retired volunteers. Many of which are history professors or history buffs of some sort or another. So they could wax poetically for hours with stories of what actually took place at the sites. We were smiling from ear to ear interacting with them and questioning their view of history pushing back a little bit. What great fun!!

Visit Their Website:  https://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm

Mission San José (Texas)

Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo is a historic Catholic mission in San Antonio, Texas, United States. The mission was named in part for the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo, José de Azlor y Virto de Vera. Many buildings on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, borrow architectural elements from those found at Mission San José.

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Mission San José
Interior Mission San José

Arched exterior of San José Mission Church
The mission was founded on February 23, 1720, because Mission San Antonio de Valero had become overcrowded shortly after its founding with refugees from the closed East Texas missions. Father Antonio Margil received permission from the governor of Coahuila and Texas, the Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo, to build a new mission 5 miles (8 km) south of San Antonio de Valero.[ Like San Antonio de Valero, Mission San José served the Coahuiltecan Indians. The first buildings, made of brush, straw, and mud, were quickly replaced by large stone structures, including guest rooms, offices, a dining room, and a pantry. A heavy outer wall was built around the main part of the mission, and rooms for 350 Indians were built into the walls.

8 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Mission San José
Mission San José

A new church, which is still standing, was constructed in 1768 from local limestone.[4] The mission lands were given to its Indians in 1794, and mission activities officially ended in 1824. After that, the buildings were home to soldiers, the homeless, and bandits. Starting in 1933, the Civil Works Administration and then the Works Progress Administration provided the labor to rebuild and restore the grounds of the mission. Some of the funding for the restoration came from money allotted by the United States for the Texas Centennial Exposition held in Dallas in 1936. The mission walls and Indian quarters were re-built, and the granary was restored.

Visit Their Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_San_Jos%C3%A9_(Texas)

Mission Concepcion

 9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Concepcion San Antonio Texas
Mission Concepcion San Antonio Texas

Franciscan friars established Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña (also Mission Concepcion) in 1716 as Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Hainais in East Texas. The mission was originally meant to be a base for converting the Hasinai to Catholicism and teaching them what they needed to know to become Spanish citizens. The friars moved the mission in 1731 to San Antonio. After its relocation most of the people in the mission were Pajalats who spoke a Coahuiltecan language.[1] Catholic Mass is still held every Sunday.

 9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Concepcion San Antonio Texas
Mission Concepcion San Antonio Texas

On October 28, 1835, Mexican troops under Colonel Domingo Ugartechea and Texian insurgents led by James Bowie and James Fannin fought the Battle of Concepción here. Historian J.R. Edmondson describes the 30-minute engagement as “the first major engagement of the Texas Revolution.”[2]

 9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Concepcion San Antonio Texas
Mission Concepcion San Antonio Texas

Mission Concepcion consists of a sanctuary, nave, convento, and granary. When originally built, brightly painted frescos decorated both the exterior and interior of the building. Traces of the frescoes still exist on the weathered facade of the building. Experts restored some of the artwork on the interior ceilings and walls of the convento in 1988. The Archdiocese of San Antonio completed another restoration of the mission’s interior in 2010 which exposed more frescoes in the sanctuary and nave.

Visit Their Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_Concepcion

Mission Espada

Also known as Mission San Francisco de la Espada

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Espada Also known as Mission San Francisco de la Espada
Mission Espada – Also known as Mission San Francisco de la Espada

Mission San Francisco de la Espada (also Mission Espada) is a Roman Rite Catholic mission established in 1690 by Spain in present-day San Antonio, Texas, in what was then known as northern New Spain. The mission was built in order to convert local Native Americans to Christianity and solidify Spanish territorial claims in the New World against encroachment from France.Today, the structure is one of four missions that comprise San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Espada Also known as Mission San Francisco de la Espada
9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Espada
Also known as Mission San Francisco de la Espada

Founded in 1690 as San Francisco de los Tejas near Weches, Texas and southwest of present-day Alto, Texas, Mission San Francisco de la Espada was the second mission established in Texas.

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Espada Also known as Mission San Francisco de la Espada
Interior – Mission Espada

Three priests, three soldiers and supplies left among the Nabedache Indians. The new mission was dedicated on June 1, 1690. A smallpox epidemic in the winter of 1690-1691 killed an estimated 3,300 people in the area. The Nabedache believed the Spaniards brought the disease and hostilities developed between the two groups.

 

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio Mission Espada Also known as Mission San Francisco de la Espada
The Doors – Mission Espada

Drought besieged the mission in the summers of 1691 and 1692, and the Nabedache wished to get rid of the mission. Under threat of personal attack, the priests began packing their belongings in the fall of 1693. On October 25, 1693, the padres burned the mission and retreated toward Monclova. The party lost its way and did not reach Monclova until February 17, 1694.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_San_Francisco_de_la_Espada

The Alamo

See The Alamo below as it’s own separate place to visit.

 

Best Things to See in San Antonio

3) The Alamo

The Alamo is part of Missions National Park, but in my mind, it’s also separate. Because it holds a special place in the minds of many Americans, simply because of the classic John Wayne movie.

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The Alamo
The Alamo Mission

Because of that movie and others like it many people think the Alamo is a huge place. But when you come up to it you realize it’s really quite small. Partially because its on the river walk in downtown San Antonio so the large city Dorset a bit. But also because of the romanticized view of it in the movie One would assume it was bigger.

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The Alamo Mission
The Alamo Mission

Don’t let it smaller stature Press you or wreck your view of it. Be sure to go outside and find a historian and listen to all the history of the place. There was so much going on in this region. History is completely fascinating!

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The Alamo Mission
The Alamo Mission Soldiers

Visit Their Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Mission_in_San_Antonio

Best Things to See in San Antonio

2) Cathedral of San Fernando

San Fernando Cathedral is called the Cathedral of our Lady of Candelaria and Guadalupe. This is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Gothic architectural style listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also one of the oldest Cathedrals in the United States.

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Cathedral of San Fernando
Cathedral of San Fernando

In 1831, Jim Bowie (of “The Alamo” fame) married Ursula de Veramendi in this Cathedral.   I love it simply because its architectural I interesting. It is a work of fine art!

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph Cathedral of San Fernando
Interior Cathedral of San Fernando

Visit Their Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_San_Fernando

Best Things to See in San Antonio

1) The San Antonio River Walk

Finally, number one in the list is The San Antonio River Walk.

The River Walk San Antonio

Again this being number one seems odd to me. Not because it shouldn’t be number one but because I was ignorant of it again. I had heard of the river walk and assumed it was just all marketing fluff. I’m ashamed to say I was wrong again.  We 1st walked it as we were getting downtown on our way to the Alamo. I was stunned by its vastness its complexity and its beauty.

9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The River Walk
The River Walk – Outdoor Theater

Then we walked it again with our local tour guides and got to see it up close and personally with a very local flair, Getting told many of the stories of its development and what actually happens behind the scenes.

 9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The River Walk - Boat Tours
The River Walk – Boat Tours

And finally after our lunch at Casa Rio, we took the boat tour through the canals that the riverwalk strolls along. We lucked out and got one of the best tour guides I had ever heard for our boat driver. He showed us all the sites but also gave us all the political stories that went behind creating the river walk and then expanding the park.

 9 Best Things to See in San Antonio - And Do, And Eat, And Photograph The River Walk - Art Mural
The River Walk – Art Mural

So yes, the River Walk is certainly a place you must experience. Whether you experience it at during the day, in the evening, or for live outdoor theater, any of these options would be great!

Conclusion

So, I hope this gives you some great ideas of what to see and how to experience San Antonio.  If you have more great ideas I’d love to hear your feedback down below or feel free to send me a note. If I made any mistakes please feel free to correct me.

Until next time, get out and capture the adventure! – Best Things to See in San Antonio

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Best Things to See in San Antonio

Written by Wayne Moran - Visit Website
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