Get to know San Antonio

January 1, 2008

San Antonio offers visitors a tale of two cities. If your pleasure is leisurely sipping margaritas, then this is the city for you. If you prefer learning about mission history and the city's multicultural background, this is also a great destination.

In its early days, distinct groups populated the Mission City, which gives the location its diverse feel even now. Spanish missionaries and militiamen, German merchants, Southern plantation owners, Western cattle ranchers and Eastern architects all left their mark, and their imprint is still visible today.

A look in the past

Decades later, the Spanish Franciscans proposed building a new mission near the San Antonio because of the water supply and the friendly local population. So, in 1718, Mission San Antonio de Valero - later known as the Alamo - was founded.

By 1830, all five of the area's missions were secularized, and Mexico was growing nervous about the large numbers of Anglos coming from the North. In 1835, the first battle for Texas's independence was won when the Mexican commanding general surrendered to the Texan army at San Antonio. However, the return engagement ended quite differently.

From February 23 to March 6, 1836, some 180 volunteers - among them Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie - died defending the Alamo fortress against Mexican General Santa Anna's men. One month later, Sam Houston spurred his troops to victory at the Battle of San Jacinto with the cry "Remember the Alamo," securing Texas's freedom.

The Mission City today

Now the eighth-largest city in the United States, San Antonio has evolved from a military town with an attractive river to a city that continues to expand its tourism trade.

Also known as the Fiesta City, San Antonio is more than just a serious, historic destination. There is plenty to do and see for tourists who want to "kick back."

The city's famous River Walk, located in the heart of downtown, lines the banks of the historic river. Cobblestone walkways lead visitors to the river-level restaurants and shops. River cruisers glide past the River Walk's three miles of retail shops, restaurants and hot nightclubs.

If you have time for an afternoon of attractions, visit the Alamo, where you will find relics from the Republic of Texas. You can take a driving/hiking mission tour or walk through the largest cavern in Texas at the Natural Bridge Caverns. Visitors can also view San Antonio from the Tower of the Americas observation deck.

However you choose to enjoy San Antonio - through its abundant attractions, missions, museums, shopping or nightlife - take time to experience the rich heritage and diverse culture of the Alamo City.

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