There is so much to do in San Antonio, even when you decide to travel on a budget. Explore the Alamo, scene of the bloodiest battle in the Texas War for Independence, and then drive to pastoral missions where time appears to have stopped. You will be amazed.
First Stop : The Mission Trail
300 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, Texas 78205
Open Monday through Saturday, 9 am-530 pm. On Sunday, the Alamo opens at 10 am.
The Alamo was first named Mission San Antonio de Valero. Construction started on the mission in 1724. In 1793, Spanish officials secularized the five missions in San Antonio. The lands were distributed to the Indian residents. The Alamo is the most famous of the Spanish missions in Texas. Although you will may be disappointed to find the Alamo in a crowded urban setting, there is something about the Alamo, especially at night, that will take your breath away. Admission to the Alamo is free.
Visit the Just for Kids page on TheAlamo.org before you visit to print out activities that you and your children may do together. The Shrine and the Long Barrack are two original buildings, so ‘you will want to tour both. In the same area is the Clara Driscoll Theater, where you may watch a movie about the Alamo.
How much you want to talk about the death of the defenders of the is up to you. The battle was nothing like the movie and the survivors were tortured before finally being allowed to die. There was a woman, a slave and some children that survived. It is through these accounts that we know anything.
Historical Map of the Alamo Grounds With an Overlay of Current Downtown San Antonio, Texas
For Accurate Positioning of all Historical Alamo Features
Explore the grounds of the Alamo. Find the Alamo Acequia and the Well. The Alamo Cenotaph, across from the Long Barrack, is an empty tomb. The bodies of the defenders of the Alamo were burned by Santa Anna after he took the Alamo. When you are tired of exploring, enjoy history talks on the hour and the half hour except during lunch (12-1 pm) in the Cavalry Courtyard.
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
The Alamo is just one of many Spanish missions founded in Texas. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established to preserve and interpret the chain of Spanish Missions that were built along the San Antonio River in the 18th century. Here is the Map of the San Antonio Missions NHP. However, after Mission San Jose, it is best to ask park personnel for directions. Road construction is a never ending operation on the mission trail.
Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo
Beginning your trip at Mission San José will help orient you to the wonder of the missions and give you time to unwind from the Alamo. View a 23-minute film, take a ranger guided tour, and visit a restored Spanish Colonial flour mill, powered by gravity and water. You are just a short drive south of downtown, but it is like another place and time. Step into the church and light a candle. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the 1000s of prayers echoing down through the years.
Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña
This mission, built in East Texas in 1716 and transferred to the San Antonio River area in 1731, is.named in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Juan de Acuña, Viceroy of New Spain. Built on bedrock, the structural integrity of the mission protected the interior, where today you may view frescoes painted over 200 years ago.
Mission San Francisco de la Espada
Originally established near Weches, Texas in 1690. Mission Espada is the oldest mission in Texas.
Acequia at Mission Espada
Espada Aqueduct is the only functioning aqueduct from the Spanish Colonial Period in the United States. Explore this age old method of irrigation that has survived 300 years.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
In 1716, Mission San José de los Nazonis was established to serve the Nazonis Indians in the woods of East Texas. This mission, like all the missions in East Texas, was not successful. On March 5, 1731, the mission was reestablished on the east bank of the San Antonio River and renamed San Juan Capistrano. The 1/3 mile Yanaguana Trail at Mission San Juan takes you to a small section of the San Antonio River in its natural state. The trail is is accessible.
Links to Brochures (PDF) For Each Mission
Mission Concepción | Mission San José | Mission San Juan | Mission Espada
Tours last 45-60 minutes. Meet at the visitor center or information center of the mission you wish to tour.
- 10 am Mission San José or Mission Concepción
- 11 am Mission San José
- 130 pm Mission San Juan (staff permitting)
- 2 pm Mission San José, Mission Concepción or Mission Espada (staff permitting)
- 3 pm Mission San José or Mission San Juan (staff permitting)
- 330 pm Mission Espada (staff permitting)
Tour Rancho de las Cabras, the grazing lands of the missions, on the first Saturday of the month at 10 am, weather permitting. Call 210.932.1001 for more information.
Scheduled Events in December at the Missions
Hubbell Trading Post NHP Navajo Rug & Jewelry Show & Sale
Visitor Center at Mission San José
Saturday & Sunday, December 3 & 4, 2011
9 am-5 pm daily
Annual Los Pastores Play
Mission San José
Sunday, December 17, 2011
7 pm (Gates open at 6 pm)
Venue is outside so bring warm clothing and something to sit upon.
The public transportation system in San Antonio is VIA. Bus 42 from downtown will bring you to Mission San José and within two blocks of Mission Concepción. There are no buses to Mission San Juan and Mission Espada.
By automobile, drive south on South St. Mary’s Street. Approximately one mile south of downtown, after passing beneath railroad tracks, South St. Mary’s becomes Roosevelt Ave. Continue on Roosevelt for 4 miles. You will see Mission San José on your left. At the first stop light past the mission turn left onto New Napier Ave. Follow signs to parking for Mission San José.
Visit the National Park Services website for more information and to help you plan your visit.