Visiting San Antonio: The Alamo, River Walk and Mission San José

Last updated May 20, 2021 | Published on Jan 28, 2021

After wrapping up our visit to sunny Austin, Daniel and I headed to San Antonio. It was only an hour and 15 minutes away and also home to the Alamo, so of course we had to visit. At first we only planned on briefly visiting San Antonio, but after researching all the cool things to see in the city we extended our stay to four days.

It was during our visit to San Antonio that we decided to change our travel habits, at least for a while. This was back in early November and COVID-19 cases were surging across the country. On November 11, 2020, Texas became the first state in the country to hit one million cases of COVID-19. Things were particularly bad in the nearby city of El Paso, where temporary morgues were brought in and inmates were enlisted to work in them. In fact, patients were being transported from El Paso to San Antonio due to a shortage of hospital beds.

This was particularly relevant to us because Daniel and I planned to travel to El Paso next. Several National Parks are located near El Paso and it seemed like a good central location from which to visit them. Well, no longer. I had no desire to go anywhere near El Paso. In fact, any traveling at all seemed ill advised. So we scrapped those plans and came up with a new one. We would spend spend the next month hunkering down in an AirBnB and wait for things to calm down a little.

Visiting San Antonio was a lot of fun and the last trip in recent memory where we acted like tourists. We walked around town, ate at a nice restaurant (outdoors, of course), and saw various tourist attractions such as the River Walk and the Alamo. It was lovely.

Remember the Alamo

I’ll be honest. I’ve heard of the Alamo, of course, but I didn’t know much about it other than that a famous battle took place there. I’m sure I learned about it in school but that was a long time ago. For those of you who are similarly challenged, here is a little refresher.

Originally known as the Misión San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo is a historic Spanish mission. Founded in the 18th century by Roman Catholic missionaries, the Alamo was initially constructed for the education of local Native Americans.

After it was abandoned by the church some 200 years later, the buildings in the Alamo compound were occupied by soldiers. In 1821, the Alamo was transferred from Spanish to Mexican control following the Mexican War of Independence.

All this sets the stage for the Battle of the Alamo. Texans took control of the Alamo in December 1835 in a bid for independence. Determined to avenge Mexico’s honor, General Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo in March 1836 after a 13-day siege. Roughly 200 Texans died defending the Alamo, including their leaders (Colonels William B. Travis and James Bowie) and the legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett.

The loss at the Battle of the Alamo fueled the push for change and Texans flocked to join the revolution. As a result, Santa Anna’s army was defeated the following month in the Battle of San Jacinto. During the battle, Texan soldiers repeatedly cried “Remember the Alamo!” which went on to become a famous American battle cry.

Remember the Alamo!

Close-up of the Alamo’s front door

The Courtyards inside of the Alamo are a nice place to hang out

Davy Crockett! He died at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Photo by Daniel.

Meet Miss Isabella Francisca Veramendi de Valero (or Bella for short)! She lives at the Alamo.

Bella is a very friendly cat.

Mission San José

Upon arrival in San Antonio, I was surprised to learn that the Alamo was not the only historical mission in the area. In fact, there are four other historical Spanish frontier missions nearby. These are now all now preserved as a part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

We only had time to visit one other mission so we chose Mission San José. Founded in 1720 by Antonio Margil, Mission San José is the biggest of the bunch. We spent some time wandering the grounds just before closing time one afternoon and were thoroughly impressed.

Mission San José

Mission San José is the largest mission in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

The front of Mission San José

Wandering along the grounds of Mission San José

The golden hour

Hello, Daniel!

A small remnant is still visible of the beautiful plaster that used to cover the exterior walls of Mission San José

Mission San José is located in an enormous courtyard. A whole community used to be located here.

Welcome to Mission San José in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

San Antonio River Walk

While we chose to visit to San Antonio because of The Alamo, that wasn’t my favorite part about to the city. I absolutely adored strolling along the banks of the San Antonio River on the River Walk. Known as the “American Venice”, the River Walk is comprised of a network of sidewalks that are located one story below the city streets. The numerous pedestrian bridges and winding walkways lined with shops, restaurants, and gorgeous bald cypress trees really did remind me of Venice.

Tall green trees line the river along the San Antonio River Walk

Brightly colored umbrellas along the San Antonio River Walk

This bird is on the lookout for food left behind by tourists on the San Antonio River Walk

Tour boat on the San Antonio River Walk

Buildings along the River Walk are reflected in the water

Daniel strikes a pose on the San Antonio River Walk

La Villita and the River Theatre

Located on the southern bank of the River Walk, La Villita is an art community that occupies one square block in the heart of downtown San Antonio. The village is supposed to be filled with art galleries, stores and restaurants, but it was fairly deserted during our visit. The Arneson River Theater is located right next to La Villita.

Welcome to La Villita!

Christmas decorations set up in La Villita

Courtyard in La Villita

Little Church of La Villita

Steps leading from the River Walk to La Villita. Photo by Daniel.

Welcome to the Arneson River Theatre

The stage in this unique theater is located across the river from the audience

Walking around San Antonio

Historic Market Square in San Antonio

Day of the Dead altar at the Historic Market Square

The Frost Tower in San Antonio

San Fernando Caftathedral

The Bexar County Courthouse is the largest and oldest continuously operated historic courthouse in Texas.

The Pearl District.

More Information and Resources for your San Antonio visit

Planning your own trip to San Antonio? Check out the following books for more inspiration:

Where are we now?

We are in San Antonio, Texas!

Dates: November 10-14, 2020
Great American Road Trip Status: Days 129-133

Starting Location: Austin, Texas
Ending Location: San Antonio, Texas
Miles Traveled: 116.2
Total Trip Mileage: 8785.5

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

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Hi, I'm Unicorn!

I am an avid hiker, traveler, and adventurer who is on the mission to explore hiking trails around the world.  I’m also obsessed with National Parks, long-distance trails and other outdoorsy things.

I hope to share this knowledge with you and inspire you to explore new hiking trails too!

14 Comments

  1. Katja

    To be honest, the only thing I knew about San Antonio was that they had a club in the NBA, but I had absolutely no idea it is actually sucha charming city! Great guide, I´ll keep it in mind for our next oist-pandemic US visit 🙂

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Katja!

      Reply
  2. dianalesko

    After checking your beautiful photos, I also want to visit San Antonio.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Diana!

      Reply
  3. Katie

    This is one on my future travel wish! I’ve not spent any time in Texas before.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      San Antonio is great! Also I recommend visiting Austin if you ever travel to Texas.

      Reply
  4. Lina

    San Antonio really seems to be a great and historically interesting plave to visit thanks to the Alamo 🙂

    Reply
  5. April

    Gorgeous photos! Love the incorporation of history and that you made the best of what could have been a bad situation. Have to say, Bella living at the Alamo is probably my fave.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks April!

      Reply
  6. kkuhlwilm

    San Antonio sounds like an amazing place to visit! I love the historical aspect, so interesting!

    Reply
  7. Lavi

    I went to the Alamo when I was young but I need to go back so I can fully appreciate it! Thanks for this comprehensive overview!

    Reply
  8. Megan

    It’s been a few years since I last visited San Antonio – but your amazing photos brought back all the memories! Many thanks.

    Reply
  9. Courtney

    Great post! I’ve never been to San Antonio but this post has definitely made me want to visit! And visiting the Alamo would be very interesting. I love checking out historical locations.

    Reply
    • Unicorn

      Thanks Courtney! It’s a fun city. Hope you make it there someday.

      Reply

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