River Walk is the second most popular tourist
attraction in San Antonio. It is bordered by
sidewalks, gardens, cafes, shops and pedestrian
ANTONIO — It was, quite honestly, a bucket-list side
why we detoured to San Antonio on our return from Austin
to Houston, to see the home of the Alamo.
that Alamo, the historic one-time Catholic mission
celebrated in Texas history, on television and in movies
by Fess Parker, John Wayne and Billy Bob Thornton.
glad we went.
Alamo is the No. 1 tourist attraction in Texas and gets
about 3 million visitors a year. It is the best-known
building in Texas, although much of the compound has been
lost over the years.
is small, but the weathered limestone facade is still one
of the most iconic images of America’s past.
what’s left of the beloved Alamo is considered hallowed
ground by many. It is a 4.2-acre shrine to Texas liberty
and an emblem of the American West. Texas is very proud of
the Alamo, aware of its history and imagery of doomed
bravery and the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
ruined mission is where William Barret Travis, Davy
Crockett, Jim Bowie and 186 others died in 1836, fighting
for Texas sovereignty against a Mexican force of 2,600
commanded by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The
defenders of the Alamo were killed after a 13-day siege.
Alamo is in the heart of downtown San Antonio — the
seventh-largest city in the U.S. with 1.3 million people
and a big military presence — and surrounded by souvenir
shops, fast-food restaurants and Ripley, Guinness, Louis
Tussaud and IMAX tourist attractions.
is free. The Alamo offers frequent historic talks and
tours, but you can explore on your own. You can rent video
tours or pay for personal red-vested guides. A tour takes
about 90 minutes.
sign is posted directing men to remove their hats before
entering the old church, one of two still-standing
original buildings. Food, drink, cellphone use, pets,
offensive clothing and photographs are prohibited inside
church features one dimly lit central area, several
alcoves filled with displays and two rooms of exhibits. It
is known as the Alamo Shrine.
display are items including Bowie’s famed knife, a
leather wallet and buckskin vest belonging to Crockett, a
sword belonging to Santa Anna and other weapons, books and
artifacts. Bullet holes in the walls are still visible.
are prominently posted asking visitors to refrain from
touching the crumbling stone walls.
tidbit: Musician Phil Collins spent $100 million buying
about 200 artifacts and documents from the Alamo battle
and the Texas Revolution. Collins grew up in England
watching Parker portray Crockett in the Walt Disney
miniseries in the 1950s. In 2014, he donated much of his
collection to the state of Texas. The items are not yet on
display; a new museum is planned to display them.
Alamo church was built by Spanish missionaries and local
American Indians starting in 1724 as the chapel of the
Mission San Antonio de Valero. It closed in 1793. The
then-roofless building became a garrison for Spanish
troops, then Mexican troops.
December 1835, Texans and Tejano (Hispanics born in Texas)
volunteers trying to establish a Texas republic defeated
Mexican forces in San Antonio and occupied the Alamo.
Feb. 23, 1836, Santa Anna’s army approached. The Texans
sent out calls for help, but little came.
final attack came on March 6. Several Mexican assaults
were pushed back before Santa Anna’s men scaled the
walls and rushed into the compound. Brutal hand-to-hand
combat resulted. Santa Anna ordered that no prisoners be
is unclear who died when, where and how. Crockett may have
been executed the next day, according to some accounts.
Santa Anna ordered the bodies burned.
the Alamo" became the Texas battle cry.
weeks later, Texans defeated the Mexicans and captured
Santa Anna at the 18-minute Battle of San Jacinto and
proclaimed a Texas republic. Nine years later, the United
States annexed Texas and in 1848 the U.S. won the
Alamo’s rustic Long Barrack, where many of the defenders
died, is also filled with exhibits. Its west wall is
thought to be original, although the window and door
openings have been altered.
the battle, that building was used as a warehouse by the
U.S. Army. It was covered with wood and became a
Daughters of the Republic of Texas, a nonprofit heritage
group, bought the Long Barrack in 1904 to keep it from
being turned into a hotel. It was later transferred to
Texas. It was partially demolished in 1912 in a dispute
over the structure’s historic value. The state had
acquired the church in 1883.
Alamo was operated from 1905 to 2011 by the Daughters of
the Republic of Texas. Today the Alamo — its name is
Spanish for cottonwood — is managed by the Texas General
is a gift shop where Crockett’s coonskin caps are
best-selling items. Outside are lovely plazas filled with
giant live oak trees and gardens.
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily at 300 Alamo Plaza. It is closed
Christmas Eve and Christmas. For more information, call
210-225-1391 or go to www.thealamo.org.
the chapel is the city-owned Alamo Plaza (it was initially
within the Alamo’s walls). It’s home to the Alamo
Cenotaph, a stone monument that honors those who died.
biggest attraction in San Antonio, after the Alamo, is the
River Walk a block away.
is a five-mile stretch of the San Antonio River bordered
by sidewalks and crisscrossed with pedestrian bridges. It
is an attractive and lively oasis, the center portion
crowded with restaurants, bars and hotels. It is a bit
touristy but very pretty.
can explore the River Walk on foot or enjoy a 45-minute
tour by boat. Water taxi service is also available.
channelized river was proposed in 1929 and completed in
1941 by the federal Works Progress Administration. It has
been expanded several times. A total of 15 miles of river
have been restored.
more information, go to www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com.
Alamo is the best-known of San Antonio’s Spanish
missions but there are four more, built along the San
Antonio River from 1718 to 1749.
others — Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission
San Juan and Mission Espada — make up the San Antonio
Missions National Park. All four are active Catholic
churches. For information, go to www.nps.gov/saan.
San Antonio tourist information, call 800-447-3372 or go