San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau/Richard Nowitz
In the South Texas Plains you can walk in the footsteps of Spanish conquistadors and get an up-close and personal look at some of America’s finest Spanish architecture, like Goliad‘s graceful Mission Espiritu Santo or the Mission District of San Antonio. Oh, and then there’s the Alamo, where early adventurer Davy Crockett died, sparking Texas’ independence and eventually ushering the state into the U.S.
But San Antonio is an incredibly diverse, rapidly-growing city that has so much more than the Alamo to boast about. The city’s famous River Walk is a must-see, overflowing with shops, restaurants and late-night revelry.
Alternatively, head to McAllen, which is located in the heart of Texas’ lush Rio Grande Valley. With a culture that blends the best of what the U.S. and Mexico have to offer, McAllen offers a colourful mix of Texas hospitality and Mexican warmth. Golf courses are plentiful, and as one of the best birding locations in the entire country, flocks of red-crowned parrots and green parakeets are frequently seen in the city at dusk.
Art & Culture
Marvel at the beautiful Spanish Mediterranean architecture from one of the 2,264 seats in San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre. Built in 1929, this theatre is the jewel in the crown of the city’s theatre district.
Also, check out the McNay Art Museum, which was the very first modern art museum in Texas. Housed in a stunning Spanish colonial revival home that dates back to 1926, the museum sits atop a hill in the Alamo Heights neighbourhood. This unique building is home to 700-plus pieces of work that were left by oil heiress Marion Koogler to the city of San Antonio in 1950.
The arts abound in McAllen. The city boasts a Smithsonian affiliate museum in its International Museum of Art and Science. There’s also the McAllen Heritage Museum, the Museum of South Texas History and a number of specialty museums – including museums that celebrate clocks and juke boxes – to explore.
There’s no danger that the kids will be bored in San Antonio... SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the San Antonio Zoo and the San Antonio Children’s Museum are sure to keep them entertained. San Antonio Convention & Visitors BureauWhile in McAllen there’s laser tag, a park with video games, miniature golf and go-carts to keep them out of trouble.
Dining & Nightlife
San Antonio’s culinary palette derives its influence from both European and Mexican traditions. For some top-notch comfort food, try the soul-food at Tommy Moore’s Cafe & Deli, or for a view of the city’s famous River Walk, dive into the Texas bistro at Boudro’s.
McAllen’s Entertainment District features dozens of nightclubs, lounges and bars, and more than 600 restaurants. Local fine dining favourites include the Patio on Guerra, El Divino and the Santa Fe Steak House.
Be sure to visit Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen’s historic adobe mansion and its six hectares of landscaped walking trails. This is McAllen’s wing of the World Birding Center complex, and it hosts many special events throughout the year.
The X Factor
The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park preserves the Spanish frontier missions, including the Alamo. These outposts were established by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity among the local people.
In the early 1700s, Apache were raiding the area from the north, deadly diseases were travelling from Mexico, and drought lingered. Survival lay in the missions. But by entering a mission, the people swore to leave their traditional way of life, to become Spanish, to accept a new religion and to pledge loyalty to a distant king.
There are no admission fees at any of the missions, but donations are accepted.
South Texas Plains: What’s On?
SAGE Music Festival, October 26
More Delightful Than Frightful, October 31
Fall Flotilla, November 2
Dia de los Muertos, November 2
Texas Butterfly Festival, November 2
Diwali Festival of Lights, November 5
Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, November 17
Ford Holiday River Parade, November 29
Creole Christmas, December 11
Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show, March 7 to 16