Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Day In Downtown San Antonio Texas

In the beginning of July good friends of ours came to San Antonio and we meet up and played tourist for the day.  We checked Groupon to see what discounts they had and found two.  One was a hop-on hop-off bus tour of downtown San Antonio from Alamo Double Decker Company and the other was an elevator ride up the Tower of Americas to the observation deck.

The bus tour started at the Alamo, so we toured that while waiting.  If you  have never been to the Alamo I do recommend going.  It is a Texas icon and important to the state's history.  While there isn't a lot in the Alamo itself, nearby on the grounds there is a museum explaining the Alamo and its importance.  I didn't take many photos while there except for a few shots of the iconic outside.

This picture was actually taken from the hop-on hop-off bus.  

Alamo from Bus San Antonio TX

Our plan was to see the Alamo, ride the bus around downtown, and then get off at the last stop which is the Tower of Americas.  We could have gotten off at any of the stops along the way with the ticket we bought but we really only wanted the tower stop. Once we were done with the tower we were going to get back on the bus and finish tour right back where we started at the Alamo.

Now if you don't want to go the hop-on hop-off bus route you can take the free downtown trolley called the E that comes around every 10 minutes.  It doesn't go to as many places as the hop-on hop-off, but it does make downtown easier to navigate plus you can park further out and pay less!  (Paying less or actually nothing for parking is always my goal!!)

Trolley Car San Antonio TX

One of the neat things about taking the Alamo Double Decker tour is that the driver narrated the things we were seeing as we passed them.  She was amazing! It wasn't a recording like other companies. The driver was able to add things if we were at a stop sign and we knew exactly what she was talking about because she didn't mention it until we were there. A recording couldn't do that!

One of the stops was at the historic Market Square.  It features shops, dining, and at times entertainment.  If you are into shopping especially if you are not from a state that borders Mexico (or from Mexico for that matter), I do think you will like el mercado (the market)!

Banners at Market Square San Antonio TX

Directly across from this stop was a mural made out of tiles.  It is called "New Chapa Lion Mural" by local artist Jesse Trevino.   The bus driver told us that each tile was painted and then they brought them here to install.  It is on the side of a Goodwill thrift store and the people in the mural are there to promote the Goodwill mission, "To Help Change Lives Through the Power of Work".  There is one person in the mural who really stands out.  It is the person "inside" the painting on the right.  

New Chapa Lion Mural by Jesse Trevino San Antonio

That is Jesse Trevino, the artist, and his story is impressive.  When he was 19 years old and attending art school he got his draft letter for Vietnam.  Mere months into his service he received a war injury to his right arm and eventually had to have it amputated.  

I can't imagine the emotions this man went through.  He was in his early 20's and what he thought was going to to be his livelihood, being an artist, was gone.  He persevered and managed to teach himself how to do his art with his left hand!  What an amazing feat!  So when you look at the picture again, I am sure you will notice that the man in the painting does have a prosthetic on the right and is painting with his left.

The lion mural is not the only one we saw, there are several in San Antonio and even two at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC.  One other we got to see was on a fence at the the Casa Navarro State Historic Site.  This one is called Laredito (Little Laredo) which is what this area of San Antonio use to be called.  The mural shows what the town looked like in the 1800's.

Little Larado by Jesse Trevino San Antonio TX

As we rode along downtown on the top of the double decker there were a few times when we thought we were going to be decapitated by the street lights!  If anyone would have been standing (which they shouldn't have been!) they would have been hit in the face with that light.  I am surprised there were no warnings plastered everywhere about it!

Decapitating Stree Lights San Antonio TX

Here was our first glance of the Tower of Americas from the bus!

Tower of America San Antonio TX

From the bus stop to the Tower of Americas it was just a short walk but when you get to see a baby duck, well that right there makes any length of walking okay!  (Let's not get crazy, anything under half of a mile would be worth it...but not more!)  

Duck Family at Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

The stop was actually at Hemisfair Park.  This was the sight of the 1968 World's Fair.  The area now belongs to the University of Texas at San Antonio.

We had our tickets in advance since we went through Groupon, but even if you don't go through Groupon go ahead and get your tickets online.  Otherwise, you are going to have to stand in the brutal south Texas sun (even in the winter it can reach into the 80's easily or it could be close to freezing, you never know). 

Our ticket was to ride the elevator to the observation deck (we also got to watch a 4D short video about Texas, but fair warning there is a snake and an alligator that jumps out at you in 3D).  There is also a restaurant up there which slowly spins 360 degrees for a view of the entire city.

Tower of Americas Observation Sign  San Antonio TX

The elevator is glass so you can watch outside as you ride.  I tried not to push little kids out of the way for the video, but Frankie may have gotten nudged a little.  If you have the sound on you can hear the informative narrative we heard in the elevator.

Once up there the views of San Antonio really are spectacular!  It was extremely windy which helped cool the temperature.

View 1 from Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

View 2 Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

Frankie and Jennifer Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

We had our view, got back on the bus, and returned to the Alamo.  Right next to the Alamo is the Menger Hotel.

Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

We decided to take a look inside.  There is even a self guided tour you can take through the hotel but we had two little boys with us who were just about wiped out so we will just have to save that for another time.

Inside Menger Hotel Lobby San Antonio TX

This place is loaded with history.  It was originally built in 1859 and has had it share of famous people stay there including: Theodore RooseveltOscar Wilde, and O. Henry (aka William Sydney Porter) to name a few.  I haven't stayed there yet, so that is why my name is not on that list....

There are also some high end shops located in the hotel.  One that was really interesting was called Kings X.  They design and manufacture all-metal, hand-painted military miniatures and fighting vehicles.  Normally, that is not my thing, but they had a full spread of the Alamo!  Just check out these miniatures and the details!

Alamo in Kings X Shop in Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

Mexican Army in Kings X Shop in Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

1824 Flag of the Texas Revolution in Kings X Shop in Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

They also had miniatures from the Bible and other stories from more recent history such as American Revolution and World War II.  It was very interesting!

It was fun to play tourist in our own backyard and we found a few things that we want to go back to see in more detail.

I hope you enjoyed this post. In my next one I am going to start a series of a short trip we took to Houston including stops along the way.  I hope you will return to read all about it!

Until then!