Remember the Alamo! San Antonio captures the spirit of Texas. While it is now the 9th largest city in the United States, it has retained its sense of history and tradition as it carefully blends in cosmopolitan progress. San Antonio has always been a crossroads and a meeting place, where the sounds and flavors of Native Americans, Old Mexico, the Wild West, and still more cultural influences mingle and merge.

History buffs hit the jackpot here. Native Americans first lived along the San Antonio River, calling the area "Yanaguana," which means "refreshing waters," or "clear waters." A band of Spanish explorers and missionaries then came upon the river in 1691 and, because it was the feast day of St. Anthony, they named the river "San Antonio."

The actual founding of the city came in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares, when he established Mission San Antonio de Valero, which became permanently etched in the annals of history in 1836 as TheAlamo, where 189 defenders held the old mission against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days. The cry "Remember the Alamo" became the rallying point of the Texan revolution against Mexico. Located in the heart of downtown, today The Alamo is a shrine and museum.

A tour of downtown San Antonio uncovers centuries of history, including: La Villita, one of the original settlements for Spanish soldiers and their families; the Spanish Governor's Palace, which was the seat of government when San Antonio was the capital of the Spanish Province of Tejas; the San Fernando Cathedral, whose construction was started in 1731 by Canary Islanders; Market Square, the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico; Fort Houston, just northeast of downtown, and much more. San Antonio was also a training site for Buffalo Soldiers, the famed African-American cavalry fighters who helped bring peace to the Western Frontier a century ago.

It isalso a modern urban masterpiece. Amidst the daily hubbub of the busy metropolitan downtown lies one of San Antonio's jewels -- the Paseo del Rio. Better known as the "River Walk," these 2.5-mile cobblestone and flagstone paths border both sides of the San Antonio River. The River Walk has multiple personalities -- quiet and park-like in some stretches, while other areas are full of activity with European-style sidewalk cafes, specialty boutiques, nightclubs and gleaming high-rise hotels. Yanaguana Cruises provide a novel method of sightseeing and people-watching.

San Antonio provides the picture-perfect setting for great family vacations, beginning with the children's museum, where kids are encouraged to explore a miniature version of the city. Children of all ages experience the excitement of the big top at the Hertzberg Circus Collection and Museum, while The Magik Theatre provides professional, family theater.

The Downtown All-Around Playground at Hemisfair Park and the newly renovated Milam Park (across from Market Square) provide excellent stops for kids to burn off excess energy. And don't forget the Tower of the Americas, which offers a spectacular view of San Antonio from 579 feet above the ground!

Golfers have their fun too. The first public golf course in Texas was built in San Antonio in 1916, and the city has been busy hosting golfers since then. A flurry of golf course construction since 1993 has made the city even more attractive to visiting golfers with additional upscale, public courses opening every year. La Cantera Golf Club was named the best new public course in the United States in 1995 by Golf Digest.

Rivers in the Texas Hill Country, which forms an arc around the northern edge of San Antonio, provide venues for canoeing, tubing and white-water rafting. Area lakes attract fishermen, as well as water skiing and sailing enthusiasts. Dude ranches offer a taste of the Old West, complete with horseback riding and cattle round-ups. Numerous state parks offer opportunities for hiking in the rugged terrain of the Hill Country.

There are so many more attractions and sites, like Sea World, Brackenridge Park's 433-acre refuge, Six Flags Fiesta, the San Antonio Zoo, and many museums, that you'll need to return again and again to experience it all.

Don't let another vacation go by without visiting San Antonio for some Texas-sized fun!
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