Simple but profoundly moving, the open-air John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza focuses on the granite slab bearing the assassinated president’s name etched in gold.The granite memorial is surrounded by soaring concrete walls, creating a roofless space for private contemplation and reflection, free from outside distractions.
The Memorial was dedicated in June 1970, and was envisioned by architect Philip Johnson as an open tomb or cenotaph. The plain white walls appear to be free-floating, capturing the feeling of loss felt around the world following Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
By day, the floating white walls are reflected on the monument’s gilt lettering. At night, the monument is a beautifully floodlit city landmark.
The oldest continuously operating religious community in Texas, San Fernando De Bexar Cathedral was constructed between 1738 and 1749. In fact, the dome of the original church was the point from which all mileage in Texas was measured in the 1700s. The cathedral is well-maintained, and mass still goes on daily so make sure to be respectful when entering.
One major attraction inside the sacred space is the Alamo Coffin, located near the church entrance, which is believed to hold the remains of the men who lost their lives at the Alamo. The cathedral played a part in the battle, as it was President-General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s headquarters during the siege of the Alamo, and from where he sent a terrifying message. Instead of flying the tri-color Mexican flag from the church’s belfry he flew a blood-red flag, letting the defenders of the Alamo know he would kill them even if they surrendered.
San Antonio’s historic roots are preserved at La Villita Heritage District, a protected enclave of heritage buildings. The arts village is a living and breathing part of San Antonio, with boutiques, restaurants and galleries taking up the historic old buildings.
On a walking tour of the precinct you’ll see Cos House, one of the oldest buildings, dating back to before 1835. Other old buildings include the 1873 house occupied by Villita Stained Glass, and the 1839 cottage known as Losana House.
Shops in this vibrant quarter include Texan outfitters, art and craft galleries, souvenir shops and jewelry stores. You’ll also find a couple of typically Texan grills and cafes for snacks, meals and cocktails.
Built in 1968 to host the 1968 Worlds Fair as well as commemorate San Antonio’s 250th birthday, the event was the southwestern United States’ first official world fair. The event was so monumental that over 30 nations took part in the festivities. Today, the 15-acre HemisFair Park is a place where people come to ride bikes, bring their children to the playground, enjoy the native flower gardens and listen to the relaxing sounds of fountains and cascading waterfalls.
In HemisFair Park, you’ll also find a variety of attractions, for example, the Tower of the Americas, which is surrounded by beautiful man-made waterfalls. If you take the elevator to the top you can enjoy aerial views from the observation deck or the rotating restaurant, as well as a 4D Theater Ride that takes you on a sensory journey through Texas. Additionally, the Mexican Cultural Institute resides in the park, and is free to enter and enjoy the artwork, artifacts and exhibits.
The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles the events leading to the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963.
It’s a moving and eerie experience to visit the museum, taking up the very spot Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that perhaps killed the president.
Film, photographs, artifacts and exhibits examine the event and the ensuing investigations.
Oral history and eyewitness accounts form an important part of the museum’s collection, and you can take an audio walking tour of the area.
The Alamo is one of the most famous sites in US history, forever linked to the 13-day siege in 1836 that ended with the deaths of defenders James Bowie, William Travis and Davy Crockett. The 18th-century Mission San Antonio de Valero complex became known as the Alamo after it was fortified by Mexican soldiers. When the complex was taken by Texan troops in December 1835, the fight was on between the Texan defenders and Mexican attackers.
After the events of the 1830s, the Alamo’s semi-ruined buildings were used as a garrison and storehouse. Over the past 100 years, the Alamo has been restored and now receives more than 2.5 million visitors a year. Tour the chapel and barracks, small museum, diorama and gardens to learn more about the Alamo and early-Texan history.
Located in the center of HemisFair Park, this 750-foot tall tower offers one of the best aerial views of San Antonio in the city as well as a variety of experiences. First there is the Flags Over Texas Observation Deck, which allows you a bird’s-eye view of iconic sites -- either through the telescope or by using photographs on the deck floor that show you where to find specific buildings and landmarks. Additionally, you can learn about over 300 years of Texas history through a mural exhibit on the walls. Included in your admission ticket is also a 4D Theater Ride, “Skies Over Texas.” The interactive ride takes you on a sensory journey through the state to watch NASA astronauts train at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, attend a local football game, view horses running in the wild and visit some of San Antonio’s most important attractions.
The Texas State Capitol building and its stunning presence on the Austin landscape earns its place on the National Register of Historic Places with ease. An extraordinary example of stonework and 19th-century architecture, the Texas State Capitol is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most “stately” state capitols with its elaborate limestone work and impressive dome, which reaches 15 feet above its Washington counterpart.
Offering a panoramic view over all of Austin from the capitol dome, the 1888 Texas State Capitol has the largest square footage of any state capitol in the Unites States, and is only seconded by the National Capitol in Washington D.C. A tour through these beautiful grounds will do more than expose you to the history of Texas legislation, but will tell “a true Texas story.
San Antonio makes the most of its river winding through town, with the San Antonio River Walk - or Paseo del Rio. Away from the traffic, beneath ground level, the landscaped walkways bordering the meandering San Antonio River are lined with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Following the walkways is a great way to get around town, from sight to sight, without having to negotiate traffic. You can also take a cruise along the River Walk, to see how a little imagination and good civic planning can turn a river into a truly unique city feature.
A National Historic landmark, the Spanish Governor’s Palace is perhaps the last remaining early-Spanish mansion in Texas. A poignant reminder of San Antonio’s early-18th-century past, the former capitol building is almost 300 years old.
Now a museum, the building has a Spanish colonial design built around a lovely central courtyard and fountain. The white stucco walls are fringed with purple bougainvillea, and the interior is decorated with rugged colonial furnishings, whitewashed walls and a sturdy timber roof.
Stuffed critters, a shooting gallery and museums of Americana and the Texas Rangers make having a drink at the Buckhorn Saloon a memorable experience.
From cattle to fish, birds and game, the Buckhorn Museum is a taxidermist’s dream, stuffed with more than 520 species from around the globe. Look out for the huge black marlin, ’78 Point Buck’ and prehistoric Irish elk complete with antlers.
The collection housed in the adjoining Ranger Museum includes weapons, badges, photos, a Bonnie & Clyde exhibit and ‘Ranger Town’, re-creating early-20th-century San Antonio. Drop in for lunch at the cafe, or choose a locally brewed ale at 130-year-old saloon bar.
San Antonio’s Market Square is a vibrant Mexican marketplace, featuring crafts, entertainment and food from south of the border. Shops and stalls sell Mexican fabrics, pottery, leather goods, toys and jewelry, and the central El Mercado is the largest Mexican market outside Mexico.
Market Square is a great place to graze on Mexican tortillas and enchiladas, plus a farmers market specializes in Southwestern and Mexican produce.
For a sit-down meal, visit the famous 24-hour Mi Terra Cafe for Tex-Mex cuisine served under twinkling Mexican lights. While you dine and shop, Market Square entertainment includes strolling musicians and cultural shows.
Located in downtown Houston, the Downtown Aquarium is home to more than 200 aquatic animal species from around the world, housed in 500,000-gallon underwater complex. The attraction caters to children and families and, while not the largest aquarium, does have some interesting exhibits that will keep you interested. Experience Shipwreck, where you can walk inside a replica of a sunken seventeenth century Spanish galleon to view living coral reefs, octopus, moray eel, Clownfish and more.
There’s also the Shark Voyage Tunnel, a ride aboard a C.P. Huntington Train that takes visitors through an aquarium tunnel filled with a variety of shark species which will swim right over your head. The Downtown Aquarium allows you to explore more than just underwater marine life as it’s home to a variety of eco-systems.
Located in Hermann Park, the Houston Museum of Natural Science is dedicated to providing interesting and educational science exhibits and experiences. Visitors can find four floors of science halls and exhibits in the main building, as well as a planetarium, butterfly center and big screen theater. You could easily spend hours perusing all the institution has to offer.
With so much to explore, where do you begin? The permanent exhibits are included in your general admission ticket and host some worthwhile attractions. For example, the Paleontology exhibit is a common favorite, as it showcases a unique display of predators in action, creating an illusion that the skeletal displays are alive. A progressive timeline layout showcasing over 50 dinosaurs and a section on human evolution also keeps things interesting.