Riverwalk - Photo by Tim Thompson

Photo Courtesy of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau /Tim Thompson.

For many, San Antonio is the Paseo del Rio, an urban masterpiece better known as the River Walk. These cobble- and flagstone paths border the San Antonio River, as it winds through culture-rich downtown. 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, art galleries, nightclubs and gleaming high-rise hotels. Work is underway on a River Walk improvement project that will extend it to 15 miles by 2013. The River Walk will then link Brackenridge Park on the north end with Mission Espada to the south. Rio San Antonio Cruises, the river’s floating transportation system, provides a novel method of sightseeing and people watching in downtown San Antonio. Groups can dine aboard open-air cruisers as they drift along the scenic waterway, while river taxis deliver visitors to restaurants, hotels, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and Rivercenter Mall—a dazzling three-level, glass shopping, dining and entertainment complex.

Alamo - Tim Thompson/SACVB

Photo Courtesy of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau /Tim Thompson.

Explore Spanish colonial architecture at San Antonio’s five 18th-century missions. Among them is The Alamo, which has become permanently etched in the annals of history. In 1836, 189 defenders of Texas independence held The Alamo against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days. Four other Spanish colonial missions founded in the early 1700s form San Antonio Missions National Historical Park—a marvelous place to explore the city’s roots and Spain’s influence on the southwestern part of the United States. The visitor center at Mission San José is the perfect starting point. Drive from mission to mission or take Mission Trail, ideal for hiking and biking.

A tour of downtown San Antonio will uncover centuries of history. Developed in the mid to late 18th century, La Villita (“the little village”) was one of San Antonio’s original settlements. It became a hub of Texas revolutionary activities in 1835 and 1836. Today, La Villita is a National Historic District and a haven for artists and craftsmen, selling blown glass, jewelry and other handcrafts, as well as fashions from Mexico and Guatemala.

Photo Courtesy of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau /Stephanie Colgan.

Photo Courtesy of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau /Stephanie Colgan.

Dating to 1840, Market Square (El Mercado), the largest Mexican marketplace north of the Rio Grande, is a festive combination of Tex-Mex cuisine, music, entertainment, products ranging from pearls to piñatas, and the anchor Museo Alameda—a Smithsonian-affiliated museum that tells the story of Latinos in America.

San Antonio is the picture-perfect setting for great family vacations. Enjoy Texas-sized fun at SeaWorld San Antonio, the world’s largest marine life park, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the town built just for fun. SeaWorld San Antonio combines fun with education and appreciation for some of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures through shows, educational exhibits and rides.

Brackenridge Park, a 343-acre refuge in the heart of the city, provides a full day of family fun. Play a round of golf at Texas’ most historic course. Feed ducks and picnic along the adjacent San Antonio River. Refresh with a stroll on the walking trails or catch a ride on the park’s miniature train, the Brackenridge Eagle. Here you’ll also find the San Antonio Zoo, the third largest in the nation with a collection of more than 3,500 animals representing 750 different species from around the globe. It is also the only zoo in the country to exhibit endangered Whooping cranes. Nearby, the Witte Museum and its H-E-B Science Treehouse offer hands-on learning, with exhibits exploring history, science and anthropology.

Not far from Brackenridge Park, you can follow your senses through the San Antonio Botanical Garden, where acres of beautiful, lush vegetation replicate three distinct landscapes of Texas. Wander through formal gardens and even a sensory garden, where emphasis is placed on the texture and scent of plants.

For more of all there is to see and do in San Antonio, look for future NGWA Summit news and stories online and in print, or visit the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at www.VisitSanAntonio.com.