San Antonio’s scenic miles of riverwalk are one of Texas’s top tourist attractions. The walk passes by the Alamo.
If you do an Internet search for the top tourist attractions in Texas, San Antonio Riverwalk (Paseo del Rio) is sure to come up near the top of the list.
The Riverwalk is a public park, open 365 days a year. It boasts over 15 linear miles of continuous trail along the river. The network of walkways along the river, one story below San Antonio’s downtown, winds and loops under bridges. The downtown loop portion of the walk is lined with bars, restaurants, shops and hotels.
A Spanish mission was first established in San Antonio in the early 1700s. Flooding of the San Antonio River caused serious issues several times over the years as the settlement grew. In 1926, plans for a bypass channel and flood control measures were developed. Plans included draining the river bend and making it a storm sewer with a street over it. In 1927, the Olmos Dam was created. In 1929, a bypass channel was completed. Further expenditures were put on hold due to the Depression. In the late 1930s, the aesthetic value of the river was recognized. In 1941, walkways, stairways to street level, a footbridge and rock walls were completed. Over the following years, further enhancements and extensions to the riverwalk as well as additional flood control measures have occurred.
Today the walk extends for miles and connects San Antonio’s top downtown tourist attractions.
La Villita along the downtown loop portion of the Riverwalk has been an historic arts village since 1939. Its one square block features art by local and regional artists. It was once the site of a Coahuiltecan Indian village. Spanish soldiers settled here in the late 1700s. Flooding on the other side of the rivers forced relocation of other settlers to La Villita in the early 1800s. A fairly exclusive residential district developed alongside the soldier’s homes and by the 1840s the area had a European flavour. It was redeveloped in 1939 as a craft and recreational centre.
The Alamo is located just off the Riverwalk. As a Canadian growing up near the U.S. border and exposed to American television, I was familiar with the phrase “Remember the Alamo”, but didn’t know its history until my first visit here almost fifteen years ago.
The story of the Alamo begins with the creation of the first of five Spanish missions in the San Antonio area in the early 1700s. In 1793, the mission was secularized and turned over to local authorities. The Spanish military occupied the former mission and converted it to a frontier outpost and military garrison. When Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1820, the Alamo remained a military garrison with allegiance shifted to the newly formed nation.
Although Mexico adopted a federal style government, Texas was not designated as a separate state because of its sparse population. A policy of colonization was adopted, encouraging immigration from the United States. Land agents were granted responsibility for screening prospective applicants to ensure only law-abiding men and women settled in Texas. Mexico was quickly overwhelmed with the number of Americans wanting to move to Texas. In 1830, the Mexican government prohibited the Texas settlement of emigrants from the United States. That, along with calls from native-born Texans for statehood, fueled revolutionary fervour.
The Texas Revolution occurred 1835 to 1836. The rebels gained control of San Antonio and the Alamo in December 1835. In February 1836, Mexican forces arrived in San Antonio to put down the rebellion. The rebels withdrew into the fortified mission. The final attack on the Alamo came pre-dawn March 6, 1836 when Mexican forces breached the north wall. The approximately 200 defenders made a last stand, but were defeated after a fierce 90 minute battle. Rebel forces retreated to Louisiana.
In April 1836, General Sam Houston surprised a larger Mexican force near present-day Houston. After a bloody 18 minute battle, Houston’s forces defeated Mexican troops and achieved independence to cries of “Remember the Alamo.”
The Treaty of Velasco on May 14, 1836 ended the revolution and formally created the Republic of Texas, but conflict between Mexico and Texas continued for another ten years. In 1846, after a year of negotiations, Texas became part of the United States.
Information panels along walls in the interior of the Alamo provide more detail about its history than I have outlined in the brief paragraphs above. History from 1846 onward is also detailed.
Narrated 35-minute cruises on open barges along the downtown loop of the Riverwalk are available daily. Tickets can be purchased online or at a station along the Riverwalk. The Rio taxi service covers a larger section of the Riverwalk, with 39 stops.
Although the downtown loop portion of the Riverwalk, lined with restaurants and hotels, may be the most popular and best known portion to tourists, the Riverwalk extends four miles north and ten miles south, past the historic King William area and the other four missions.
Have you visited the San Antonio Riverwalk or the Alamo?
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Doreen PendgracsApril 13, 2015 at 11:08 am
Lucky you to have stumbled upon a local arts fair! I love it when that happens!
Yes, I’ve been to the Alamo and found it interesting. But I REALLY loved cruising down the river in one of those boats. It’s truly lovely, and gives you more of an appreciation for the beauty of the city.
Donna JankeApril 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm
Doreen, the arts fair was a pleasant surprise. The Riverwalk is truly lovely.
Betsy Wuebker | PassingThruApril 13, 2015 at 11:17 am
By all accounts, San Antonio has done this experience right in almost every detail. Showcasing this asset took foresight, and it was a pleasure to read how far back the intention to do so went.
Donna JankeApril 13, 2015 at 12:16 pm
Betsy, San Antonio certainly seems to have done this right. I was surprised to learn how far back the intention for the riverwalk went. And improvements continue to be made.
Elaine J. MastersApril 13, 2015 at 11:29 am
This kind of river walk matches my passion for strolling whenever I’m in a new city. Beautiful architecture, history and nature – my idea of fun.
Donna JankeApril 13, 2015 at 12:17 pm
Elaine, you can walk for miles along the Riverwalk, all of it lovely.
Michele Peterson (A Taste for Travel)April 13, 2015 at 7:09 pm
I wish more cities would create river walks as they did along the San Antonio River. It breathes life into a city in so many ways. I’d love to visit San Antonio one day.
Donna JankeApril 14, 2015 at 9:41 am
Michele, San Antonio’s Riverwalk could be a model for a lot of cities. They’ve certainly done a good job.
Yasha LangfordApril 13, 2015 at 7:25 pm
I love the way I have memories prompted to the surface when I read other people’s blogs. I had completely forgotten this Riverwalk and the first photo brought it all back. Thanks Donna.
Donna JankeApril 14, 2015 at 9:47 am
Glad I could bring back some memories Yasha. I too love when that happens when I read other people’s blogs.
Susan MooreApril 13, 2015 at 11:05 pm
I love the river walk in San Antonio. My sister and I visited last April during Fiesta! What a fun party weekend we enjoyed in San Antonio – and we stayed at Hotel Havana right on the river walk. I also brought my mom there last time she visited me here in Austin – she loved it too!
Donna JankeApril 14, 2015 at 9:48 am
Susan, I’ve never stayed at a hotel right on the Riverwalk – I think that would be great.
carolApril 14, 2015 at 8:18 am
Donna, sorry for my late comment to your post last week. I was beset with wifi problems. Anyway, I am back in Arizona and will be more regular. Are you back in Canada yet?
I have been to the Riverwalk and the Alamo in San Antonio twice. Love that oak tree and the place where the boats make a turnaround. Thanks for bringing back the memories and for supplying details about these places I missed entirely!
Donna JankeApril 14, 2015 at 9:51 am
Carol, glad I could bring back a few memories. We’re still in Arizona but heading back to Canada at the end of this week.
jacquiegumApril 14, 2015 at 1:21 pm
I haven’t been to the San Antonio Riverwalk for a number of years, but I loved it! I love that you came upon that art festival! When things like that happen to me, it almost feels like Christmas! I too stayed in a hotel on the Riverwalk and it was so delightful. This is truly a great spot
Donna JankeApril 15, 2015 at 8:49 am
Jacquie – it is fun to come across little surprises like that.
Jeri Walker (@JeriWB)April 14, 2015 at 4:49 pm
Wow, the San Antonio Riverwalk looks absolutely stunning. San Antonio is one of those places I kick myself for not stopping at. I spent all of one day driving across the state from Houston to El Paso. I remember thinking I should stop at the Alamo, but then talked myself out of doing so. I should have stopped. Who knows when I’ll ever drive through Texas again?
Donna JankeApril 15, 2015 at 9:49 am
Jeri, San Antonio is lovely. You would have enjoyed stopping there, but there are a lot of lovely places we often have to bypass on our drives from one place to another.
Carole Terwilliger MeyersApril 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm
I visited both the San Antonio Riverwalk and The Alamo, many years ago. I’d love to take the barge tour next time I’m in town.
Donna JankeApril 15, 2015 at 9:51 am
Carole, I didn’t do the barge tour. I think I’d like to do that next time too.
ArleenApril 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm
I have been San Antonio Riverwalk and have seen The Alamo, but there was no art festival of which I would have loved to seen. Funny how those little things pop up that make the visit more enjoyable
Donna JankeApril 15, 2015 at 9:54 am
Arleen. The Riverwalk is pleasant by itself but it is fun to come across unexpected things like the arts festival.
Kristin HenningApril 15, 2015 at 10:00 am
Sometimes I wonder why San Antonio doesn’t get the ink Austin does. It’s really pretty. Is Austin that much hipper? I’ve only spend a day or two in San Antonio.
Donna JankeApril 15, 2015 at 10:15 am
Kristin, I’ve never been to Austin and haven’t heard much about it. There are a couple of universities there. The son of the woman I visited in San Antonio attends one and he claims Austin has a much more active night life than San Antonio.
Tim & Nat ✈ (@acooknotmad)April 17, 2015 at 4:04 pm
Very interesting post, looks like a great place to visit.
Donna JankeApril 18, 2015 at 9:14 am
Thanks, it is a lovely place to visit.
MoreTimeToTravel (@MoreTime2Travel)April 17, 2015 at 6:42 pm
Thanks for taking me back to the Riverwalk. What a great place to visit and you’ve pointed out all the lovely spots along the way~
Donna JankeApril 18, 2015 at 9:14 am
It certainly is a nice place to visit.