San Antonio’s River Walk, Spanish colonial architecture, river cruises, and lively markets make it one of America’s most picturesque cities. Here more than 300 years of history will make us feel at home. Come along and discover the best of Texas on this escorted group tour.
Day 1 - Arrive San Antonio, Texas
Few destinations provide a sense of place like San Antonio. Here, the bell towers of Spanish colonial missions have greeted mornings for almost 300 years. Mexican, European, and Western cultures blend into a unique personality. After settling into our hotel, you have the afternoon at your leisure. Tonight we meet with our fellow travelers for a welcome dinner.
Day 2 - The Alamo
an Antonio is blessed with cultural wonders and visitors to the city can explore Missions National Historic Park which has the largest collection of Spanish Missions in the United States. Today we will visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to learn about the lives of indigenous people and early Spanish settlers who founded this city.
After breakfast, we depart our hotel for our 10 a.m. guided tour of the Alamo. The Alamo, founded in 1718, is known as one of the most important battle sites in the country. Guided by Alamo History Interpreters, our walking tour, The Alamo: A Story Bigger Than Texas, explores the heroes and events that have made the story of the Alamo captivating for generations of Texans. The tour takes you through the area that was the original footprint of the Spanish mission complex, today Alamo Plaza, and describes the events leading up to and including the Battle of the Alamo. After this 45-minute tour, we will have time (an hour) to see the Alamo Church and the Ralston Family Collections Center where we will see more than 500 artifacts on display from three important collections. Another highlight is the Alamo’s living history encampment behind the church. Here we will see hands-on demonstrations of daily life at the time of the Texas Revolution. We will discover what people wore, how they took care of their health, what skills they developed, and what firearms they used.
After lunch, we will head south to our next destination, Mission San Jose that turned 300 years old in 2020. It is known as the Queen of the Missions because it is the largest of the missions and was almost fully restored to its original design in the 1930s by the WPA (Works Projects Administration). Spanish missions were not churches, but communities with the church as the focus. Mission San José captures a transitional moment in history, frozen in time. The complex includes a church, a convent, a granary, and housing for Native Americans, along with a restored Spanish Colonial gristmill. This afternoon we may even see a park ranger demonstrating a skill like the atlatl a musket, or spinning wool.
Our next stop is Mission Concepcion, which looks much as it did two centuries ago when it was first built making it the best preserved Spanish colonial structure in the U.S. It stands proudly as the oldest unrestored stone church in America. In its heyday, colorful geometric designs covered its surface, but the patterns have long since faded or been worn away. However, stunning frescos dating from the 1700s that use symbols of both the indigenous people and the Catholic religion can still be seen in several of the rooms. The most famous fresco, located on the convent room ceiling is a possible depiction of God as a mestizo.
We will take a relaxing drive through the scenic King William Historic District, San Antonio’s first suburb and the very first historic district in Texas. Settled by German immigrants, the neighborhood was named after Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia and represented their achievements as they prospered and built opulent mansions. Some of these homes, like the Wulfe House, the Sartor House, the Groos House,67, Villa Finale a grand Italianate home that welcomes visitors to explore its gardens and others, are notable for their architectural style.
Tonight we will have dinner in this quaint historic enclave at a restaurant that was once the home to Benedictine nuns in the Order of St. Scholastica.
Day 3 - San Antonio
After breakfast, we will start the day with a guided walk along the San Antonio River and go on a narrated barge tour where we will learn about the city’s architecture, history, and points of interest. After our barge cruise, we will stroll over to the San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest continuously functioning religious community in Texas.
Afterward, we will visit the Historic Market Square, the largest Mexican Market in the United States. Enjoy the sights and flavors of old Mexico and find authentic Talavera pottery, exotic curios, and handcrafted works of art. Stay for the gourmet Mexican cuisine at Mi Tierra and La Margarita, or kick back at the Farmers Market Food Court and enjoy the show on the stage. Lunch and the rest of the afternoon are on your own.
This evening we head to The Pearl which has been a local favorite since 1883. This mixed-use space features dining, retail shopping, and picturesque green spaces. Tonight we will have dinner in the 130-year-old original boiler house of the Pearl Brewery Complex which is a beautiful fusion of the past and the present where the bulk of the industrial architecture remains intact.
Day 4 - Fredericksburg
After breakfast, we start the day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. Out of the 1,800 Basilicas worldwide, the United States is home to only 82, and only five are designated as National Shrines. This morning we will visit The National Shrine of the Little Flower, named in honor of St. Therese de Lisieux. This Carmelite nun saw herself as a little flower of Jesus because she lived a very simple life. She has been a highly influential model of sanctity for the Catholic Church because of her approach to spiritual life. Pope Pius X called her the greatest saint of modern times. She was canonized in 1923. The architecture of the Basilica is stunning and some say, there is a slight scent of roses in the air.
Next, we head to Fredericksburg, located in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Our next stop is at the National Museum of the Pacific War, the 5th best history museum in the United States according to USA Today. Here we will see displays of some of the most notable aspects and events of WWII that occurred in the Pacific arena. A special highlight is the Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb exhibit.
After our museum tour, you have some free time to explore Main Street which boasts more than 150 shops and restaurants in addition to the Pioneer Museum. Lunch today is on your own. Late this afternoon we head back to San Antonio.
Tonight we meet for our farewell dinner to share all we have experienced and to celebrate this trip with new friends and old.
Day 5 - Depart San Antonio
Today, we say farewell to the charming city of San Antonio and head home with warm memories of this charming southwestern city.