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San Antonio Preserves Its Past While Envisioning What Lies Ahead

by Marlene Goldman

Mar 14, 2024

San Antonio River Walk © Sgoodwin4813 | Dreamstime.com

March 2024

The most historic city in Texas is refurbishing, renovating and reimagining heritage sites, old buildings and whole neighborhoods, bridging the centuries of this Lone Star treasure.

Standing at the center of San Antonio’s makeover, the Alamo Plan aims to restore the most-visited site in Texas through several stages. Major goals include preserving the 300-year-old church and the site’s oldest building, Long Barrack, as well as recapturing the battlefield footprint. The future Alamo District will include Alamo Plaza, Plaza de Valero, Alamo Promenade, Alamo Gardens and the upper and lower Paseo del Alamo leading to the city’s River Walk. The Texas Cavaliers Education Center, slated to open in 2025, will feature dedicated meeting space and classrooms as well as a terrace overlooking the gardens.

“It’s a game changer for San Antonio to have The Alamo finally presented with the world-class significance that it deserves,” said Dave Krupinski, COO, Visit San Antonio. “It encompasses not just The Alamo but the plaza, preserving the last remaining structures from the 1836 battle at The Alamo.”

The new Alamo Visitor Center and Museum, one of the staples of the project, will reside in the historic Crockett and Woolworth buildings and provide about 40,000 square feet of gallery space. The visitor center and museum, slated for a 2027 opening, will have the capacity to host a 700-person dinner and offer a terrace overlooking the city.

Pearl District

Historic Pearl District © Joshua Rainey | Dreamstime.com

The new 24,000-square-foot Alamo Exhibit at Ralston Family Collections Center opened last year, representing the first new construction on The Alamo grounds since the 1950s, and houses all The Alamo artifacts and collections. Groups can use the center for receptions, said Leah Thornton, director, Events & Membership, The Alamo Trust. “People can wander through two floors of exhibit space and see all kinds of different artifacts going back through our entire 300-year history.”

The Alamo is part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park,
the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Texas. A new World Heritage Center slated to open in fall 2024 will serve as a gateway to the park and offer educational opportunities with information on the history, art and culture of the community around the missions. “It’s going to be geared not just for residents but for visitors to understand the significance of World Heritage,” Krupinski said.

Another site under redevelopment is Hemisfair, the site of the 1968 World’s Fair. Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp. and Hemisfair Conservancy are working together to create an urban
district with residences, local businesses, unique programming and three parks: Yanaguana Garden, Civic Park (Phase II) and Tower Park (Phase III).

Civic Park recently opened and can accommodate outdoor events with up to 15,000 attendees. Also in the works, The Monarch San Antonio – A Curio Collection by Hilton Hotel with 200 rooms will debut in 2026 in the Hemisfair District. Nearby lie San Antonio’s key cultural assets including La Villita, The Alamo, River Walk and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

New and upcoming hotels throughout the city also integrate history into their venues. Located downtown, a new Kimpton hotel will offer 347 rooms as part new-build and part adaptive reuse of an 1850s original schoolhouse.

“It’s going to focus on the combination of historic and modern, embracing more of the authenticity and the neighborhood’s creative energy,” Krupinski said. The hotel will feature more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space and a 5,000-square-foot ballroom.

Another property combining historical elements with modern amenities, the 353-room Plaza San Antonio Hotel & Spa recently opened and includes an on-site garden oasis bar, pool and spa.

San Antonio

San Antonio Hill Country © Bryan Roschetzy | Dreamstime.com

In all, almost 800 new rooms will open soon in the heart of downtown, bringing the city’s total to almost 15,000 rooms. Some will open in time for the April 8 solar eclipse, as San Antonio lies within the path of totality.

San Antonio continues to promote its arts scene with the reopening in 2025 of Alameda Theater, the nation’s largest Latino-focused performance venue, as well as a new concert hall, Stable Hall, in the historic stables of the Pearl District.

SCENIC DRIVES

San Antonio Hill Country proves an ideal region for exploration. Scenic drive options point in all directions. “Our beautiful Hill Country is one of our greatest assets,” said Visit San Antonio’s Dave Krupinski. “It really is one of the true crown jewels of Texas to have all of these beautiful historic towns, all within gorgeous scenic drives of each other.”

One prime route takes one north on I-10. The first stop, 30 minutes from San Antonio, is Boerne, home to an array of hiking and biking trails as well as Cascade Caverns with five major rooms to tour. Another 15 minutes north through the heart of Hill Country sits the town of Comfort, established in 1854, whose draws include its antique shops; historical downtown; and variety of wine tasting rooms, bars and vineyards. The 365-acre Joshua Springs Reserve offers an optional stop along the way for outdoor recreation.

Farther north, the road splits off to Fredericksburg, featuring wineries, breweries, art galleries and a taste of its German heritage. Another option is to stay on I-10 from Comfort and head to the capital of Texas Hill Country, Kerrville, on the banks of the Guadalupe River. From there you can loop back down to San Antonio through Bandera, cowboy capital of Texas.

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