A Day in San Antonio, Texas: Part Two – Touring the Missions, visiting El Mercado and eating plates and plates of tacos

When it comes to rich cultural history, there are few cities in America with more to offer than San Antonio, Texas. Situated less than 90 minutes drive from Austin, Texas, San Antonio used to be one of the State’s best kept secrets. But now, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the USA, with the second largest population in the State of Texas, home to 1.6 million people. In part one we took you down the city’s famous River Walk and to lunch at the Pearl Brewery. As we continue our journey, we discover other ways to explore the city…

Take the Alamo Trolley to check out the rest of the missions

With limited time left in the day, we wanted to see as much as we could of the city. There are a few options for tours, but we were recommended City Tours’ Alamo Trolley, which runs 60 minute loops every half an hour. You can jump on and off the trolley at different locations and essentially pick up the rest of your journey wherever/whenever you’d like by way of the Hopper Pass, which is a couple of dollars more than the one trip ticket. It’s worth it extra couple of dollars (US$24 is the full cost) if you are planning to see a lot in the day.

For us, it was a great way to get to see the famous Missions – nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site-that sit alongside the San Antonio River (and, in turn, the River Walk). We were taken by the Mission San Jose, which is twice the size of The Alamo, and the Mission Concepción, pictured below, which is famous for its beautiful paintings and the two bell towers which sit strongly at the entrance. And take a look at those trees! Stunning. The tour operators provide a vast array of information about the missions, which were built by the then Spanish government in the 1600s, as well as the vast vegetation in the area (“the prairie” literally means a varied vegetation) and fun facts about the 200 Victorian mansions built by the Germans, the brewing industry’s influence in the region and the AlamoDome. A stadium built for a NFL team who never came.

More details about the tour are available here: http://www.citytoursinc.com/trolley-tours

See what’s happening in El Mercado

One of the last stops of the tour, jump out at El Mercado and enjoy the traditional shopping and food of the Mexican community. The bakery at Mi Tierra comes recommended and events are regularly held in the area. While we were there, the Tejano Music Awards Fan Fair was happening, with multiple stages of traditional Tejano music running all day, and stalls of food and shopping which we assume aren’t always littering the space. I tried a taco which ended up being, essentially, fried intestines. I have to say, it wasn’t appropriate for my palate but it was great to be able to try something a little different to the usual Tex Mex cuisine. They pride themselves on being more authentic here, and it’s all the better for it. Maybe I’ll just stick to the usual beef and chicken options next time!

As you walk back towards The Alamo and Downtown from El Mercado, you’ll come across the beautiful San Fernando Cathedral and the Spanish Governor’s Palace. Less “Palace” and more “house from the 1600s”, the Palace has a small entry fee (a couple of dollars) and presents the Palace as close to how it would have appeared in the 1600s as possible. Some original materials are displayed, other pieces are replicated, and the palace has had add-ons from later years.

Pictured above: The San Fernando Cathedral. Pictured Below: The Spanish Governor’s Palace.

But the real selling point is the garden out the back, complete with a wishing well and a well kept garden. We ended up sitting out there for a good while and it’s worth the visit alone.

Live Music and Fish Tacos at The Cove. Also, pet grooming?

So, you’ve exhausted yourself running around the city of San Antonio, how should you end your day? Well, one of the city’s favourite spots for dinner is The Cove. The place was packed when we arrived, and it’s no surprise why. There’s a kids play area, a dog walking area, a pet grooming facility (as you do) and incredible fish tacos for sale. Oh and don’t forget the massive collection of beers on tap. There are also live music stages indoor and outdoor, on the patio of the “Green House”. The local band Parallelephants were playing when we were there, with a vibe reminiscent at times of Portugal The Man. Very fun, great food and a fantastic way to end a very long day.

And, once you’ve finished dinner, had a few drinks, enjoyed the band and gotten your dog groomed, it’s probably time for most to call it a night. But this is a city beaming with places to party the night away – and stay tuned for our special feature on the food, drink and nightlife of San Antonio!

And I have no idea where this was, but see if you can find it. It was on the way to The Cove. Just some of the artwork that is scattered around the city. There are permanent 3D glasses set up there for you to enjoy the piece. There really is so much to see and do in San Antonio, it’s hard to suggest that one day is enough time to truly appreciate it all.

Happen to have a couple of days to burn in San Antonio? Check out our feature on Six Flags Fiesta Texas as part of our Theme Park series!

Visit TravelTex.com for more information and to plan your trip to Texas.

This article is sponsored by Texas Tourism and support was kindly provided by San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Wyndham Hotel and City Tours Inc. All photos by the author. Look back at the first part of the piece HERE.