Want to experience a little Mexican atmosphere without the hassle of getting passports? Try taking the kids to San Antonio, Texas. Due to proximity and history (San Antonio used to be part of Mexico), San Antonio is crammed full of Mexican flavor from its many great restaurants to its historic missions. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.
What you’ll see: There’s a lot to see and do in San Antonio, but a visit to the Alamo tops everyone’s list. The Alamo isn’t quite what you may imagine (it’s fairly small and located right downtown), but it’s worth a trip nevertheless. This is where 188 Texans went head to head with the Mexican army, holding them off for nearly two weeks. Though all were killed in the end, “Remember the Alamo!” became a rally cry for troops who eventually defeated the Mexican army and won independence for Texas. You’ll find a museum here, a garden, a mission church, and a nice little gift shop. There are regular history talks by Alamo staff and admission is free.
If your kids enjoyed their visit to the Alamo, consider visiting the other four missions in San Antonio. The original purpose of the missions was to convert the local population to Christianity (all are still active churches). While a hiking and biking trail is currently under construction, the best way to travel between the missions is by car.
When you’ve had your fill of history, visit Market Square where you’ll find stalls full of Mexican crafts, strolling mariachis, and a couple good Mexican restaurants. A stroll down San Antonio’s River Walk is sure to entertain kids. It stretches for over two miles and is wonderfully shady on a hot day. Along the way are hotels, restaurants, ice cream shops, gift shops, and even a mall. Try taking one of the tour boats that ply the river, the guides are entertaining and full of information on the sights you’ll see. A warning if you are bringing young children: the River Walk is not the most stroller friendly place in the world; if you do bring a stroller be prepared to carry it occasionally or search out the sparsely located elevators when you want to move up to street level.
If you want an overview of San Antonio, head to HemisFair Park and the Tower of the Americas. The 750 foot tower has a revolving restaurant and great views from the observation deck. In the park itself you’ll find fountains, pigeons and a great wooden playground for the kids.
Where to eat: County Line Barbecue on the River Walk offers great smoked meat dishes with sides and you can eat outside by the river. Two popular Mexican restaurants in the area are Mi Tierra, in Market Square (open 24 hours) and Casa Rio on the River Walk where you can eat under rainbow colored umbrellas by the river.
A note on other attractions: If you’ll have a car during your stay (or don’t mind using the bus), and want a break from downtown, San Antonio has two major kid-friendly attraction, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld.