April 24, 2019

The Most Underrated Landmarks in San Antonio

San Antonio is known for the Alamo and River Walk – heck, sometimes even the Tower of the Americas (depending on who you ask). We decided to round up 20 iconic landmarks that can hold their own against the Alamo City's pride and joy. Get to exploring the best of San Antonio that you may or may not already know about. Just call ahead before your visit, since some of these places have changed their hours and accessibility during the pandemic. 
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Central Library
600 Soledad St, (210) 207-2500, mysapl.org
The bulk of the Central Library makes it stand out, whether viewed from up close or passing by on the freeway, but it is the color – dubbed “enchilada red” by the locals – that really grabs the attention. Selected in a design competition held in 1991, the building’s Mexican modernist architecture by Ricardo Legorreta includes a breathtaking multi-story atrium containing the artistic heart of the structure, a blown-glass sculpture created by renowned artist Dale Chihuly.
Photo by Siggi Ragnar
Central Library
600 Soledad St, (210) 207-2500, mysapl.org
The bulk of the Central Library makes it stand out, whether viewed from up close or passing by on the freeway, but it is the color – dubbed “enchilada red” by the locals – that really grabs the attention. Selected in a design competition held in 1991, the building’s Mexican modernist architecture by Ricardo Legorreta includes a breathtaking multi-story atrium containing the artistic heart of the structure, a blown-glass sculpture created by renowned artist Dale Chihuly.
Photo by Siggi Ragnar
Plaza Guadalupe
1327 Guadalupe Street, avenida.org
This historic West Side jewel has played host to many dignitaries and visitors including Pope John Paul II in 1987, a Mexican president and several U.S. presidential aspirants, including San Antonio’s own Julián Castro, a 2020 contender. It’s also the site of Fiesta’s “Piñatas en el Barrio” shindig, a Diez y Seis de Septiembre celebration of Mexico’s Independence from Spain and art events including Una Noche en La Gloria – Contemporary Art in the Cultural Zone.
Photo via Instagram / napsinthewest
Plaza Guadalupe
1327 Guadalupe Street, avenida.org
This historic West Side jewel has played host to many dignitaries and visitors including Pope John Paul II in 1987, a Mexican president and several U.S. presidential aspirants, including San Antonio’s own Julián Castro, a 2020 contender. It’s also the site of Fiesta’s “Piñatas en el Barrio” shindig, a Diez y Seis de Septiembre celebration of Mexico’s Independence from Spain and art events including Una Noche en La Gloria – Contemporary Art in the Cultural Zone.
Photo via Instagram / napsinthewest
San Antonio Botanical Garden
555 Funston Pl, (210) 536-1400, sabot.org
Not too far from Fort Sam Houston you’ll get to explore the natural beauty of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The 38-acre scenic oasis is complete with trails, a pond, roses and plenty of native plants that make for a lovely photo backdrop. There’s also a glass conservatory and Rosella at the Garden, an essential stop once you’re done exploring the grounds. You’ll be smart to do just that – explore and appreciate every inch of this beautiful area.
Photo via Instagram / pastorbrett
San Antonio Botanical Garden
555 Funston Pl, (210) 536-1400, sabot.org
Not too far from Fort Sam Houston you’ll get to explore the natural beauty of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The 38-acre scenic oasis is complete with trails, a pond, roses and plenty of native plants that make for a lovely photo backdrop. There’s also a glass conservatory and Rosella at the Garden, an essential stop once you’re done exploring the grounds. You’ll be smart to do just that – explore and appreciate every inch of this beautiful area.
Photo via Instagram / pastorbrett
Tower Life Building
310 S St Mary's St
The Tower of the Americas surely get a lot of attention, but give a moment to recognize the Tower Life building. The historic building is currently the fourth-tallest structure in the Alamo City at 403 feet. The building, which has undergone several name changes over the years, is easily recognizable in SA’s landscape. Featuring 30 floors, the Gothic Revival architecture gem, complete with gargoyles on the exterior, opened in 1929 and was the first office building in the U.S. to have air conditioning. It was also home to the city’s first Sears.
Photo via Instagram / jencr241
Tower Life Building
310 S St Mary's St
The Tower of the Americas surely get a lot of attention, but give a moment to recognize the Tower Life building. The historic building is currently the fourth-tallest structure in the Alamo City at 403 feet. The building, which has undergone several name changes over the years, is easily recognizable in SA’s landscape. Featuring 30 floors, the Gothic Revival architecture gem, complete with gargoyles on the exterior, opened in 1929 and was the first office building in the U.S. to have air conditioning. It was also home to the city’s first Sears.
Photo via Instagram / jencr241
Mission Marquee Plaza (formerly Mission Drive-In)
3100 Roosevelt Ave, (210) 207-8612, missionmarquee.com
Mission Drive-In entertained countless numbers of car-bound moviegoers who came from all over the city from 1948 into the early 2000s. After the theater’s closure, the city purchased the site and now uses it for arts and cultural events under the supervision of the San Antonio World Heritage Office. May through November, movies still flicker across the original big screen, only viewers now sprawl on blankets or in lawn chairs across the green space.
Photo via Instagram / slabcinema
Mission Marquee Plaza (formerly Mission Drive-In)
3100 Roosevelt Ave, (210) 207-8612, missionmarquee.com
Mission Drive-In entertained countless numbers of car-bound moviegoers who came from all over the city from 1948 into the early 2000s. After the theater’s closure, the city purchased the site and now uses it for arts and cultural events under the supervision of the San Antonio World Heritage Office. May through November, movies still flicker across the original big screen, only viewers now sprawl on blankets or in lawn chairs across the green space.
Photo via Instagram / slabcinema
San Fernando Cathedral
115 Main Plaza, sfcathedral.org
The cathedral is considered the historic geographic center of San Antonio and serves as a tourist attraction, community gathering place and a symbol of the role of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. The church is one of the oldest in the country, with the cornerstone of the 15-year construction project laid in 1738. Today’s visible landmark, however, is the result of an 1868 renovation in the Gothic Revival style. If you time your visit right, you can also take in a stunning light show of images and music telling the history of the city that’s displayed four nights a week on the façade of the church.
Photo via Instagram / champagnechynna
San Fernando Cathedral
115 Main Plaza, sfcathedral.org
The cathedral is considered the historic geographic center of San Antonio and serves as a tourist attraction, community gathering place and a symbol of the role of the Archdiocese of San Antonio. The church is one of the oldest in the country, with the cornerstone of the 15-year construction project laid in 1738. Today’s visible landmark, however, is the result of an 1868 renovation in the Gothic Revival style. If you time your visit right, you can also take in a stunning light show of images and music telling the history of the city that’s displayed four nights a week on the façade of the church.
Photo via Instagram / champagnechynna
Bracken Cave
26101 FM 3009, tpwd.texas.gov
In the summer, you can find the largest colony of bats in the world right here in San Antonio. About 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats chill at Bracken Cave from March to October, making it the largest concentration of mammals. Here’s why there’s so many: the cave is a maternity site for the species, so females gather here to give birth and rear their young.
Photo via Instagram / weatherkait for weather.com
Bracken Cave
26101 FM 3009, tpwd.texas.gov
In the summer, you can find the largest colony of bats in the world right here in San Antonio. About 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats chill at Bracken Cave from March to October, making it the largest concentration of mammals. Here’s why there’s so many: the cave is a maternity site for the species, so females gather here to give birth and rear their young.
Photo via Instagram / weatherkait for weather.com
Natural Bridge Caverns
26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, naturalbridgecaverns.com
Right in San Antonio’s backyard is the largest known commercial caverns in the state of Texas. Yes, really! In 1960, students from St. Mary’s University were granted permission to explore the area and were convinced that underground passages would be found underneath a 60 foot limestone slab bridge. Sure enough, one of the students felt a draft from a rubble-filled crawlway – meaning there were additional passages. Today, you can explore the caverns through different tours.
Photo via Instagram / naturalbridgecaverns
Natural Bridge Caverns
26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, naturalbridgecaverns.com
Right in San Antonio’s backyard is the largest known commercial caverns in the state of Texas. Yes, really! In 1960, students from St. Mary’s University were granted permission to explore the area and were convinced that underground passages would be found underneath a 60 foot limestone slab bridge. Sure enough, one of the students felt a draft from a rubble-filled crawlway – meaning there were additional passages. Today, you can explore the caverns through different tours.
Photo via Instagram / naturalbridgecaverns
Morgan’s Wonderland
5223 David Edwards Dr, morganswonderland.com
While Six Flags and Sea World are big frontrunners in the amusement park world, SA’s own Morgan’s Wonderland definitely holds its own. Honored to be the world’s first-ever ultra-accessible theme park, the family-friendly park allows kids and adults of all ages and abilities to have fun. The park, as well as the addition of the water park, are regarded as blessings for parents of children with disabilities as the park has accommodations to make sure guests are never excluded from the fun. The park also hosts themed holiday events, so the fun never stops.
Photo via Instagram / morganswonderlandtexas
Morgan’s Wonderland
5223 David Edwards Dr, morganswonderland.com
While Six Flags and Sea World are big frontrunners in the amusement park world, SA’s own Morgan’s Wonderland definitely holds its own. Honored to be the world’s first-ever ultra-accessible theme park, the family-friendly park allows kids and adults of all ages and abilities to have fun. The park, as well as the addition of the water park, are regarded as blessings for parents of children with disabilities as the park has accommodations to make sure guests are never excluded from the fun. The park also hosts themed holiday events, so the fun never stops.
Photo via Instagram / morganswonderlandtexas
The Guenther House
205 E Guenther St, (210) 227-1061, guentherhouse.com
Giving a glimpse into the lifestyle of San Antonio’s affluent residents of the 1800s, the impeccably-upkept Guenther House truly takes you back in time. The home, which has served as a restaurant and museum, belonged to Pioneer Mills founder Carl Hilmar Guenther. Not only do you get to enjoy American breakfast classics in dining rooms throughout the house (or out on the patio), but you also get to enjoy the rooms upstairs that are frozen in time. Located on the river and hidden away from the surrounding Southtown, the Guenther House is a must-visit for foodies and history buffs alike.
Photo via Instagram / sa.schmid
The Guenther House
205 E Guenther St, (210) 227-1061, guentherhouse.com
Giving a glimpse into the lifestyle of San Antonio’s affluent residents of the 1800s, the impeccably-upkept Guenther House truly takes you back in time. The home, which has served as a restaurant and museum, belonged to Pioneer Mills founder Carl Hilmar Guenther. Not only do you get to enjoy American breakfast classics in dining rooms throughout the house (or out on the patio), but you also get to enjoy the rooms upstairs that are frozen in time. Located on the river and hidden away from the surrounding Southtown, the Guenther House is a must-visit for foodies and history buffs alike.
Photo via Instagram / sa.schmid