April 24, 2019 Slideshows » Arts

The Most Underrated Landmarks in San Antonio 

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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.
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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San Pedro Springs Park
2200 N Flores St, (210) 732-5992, sanantonio.gov
Spend some time at San Pedro Springs Park and you’ll be kicking back at the second oldest park in the U.S. And it’s super badass at that! Here visitors are able to spend time outdoors and experience the beauty of the park. While enjoying the scenery is always an option with a stroll around the park, warmer weather calls for a dip in the pool. The springs and creek have attracted visitors for the last 12,000 years, in historic times for water, food and as a place to set up camp. Be sure to do your homework and read up on the history of the park to properly appreciate this landmark.
Photo via Instagram / joseangel_siller
Comanche Lookout
15551 Nacogdoches Road, (210) 207-7275, sanantonio.gov
Containing the fourth-highest geographic point in Bexar County, Comanche Lookout Park off North Loop 1604 provides one of the best views of the city. The hill was used by the Apache, and later the Comanche, during hunts and warfare, and according to the park’s website, it also served as a “prominent landmark for travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries.” The signature stone tower was built in the early 1900s as part of a never finished castle-like project.
Photo by Justin Moore
Brackenridge Park
3700 N St Mary's St, (210) 207-7275, brackenridgepark.org
San Antonians all love all 343 acres of Brackenridge Park – and visit it for a variety of reasons. The Japanese Tea Garden, the San Antonio Zoo, the Sunken Garden Theater, the Witte Museum and the sprawling green space, including the golf course – there’s seriously so many reasons to visit. Honestly, think about it. We may love Brackenridge for all of its separate parts, but consider it as this whole attraction with so much to offer and you’ll love it all the more.
Photo via Instagram / barbarajaylee
Majestic Theatre
224 E Houston St, majesticempire.com
Featuring Baroque, Mediterranean Revival and Mission Revival architecture styles, the iconic Majestic Theatre is a must-visit even if there isn’t a show going on. As the city’s oldest and largest atmospheric theatre, the Majestic, which opened in 1929, has a lot of history. It was the first theatre in Texas to be completely air-conditioned. Films have been screened and made their premiere here, and some scenes have even been shot within the historic building. Oh, and it’s straight-up gorgeous.
Photo via Instagram / historictheatrephotos
The Quadrangle
Fort Sam Houston, (210) 221-1886, atlasobscura.com
Found at Fort Sam Houston, the Quadrangle is an open wildlife garden on base that allows deer, rabbits and even peacocks to roam free. There’s rumors as to the historical significance (ie. Geronimo) of the wildlife in the Quadrangle, but it’s worth asking about while you’re there. Either way, visiting this hidden gem allows you to spend some time with animals and get a few badass pictures too.
Photo via Instagram / usarnorth
King William Historic District
Southtown, visitsanantonio.com
Southtown is known as a haven for art, flavor, culture and fun – and the entire area revolves around the heart of the King William Historic District. The Victorian-inspired neighborhood is packed with history and charm. Established in the 1800s, the district was home to German immigrants who bought land and built homes. It is named after King Wilhelm I of Prussia and is considered a Cultural Arts District today. Just drive through and you’ll be able to enjoy the amazing views – namely in the beautiful homes here. If you have time, walk around and explore the culture of the district.
Photo via Instagram / twelve26townhomes
Arneson River Theatre
418 Villita St, (210) 207-8614, lavillitasanantonio.com
All of the San Antonio River Walk could be considered a landmark, but the Arneson is perhaps the historic anchor to the miles of shopping, restaurants, museums and other attractions that line the water’s edge. The open-air stage faces across the river toward La Villita, the restored original SA neighborhood. The design is by architect Robert H.H. Hugman, considered the father of the River Walk because he saved the flood-control project on the downtown segment of the river from being paved over at street level. The Depression-era Works Progress Administration built the theater in 1939, which was named after the administration’s regional director, Edwin Arneson. Concerts, folklorico performances and plays have graced the stage over the years with as many as 800 audience members watching in the stone and grass amphitheater seating.
Photo via Instagram / zachgennett
Denman Estate Park
7735 Mockingbird Ln, sanantonio.gov
San Anton io is home to plenty of notable city parks, but not all of them have the distinct aesthetic of Denman Estate Park. The City of San Antonio purchased the land from the estate of philanthropist Gilbert Denman Jr. for a whopping cost of more than $2.5 million in 2007. So, be sure to take advantage of this gorgeous park tucked away in city limits. Seriously, it’s tucked away so much that the University of the Incarnate Word uses the space as a retreat center. Walk around the park’s trail and you’ll be able to view beautiful Korean monuments that were hand-crafted by artisans from SA’s sister city of Gwangju, Korea.
Photo via Instagram / craftysmoke
Carver Community Cultural Center
226 N Hackberry, (210) 207-7211, thecarver.org
This East Side landmark was built as a community center in 1918 and became a segregated library for the city’s black population in the early 1930s. By the 1940s, it drew big musical acts such as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong. After desegregation it fell into neglect, but area residents realized its significance and formed a wall of bodies to protect it from the city wrecking ball in 1973. By 1977, under the ownership of the city, a renovated Carver reopened and has served as a go-to events facility, with a focus on African-American culture.
Photo via Instagram / reflect1_media
The Grotto
On the River Walk between Newell Ave and Camden St, sariverfound.org
While many tourists and even locals flock to the River Walk, there’s one spot that stands out against the rest of the attraction. Concrete artist Carlos Cortés’ fascinating addition to the River Walk is not one to be missed. This offbeat grotto features scary faces carved into the cave-like walls, make complete with splashing waterfalls and winding passageways.
Photo via Instagram / dklandez
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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

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