A WORD TO THE INTREPID TRAVELER: Before visiting San Antonio, check your expectations at the city gates. Because chances are, this multifaceted, multicultural town will gleefully defy whatever expectations you thrust upon it.
Consider that it ranks as the nation’s ninth-largest city, and yet despite its decidedly contemporary feel, it lies deeply rooted in a centuries-old past and a complex mosaic of cultures. Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, Mexican revolutionaries, Canary Islanders, German settlers, and African Americans all have left their indelible imprint on the tapestry of their shared history.
Head straight downtown for a face-to-face encounter with what makes San Antonio so vibrant. While many other Texas cities struggle to revitalize their downtowns, San Antonio defies the trend, continually building upon a bedrock of businesses, restaurants, and public spaces that keep the city center hopping from dawn to nightfall. Walking down the central avenues, one can amazingly happen upon building after building fronted by the familiar plaques designating their historical significance.
You can just turn a corner and serendipitously come upon the Old San Antonio Bank Building, a small Victorian structure with fanciful Moorish accents built in 1866, or the Bexar County Courthouse, a stately granite and red sandstone monolith dating to 1896. Even the Nix Medical Center, a working hospital, boasts elaborate art deco tile and stonework that date to the 1930s. These are just a few of the many historic architectural sites found in this thriving urban hub.
From the July 2002 issue.