San Antonio's rich culture comes alive through history, art, architecture, music and beautiful outdoor spaces that showcase a unique blend of lively Mexican-American folklore, Spanish heritage and Texas pride. The city's abundant art scene, cultural attractions and festivals make it a popular destination for tourists, artists and industry leaders looking for a versatile and dynamic hub to play, live or conduct business.
The following is a glimpse into San Antonio's diverse cultural venues, including museums, cultural centers, historical sites and more.
Housed in an 18,000-square-foot facility, Artpace is an internationally-respected public institution and a cornerstone of contemporary art in San Antonio and the region. Artpace serves as an advocate for contemporary art and a catalyst for production: it is a residency program as well as a site of exchange. For more information, visit www.artpace.org.
Blue Star Arts Complex
Now in its twenty-fifth year, Blue Star continues to be an incubator for contemporary art in San Antonio, hosting over twenty exhibitions each year within its four on-site galleries, Blue Star LAB annex, and multiple offsite locations within the community. These exhibitions feature both emerging and world-renowned artists who hail from both the Alamo City and across the globe. Over 300,000 visitors each year experience contemporary art at Blue Star through exhibitions, the MOSAIC after-school education program, and community events. www.bluestarart.org
Carver Community Cultural Center
Located just east of downtown San Antonio, the Carver Community Cultural Center (the Carver) is an historical center of the community’s African-American culture. Named in honor of internationally esteemed agricultural chemist George Washington Carver, the Carver embodies this great man’s philosophy and spirit. The mission of the Carver is to celebrate the diverse cultures of our world, nation and community, with emphasis on its African and African-American heritage, by providing challenging artistic presentations, community outreach activities and educational programs. www.thecarver.org.
Institute of Texan Cultures
The museum is a component of The University of Texas at San Antonio. It produces exhibits, programs, and special events that examine and promote heritage, ethnicity, history, social issues, and popular culture. Visitors to the museum will learn the stories of immigrants from around the globe who settled in Texas and contributed to what is today the 15th largest economy in the world. For more information, visit www.texancultures.com.
Instituto de Mexico
The culmination of arduous work by the government of Mexico, the institute was created as a non-profit organization under the auspices of Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its mission is to create permanent presence for Mexico and representation of its culture in this important region of the United States. To find out more, visit www.museumsusa.org/museums/info/15623.
Japanese Tea Garden
Located in Brackenridge Park, the garden features beautiful floral displays, a waterfall and a safe habitat for Koi and aquatic plants. It is an extraordinary example of the reuse of an old rock quarry, which dates back to 1899; remnants can still be seen in the garden's architecture. For more information, visit http://visitsanantonio.com/visitors/play/attraction-details/index.aspx?id=2668.
La Villita Historical District
Located on the south bank of the San Antonio River, La Villita was San Antonio's first neighborhood. It was originally a settlement of primitive huts for the Spanish soldiers stationed at the Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). Today, La Villita is a thriving art community that stands as a monument to San Antonio's past. Find out more at www.lavillita.com.
Recognized as one of the most ornate facilities in the country, the Majestic has long held a special place in the archives of Texas theatrical and architectural history. Located in the heart of downtown San Antonio, the Majestic was designed and built in 1929 by John Eberson for Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Theatres, and stood proudly for many years as the largest theater in Texas and the second largest motion picture theater in the country. Today, the Majestic is the home of the San Antonio Symphony and Broadway in San Antonio. For more information, visit www.majesticempire.com.
Market Square (El Mercado)
San Antonians have been shopping at Market Square since the 1820s. The first businesses were a pharmacy and a dry goods store, and the area served as a marketplace for produce and other foods. Art has also always had a place in this vibrant culture center. For more information, visit www.sanantonio.gov/marketsquare.
McNay Art Museum
Opened as Texas' first museum of modern art in 1954, this former residence of an art patron features stunning Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Each year more than 100,000 visitors view works by modern masters such as Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Find out more at www.mcnayart.org.
Museo Alameda del Smithsonian
This is the nation's largest Latino museum and first formal Smithsonian affiliate. To find out more, visit www.thealameda.org.
San Antonio Children's Museum
The San Antonio Children's Museum provides engaging hands-on experiences and offers three floors of interactive exhibits, including the Tot Spot, PowerBall Hall, the
H-E-B Kids' Market, a bubble ranch, and weekly science and arts activities for children up to 10 years of age. For more information, visit www.sakids.org.
San Antonio Missions
In the 18th century, the Spanish church established five Catholic missions along the San Antonio River, primarily to extend its dominion northward from Mexico, but also to convert the native population. What remains of the largest concentration of missions in North America provides an interesting look into Texas history. All five missions are accessible via the six-mile Hike and Bike trail. For more information, visit www.visitsanantonio.com/visitors/plan/featured-stories/san-antonio-missions/index.aspx.
- The Alamo, the second most-visited site in Texas, is located adjacent to the busy River Walk. Established in 1718 as San Antonio's first mission, the Alamo later became known as the fort where 189 of its defenders died on March 6, 1836, after fighting Mexican General Santa Anna's army.
- Concepción, arguably the most beautiful mission church, looks much like it did in 1731 when it hosted many religious ceremonies. The structure is, in fact, the oldest unrestored church in America. While its exterior paintings have faded, guests can view conserved interior remnants of wall and ceiling paintings.
- San Jose, established in 1720, was a model for other missions--and the most prosperous. Located just south of the Alamo, this "Queen of the Missions" represented a social and cultural center. Its 300 residents sustained themselves by raising livestock and tending to vast fields. The mission had its own gristmill and granary, which have been restored.
- San Juan's fertile farmlands allowed for a self-sustainable mission, and its surplus helped supply the region with produce. The chapel and bell tower are still in use.
- Espada contains the best-preserved segment of the acequia (irrigation system) that was used to bring water to the fields. Today, part of the acequia operates the Espada aqueduct and dam.
San Antonio Museum of Art
The mission of the San Antonio Museum of Art is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret significant works of art representing a broad range of history and world cultures. The museum conducts more than 500 guided tours and provides approximately 200 educational programs each year. Find out more at www.samuseum.org.
San Antonio Opera
Provides more than 50 major operas and concerts starring some of the world's greatest opera and music stars. The opera conducts auditions in New York City, Los Angeles, Monterrey, Mexico and Guadalajara, Mexico. The company is scheduled to move into the city's new Performing Arts Center in 2012 as an anchor tenant. For more information, visit www.saopera.com.
San Antonio Symphony
A professional orchestra with more than 70 world-class musicians that presents a diverse array of classical and pop programs. Find out more at www.sasymphony.org.
Tower of the Americas
For more than 35 years, the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas has offered residents and tourists of San Antonio the most breathtaking view of the Alamo City. Visitors dine at the Tower's revolving restaurant or enjoy the scenery from the observation deck. For more information, visit www.toweroftheamericas.com.
Focusing on South Texas history, science and water resources, the Witte is recognized as the city's premier museum. Its extensive permanent collection features historic artifacts and photographs, Texas art, textiles, the world-renowned Hertzberg Circus Collection, dinosaur bones, cave drawings, Texas wildlife dioramas and a four-story science tree house. For more information, visit www.wittemuseum.org.