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San Antonio Culture

Market Plazas
San Antonio Culture
San Antonio is a blend of rich and vibrant cultures. Home to the River Walk, Spanish missions, German communities, and an impressive art scene, the city has a distinct character that cannot be experienced anywhere else.
By Lara Dalinsky, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of J. Leet/San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Market Plazas
    Market Plazas
    San Antonio has many plazas and squares that stem from its Spanish colonial heritage; Market Square and La Villita Historic Arts Village are two of the oldest. Traditionally the hub of commerce, packed with produce stands and vendors, these historic squares are still occupied by bustling boutiques and cafés. Market Square, or El Mercado, is the largest Mexican market in the U.S. and offers a vast array of souvenirs and crafts. La Villita specializes in folk and fine art, with galleries selling unique works by regional and residential artists that range from jewelry to paintings and sculptures.
    Photo courtesy of J. Leet/San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Tejano Heritage
    Tejano Heritage
    Tejanos are the descendants of the first Spanish, Mexican, and indigenous settlers of the Texas frontier. Tejano culture has spanned over three centuries and is part of the complex mosaic that makes up the heart of San Antonio. Its influence is seen in the large concentration of Spanish colonial architecture that encompasses the Alamo and the San Antonio Missions. It can be tasted in the flavors of Tex-Mex cuisine, and it can be heard in the heartfelt sound of Tejano music. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center offers a deeper understanding of Tejano traditions through special educational programs, exhibits, performances, and events like the Tejano Conjunto Festival.
    Photo by S. Heap/age fotostock
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    Festivals and Parades
    Festivals and Parades
    San Antonio is known as the Fiesta City, and for good reason—it hosts more than 25 major festivals a year. With strong Southern, Western, Hispanic, and German roots, the city is predisposed to partying. The most popular event is Fiesta San Antonio, known simply as Fiesta. This giant bash has been held annually since 1891 and runs for more than a week in April. Fiesta first began as a way to commemorate the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto, but over the past century it has grown to also celebrate San Antonio’s diverse cultures. Fiesta brims with colorful activity that includes highlights like the Battle of the Flowers Parade, Fiesta Oyster Bake, Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade, and the Chili Queens Chili Cook-Off.
    Photo by Richard Levine/age fotostock
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    Beautifully Restored Theaters
    Beautifully Restored Theaters
    Take a step back in time and enjoy a symphony, musical performance, or show in gilded glamour. The Majestic, located in the heart of downtown, is one of the most ornate and atmospheric theaters in the country and hosts some of the most impressive acts in town. This former vaudeville and film palace was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and has been restored to its full splendor, with decorative details like gold leafing, colorful glass windows, elaborate railings, and vaulted ceilings. The elegant Empire Theatre down the block is another historic venue where similar acts can be experienced in a more intimate setting.
    Photo courtesy of San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Birthplace of the American Cowboy
    Birthplace of the American Cowboy
    Texans are very proud of their Western roots. Throughout the world, the American cowboy is an iconic symbol of independent spirit and courage. Early Spanish settlers originally brought longhorn cattle to San Antonio. After the Civil War, demand for beef increased. Ranchers flocked to the area, and so the cowboy was born. Though not many real cowboys remain, their influence lingers everywhere: from fashion to food to music. Head into Hill Country to Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World, to witness cowboys ride down Main Street and show off their roping techniques every Saturday. In February, the annual San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is a must-visit. And don't miss the Briscoe Western Art Museum for a tribute to the Wild West.
    Photo by age fotostock
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     A Stroll on River Walk
    A Stroll on River Walk
    The River Walk is a famous 15-mile network of verdant, tree-lined paths along the banks of the San Antonio River. It gently winds through the city center and connects major tourist draws. River Square and South Bank in downtown are the most popular sections, filled with festive sidewalk cafés, bars, hotels, and shopping. Museum Reach is a quieter stretch north of downtown where pedestrians will encounter terraced landscapes, the historic Pearl Brewery, and public works of art. To the south, the Mission Reach segment extends eight miles through pleasant parks and neighborhoods that connect the San Antonio Missions.
    Photo courtesy of San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau