What’s New in San Antonio

River Walk in San Antonio. Al Rendon photo.River Walk in San Antonio. Even more to enjoy! Al Rendon photo.

What’s New in San Antonio ?

New Museum Attractions and Expanded Riverwalk Top List in the heart of Texas

By Dan Peltier

San Antonio sits deep in the heart of Texas and has everything that you might expect in a Lone Star State destination, with some new twists.

This year is busy for one of Texas’ largest cities as it is trying to become a World Heritage Site.The Spanish colonial missions of San Antonio (to include the Alamo) are gaining global recognition as the United States nominates them for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Organized by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Heritage List recognizes the most significant cultural and natural sites in the world.

Included on the world-wide list are Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China and the Giza Pyramids of Egypt. If awarded, the missions would be the first World Heritage Site in the State of Texas and only the 22nd in the United States. That list includes Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

From this nomination, it’s evident that San Antonians are proud of their history and want to share it with the rest of the world. While you wait for UNESCO’s decision, there is still plenty to do in San Antonio besides marvel at its historical roots. And if this year’s list of new activities and attractions is any indication, it’s clear that San Antonio has the entire family in mind with its eclectic points of interest.

For Nature Lovers

A vacation to a city doesn’t usually bring to mind an immersion in wildlife or natural beauty, but in San Antonio, doing just that is entirely possible.

The city recently completed a $358.3 million project to lengthen the River Walk from three to 15 miles. The Museum Reach was added in May 2009, connecting downtown with museums, cultural districts and the historic Pearl Brewery to the north.

Tex Mex Dining in San Antonio. Stephanie Colgan photo.
Tex Mex Dining in San Antonio. Stephanie Colgan photo.

The Mission Reach (noted as the largest ecosystem restoration in an urban area) joins the original River Walk to four of the city’s Spanish colonial missions in south San Antonio. Visitors can take in the natural beauty of the river on hike and bike trails.

“The Mission Reach is great for both locals and artists and is the first time that people can get out on the water,” said Shanna Smith, partner communications manager for San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Pearl Brewery, once the birthplace of Pearl Beer and a 128-year staple of the San Antonio economy, is being revitalized into an art-filled urban village next to the River Walk. Preservations and additions are continuously being made with detail to the site’s historic character and incorporate the latest-available, eco-friendly technology–including the largest solar panel system in all of Texas.

Once complete, Pearl Brewery will be one of the focal gathering points in the city to shop, eat, play and relax.

Highlights include the Culinary Institute of America’s newest campus (which offers instruction on Latin America cuisine), restaurants by some of San Antonio’s top chefs, unique retailers, the largest farmers market in San Antonio (held on Saturdays), more than 500 residential spaces, the historic Pearl Stable entertainment venue, and an outdoor amphitheater adjacent to the River Walk.

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This fall, the opening of Hotel Pearl, a luxury boutique Kimpton property located in the historic Pearl Brewhouse, will only add to the splendor of the area.

“We have a lot of historic buildings in San Antonio and we are proud that UNESCO is considering adding the city to its impressive list of top destinations around the world,” said Smith.

Just down the street, the San Antonio Zoo is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2014. To mark this milestone, the zoo is building Zootennial Plaza, an area that include an upscale restaurant, open patios, a centralized gathering area for visitors, a custom-designed carousel that features figurines of animals found at the zoo and more.

The zoo is home to more than 9,000 animals that represent 750 species of animals on 56 acres and receives more than 1 million guests visit the zoo annually.

If the zoo wasn’t enough to excite you’re inner animal, a visit to SeaWorld San Antonio will introduce visitors to the new Roa’s Aviary, a 13,500 square feet aviary containing about 300 birds representing more than 50 species. Opening in May, the Aviary will be one of the park’s serene offerings, giving guests the chance to float, wade or walk among hundreds of tropical birds.

The aviary and new pools will be located on the Loggerhead Beach area of SeaWorld’s waterpark, Aquatica, creating a new “waterfront beach” for guests to enjoy. Visitors will also have the opportunity to hand feed birds and SeaWorld educators will be on hand to teach them about these amazing animals. When Aquatica waterpark closes for the season, SeaWorld guests will still be able to access the aviary.

Mission San Jose. photo San Antonio Vistitors Org.
Mission San Jose. photo San Antonio Vistitors Org.

Fun for Everyone

Going to the museum in San Antonio isn’t only about looking at old stuff and learning about their legacy. It’s also about showing you how science and art are dependent on one another and bringing you straight into the natural beauty of the city.

A renovation to San Antonio’s Guinness World Records Museum will provide guests a chance to break several different Guinness World Records during their visit. At designated times, the museum will have official Guinness World Record Adjudicators on staff to judge record attempts and award certificates, if successful – making the museum the first in the world to provide this opportunity year-round.

imagination playground at the San Antonio Children's Museum.
imagination playground at the San Antonio Children’s Museum.

Starting this May, visiting the Witte Museum might also count as a workout! The museum is focused on South Texas history, culture, and natural science and is transforming its H-E-B Science Treehouse into the H-E-B Body Adventure.

The exhibit will feature state-of-the-art interactive centers to inspire visitors to get up and moving, make healthy changes and live a more balanced lifestyle in a fun way that encourages you to try it at home.

Visitors can generate their own take-home POWER profile to track their activity, transform their favorite meals into healthy dishes in the Demonstration Kitchen and observe the workings of a human heart and digestive system through real specimens and more.

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Opening in September, San Antonio’s former Municipal Auditorium, an event venue built as a stunning WWI memorial, is being renovated into the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The building will retain its historical charm and grandeur while featuring exceptional sound, acoustics and seating arrangements. Its location on the esteemed Museum Reach of the San Antonio River Walk will make it a gateway to the cultural heart of San Antonio and provide a picturesque, natural backdrop for events that will further highlight the natural allure of the city.

If heights don’t frighten you, Six Flags Fiesta Texas may have just the thrill for you. Opening this summer, The Bahama Blaster will be the offer visitors the opportunity to experience the first multiple lane, trap-door, free-fall waterslide. The four-slide ride features a unique launching capsule system where, after reaching the top of a six-story tower, guests will step into an enclosed vertical capsule where the floor drops out beneath them, sending riders free-falling 40 miles-per-hour down an 80-degree slide.

Coming Soon

The San Antonio Children’s Museum will move from its current location on Houston Street to a larger, 5.5-acre site on Broadway Street in the city’s Broadway Reach district in June 2015. The museum will have a new name, The Do Seum, which emphasizes the interactivity of the museum and its focus on science, technology, literacy, art, creativity and imagination. The Do Seum’s state-of-the-art, 65,000-square-foot building will feature much more outdoor space, parking and learning activities to provide children ages zero to 10 the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills through immersive, hands-on activities.

The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is also getting attention by way of expanding. Set to be complete by 2016, the newer part of the convention center (built a little more than a decade ago) will expand eastward to create more modern space and increase the amount of prime, contiguous exhibit space to over 500,000 square feet.

Additionally, more flexible meeting and ballroom space will be added, including a new 50,000+ square foot ballroom – the largest in the state of Texas. The center will remain in full operation throughout the duration of the expansion construction period. Once new construction is completed, the oldest portion of the center located on the west side of the complex will be demolished to pave the way for a new twelve-acre redevelopment of Hemisfair Park. This visionary new development will create a vital, mixed-use central urban park that will provide a great new amenity for convention visitors and locals to enjoy.

For more of what’s new in San Antonio, visit visitsanantonio.com.

Daniel Peltier

Daniel Peltier is a staff reporter for the travel news site Skift, in New York City. He began his travel writing after studying abroad, and then as an intern for GoNOMAD.com Travel. He got his journalism degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.