Spanish Colonial Missions
The Mission Reach section of the 15-mile San Antonio River Walk is an urban park that covers 8 miles of waterway and hike and bike trails connecting four 18th century Spanish Missions, to each other and to the downtown section of the River Walk.
Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada were established by Franciscan priests beginning in the 1730s to help Christianize the native population (the Coahuiltecans) and provide education and assimilation into the Spanish culture. The mission complexes included living quarters, a church and workshops and were important for trade, raising crops and livestock, cattle ranching and irrigation.
The mission era in San Antonio ended in the 1790s, but each one still has an active Catholic church parish and is open to visitors as part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Today, these four missions and the Alamo have been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Key Area Highlights
Bud Jones Restaurant has been serving fish and chips since 1958 and is known as the “home of all the fish you can eat.” An even older San Antonio institution is Bolner’s Meat Market, established in 1914 and still owned and operated by the Bolner family. The historic building is recognized as a San Antonio Landmark by the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation. Visit the store to buy steaks and specialty meats, spices and dine-in or take-out barbecue.
Two longtime Southside favorites for Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes are Nicha’s Comida Mexicana, convenient to Mission San José, and Don Pedro Mexican Restaurant, known for cabrito, chile relleno, asado de puerco (pork stew) and homemade desserts. Rudy’s Seafood is no newcomer either, having served up fried seafood in San Antonio for the past 50 years.
When you’re ready to tee off, you’ll find plenty of golf courses to visit on the south side of San Antonio: The Republic Golf Club features a beautiful natural setting along the Salado Creek; Riverside Golf Course includes a 9-hole par 3 course, as well as an 18-hole championship layout with the front and back nine divided by the San Antonio River; and Mission Del Lago golf course has 18 holes, a large practice green and a driving range. If you’re traveling with your family, the kids will love Green Acres Golf & Games, which features miniature golf, go karts, bumper boats and more.
Mission Reach offers great hiking and biking opportunities, letting you enjoy the native plants, migratory birds and other wildlife. The river is also open for kayaking, and the San Antonio River Authority provides information about river recreation and approved vendors at sara-tx.org.
Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is visited by birders from around the world. The 1,200-acre natural area is a bird paradise consisting of the 600-acre Mitchell Lake, 215 acres of wetlands and ponds and 385 acres of upland habitat.
You’re in for a treat at the Texas Air Museum at Stinson Field, where you’ll discover a large and varied
collection of aircraft, vehicles, uniforms, weapons and other unique and historical artifacts. Stinson Field is named for the Stinson family siblings (notably sisters Katherine and Marjorie) who established it in 1915 as a flying school and landing field.
Mission Concepción Sports Park is a multisport complex that features a gym with basketball and volleyball courts, softball and baseball fields, a track with lighting and trails that connect the park to historic Mission Concepción and the Mission Reach.
Since 1947, the San Antonio Charro Association has been performing Charrería, the national sport of Mexico, which is a competitive equestrian event similar to rodeo. The group has events open to the public year-round at their site along the San Antonio River.
The Mission Open Air Market covers 50 acres of “mall without walls” and bills itself as “a little taste of Mexico 10 minutes from downtown.” Traders Village is an all-in-one destination for shopping and entertainment that features more than 1,000 vendors, midway rides, an antique carousel and more. The PicaPica Plaza, where you can shop, eat, play and take your family to Kiddie Park PicaPica, is another great location for multitaskers.
At the SAS Shoe Factory and General Store, you feel as if you’ve traveled back to an era when popcorn was a nickel and soda was a dime—actually, those are the prices still being charged in the store. The company’s complete line of genuine leather handbags and shoes is on display, and tours of the factory are also available.
Established in 1915, Little's Boot Company specializes in custom bootmaking and handcrafted accessories.
Offbeat, unique or quirky finds:
Papa Jim’s Botanica is a purveyor of magical and mystical products and gifts, including herbs, oils, candles, incense, powders, crystals and so much more.
The Mission Drive-In Theatre opened near Mission San José in 1948. In 2012, the site underwent a $2.3 million renovation, becoming Mission Marquee Plaza and hosting movie screenings and cultural events to viewers seated in a grassy area on lawn chairs, rather than in parked cars.