2/25 to 3/3
San Antonio, Texas was the first real Texas metropolis we were visiting and we weren’t sure what to expect. Never having been to Texas, I expected women with HUGE hair and men with HUGE cowboy hats, lots of dust and everyone on horseback. I was almost right. The hair wasn’t huge and the horses were pickup trucks. Our campground, Hidden Valley RV Park was workable but not somewhere we were inclined to put out the awning lights and all our chairs etc…the view out our windows wasn’t great. We just used it as a base for work and school and then we got out and saw the sights. If you happen to stay there, ask for site 14 on the lower level.
San Antonio’s downtown was fantastic. Historic buildings, walkable streets and of course, the Riverwalk. It felt like a great small city or large town. I was SHOCKED to learn that, by population, San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the USA. Wiki says so. Baltimore (my hometown area) is number 29 and feels WAY bigger than San Antonio. Amazing. Our first day was spent on the Riverwalk boat tour learning about the history of the city. It was shockingly inexpensive and worth every penny for a nice overview of San Antonio (homeschool social studies). Then we grabbed dinner, riverside of course, at Casa Rio (highly recommend) and called it a night.
The rest of the week was spent touring the 5 San Antonio Missions which are all part of one National Historic Park (another NPS Junior Ranger badge!). All were fascinating. Pre-missions, natives in this area were hunting and gathering and moving through the land to do so. The influx of the Spanish brought deadly European diseases which decimated the native populations. The Spanish purpose was to convert these wild people with their wild rituals and rites to Catholicism and squash out their wild ways. The natives weren’t in a good place between the diseases and the encroaching tribes from the north. They ended up being willing recipients of the food and refuge the Spanish missions provided in exchange for their labor and conversion to Catholicism. In other words, desperate times called for desperate measures and survival depended on the Spanish Missions, unfortunately. It all sounded really sad to me…so much native culture gone. It was definitely riveting and brought to life the little I learned about the Spanish explorers and settlers when I was young. Hopefully it brought it to life for our boys. I will add that…while the Alamo story is really amazing and the museum there is interesting, it was sort of anticlimactic in aesthetic. It’s right downtown surrounded by one tourist trap after another. The other 4 missions (San Jose, San Juan, Espada and Concepcion) were far more awe inspiring.
Later in the week we found the Doseum museum for kids and the boys fell in love with their Spy School. Many kids museums are getting to be too babyish for our 8 and almost 10 year old, but this one was not. It’s a beautiful and very well done museum with plenty for all ages. Even 40+ year olds. It’s also part of the ASTC museum reciprocal program we belong to, so it was FREE.
We also lucked out that The Briscoe Museum was having a free entry day and we hopped on that. It was an incredible museum filled with native and local art and history. And since it’s right on the Riverwalk, we continued the “eating our way across the country” theme and stopped for dinner.
San Antonio was an excellent history lesson for me…our country has lost so much to gain so much. All these beautiful native tribes have long since faded into distant memories and with them, their customs and culture. I’m thankful some of their stories still exist to be heard today.
San Antonio…we’ll be back.