People have different ideas about how they want to spend their Spring Break, but there are some destinations that became famous because they have something for everyone. It might be Galveston Island with its miles of beaches, Corpus Christi, TX with all sorts of beach sports and famous local brews, or Port Aransas with its party central at Roberts Point Park. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
4.South Padre Island
5.Boca Chica State Park Beach
8.San Marcos River
10 Best Texas Spring Break Destinations
- Galveston Island, Photo: Courtesy of cbruzos - Fotolia.com
- Corpus Christi, Photo: Courtesy of trongnguyen - Fotolia.com
- Port Aransas, Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie - Fotolia.com
- South Padre Island, Photo: Courtesy of st_matty - Fotolia.com
- Boca Chica State Park Beach, Photo: Courtesy of wildnerdpix - Fotolia.com
- Lake Texoma, Photo: Courtesy of raksyBH - Fotolia.com
- Comal River, Photo: Courtesy of Aaron - Fotolia.com
- San Marcos River, Photo: Courtesy of Colin - Fotolia.com
- Guadalupe River, Photo: Courtesy of Jana - Fotolia.com
- Austin, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of jfortner2015 - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: San Antonio River Walk
Located in San Antonio, Texas, the San Antonio River Walk, also referred to as the Paseo del Río, is a system of pedestrian walkways lining the banks of the San Antonio River. Situated one level down from automobile traffic, the River Walk connects many of the city’s major tourist destinations and is home to a vibrant network of shops, restaurants, bars, and public art installations.
The plan for the River Walk stems back to September 1921, when a flood along the San Antonio River claimed 50 lives and caused extensive damage to the area. Plans to control the river’s flooding were proposed, including the construction of an upstream dam, bypass channel, and storm sewer. While work on the dam began in 1926, protests of the sewer option caused the proposal of a new plan by architect Robert Hugman, which involved the integration of commercial development into a system of floodgates and smaller dams.
The project was initially poorly received, with many public concerns expressed about incorporating public business activity into the area after the 1921 flood, but business and government funding support soon outweighed the flood risk concerns. Beginning in 1939, 17,000 feet of walkways, including 20 bridges, were constructed along the riverfront. A major 1496 flood stood as a first test for the burgeoning business district, but the completed Olmos Dam, along with the other bypass channels and floodgates, proved to be a successful protection system.
Subsequent expansions of the River Walk have connected many of San Antonio’s major tourist destinations, spanning a 15-mile stretch that includes five miles of the city’s downtown area. Starting just north of downtown and stretching south through the city’s historic mission district, the River Walk consists of two parallel sidewalks on either side of the river, providing striking views as it winds and loops under a number of bridges. The River Walk is divided into three main sections: the Museum Reach, the Downtown Reach, and the Mission Reach.
The Museum Reach, an expansion completed in 2009, is a 1.33-mile stretch of walkways connecting several major cultural attractions north of downtown. The River Walk begins at Brackenridge Park, a 343-acre public park which is home to the world-famous San Antonio Zoo and the Japanese Tea Garden. The renovated Pearl District, the former home of Pearl Brewery, has been transformed into a vibrant, hip district filled with unique restaurants and independent retailers. Three museums are located along this stretch of the walk: the Witte Museum, a science and natural history museum; the children’s science center DoSeum; and the San Antonio Museum of Art.
The Downtown Stretch is the River Walk’s most high-profile area, with a canopy of lush greenery covering a busy tourist district filled with shopping, dining, nightlife, and entertainment. Built for the 1968 World’s Fair, the iconic Tower of the Americas, a 750-foot observation tower with a lounge and revolving restaurant, rises over the River Walk skyline as part of HemisFair Park. A number of cultural attractions are accessible from this portion of the River Walk, including the Majestic Theater, San Antonio’s largest and oldest theater, and the La Villita Historic Arts Village, which is home to the Arneson River Theater riverfront performance venue. Also nearby is the popular Shops at Rivercenter mall, built around the grounds of the historic St. Joseph Catholic Church, is home to more than 100 stores, restaurants, and hotels. Visitors can explore the area on foot or travel along the water on the city’s famous flatbed riverboats.
The final eight miles of the walk wind past many of San Antonio’s historic 18th-century Spanish Colonial missions. The San Antonio Missions Trail, which connects Mission Concepción, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada, is part of this Mission Reach stretch.
As the city’s cultural hub, River Walk is home to many festivals and special events, including the annual summer arts festival Fiesta Noche del Rio, which presents music and dance performances along the riverfront from May through August. In November and December, the River Walk is vibrantly lit with a famous holiday light display, featuring more than 100,000 brightly-colored lights hung from the downtown stretch’s cypress trees and an annual Fiesta de las Luminarias illuminating the walk’s pathways. An annual floating holiday parade is held the day after Thanksgiving and is televised across America, syndicated to more than 200 stations nationwide.
Maintained as a public park, the River Walk is open 365 days a year and is free of charge to visitors. The pathways are open 24 hours a day, although businesses are individually maintained and individual attraction hours vary.
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Attraction Spotlight: Witte Museum
The Witte Museum is located in San Antonio adjacent to the San Antonio River. The museum is dedicated to Texas history and heritage, including the natural history and science of Texas. The H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit is in partnership with the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council and is an interactive exhibit that teaches participants about health, wellness, and fitness.
Guests partner with a virtual guide, who accompanies them through the exhibit in which they learn about several important markers of health and wellness such as heart rate. The Dinosaur Gallery offers visitors an Acrocanthosaurus skeleton and its 110-million-year-old footprints, which were found in the area. Displays of a giant crocodile skeleton and a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton educate visitors about what the area may have looked like 90 million years ago, when San Antonio was on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas Wild Gallery showcases the different ecosystems of Texas and the various plants and animals that live there. The gallery uses the museum’s historical dioramas alongside new technology to educate visitors. In the Live Lab, guests can see and even touch native Texas snakes and reptiles. Three art galleries house art depicting historical south Texas, including the George West Trail Drivers Gallery, which features artifacts and paintings memorializing those who built the cattle industry in the post-Civil War period. The People of the Pecos Gallery spans the entire second floor of the New Witte, and offers exhibits on the life and history of the native people of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. Visitors may browse items in the permanent collection that are not currently on display by visiting the B. Naylor Morton Research and Collections Center. This innovative storage facility allows guests to access any item from the permanent collection by submitting a reference request form.
History: The Witte Museum is named in honor of Alfred G. Witte, a San Antonio area businessman who donated $65,000 to the City of San Antonio in 1925 for the construction of a museum of art, science, and history. The funds were used to secure a permanent location for a natural history collection that had already been organized in 1923 by the founding members of the San Antonio Museum Association. The Witte Museum opened in 1926 at the site of the original irrigation canal that supplied water to the Alamo Mission and surrounding farms in the early days of San Antonio. The museum grew throughout the 1930s with both the San Antonio Art League and the San Antonio Conservation Society operating within its walls. The reptile program opened in the 1930s and became a great source of income for the young museum, with hundreds of visitors paying 10 cents each to see (and eat) rattlesnakes. A “modern” addition came in the 1960s, which increased the size of the museum by over 60%. In 1989, the San Antonio Museum split from the Witte, allowing the Witte to focus solely on Texas and regional art, history, and science. The 2000s ushered in a new era of growth, with a 20,000-square-foot addition known as the “New Witte,” which allowed for the expansion of programs and collections and for the display of the permanent collection in a state-of-the-art storage facility.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Daily educational programs include everything from healthy cooking demonstrations to cowboy demonstrations on the uses of ropes and braids. Family Days offer hands-on activities and performances. The Louis A. & Frances B. Wagner Series offers special talks by curators and others about south Texas history, science, and art. Witte Museum Camps are offered over the summers and during spring break. These weeklong camps are themed around survival and living off the land, dinosaurs and paleontology, and weather and meteorology. Special events include Sunday outdoor jazz performances. Cocktails and Culture is a monthly event for adults that pairs a visit to the exhibits with food and drink. Culinary Nights at the Body Adventure exhibit pair chef talks with a multi-course dinner and wine.
Past and Future Exhibits: Special exhibitions have included Whales: Giants of the Deep, an interactive exhibit that educates visitors about marine mammals, their evolution, and their role in human history, and Wild Weather, a look at extreme weather patterns and how scientists are working to understand them.
What’s Nearby: The Witte Museum oversees the rock art paintings of the White Shaman Preserve and offers once-weekly tours to the site in the Lower Pecos Region.
3801 Broadway St, San Antonio, TX 78209, Phone: 210-357-1900
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Attraction Spotlight: Natural Bridge Caverns
The Natural Bridge Caverns offer underground tours of caverns and caves in San Antonio, Texas. The very popular Discovery Tour takes visitors through the first half-mile of upwards of 2 miles of underground caverns. Guides walk visitors past stalactites, stalagmites, and other natural features of the caverns at depths of up to 180 feet underground.
The Hidden Passages tour takes guests into caves to experience true darkness and to see the long “soda straw” stalactites that decorate the caves. Lantern Tours take place each day at 9:00am only. Visitors are given a lantern and use this light to navigate through the underground passages in the dark. Physically fit guests will enjoy the Adventure Tours, where visitors climb, hike, and rappel inside the caves, exploring the same way they would have in the 1960s before lights, pathways, and handrails were installed. Adventure Tours last 3-4 hours, and showers and locker room facilities are provided. Above ground, Natural Bridge Caverns offers several adventure activities. The Canopy Challenge features a zip line and a 60-foot-tall ropes course, offering 47 different obstacles and challenges. A kid’s course is specifically designed for toddlers and young children. The AMAZEn’ Ranch Roundup is a unique maze suitable for all ages. Participants are challenged to find their way through and may utilize a bridge and three towers for a bird’s eye view to aid them in finding their way. The Discovery Village Mining Company offers young children a simulation of mining for gold. Visitors pour bags of mining “rough” into their screened trays in a trough of water, and then sift through to find their gems. Visitors to the cave should be advised that it is indeed a damp area, and water continues to drip from the ceilings of this “living” cavern. A change of clothes is recommended. The caves remain at a steady 70°F all year round.
History: During the Cretaceous Period, millions of years ago, this area of Texas was covered by a warm ocean, and evidence of many of the sea organisms from that time can be found in the caves. These remnants compacted over time and formed the limestone sediments that visitors walk through today. Approximately 20 million years ago, cracks began to form in the rocks as a number of faults occurred in the area. Water flowing underground through these cracks gradually dissolved the limestone rock and carved out the caverns.
In 1960, four college students from St Mary’s University in San Antonio set out to explore the area. They had a hunch that there would be natural caverns beneath the 60-foot limestone slab that was visible at the surface. Finally, on their fourth expedition, they felt cool air coming from an underground passageway blocked by rubble. With permission from the landowner, they removed the debris and explored 2 miles of the underground caves and passageways. Subsequently, the landowners decided to develop the first half-mile of the caverns, and the Discovery Tour was born. Natural Bridge Caverns is one of the most extensive cavern systems in the state of Texas. The caverns are listed in the National Register of Historic Places for their role in preserving the history of cultural artifacts found there, which date back 10,000 years. Items found in the caves have included stone tools for digging and cooking as well as a prehistoric hearth and the charred remains of plant material.
Ongoing Programs and Education: All tours of the caves and caverns are guided by a knowledgeable expert, who describes the geology of the caverns, how they were formed, and some of the archeological artifacts that have been found there. Private group tours may be arranged for birthdays, church and scouting groups, or others. Christmas at the Caverns decorates the entire park with holiday lighting. Hayrides are offered and caroling takes place each evening in the underground chambers.
What’s Nearby: The Bracken Bat Flight is a tour of the world’s largest bat colony, just a few miles from the Natural Bridge Caverns. Guest arrive at dusk to see the exodus of the millions of free-tailed bats as they depart the cave in search of food each evening. These bat tours are paired with either a tour of the caverns or a canopy challenge.
26495 Natural Bridge Caverns Road, San Antonio, TX 78266, Phone: 210-651-6144
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