Best of San Antonio in One Day: The Alamo, Pearl & River Walk

By the time I got to San Antonio in mid-November, I had been on the road for 33 days. I had been to some amazing places and had been enjoying remarkably beautiful weather until I arrived in central Texas the week before. For almost a week it had been cloudy, drizzly, rainy and windy, so I was really happy when the day I planned to go do San Antonio sightseeing, the weather cleared for the day. The sun came out and it was in the 70s. Just in case the weather didn’t hold for another day, I wanted to see the best of San Antonio in that one day.

San Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo, Pearl & River Walk

Normally, when I plan to go sightseeing in a city, I do a lot of research and know what I’m going to do when I get there. For some reason, I didn’t do much research for San Antonio. Maybe I was researched out. Maybe I didn’t have much enthusiasm since I wasn’t expecting nice weather. All I knew about San Antonio was that I wanted to go to the Alamo and the River Walk.

Driving & Parking for Downtown San Antonio Sightseeing

I knew the Alamo was in town, but it is not just in town. It is in the middle of the BIG city. Streets are narrow and lots of them are one way. Driving in a strange place is always a little nerve wracking, even with gps.

Once I found the Alamo, parking was another matter. Parking lots weren’t well marked and I didn’t see rates posted anywhere. Not wanting to drive around a strange town looking for a place to park, I parked at one of the lots close to the Alamo on Crockett Street. I got a bit of a shock when I went to pay. I don’t remember how much parking was for less than six hours (seems like it was $12 for 3 hours) but I knew I didn’t want any less than six. Six hours was $19, but at least the lot was a convenient 5-minute walk to the Alamo.

San Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo

I didn’t know how I was going to get around once I was finished at the Alamo but then I saw the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus parked in front. Buses operate on about a 20-minute schedule making 19 stops and you can get on or off anywhere you want as many times as you want. That was perfect for me so I purchased my ticket, added the Go Rio Cruises River Walk tour, and made my way inside the Alamo.

The Alamo

The iconic Alamo Mission of San Antonio is a place that should be on every visitor to San Antonio’s list of must sees. The history of the Alamo dates back long before the infamous battle in 1836, during Texas’ war for independence against Mexico, where Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, among others, lost their lives. It was known as Misión San Antonio de Valero when it was founded in the 18th century, around 1718, as a Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound. It has undergone many changes over the years. I’m not here to give you a history lesson so let’s just say that the Alamo’s story is long and fascinating.

San Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo

San Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo

Fortress Alamo: The Key to Texas exhibit

San Antonio Sightseeing: The AlamoSan Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo

Entry is free to do a self-guided tour. They offer paid tours and, in hindsight, I wish I had done that. I’m sure I would have gotten much more out of the visit but the timing of the tours didn’t work out for me.

There are demonstrations on the grounds at the Living History Encampment and while I was there, I saw how black powder rifles were reloaded and used. It’s amazing anyone ever survived a battle!

San Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo

The San Antonio missions, which includes the Alamo, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.

San Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo

Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing Bus — Easiest way to see the best of San Antonio in one day!

I am so glad I stumbled across this. It made getting around to the places I wanted to go so easy. The 19 stops that the London-style, double-decker buses make include downtown, uptown and Pearl — all the best of San Antonio. A bus makes each stop every 20 minutes so there’s never a long wait. Commentary from the drivers is quite entertaining and informative.

The 19 stops that the hop-on, hop-off buses make include downtown, uptown and Pearl — all the best of #SanAntonio. #travel #ustravel Click To Tweet

Hop-on Hop-off City Sightseeing Bus - Easiest way to see the best of San Antonio in one day!

Pearl — Pearl Entertainment Complex

In all honesty, shopping is not my thing, so I had not planned to get off the bus at Pearl, but I was feeling sick and HAD to get off. Once I was feeling better, I checked out some of the shops and restaurants.

San Antonio Sightseeing: PearlI had to photograph the menu at Merit Roasting Co. because they serve an affogato. I learned about this when I went olive oil and vinegar tasting in Murphys, California. Theirs uses espresso, they are a coffee house after all, rather than espresso balsamic vinegar. Boy, do I miss my affogatos with balsamic!

San Antonio Sightseeing: The Alamo, Pearl & River Walk

Pearl has a great city vibe, has gorgeous green spaces and is situated along the banks of the river. I’m sure it is a wonderful hangout for the locals.

San Antonio Sightseeing: Pearl

River Walk & Lunch

After a short visit to Pearl, I hopped back on the bus and headed to the River Walk. It was such a beautiful day that I rode on the top deck for the second leg of my trip between Pearl and the River Walk.

View from top deck of hop-on, hop-off bus

The River Walk bus stop is just a couple of blocks from an entrance to the River Walk. This particular entrance is near where the Go Rio Cruises boats board so it was very convenient.

I decided I wanted to get a bite to eat before I took the boat tour and asked for a recommendation. One of the places recommended was the Iron Cactus right next door. I chose this nice close location to maximize my time. Service was friendly and efficient, the margarita was awesome, food was very tasty, and I loved the atmosphere. Businesses are right on the river, the vegetation is lush and you can hear birds everywhere. If I had to live in a city, this would be my kind of place!


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When I was in San Antonio, I had lunch at Iron Cactus on the Garden Walk near where the Go Rio Cruises boats board. The bar specializes in tequila so I decided to have a margarita. There were birds everywhere including this blackbird that sat and watched me for a minute. Then it made a dash for my chip basket and flew off with a chip. My smoked brisket enchiladas, which I did not share with any birds, were delicious. @iron_cactus @goriocruises @visitsanantonio #ironcactus #ironcactussanantonio #gardenwalk #sanantonio #sanantonioeats #texastodo #goexplore #exploretexas #exploreusa #travelblogging #seetheusa #foodiegram #foodblogging #foodbloggerlife #enchiladas #margaritas #tequilabar #GoldCountryCowgirl

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Go Rio Cruises River Cruise

I love being on the water almost more than I love trains so the river cruise is something I definitely wanted to do. I thoroughly enjoyed this information-packed, 35-minute, narrated cruise. Our boat captain had lots of stories about the history and architecture of the city. I saw so much more of the River Walk than I could have in the same amount of time walking. Of course, I didn’t get to stop at places and explore further but it was a great overview of the River Walk. I made a list of things to check out and do on a return visit.

I loved the information-packed, 35-minute, narrated cruise on Go Rio Cruises river cruise. #riverwalk #sanantonio #rivercruise Click To Tweet

After the cruise I checked out some of the gift shops. You can get alcoholic beverages to go there! I’m sure you have to consume them on the River Walk but it was just such a foreign concept to me.

Loading area for Go Rio Cruises

I was so lucky when I boarded for my cruise. There was no line!

Back on the Bus after Seeing some of the Best of San Antonio in Just One Day

I only had about an hour left on my parking ticket so I headed back to the bus stop. After just a few minutes, the bus arrived and I rode it the rest of the way around the tour back to the Alamo.

Hop-on, hop-off bus parked next to the Alamo

I got back to my parking spot with time to spare but not enough time to go anywhere else. Even if I did have time, thanks to that lack of research, I didn’t know where else to go. At least I felt like even in just this one day I had seen some of the best San Antonio has to offer. I headed back to the RV park, my cozy trailer and my kitties, where I would figure out what to do the next day.

I purchased my hop-on hop-off ticket, added the Rio Cruises River Walk tour, and made my way inside the Alamo to begin my San Antonio sightseeing adventure. #SanAntonio #Alamo #Texas #Pearl #RiverWalk #travel #tourism
I purchased my hop-on hop-off ticket, added the Rio Cruises River Walk tour, and made my way inside the Alamo to begin my San Antonio sightseeing adventure. #SanAntonio #Alamo #Texas #Pearl #RiverWalk #travel #tourism


Until next time…

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  1. We’re so glad you got to enjoy San Antone. It is a great place rich with history. Big hugs

    Luv ya

    Dezi and Raena

  2. I loved visiting the Alamo, but also the other missions in the district. The hop on hop off bus is a good idea. I wish I had rented a bike and tried their trail system.

    • Hi Jody. I just finished a post about the other missions and said basically the same thing about renting a bike. I plan to go back in the next few months and plan to do that. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. I was surprised to read that the Alamo is in the centre of the city! Good tip about getting a guide so that you can learn more as you go. Great to use the hop on hop off bus to get around. We have had mixed success when we used these buses. So great that the weather was nice for your river walk and cruise.

  5. San Antonio looks like a great mix of nature, history, and a lively city. I would love to visit the Alamo, seeing where that historic battle took place. Walking the river walk would be a lovely thing to do to walk off that tasty food – but the boat cruise was a great time saver on a one day visit I presume!

  6. Yikes. I am planning a 1 day stop in San Antonio next month and hadn’t thought about the parking situation. Sounds like hop on off worked well for you so I will check it out

  7. San Antonio is a wonderful place to explore! It looks like you learned quite a bit of history! I loved watching the rifle demonstration and the river tour looked like a fun and relaxing way to site see!

  8. Kudos for such a high quality travel posts. Hop-on, Hop-off sightseeing bus is always a great way to explore a place and good to know they are available. I would love to take that river walk some day and that river cruise looks great.

  9. The river cruise looks like so much fun! Plus, you can get alcohol to go that’s ah-mazing! Looks like I need to book a stop in San Antonio.

  10. The hop-on, hop-off bus surely made your short time worth it! I’m glad that the weather is great when you visited San Antonio. The boat tour seems like a great idea too when you want to go sightseeing but want to make your short time visit to be worthwhile. These are all great tips!

  11. I totally agree with your sentinent about everyone having a story to tell. That’s one of my favorite things about travel. We meet so many people on our travels, and we get to learn about their stories. It’s absolutely wonderful!

  12. This is the second post on Mexico, I am reading today. This must be a sign. 🙂 I hope it is. $19 for parking is steeeep! How is the public transport in San Antonio. Not the Hop-on Hop-off kind. I mean regular buses .

  13. I know many travellers don’t like shopping, but I like to do some shopping when I travel. I usually buy unique things which I can’t find at home. Then Pearl is a place for me. Shopping and eating 🙂 I haven’t been to the US yet, but I hope I can go to Texas and San Antonio too.

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