Every city in the United States (really, in the world) has a schtick and a reputation – things that it is known for. A city may be known for its buildings or monuments, like how New York is known for the Statue of Liberty or the Chrysler Building. Sometimes a city is known for its history like Washington DC or Boston. Cities can be known for what they are home to – like how LA is home to Hollywood and the Lakers. And sometimes cities are known for their food, as is the case for places like New Orleans and its Cajun cuisine. San Antonio is no exception to this rule and can boast of a number of things it is known for that include all of the above (buildings, history, and food). Below is our list of 10 things (plus a bonus eleventh!) that San Antonio is known for.
This is the obvious one. The one that people recognize all over the world thanks to John Wayne and his 1960 film, The Alamo. In fact, this monument has become so enmeshed with the global reputation of San Antonio that many eponymously refer to SA as the “Alamo City.”
But it’s not just the Alamo that San Antonio is known for, it’s what the Alamo represents and that is history. As one of the oldest cities in the United States, San Antonio is known for its broad and colorful history. The Alamo is just one of 5 historic missions in San Antonio that date back more than 300 years and give guests a firsthand view of life in the early days of Texas.
A visit to the Alamo and all the historic missions is an SA must-do. Check out our complete guide to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park for info on how to visit each of the missions and make the most of your experience.
Just about any marketing info you will ever see of San Antonio will include a pic (or multiple pics) of the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk. Why? Because it is what San Antonio is known for! And it’s one of the reasons that tourists keep coming back year after year.
The San Antonio River runs smack dab through the middle of San Antonio’s downtown and is sandwiched on either side by a combination of walkways, bike paths, and trails that run about 10 miles along the banks of the river. While downtown, visitors can enjoy the many restaurants and shops that line the Riverwalk and make for an excellent day/night of entertainment. South of downtown is a biker’s heaven on the SA mission trail. And north of downtown is where you will find excellent museums and a little peace and quiet.
Whichever part you choose, it won’t take long for you to discover just why San Antonio is known for the Riverwalk.
Photo Credit: Reginald Thompson II/San Antonio Spurs
Go, Spurs, Go! San Antonio is most certainly known for its championship-winning (5 times!) NBA Spurs. And with a historical roster of players from foreign countries (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and newest member Victor Wembanyama, to name a few), the Spurs franchise isn’t just an esteemed US institution, but an internationally known and respected one as well.
Tex-Mex and Breakfast Tacos
Sorry Austin, but San Antonio is a Tex-Mex behemoth and the OFFICIAL birthplace of the breakfast taco. When it comes to San Antonio and its food, Tex-Mex is #1 (okay, maybe it’s tied for first place with BBQ, see below), and visitors from near and far make it a point to sample some of this world-class cuisine. For recommendations on where to get your Tex-Mex on, check out our guide to the best breakfast tacos in San Antonio as all of these locations will offer a spectrum of Tex-Mex from tacos to enchiladas.
Photo Credit: Betsy Newman Photography
As New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras, so San Antonio is known for Fiesta! Every April, the city of San Antonio activates full party mode for 10 days of boisterous parades, food and drink, and outrageous fiesta medals as we celebrate the city’s history and heritage. To learn more about Fiesta, see our complete guide to Fiesta San Antonio, or better yet, pick a few events and join the fun! No better way to see what Fiesta is all about than to throw on your Mexican Pueblo dress, pin on a medal, and head out to the party.
Not gonna lie, it’s super-hot here (*she types as it is triple digits outside RIGHT NOW*). As one of the most southern-lying cities in the country, San Antonio is known for searing temperatures from June to September, and mild to warm temperatures the rest of the year. For a deeper dive into San Antonio’s weather and temperatures, click here.
Photo Credit: Visit San Antonio
Upon your arrival to the San Antonio International Airport, you will be met by a huge sign and message from our mayor welcoming you to “Military City, USA.” With 300+ years of military presence, SA is currently home to 4 large military bases collectively known as Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, Randolph Air Force Base, and Camp Bullis - as well as 80,000+ active duty service members and 159,000 veterans (one of whom I am proudly married to!).
This fact is a point of pride for so many people and companies in San Antonio and it's common for businesses here to offer military discounts to the men and women who serve or have served our nation. So, when you see someone in military uniform walking around the city, and you WILL, thank them! What they do matters.
What San Antonio is known for food-wise, part 2! San Antonio is the currently reigning “America’s Best BBQ City” and for good reason. Our pit-masters have taken BBQ to a whole new level, elevating it to an art form in smoked meats. The brisket here is tender, the sausages spicy, and the side items plentiful. Sampling BBQ is really a MUST on any trip to SA so see our post on San Antonio’s best barbecue spots for recommendations.
Whether you love them or hate them, amusement parks are an integral part of the family vacation landscape, and San Antonio is known for two of them. Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio both draw thousands of visitors each year who are looking to be thrilled by roller coasters or aquatic animals.
While SeaWorld and Six Flags are SA’s amusement park headliners, there are two other parks worth mentioning. Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park for kids of all ages and abilities and contains more than 25 acres of rides, playscapes, activities, and water fun.
And Schlitterbahn, the “World’s Best Waterpark” according to the publication Amusement Today, is just a short drive up the road from San Antonio in New Braunfels, TX. Schlitterbahn is home to more than 50 waterpark attractions on over 70 acres.
Tower of the Americas
This 750 ft tall radio tower over San Antonio’s skyline and is home to a number of entertainment activities including a restaurant and bar, an observation deck, and a 4D theater. While it is ultra-touristy, it is really a lot of fun and something that San Antonio is totally known for.
Bonus - Barbacoa and Big Red
Photo Credit: Facebook Barbacoa and Big Red Festival
This one is a bonus because it is more of a local thing that isn’t widely known outside of the city. The delicious pairing of barbacoa (slow-cooked cheek meat) and Big Red (yes, the sugary, red soda) is thought of by locals as one of the most puro-San Antonio things a person can eat.
I did a little digging and can’t tell you why this is. There are no real mentions of how it started or why it became popular – it just IS! Whether it started as the perfect hangover cure, or an inexpensive weekend food, it is now woven into the very fabric of San Antonio’s culture.
With something this popular, it should come as no surprise that there is an entire annual festival devoted to this pairing. We don’t need a whole lot of reasons to throw a party here in San Antonio, and enjoying Barbacoa and Big Red seems good enough!
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