The San Antonio River Walk is the City’s premier attraction. The River Walk, which runs along the San Antonio River, is a mix of shops, restaurants, pubs, museums, sculptures, theatres, river boats, historical sites (including five missions, one of which is the Alamo), spas, hotels, gardens, a zoo, Sea World, parks, and other recreation and entertainment areas. The 15-mile walk contains 2,020 acres of public lands. It is one of the leading tourist attractions in Texas. The River Walk attracts some 9.3 million non-resident visitors and 2.2 million resident visits per year. River Walk visitors spend about $2.4 billion per year in San Antonio and support more than 21,000 direct jobs and over 31,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The River Walk grew out of the need for flood control after floods in 1819, 1913, and 1921 caused by commercial development by a growing population. Steps were taken in the 1920s to control flooding, including construction of a bypass channel and the Olmos Dam.
In 1937, the Texas Legislature created the San Antonio River Authority to conserve and develop the San Antonio River Watershed. The next year, a special tax was levied to fund development of the river around what is now known as the horseshoe area of the River Walk. The River project broke ground in 1939. In the 1940s, various improvements were made. Walkways, stairways to street level, a footbridge, and rock walls lining banks were constructed, the River Walk was extended to the Tropicano Hotel site, and the first restaurant in the river bend opened ̶ the Casa Rio Restaurant. In the next decade, San Antonio Parks and Recreation opened a botanic garden on the River Walk and the River Walk got its first Park rangers.
In 1962, San Antonio created a River Walk District and a seven member River Walk Advisory Commission. Two years later, a foundation known as the Paseo del Rio Association was formed. In the 1960s, the River Walk expanded and became home to various theaters, restaurants and hotels. Over the next five decades, the River Walk continued to expand and attracted new shops, restaurants, brew pubs, hotels, theaters, museums, entertainment venues, recreational areas and businesses.
Trip Advisor has over 21,000 reviews of the River Walk. It lists lists 200 restaurants under the category Restaurants Near River Walk. Attractions along the River Walk include (click on a name to see the website):
• The Alamo, also known as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, was the site of the famous Battle of the Alamo. Learn about today’s Alamo amenities here and here. Learn about the history of the Alamo here and here.
• Battle for Texas: The Experience (an interactive adventure that transports visitors back to the 1836 epic battle over the Alamo; meet heroes Davy Crockett, William Travis, and James Bowie; design your own flag; claim your land; load cannons).
• Briscoe Western Art Museum (preserves and interprets the art, history, and culture of the American West)
• The Buckhorn Saloon and Texas Ranger Museum (near the Alamo, complete with its own shooting gallery)
• The Guenther House (restored elegant home built in in 1860; includes a museum featuring mill memorabilia)
• HemisFair Park (site of the 1968 World’s Fair)
• Majestic Theatre (performing arts venue)
• Market Square – El Mercado (explore over 100 locally owned shops and stalls at a festive indoor mall described as the largest Mexican market outside Mexico)
• Marriage Island (located on the Riverwalk between Presa and Navarro streets, it is said to bring good fortune to any couple married on the Island)
• McNay Art Museum (emphasis on modern European and American art)
• McNutt Courtyard and Sculpture Garden (next to the The Briscoe Western Art Museum)
• Pearl Brewery complex (outdoor entertainment venue on the riverside; a culinary institute, eateries, a farmers market and shops)
• Ripley’s Believe It or Not! San Antonio
• Rio San Antonio Cruises (to book river cruises)
• San Antonio Botanical Garden (38 acres of gardens)
• San Antonio Children’s Museum also called The Do Seum (engaging hands-on experiences where kids play to learn and adults learn to play),
• San Antonio Museum of Art (specializes in Spanish Colonial, pre-Columbian and Latin American folk art, and houses the largest collection of Asian art in the southern United States.
• San Antonio Zoo (ranked as one of the best zoos in the nation exhibiting over 3,500 animals of 600 species).
• Sea World San Antonio (the world’s largest marine life park)
• La Villita Historic Art Village (located south of the River Walk in downtown San Antonio, nearly 30 shops and galleries offer distinct handcrafted items by artists from San Antonio and surrounding areas)
• Witte Museum of History, Science and Culture (focuses on natural history, science and south Texas heritage)
Note: click on an image to enlarge it.
The is a photo (above) of the River Walk taken from a balcony at the San Antonio Marriott Riverwaik
This River Walk sculpture is outside the San Antonio Marriott Riverwaik
This stonework is part of a River Walk bridge
These maps show the northern, middle and southerns portions of the River Walk, respectively:
This map shows the entire length of the River Walk