Family experiences jam-packed Texas-sized adventure

Day 1:

This was Josh and Emily’s (ages 10 and 6) first time on a plane and Southwest Airlines was wonderful! The kids got their wings and a variety of treats and snacks from our kind flight attendant. We arrived at 10:45 a.m. in San Antonio, picked up our rental car, and headed to downtown San Antonio. Our hotel room at the Drury Inn& Suites Hotel overlooked the River Walk and had a total of eight windows! We dropped our bags and headed off to explore the beautiful River Walk where we had a delicious Tex-Mex lunch and were serenaded by a mariachi band at Casa Rio, one of the oldest restaurants on the River Walk. Casa Rio’s colorful table umbrellas are in all those photos you see advertising the River Walk.

Next, we took in the IMAX movie Alamo: The Price of Freedom, at the Rivercenter Mall to prepare us for our visit to the Alamo. Historians say the movie is about 90 percent accurate and it gave us some good background on the siege and people who defended the Alamo. We then walked over to the Alamo and explored the historic site and gardens there. We decided to cool off for a bit at the quirky Buckhorn Museum and Saloon& Texas Ranger Museum. The curiosities there included an actual Flea Circus exhibit and we bellied-up to the bar for a cold root beer on tap at the Saloon.

Late in the afternoon we took a 45-minute tour along the San Antonio River Walk on one of the charming river barges. Our witty tour guide entertained us with bits of San Antonio lore and points of architectural interest. We ended the night with the free hot treats and cold drinks provided by the hotel and a long swim in the hotel rooftop pool. We watched a beautiful sunset and had a lovely night view of San Antonio.

Day 2:

We got up early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast the hotel provided. We arrived at Sea World just as it opened and decided to see the dolphins first. We were able to feed the dolphins, which was a marvelous experience! We had time to fit in the spectacular Azul show, funny Cannery Row Caper, Cool Vibrations Waterski Show, and One Ocean – the amazing Shamu show where we sat in the Splash Zone in the third row.

Paul and I think Sea World was our favorite part of the trip, with the Caverns running a close second. We were in time to attend evening Mass at the stunning San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the U.S., and got to experience the beautiful music of the Mariachi Choir. We ended the night with a delicious seafood dinner at Landry’s on the River Walk and then had another nighttime rooftop swim at the hotel.

We all fell asleep listening to the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages outside the hotel.

Day 3:

We began the day with another yummy breakfast at the hotel. Paul enjoyed making waffles every day of the trip! We headed out to Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels, about 45 minutes away. This was Emily’s favorite part of the trip – she liked the tubes and loved the slides. We spent the day there cooling off from the hot Texas sun and even tubed into the Comal River. We had a delightful very late lunch/early dinner at New Braunfels Coffee Restaurant with the most delicious sandwiches and smoothies.

We continued on to Natural Bridge Caverns, Josh’s favorite part of the trip, where we spent about an hour 180 feet below the surface spelunking in the cool 70 degree caverns and gazing at amazing rock formations. We concluded the night with a trip to Ben& Jerry’s and souvenir shopping on the River Walk.

Day 4:

We packed up, had a hearty breakfast at the hotel, and headed out to Six Flags Fiesta Texas where we spent a few hours on the rides, which were amazingly uncrowded early in the day. We all enjoyed getting wet on Bugs’ White Water Rapids ride. We then drove back to San Antonio and spent a fun couple of hours at the Witte Museum, which is near the airport and provided a reciprocal membership for our Field Museum membership.

The kids loved the indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Science Treehouse and were able to climb a rock wall and ride a sky-cycle 15 feet in the air. Sadly, we had to catch a 5:45 p.m. flight and said goodbye to San Antonio.

We had a magical family adventure and can’t thank the folks at Visit San Antonio and Chicago Parent enough for the fantastic trip! We made good use of the $1,000 gift card, three free nights at the Drury Inn& Suites, which also included free parking, and free tickets to the Buckhorn Museum, Sea World, Schlitterbahn Water Park, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

Everyone we met was friendly, helpful and answered my endless questions graciously. J We loved the city and found it easy to navigate. The attractions and the airport are all set fairly close together, so we were able to make the most of the time we had to spend there.

Thanks also to our public library for the great book resources and for providing us access to Chicago Parent Magazine for more than 10 years!

To research and prepare for our trip, the following books were extremely helpful resources: DK Eyewitness Travel: Top 10 San Antonio& Austin and Frommer’s: San Antonio& Austin.

Josh and Emily read: Inside the Alamo by Jim Murphy, Voices of the Alamo by Sherry Garland, and The Boxcar Children: The Mystery at the Alamo by Gertrude Chandler Warner to learn more about the Alamo.

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