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Things to Do in San Antonio, Texas: Visit the Alamo

Stephanie loves to travel. She has written numerous articles with tips, photographs, and information on places to visit.

The Alamo at twilight

The Alamo at twilight

The Alamo is a Must-See When Visiting Texas

Granted, Texas is a large state! But a visit to San Antonio should be considered if you are flying into any of the major airports, and if you are willing to rent a car and take a couple of days for the trip.

San Antonio has a major airport, which is just a 15-minute drive from the city itself. The capital of Texas, Austin, is about 70 miles north. Dallas/Fort Worth, on the other hand, is a 4-hour drive.

The heart of San Antonio is the Alamo. Anyone staying in a hotel downtown can likely walk to the Alamo. From many of the major downtown San Antonio hotels, the Alamo is at most a 3/4 mile walk. Be sure to ask the concierge for directions.

So, why is a visit to the Alamo a "must?"

Anyone that is interested in the history of the United States, the Republic of Texas and the various claims to the land by Spain, Mexico and France should visit the Alamo, the site of the legendary battle between Mexican and Texian forces for the independence of Texas from Mexico.

While the Alamo fell to the Mexican Army after a heroic 13-day battle, the efforts of defenders of the Alamo set the stage for eventual victory over Mexico shortly thereafter. The Republic of Texas enjoyed a period of independence as its own country until the United States of America finally annexed the region as the 28th State in 1845.

The five bells of San Antonio represent the five missions in the City

The five bells of San Antonio represent the five missions in the City

Visiting Hours, Parking and Admission to the Alamo

In addition to the special events regularly scheduled at the Alamo, take note of the following:

Regular hours during which you may visit the Alamo are Monday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. During summer months, hours are 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. The Alamo is closed on Christmas eve and Christmas Day.

There is no admission to visit the Alamo, however, you may wish to purchase either a self-guided audio tour ($7 as of 2013) or a guided tour ($15 as of 2013). Regardless of whether or not you purchase a tour, a photographer will be on hand to take a picture of your group before you enter. You can decide whether or not to purchase your photo in the Alamo Gift Shop.

You may support Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Inc. (DRT), which receives no monetary help from local, state or federal government with respect to the Alamo. Either purchase an item from the Alamo Gift Museum, or make a direct donation to fund its educational programming and general operation.

There are several private parking lots within several walking blocks of the Alamo, ranging between $5 and $7. Again, the Alamo is centrally located in the city limits of San Antonio. If you are staying in the city, consider walking to the Alamo or taking one of several ticketed trolley and bus tours that include stops at the Alamo.

Do you Have to Wear Special Shoes or Clothing at the Alamo?

I have traveled around the world, and know that many shrines and/or churches and cathedrals have special rules regarding appropriate clothing or feet coverings within the buildings.

The Alamo, while it is a shrine, does not require women to cover their shoulders or wear dresses, nor are men required to wear long pants. Open toed shoes or flip-flops are permitted too.

Out of respect, no one is allowed to use cameras with or without flash inside the shrine of the Alamo, however. Flash photography is also prohibited in the museum section of the Alamo to preserve the artifacts.

You may take photographs on the grounds outside and in front of the Alamo.

The Alamo's History

The structure that we all know as the Alamo was originally a home for Catholic missionaries and the Indian peoples they worked to convert.

The Mission, named Mission San Antonio de Valero, was constructed beginning in 1724. By the end of the 18th century, all of the five missions of San Antonio (San Antonio de Valero, San Juan, San José, Concepcion and Espada) had been secularized and some were used as stations for military bases.

The name "Alamo" comes from the Spanish term for "cottonwood," given to the former mission by the military stationed at the site to honor their origins in Alamo de Parras, Coahuila. As Mexico fought for its independence from Spain in the early 1800s, the Alamo housed Revolutionaries and Royalists alike.

Be silent and respectful when entering The Alamo

Be silent and respectful when entering The Alamo

The Battle of the Alamo

The famous battle of the Alamo took place in 1836. Rumors had been swirling for weeks about the imminent arrival of Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna's army.

Finally, they arrived, catching the defenders of the Alamo off guard and without sufficient troops and supplies. Less than 200 defenders fought against the thousands of Mexican Royalists in the army for 13 days to secure independence from Mexico. The defenders included Texians and Tejanos, as well as the famous heroes of the Alamo, Colonel William B. Travis, David Crockett and Jim Bowie. They knew that defense of the Alamo meant defense of Texas and all of the men at the Alamo lost their lives at the end of the battle.

Although the battle of the Alamo was lost, historians agree that the efforts of the defenders of the Alamo impacted the future efforts of the Mexican soldiers. Just six weeks later, they lost the battle of San Jacinto, ending the Texas Revolution.

The Texas Legislature purchased the land and buildings in the early 20th century and officially designated the Alamo chapel as a Texas State Shrine. Today, the Alamo is the most popular tourist site in the state.

When you hear the phrase, "Remember the Alamo," it is a call to consider the symbolism of the battle - a historic struggle against incredible odds. The heroes of the Alamo chose to die rather than surrender, with the end goal of freedom for Texas.

The Alamo remains on hallowed ground and is a Shrine of Texas Liberty.

The beautiful grounds outside of The Alamo

The beautiful grounds outside of The Alamo

The Alamo Is Easy to Visit

The Alamo is in the heart of San Antonio, and is extremely easy to reach from the Interstate freeway system surrounding the City.

We landed in San Antonio at the International Airport at 7:00 p.m. in August. By the time we rented a car and drove into town, checked into the hotel and had dinner, we still had plenty of time to walk past the Alamo and along the Riverwalk that evening.

The Alamo is centrally located in the City, and there are directional signs from the freeways. Nearby parking lots are available for a fee of $5 to $7.

Be sure to allow at least two hours for a complete tour of the Alamo and its museum. If you merely wish to visit the shrine and walk through the grounds, an hour may be sufficient. The Daughters of the Republic offer helpful free pamphlets to guide you around the site.

Remember the Alamo!

© 2013 Stephanie Marshall

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