Over the years, my husband and I have visited the legendary Alamo several times, but only after having lived in San Antonio for nearly twelve months did we learn that it is one of five historic missions you can tour today along the San Antonio River. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is home to four beautiful missions that take you away from the often-crowded Riverwalk and off-the-beaten-path.
Although my husband and I love spending time down at the Riverwalk together (in 2014, San Antonio was named most romantic city in the U.S. by Amazon.com thanks, in part, to the sights and nightlife along the river), I wouldn’t say it would be at the top of my list of places to spend the day with my toddler and 4-year-old. However, our boys had a fantastic time running around and exploring the spacious mission grounds.
The kid-friendly San Antonio Mission Trail begins at Mission Concepcion, just off I-10 on Mission Road, and winds along the San Antonio River.
Parks are open daily from 9am to 5pm, and each of the missions has an active catholic church that holds regular services.
You can get to all four of the missions by hiking, biking, driving, or catching a ride on the bus-route. Also, admission is free, which makes this a great way for a family to spend a day exploring on a budget.
Concepcion is known to be the oldest unrestored stone church in the United States. Looking much like it did in the 1700’s, it is a humbling glimpse into the past.
807 Mission Road
San Antonio, Texas 78210
Click here to read more about Mission Concepcion.
Mission San Jose
San Jose is called “Queen of the Missions” for a reason, as it is the largest and most ornate. It’s also home to the legendary Rose Window.
6701 San Jose Drive
San Antonio, TX 78214
Click here to read more about Mission San Jose.
Mission San Juan
A smaller mission, San Juan’s pristine white walls make it stand out from the rest.
9101 Graf Road
San Antonio, Texas 78214
Click here to read more about Mission San Juan.
Espada is the oldest of the missions. Although it was the last stop on our self-guided tour, we were glad we decided to make the trip.
10040 Espada Road
San Antonio, Texas 78214
Click here to read more about Mission Espada.
What to Bring
- Plenty of water.
- Appropriate clothing for the weather.
- A picnic (there’s a nice park with plenty of picnic tables at Mission San Jose; stop and eat half-way through your tour of the Mission Trail!).
- Comfortable shoes for walking in.
- A map of the San Antonio Mission Trail.
- A camera.
We spent about an hour at each of the larger missions and 30-45 minutes at the smaller missions, but we definitely could have spent more time every where we went. If you’re planning a trip, I would recommend setting aside at least 4 hours to tour the entire San Antonio Mission Trail.
In addition to the missions, you can also visit the 270-year-old irrigation system at Espada and the grist mill at San Jose.
For more information about San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, visit the National Park Service website: http://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm