Quality of Life in San Antonio
Playtime in the Alamo City
An advantage for many who are relocating to San Antonio is that they probably visited here already – either as tourists or as trade show attendees. As the most popular travel destination in the state, more than 26 million people visit each year. So it’s possible that if you’re preparing a move to this area, you’re already aware of its many attractions, including sports, culture, recreation, shopping and cuisine. Combine all of these attractions with a beautiful climate and a thriving economy, and you’ll find no better place to call home than San Antonio.

One aspect that truly defines the area is the respect for its history, whose traces can be seen throughout the River Walk area and beyond. It’s a city that is comfortable with its diversity and mix of cultures – with more than 58 percent of the population who are of Hispanic or Latino origin. The harmonious mix results in a truly cosmopolitan city, one comfortable with its past but certainly living in the present with an eye on its future. One great to see this firsthand is to experience Fiesta, with its multi-generational participants, all enjoying a 10-day celebration with many events and parades. The Mardi-Gras-like atmosphere features music, food, sports, pageantry, military and patriotic observances, exhibits and parades. The event takes place each year in April. See the Calendar of Events pages throughout this section to learn about all the many year-long activities that occur in San Antonio.

When measuring a city’s quality of life, it’s not just the main attractions but a wide range of factors, including its weather, cost of living, educational access, health care facilities, job growth and overall positive attitude. In San Antonio, you’ll find all of this in addition to the friendliest people and plenty of opportunity to live life to its fullest.

The city’s success at attracting newcomers and visitors is recognized among many – here’s a partial list of what people are saying.

names San Antonio one of nation’s top 10 golf cities. March, 2009.

Southern Living Readers’ Choice Award, ranked San Antonio among top ten southern cities. January, 2009.

National Geographic Adventure magazine named San Antonio as one of the nation’s next great adventure towns, noting the upcoming River Walk extension which will add 460 acres of parkland, Government Canyon State Natural Area and the city’s diversity of attractions. September, 2008.

NBC’s Today Show ranked San Antonio as one of the five friendliest cities in the U.S. The city was judged on safety, diversity, the amount of parks and public spaces, civic celebrations (can you say fiesta?) and personal stories of friendliness. Various statistics were also taken into consideration, such as does the city offer a large enough hotel inventory to welcome visitors (over 36,000 hotel rooms); how many tourists does the city attract (26 million each year) and the median cost of a single-family home ($150,000). May, 2008.

Relocate-American named San Antonio as one of the top ten best places to live in America. 2008.

Forbes magazine named San Antonio as the No. 2 most recession-proof city in America. 2008.

Expansion Management
named San Antonio one of America’s hottest cities for company executives looking to relocate or expand their businesses within the next three years. San Antonio ranked fifth of the top 50 metropolitan markets in which to expand or relocate. February, 2006.

As you can see, the accolades include having fun and enjoying life as well as being a great place to relocate a business or start one. The city is able to seamlessly combine all facets relating to quality of life into one impressive package of amenities. In this chapter, you’ll be given a tour of the best the city has to offer and hopefully discover many new aspects about the Alamo City.

What better way to share time with your children outdoors then to visit the important sites of the city and all learn a little history at the same time. This is possible by starting the tour in the heart of the city.

Thanks to the imagination and foresight of civic leaders in the 1940s, the River Walk is now one of the major defining landmarks in the city. Each year, millions of people visit the River Walk each year to enjoy this unusual urban sanctuary that winds along the San Antonio River in central San Antonio, one story below the bustling street level. Fine dining, art galleries and boutiques line the banks of the downtown River Walk. The relaxing pace of the lush landscapes, quaint pathways, tinkling waterfalls, quiet pools, outdoor art and relaxing outdoor patios evoke the renowned public spaces and always there is a sense of history around every corner.

And now there is even more to see and explore with The River Walk’s new “Museum Reach.” This opened earlier this year and stretches north along the San Antonio River and connects the existing River Walk to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the 125-year-old Pearl Brewery, a vibrant urban village. New public art installations, by local, national and international artists, line the banks. A lock and dam system, the only one in Texas, overcomes a 9-ft. rise in elevation. Take a river taxi and navigate right through the lock and dam.

Also located in the heart of the city is the Alamo, the most famous spot in Texas where 189 defenders fell on March 6, 1836, after repeated attacks by Mexican General Santa Anna’s army. Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) was established in 1718 as the city’s first mission. The chapel, one of the most photographed facades in the nation, and the Long Barracks are all that remain of the original fort. The Long Barracks Museum and Library is located near the chapel. The museum contains relics and mementos from the Republic of Texas and offers a narration on the fall of the Alamo. It’s a memorial that’s very much alive and remembered among the many who visit it to remember the sacrifices made.

Continuing the historic theme, here are additional sites nearby worth exploring.

La Villita Historical Arts Village was the city’s original neighborhood and today is home to many interesting shops such as art galleries, craft shops, jewelry shops and clothing stores as well as several restaurants. The charming spot blends the best of yesterday with today.

San Fernando Cathedral has always been at the center of San Antonio. It is a special place that occupies a unique position in this city and for the many visitors who come by the thousands every year.

Visiting Market Square in the center of the city is like being in Mexico, where you’ll be surrounded by public markets. Offering a wide range of treasures from Mexico and South America.

Called the “most beautiful building in San Antonio” by the National Geographic Society, the Spanish Governor’s Palace is a National Historic Landmark. Built in the first half of the 18th-century, it was originally intended to protect the nearby San Antonio de Valero Mission (the Alamo) and the growing colony. It is considered the sole remaining example of an aristocratic early Spanish house in Texas.

Outside the city’s center, other family-friendly stops can include a visit to the San Antonio Zoo, considered one of the best in the nation. Or as a real cool spot to visit when the weather turns warm, is Natural Bridge Caverns, a beautiful and historical cavern system that offers an experience that is high energy, educational, fun and family oriented. Other favorites on everyone’s list include Sea World, San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Splashtown San Antonio and Schlitterbahn in nearby New Braunfels.

Spectator Sports
Basketball rules here as it’s the home of the San Antonio Spurs, winner of four NBA titles (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007). Devoted fans follow their favorite players from October through April. There’s also the sister team, the San Antonio Silver Stars.

The minor league baseball team, the San Antonio Missions, are the Double-A Affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Their regular season runs from April through September.

Major college football comes to life each year in San Antonio during the Valero Alamobowl at the Alamodome. Colorful and cultural San Antonio is the perfect backdrop as teams from the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences head to the Alamo City for a college football showdown.

For hockey lovers, the Rampage Hockey team offers high-speed action in a cool setting. The team is a member of the American Hockey League, which plays from October through April.

Do you love to watch auto racing? San Antonio’s facilities will not disappoint and can be enjoyed year-round. There is the San Antonio Raceway and Thunderhill Raceway to thrill the crows.

Horseracing can be enjoyed at Retama Park every day of the year except Christmas. General admission is $2.50, making it an affordable and fun way to spend an afternoon.

Recreational Fun
Thanks to the city’s moderate year-round temperature and its ideal location – in the beautiful Hill Country with lakes, rivers and scenic spots, residents enjoy a wide range of activities.

There are more than 200 city-owned parks in San Antonio that offer a wide variety of activities, including youth sports, swimming, rugby, volleyball, golf, softball, baseketball and tennis. Check out all the city has to offer by visiting www.ci.sat.tx.us/sapar or call the Department of Parks and Recreation at (201) 207-3000.

Among the most notable San Antonio parks include:
Brackenridge Park, a 343-acre showplace for the San Antonio River, which originates from artesian springs.

San Antonio Botanical Gardens, an escape to 33 acres of tranquility. The Botanical Gardens include a striking glass pyramid conservatory, formal gardens, old-fashioned garden and native areas.

Friedrich Wilderness Park is a 232-acre hilly and heavily forested wilderness park 5.5 miles of hiking trails, including the region’s most improved handicapped trail. The park has an abundance of diversified flora and fauna and is a great spot for birdwatchers.

— Caving
Have you ever wanted to visit caves? You’re in luck as the region is dotted with a few good ones to explore. They include:

Natural Bridge Caverns is the largest Texas show cave and one of the most impressive because of its size and beauty. You’ll see totem poles, fried eggs and massive formations. Nearby is a drive-through safari park called the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch where you can feed animals from the comfort of your.

Cascade Caverns, located in Boerne, is a great place to take the family and make a whole day of it, especially in summer where the interior of the cave stays 68 degrees year round. Take the tour and see millions of glistening drops of pure water reluctantly falling on spectacular rock formations, and it’s the state’s only cavern with a 100-foot waterfall. After the tour, you can picnic in the adjoining park where there are barbecue pits and tables.

Also in Boerne, is the Cave Without A Name, a natural and living cave with spectacular formations.

— Golf
For golf lovers, you have your pick of more than 40 courses and practice greens. Take advantage of the choice available, from event golf, daily fee courses, driving ranges, golf academies, military courses, private courses and resort courses.

Big golf events include the Valero Texas Open, which has been held in San Antonio for more than 80 years and is part of the PGA Tour. The AT&T Championship is held here at Oak Hills Country Club.

— Fun in the Water
A great way to stay cool is to have fun in the water. Among the many excursions for the whole family include:

Canyon Lake, just north of the city. There you can have a blast going scuba diving in its clear blue water. While you’re at it, enjoy eight public parks that are scattered around its 80-mile shoreline. Here, you can swim, sail, take out your boat or cast a line and go fishing. Include the Medina River and the Comal River.

Many people have a blast tubing, rafting, canoeing or kayaking on the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels or in Guadalupe River State Park, which has four miles of river frontage. Vendors in both areas rent inner tubes and various watercraft, as well as provide shuttles for drop-off and pick-up service along the river.

For something really new and different, reserve space on one of the new glass-bottom kayak tours at Aquarena Center, operated by Texas State University on the San Marcos River in San Marcos. As with the popular glass-bottom boat tours, you’ll see turtles, fish, blooming aquatic plants and nearly 200 artesian springs as you learn about the headwaters of the San Marcos River and its ecology. Tube rentals are also available on the river.

— Edgy Sports Fun
Extreme sports include rock-climbing challenges such as “Cheap Wine Wall,” “Skunk Boulder” and “The Kingdom of Zilch” all located at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, home to the second-largest monolithic dome in the country. The pink granite here offers myriad high-quality routes and good bouldering. There’s also Reimers Ranch Park that has hundreds of climbing routes, including many that are parallel to a lovely stretch of the Pedernales River, where there’s a rope swing for those who want to splash in for a swim. Check out “Dead Cats” and “Insect Wall” for real thrills or for something less edgy, try mountain biking or hiking at Reimers Ranch instead.

— Bird Watching
There are more than 16 local birding sites in the region and plenty of enthusiasts to share this interest. Connect with members of the San Antonio Audubon Society each month to learn more and explore.

— Frisbee Fun
Check out the Frisbee golf courses in San Antonio and the area – there are three that include Live Oak City Park, Blossom Park and in New Braunfels, Prince Solms Park.

— Skatepark

There are at least 10 skateparks in San Antonio and new to the list is Lady Bird Johnson Park at 10700 Nacogdoches Road. The skate/pool facility was one of the first in the country to combine a swimming pool and skate bowl to provide a multi-use facility. The $613,500 skate facility features a 7,000 square-foot skate bowl ranging from 5-feet to 9-feet deep; an 1,800-square-foot deck with 5-foot quarter-pipe ramp; a 5-foot bun pyramid and two portable features that are moved into the pool during the off-season. The pool is a 25-meter junior Olympic pool with five swim lanes and two zero-depth entry or beach areas with multiple spray jets. At the deepest point it is 4.5-feet. The pool is incorporated into the skate park except during the swim season during the summer months. At that time fencing is erected to separate the pool from the skate facility. Entry into both components is free.

— Youth Activities

The YMCA of Greater San Antonio serves children, teens and families in 10 South Central counties, enrolling more than 67,000 people. Learn all about what they have to offer, including aquatic programs, day camp, child care, youth super sports, general health and wellness programs and resident camp.

Performing Arts
As the state’s second-largest city, it’s no surprise that San Antonio hosts many fine performing arts venues focusing on live theater, musical theater, comedy, children’s plays, ethnic dance as well as the San Antonio Symphony. Here are just a few out of more than 50 to select from in the city.

ARTS San Antonio provides a diverse and comprehensive program of high quality performing arts accessible to the surrounding community.

Steeped in history, the Cameo Theatre is located in St. Paul Square in downtown San Antonio, near Sunset Station, serving local residents and tourists alike.

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is a multi-disciplinary organization that preserves, promotes and develops the arts and culture of the Chicano/Latino/Native American peoples for all ages and backgrounds through public and educational programming in six disciplines: dance, literature, media arts, theater arts, visual arts and Xicano music.

Magik Theatre presents quality and affordable live theatrical productions.

Majestic Theater is a state and National Historic Landmark and one of the few remaining vintage atmospheric vaudeville movie palaces in the U.S. It’s also home to the San Antonio Symphony and Majestic Broadway Series. Individual concerts and events are also showcased.

San Antonio Symphony’s mission is to inspire, educate and entertain the residents and visitors of San Antonio and South Texas through the performance of live, orchestral music with 72 of the finest musicians from around the world.

San Pedro Playhouse is the city’s oldest public theater, entertaining San Antonians for seven decades.

Visual Arts
The visual arts are important to San Antonians where you’ll find great support and attendance throughout the year. Residents and tourists can select from large museums, collections representing single patrons and local galleries that show off the city’s contemporary style. What’s so enjoyable is that no venue is too far from another so you can pick a day and visit several to really absorb a dose of culture.

San Antonio Museum of Art, which was formed in 1981, has exceptionally important permanent collections of Western Antiquities, Asian Art, Latin American Art, and contemporary American paintings, sculpture and decorative arts – each curated by specialists with strong international reputations.

McNay Art Museum is housed in the benefactor’s home and includes Ms. McNay’s collection of works of art that includes medieval, Renaissance and 19th- and 20th- century art. Among the treasures are works by Edward Hopper, Van Gogh and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

UTSA Institute of Texan Culture is a fascinating institute that was formed to enhance the understanding of cultural history, science and technology and their influence on the people of Texas.

Major Malls and Shopping Centers in and Around San Antonio
What’s great about being a tourist destination is that you’re sure to find great shopping – in this category, San Antonio excels! Here you have a nice range of shops from unique shops, indoor or outdoor malls, galleries and Mexican markets with many unusual artisan’s goods that are hard to find elsewhere. In this great mix, you’ll find designer bargains, thrift-shop finds and memorable gifts.

— Indoor Malls
Crossroads of San Antonio has more than 50 specialty shops and a six-screen dinner theater. Among the retailers are New York and Co., Stein Mart, Burlington Coat Factory, Hobby Lobby and Super Target that anchor this value-oriented, indoor mall. 4522 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio, TX 78201

Ingram Park Mall includes department stores such as Macys, Dillard’s, Sears and Bealls. 6601 N.W. Loop 410, San Antonio, TX 78238

North Star Mall is San Antonio’s internationally acclaimed shopping center boasting over 200 specialty stores and restaurants in addition to the world s largest boots. Located adjacent to the San Antonio International Airport, North Star features Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, JC Penny, Dillard’s, Mervyn’s and more. 7400 San Pedro, San Antonio, TX 78216

Rivercenter Mall in the center of downtown on the River Walk, offers many of the conveniences of indoor shopping with a genuine outdoor feel. In the heart of the city on the River Walk, the mall is home to an array of enjoyable shops, restaurants and entertainment venues that include Macys, Dillard’s, Morton’s Steakhouse, a movie theater, an IMAX theater and the Rivercenter Comedy Club. 849 East Commerce Street, San Antonio, TX 78205

Rolling Oaks Mall located on the northeast side, includes every family’s favorites including Dillard’s, Macy’s and Sears. There are a lot more smaller stores, including Victoria’s Secret, Gap and The Limited. 6909 North Loop 1604 East, San Antonio, TX 78247

South Park Mall has experienced a renewal and remodeling and includes major department stores such as Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears and Mervyn’s, which anchor more than 70 specialty stores. 2310 S.W. Military Drive, San Antonio, TX 78224

— Outdoor Malls
Alamo Quarry Market doesn’t look like your typical mall. The site upon which the mall was built is the former Alamo Cement Company, as you can see from the remaining smokestacks, protruding beams and a factory design. Tenants include a movie megaplex, a Whole Foods grocery store and a myriad of restaurants, boutiques, entertainment venues and stores that include Old Navy, Restoration Hardware, Whole Earth Provision Co., Borders and more. 255 East Basse Road, San Antonio, TX 78209

Huebner Oaks provides an exceptional mix of over 40 stores and restaurants that can provide a great shopping and entertainment experience. 11745 IH-10 West, San Antonio, TX 78230

The Forum at Olympia Parkway offers a wide variety of retailers including World Market, Merle Norman, Kohls, Old Navy, Best Buy and Famous Footwear. 8320 Agora Parkway, Selma, TX 78154

The Rim is a 3-million-square-foot retail center, located on the leading edge of San Antonio’s explosive northwest growth sector. The Rim is anchored by Bass Pro Shops’ Outdoor World, the largest store in Texas and fourth largest in the country. Visitors will also find a 19-screen movie theater with an IMAX screen and the country’s only community theater with an IMAX screen. Other stores include Target, Best Buy and JC Penney. This shopping center is also anchored by fine dining and the luxurious Hotel Talavera and spa. La Cantera Parkway and IH-10, San Antonio, TX 78257

The Shops at La Cantera offer a pleasant atmosphere of tranquil surroundings, lush greenery and soothing water, offering shoppers more than 160 specialty stores and major retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Dillard’s. 15900 La Cantera Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78256

— Outlet Malls
Prime Outlet is located in San Marcos, not far from San Antonio. Among fashionistas, it’s a great place to find quality products at great prices. More than 130 brand-name retailers are here, including Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance Center, Off Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet, Lacoste and Pottery Barn Furniture, to name a few. 3939 IH-35 South #900, San Marcos, TX 78666

Round Rock Premium Outlets is located north of the city and past Austin. It’s a shopping mecca that you won’t want to miss as it features an unparalleled collection of designer and name brand outlets stores, including Adidas, Banana Republic Factory Store, Michael Kors, Burberry, Coach, Kenneth Cole, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger and more, at savings of 25 percent to 65 percent every day. 4401 North IH-35, Round Rock, TX 78664

Tanger Outlet Mall in San Marcos is a bargain hunter’s dream offering many shopping choices such as American Eagle Outfitters, Banana Republic Factory Store, Tourneau, Eddie Bauer, Disney Store Outlet, Liz Claiborne Outlet, Old Navy, Reebok Outlet Store, PUMA, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Kenneth Cole, Skechers and many more. 4015 IH 35 South (exit 200), San Marcos, TX 78666

— Unique Crafts
Beyond these general classifications, you’ll find some wonderful craft shops, with many from Mexico. Here’s a good starting point:

El Sol Studios is an art gallery and gift shop located in the Southtown King William Historic neighborhood featuring an eclectic mix of Latin American Folk Art, unusual gifts and collectibles and handmade cards.

Fiesta on Main is a a two-level store near Monte Vista with a huge selection of Mexican folk art and handicrafts, everything from tinwork to colorful masks and piñatas at affordable prices.

Inter Artisan International Folk Art is a unique shop carrying exclusive folk art pieces directly from international artisans. Specializing in Oaxacan Wood Carvings, Dona Rosa Black Pottery and Mata Ortiz Pottery.

La Villita Historical Arts Village is located on the south bank of the San Antonio River, and known as San Antonio’s first neighborhood. Here you’ll find many galleries, jewelry shops and clothing stores.

San Angel Folk Art – if you hear the sound of the canary singing that means you have arrived at the largest collection of folk art in the U.S. It’s part of the Blue Star Arts Complex, where you’ll find distinctive and interesting pieces.

The Fiesta Store
has everything and more that celebrates this yearly event. You’ll find posters and exciting and colorful items such as pins, crafts and more. Proceeds support the many local, non-profit organizations that stage the event.

Three markets comprise the Market Square: Farmers Market, El Mercado and Produce Row. El Mercado is the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico offering a with variety of dining, shopping and events. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled out of the country as you select from so many treasures and trinkets.

Wait – there’s still more shopping to discover in this amazing city. The list includes antiques, boutiques, electronics, flea markets, furniture stores, souvenir shops, sports and Western wear. In no time, you’ll find your favorite spots for all your shopping needs.

Experience World Cuisine without Ever Leaving San Antonio
Memorable meals are one of the great benefits of living in San Antonio. No matter the cuisine, the quality standards are high and the results are rewarding as restaurateurs know they have demanding customers and aim to please. The hardest decision is making a choice of cuisine.
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