SAN ANTONIO — Truly deep in the heart of Texas, San Antonio is situated farther south than San Diego and the southern borders of Arizona and New Mexico. Despite or due to its location, it welcomes 29.7 million visitors annually.
Among next year’s first visitors will be those attending the United Motorcoach Association Motorcoach Expo 2018 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on Jan. 6-10.
“San Antonio is truly a unique city that offers a rich and varied experience for all travelers,” said Casandra Matej, president and chief executive officer of Visit San Antonio. “The Alamo City’s enticements range from culture, culinary and history to family fun and outdoor adventure.”
The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center hosts more than 300 events and 750,000 convention delegates each year.
“Approximately 70 percent of our visitors are leisure travelers,” Matej said. “We do not currently have a mechanism for tracking the exact amount of those visitors who arrive via motorcoach.
“However, we can report that the destination works with more than 140 motorcoach companies who bring in tens of thousands of visitors to San Antonio each year.”
San Antonio, the seventh-largest and third-fastest-growing city in the U.S., has ahistory that stretches back for centuries.
When the first Spanish Catholic explorers and missionaries arrived in 1691, Payaya Native Americans who called the area “Yanaguana,” meaning refreshing waters, inhabited the San Antonio River valley.
The Europeans named the proposed mission site San Antonio in honor of St. Anthony of Padua.
San Antonio became the first chartered civil settlement in Texas in 1731 and grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas.
In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo was fought at one of the city’s missions. The Texas Revolutionaries lost that fight but defeated Mexico later in the year. The Republic of Texas remained an independent nation until it was granted U.S. statehood in 1845.
The Alamo, named for a southwestern poplar tree, is one of the five 18th-Century Spanish frontier missions that earned the city designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the Alamo is the most popular tourist destination in Texas.
The city’s other historical features include the renowned River Walk along the San Antonio River and San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the U.S.
The River Walk extends to the convention center, named for late congressman Henry B. Gonzalez. Both hotels for Expo attendees are located there.
To attract nearly 30 million visitors each year a destination has to have a lot of fun stuff to do, too.
“San Antonio is one of the nation’s top leisure destinations that can offer both fun and education,” Matej said. “Visitors love to explore our five Spanish colonial missions, the River Walk, four major theme parks, dozens of family attractions, incredible restaurants and so much more. All of this is fostered by a welcoming community that relishes the opportunity to show guests what is special about our city.”
There are four theme parks — SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort and Morgan’s Wonderland, which is fully wheelchair-accessible.
Museums include Louis Tussaud’s Plaza Wax Museum; Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium; Guinness Book of World Records Museum; Buckhorn Saloon and Museum; Witte Museum of Texas history, culture and natural science; and the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute of Texan Cultures.
The Texas Transportation Museum displays automobiles, fire trucks, horse-drawn carriages, model railroads, tractors, engines and its own operating, 3,700-foot Longhorn and Western Railroad.
Other attractions include more than half a dozen art museums, La Villita Historic Arts Village, and Historic Market Square, opened in 1840, which is the largest Mexican marketplace north of the Rio Grande River. The market’s anchor is the Centro de Artes, an exhibit that tells the story of Latinos in the Americas.
The San Antonio Zoo houses 3,500 animals of 750 global species. The recently expanded San Antonio Botanical Garden replicates the three landscapes of Texas.
San Antonio also claims to be the birthplace of “Tex-Mex” culture, art, music and cuisine.
Its deep-south location carries another tourism benefit — an average daily high temperature of 62 degrees in January, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In scientific terms, San Antonio has a “transitional humid subtropical climate.” That helps explain why San Antonio and surrounding environs offer more than 50 golf courses. By the way, the average high temperatures are 74 degrees in March and 71 in November.
Charter motorcoaches bring tourists to San Antonio from across the country, Matej said. The city is 75 miles from Austin, 190 miles from Houston and 250 miles from Dallas.
“San Antonio welcomes visitors from markets throughout Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” she said. “We also see a large number of motorcoach arrivals from the Northeast, including New York and New Jersey; the Midwest, including Illinois and Minnesota; and from California. We are seeing an increasing number of arrivals from Canada.”
The city of San Antonio has posted an online pamphlet listing its motorcoach operation regulations and a map of temporary and overnight parking locations on its central streets.
“San Antonio streets are easy to navigate and accommodating to motorcoaches,” Matej said.
Visit San Antonio is stressing the destination’s features for student groups, she said.
“Here, Mexican, European and Western cultures have blended into a unique personality. San Antonio hosts a vibrant mix of culture, cuisine, architecture, history and patriotism — everything an educator can choose from to reinforce and expand a student’s mind.
“With diverse languages and music, the city’s heritage and traditions are as rich as its modern pleasures,” she said. “San Antonio is centrally located, affordable and easy to get around, making it an ideal student travel destination.”