We knew nothing about San Antonio when we got here other than we know we wanted to see the Alamo and that was about it. We kept hearing from people on Facebook saying we had to see the “San Antonio Riverwalk“. So we figured we’d get to it and see the river, big deal. We couldn’t figure out what the big fuss was about over a walk in a river valley, we have a river at home too.
That was until we actually saw it!
Built in the 1940’s the Riverwalk is an amazing system of canals, waterways, walkways, bridges, cafes, shops, restaurants and fountains. The river was prone to flooding and near the turn of the century (1900) the city wanted to drain it and reroute the river out of the downtown section. The conservation society put forth a plan to put in flood gates, a dam and to control the river rather than remove it. They were successful and built a little mini city, one level under the main city streets and sidewalks.
For hours we walked around on the ground level, waiting forever for shuttle buses and getting sore feet. We saw a few sites in the city and finally decided to find the “entrance” to the Riverwalk as marked on our map, and have lunch. What we didn’t know then, we realized later when we took the tour boat – we were above Riverwalk pretty much the entire time we were walking up there! All we had to do was look down and find a staircase to get to it. Doh!
Rob’s comment: the entire time we were walking through San Antonio, I completely doubted the existence of any such river. There wasn’t one to be found. We had no idea we were walking on the roofs of the stores.
So we actually did Riverwalk in two parts. The first day was when we went to the Alamo. After leaving there, we did our walking tour and ended up at the shopping center, which has a courtyard facing the river on 3 levels. From there we took the river walk boat ride.
The tour was the best thing we could have done.
Riverwalk Boat Ride
Our boat ride tour guide was young but very informative. He pointed out historic and important landmarks and buildings, including one old hotel that was picked up and moved 6 blocks to a new location! We didn’t actually believe him at the time, but upon searching Google discovered he was indeed telling the truth, and we went another day to check that out.
We learned about the flood control system and at one point passed through a gate that would slam shut in 2 seconds if need be to keep out threatening flood waters. He also told us about the history of the riverwalk, why it was created, etc. All in all a very good trip – worth spending a few bucks on. If you get to San Antonio – take the river boat tour!
Here are some random things we saw along the river on our tour.
A couple days later we went back and did a walking version of the Riverwalk by day. I had a coupon and menu from the Iron Cactus restaurant and we had eaten there on the first night after the boat tour. We enjoyed it so much we went back again for lunch.
We will be back to San Antonio again and we’ll go to the Riverwalk first! We recommend the riverwalk boat ride for anyone who wants to learn about San Antonio while seeing it from a different perspective. Make sure you do both though… take the tour, then take the tour.