A visit to the Alamo is a highlight of a trip to San Antonio. Before you go, however, these tips for visiting the Alamo will help you understand a little more about the destination and help you get the most out of your time there.
The San Antonio de Valero Mission was relocated three times, but after becoming the fortress known as The Alamo has had only one location, it’s current one. It can be seen today in that same location, a short distance from the San Antonio River Walk
The mission turned fortress was the scene of several battles during the including the 1836 for which it is named. The Battle pitted Mexico, under the leadership of General Santa Anna, against the Texas Republic. Despite a valiant stand, all of the Texas soldiers, including and , were killed at the battle of The Alamo.
Following the battle, the building remained in ruins until it was eventually returned to its prior owner, the Catholic Church.
When Texas was annexed to the United States, a claim was made that the Alamo was governmental property. This set off another battle, this one to determine ownership, that lasted into the 1900s.
The Alamo is now owned by the State of Texas and is under the care of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. It consists of three buildings, the Shrine, the , and a Gift Museum, and along with the surrounding Alamo Gardens occupies a little over four acres. There is also statuary that honors the heroes of the battle. The site became a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
In my mind, The Alamo was a huge structure, a behemoth of a thing, because that’s how it looks in all the movies and on television. In reality, however, the building itself is quite small, and it is only the legend of The Alamo that looms larger than life.
These tips will help make your visit to The Alamo efficient and enjoyable:
The Alamo is located at 300 Alamo Plaza, near the river in downtown , Texas. The Alamo is open daily, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 9 am-5:30 pm and Sunday 10 am-5:30 pm. During the summer months, the Alamo remains open until 7 pm on Friday and Saturday.
If you’re staying in downtown San Antonio, you’re like a short walk away from the Alamo – it’s directly across from the River Walk, a segment of the San Antonio River that wends its way through the downtown area. In addition to places to stay, the River Walk is also full of restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues.
You can find a hotel near the River Walk and read reviews on TripAdvisor here.
Admission to The Alamo is free, although donations are accepted. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas receives no governmental funds to maintain the Alamo, and rely on sales from the gift museum and donations for all operating expenses and educational programming.
If you’d prefer, guided tours are available. The one-hour guided tour of the Alamo explains the exhibits as well as gives you the historical background for what you are seeing. If you’re like me, you’ll have some aha moments as information jogs your much-buried memory. The guided tour of the Alamo is currently priced at $15 per person.
If you’d prefer to tour the Alamo at your own pace, the self-guided Alamo audio tour is a good choice. You’ll get the historical background and explanations but can pause when you want to linger for a while. The audio tour of the Alamo is currently priced at $7.
If your traveling with kids and want to avoid making visiting the Alamo seem like a history class, consider the Young Texans Tour, an interactive living history program suitable for ages 5-12. The tour is currently priced at $12 per person.
Remember, the Alamo is one of the busiest tourist attractions in the region. It gets busy and crowded, especially during the peak season. Summers in San Antonio are both crowded and hot, so keep that in mind if you visit during that time.
I visited during the brutal heat of the summer – WOWZA – and would recommend the gentler times of spring and fall. Visiting the Alamo in the morning will help you avoid the heat as well as student groups visiting on a field trip.
When visiting The Alamo, my recommendation is to first visit the church that you’ve likely seen in photos and movies. The Alamo church is a shrine, a sacred site, and appropriate behavior is important. Men are asked to remove hats upon entering and all visitors asked to speak in low voices. No interior photography is allowed.
As you move among the Alamo exhibits, take a moment to look down; bodies of some of the unnamed who were lost in the battle here are buried below. Then look up at the flags lining the ceiling and the flagpoles along the walls, they are home flags of those who fought at the Battle of the Alamo. It’s sobering.
After visiting the Shrine, head outside to stroll the courtyard and visit the museum exhibits found there. One of the popular stops is the Long Barrack, where many of the Alamo defenders retreated during the battle. While much of it has been re-built, the west wall is thought to be original and pre-dating the church by a couple of decades.
Finally, stop by and leave your thoughts about your visit to the Alamo in a high tech meets history interactive wall.
It’s worth spending some time at the Alamo. I’d suggest an hour for the church, maybe longer if you’re doing the guided or audio tour. Then another hour, or so, for some time in the courtyard and garden exhibits.
Historians might debate the importance of the Battle of the Alamo, but for San Antonio visitors The Alamo is one of the must-see stops in the city.
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