It’s well known that San Antonio, TX is home to the all famous Alamo Mission. The Alamo plaza is located central to the main city area and is always buzzing with tourists who want to pay their respects and immerse themselves in history of the great Lone Star State. What some may overlook is the bounty of historical information and culture located in the San Antonio Missions Historical Park.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is compiled of 4 Spanish Missions that have been partially restored and offer a tangible glimpse into the history of the Spanish in Texas. As a part of the US National Park System the cost to visit is FREE and the opportunity for learning fantastic, not to mention the absolute beauty of the sites that are still in the restoration process.
The San Antonio Missions Historical Park includes Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada and Mission San Juan Capistrano. The missions each feature free and ample parking and they are relatively close to each other, not more than 3 miles in between.
The main visitors center is located at Mission San Jose. The center houses a mini museum about the history of the missions and the life of the community there. There is an informational film that plays back to back throughout the day. Rangers are also standing by to answer questions and offering free guided tours. The ranger led tours are held at 10 and 11am and 2 and 3pm, lasting around 45 minutes.
As with all National Parks, young visitors have the chance to challenge themselves and earn Junior Ranger badges at the Missions Historical Park. Junior Ranger workbooks can be printed online or picked up in person at the visitors center here. It is not necessary to visit all of the missions to complete the workbook and earn the badge. Our girls were able to complete the workbook and earn their badges while in the visitors center.
We learned a lot about the history of Texas and the importance of the Missions to the culture of that time. Our experiences there opened up a lot of discussion with our children about the history of the region, the intrusion of the Spanish and the complicated history of the church and the native cultures of the time. Aside from the information that can be gleaned from spending time at the missions, they are just plain gorgeous. The restoration of the churches and properties are wonderful. You can even see the original paint and frescoes in certain places….
Visiting the San Antonio Missions National Park may surprise you as an exciting activity while visiting this fun city and it is a beautiful way to explore culture and history as a family.
Have any of you ever visited this national park or any of the other Spanish missions in the United States?