2 Cool San Antonio Cultural Venues You May Not Know About

Jean Jones
(July 10, 2014)
San Antonio venues

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path and something that’s not crowded with tourists (well, maybe a few), we’ve got two activities that should be on your “must-see” list.

1. King William Historic District

If historic architecture is your thing, get to the King William Historic District. This 19th century neighborhood, encompassing 25 blocks, was restored to its original glory after falling into disrepair and neglect in the 1960s. What’s amazing about this area is that, unlike neighborhoods today, the architecture of its residences are not homogenous; you’ll see a variety of very different styles, like Greek Revival, Italianate and Victorian homes, among others. Named after Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia, the area was once home to affluent German merchants who settled in this area, and was the state’s first official historic district.

You can tour three of the homes to get a firsthand glimpse of the grandeur of the period: Guenther House (built in 1860), Steves Homestead (built around 1870) and Villa Finale. These particular homes are not private residences and serve other purposes, but maintain their original detail and are decorated accordingly.

Be sure you take advantage of the free cellphone audio tour (the Visitor Center at Villa Finale, 122 Madison Street, is where you get instructions on how to access this service) to learn more about each home, its former occupants, the home’s landscaping and more.

Once you’ve taken in the neighborhood, it’s just a short walk to Southtown, a neighborhood filled with shops, art galleries and eateries.



2. The Witte Museum

The Witte Museum has a little of everything for everybody: history, bones, science, ancient Texan rock art, modern art, mummies…it’s all there. Here are just some of the highlights of this unique venue:

  • Explore the rich history of the San Antonio area at the 20,000-square-foot South Texas Heritage Center, a relatively new addition to the museum, where you’ll learn about much of what made San Antonio a popular destination even back in the 1800s, including “cowboys, cattle, chili queens, oil, and outlaws.”
  • Also fairly new to the museum is the H-E-B Body Adventure, a huge, multi-story space where visitors can use equipment to test their strength, examine the inner workings of a life-size human body on a virtual anatomy table, learn the basics of relaxation through meditation, learn to cook healthy Mexican food and other fun, interactive physiology-related activities
  • Right on the museum property are historic homes from all around San Antonio, as well as a log cabin, built in 1939 by kids from the National Youth Administration program. While relatively new when compared to most log cabins, this one reflects a style used by many Texas pioneers of the 1800s
  • Some of the other attractions at this eclectic museum include dinosaur skeletons, dioramas, circus memorabilia, and a hummingbird and butterfly garden. As we said, this museum is unique!
  • Running now through November 3 is a lively and engaging exhibit called “Grossology: The Impolite Science of The Human Body.” Kids will love this exhibit because it presents the reasons for (and effects of) some of the bodily functions parents usually discourage discussing, like runny noses, bad smells and much more

The Witte Museum is one of those places you can visit multiple times and see things you’ve never seen before, so make it a point to go a couple times a year. It’s also almost too much to take in during a single visit, so parcel out the exhibits based on what you’re in the mood for that day.

Okay, San Antonio residents: what do you recommend for a unique cultural experience? Where do you tell people to go when they say, “I want to stay away from tourist traps!”? What hidden gem have you found? We’ll post any we haven’t discussed in a previous blog, so please share! 

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