Top 12 Surprising Facts about San Antonio

While most of the articles that I publish here are related to business law, corporate law, estate planning, probate, and other similar things, this week I thought I would take a slightly different approach and talk a bit about my hometown – San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio is one of the oldest cities in Texas. Having been originally settled by the Spanish (actually, Canary Islanders) in 1718. After Mexican independence in 1821, many white settlers from the United States began to settle in the territory of Texas (including major settlements in and around San Antonio, including the Villa de Bejar and the mission San Antonio de Valero), and in 1836, Texas gained independence from Mexico. One of the most pivotal clashes in Texas’s struggle for independence from Mexico was the Battle of the Alamo. While the Alamo remains a major tourist attraction in San Antonio today, this article will focus on 12 things about San Antonio that might surprise you, or that might have otherwise flown “below your radar.” If you enjoy this article, or if you think I should have included another “weird fact” on the list, please contact me.

1. San Antonio is the most visited city in Texas

While both Greater Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area have a significantly larger population size than San Antonio, the River City trounces its big brothers when it comes to tourism – it is actually the 17th most visited city in the entire country! While this might come as a surprise to a native San Antonian, just consider some of San Antonio’s marquee attractions like Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the San Antonio Riverwalk, SeaWorld San Antonio, the Tower of the Americas, the San Antonio Missions Trail, Natural Bridge Caverns, the Witte Museum, the Pearl. This distinction is even more impressive when you consider the relatively small size of the San Antonio International Airport, which is – compared to Houston or DFW, or even Austin – relatively minor. But, then again, maybe that’s part of the charm of San Antonio.

2. Lanier High School Holds the World Record for the Most Tamales Ever Made

If you’ve ever spent a Christmas holiday in San Antonio, you know how seriously we take our tamales around these parts. But Lanier High School, located just west of Downtown San Antonio, took the city’s tamale-love to the next level. Tamale fans from across the city (and this city has a lot!) participated in the event coordinated by Lanier’s culinary program, smashing the world record for the most tamales ever made in one day. The tamale makers preparing an astonishing 17,132 tamales! The previous record was roughly 13,000 tamales.

3. San Antonio is One of the Most Haunted Cities in the United States

One recent list compiled by Yahoo! Travel listed San Antonio as one of the most haunted cities in the entire country. Many other ghost hunters put San Antonio high on their lists of haunted cities. Some of the allegedly haunted locations in San Antonio include:
    • The Alamo, where General Santa Ana and his Mexican army killed all but one of the 189 Texan defenders, including titanic figures such as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Barrett Travis, has more ghost legends than can be counted, beginning from shortly after the Siege of the Alamo and continuing through the present day
    • The Emily Morgan Hotel, located across a Plaza from the Alamo itself, was recently ranked as the third most haunted hotel in the entire world! Beginning its life as a medical center in the early 1900s, the Emily Morgan hotel hosts legends of haunted 12th and 14th floors, haunted elevators, a haunted basement, a ghost bride, and much more!
    • The Crockett Hotel, also located close to the Alamo, is probably the closest place to where more of the actual killing in the Battle of the Alamo took place. Rumors of ghostly Alamo defenders in the Crockett Hotel abound.
    • The St. Anthony Hotel, which also has its fair share of ghost stories, made paranormal headlines with a mysterious and gruesome murder in 1965 – the echoes of which, some say, continue to haunt the St. Anthony.
    • The Sheraton Gunter Hotel, once an Army headquarters (both for the US Army and the Confederate Army), was also the scene of one of the bloodiest murders in the history of San Antonio.
    • The Black Swan Inn was featured on the TV Show Ghost Adventures, and many guests are rumored to have encountered haunting things during their stays.
    • The Spanish Governor’s Palace, which was never actually home to any governors, but was used as a captain’s palace and an executioner’s arena, is rumored to have ghosts of young children, as well as the victims of the executions that took place here.
    • San Fernando Cathedral is holy ground – one of the oldest landmarks in San Antonio, and the site of countless deaths and burials. Who knows what ghosts linger in and around this major Catholic church.
    • The Haunted Railroad Tracks are one that many San Antonians have heard of. The legend tells of a school bus that stalled on the railroad tracks at Villamarin and Shane in the 1940s, and was hit by an oncoming train (all occupants of the bus were killed instantly). As the story goes, if you cut your car’s engine and leave the transmission in neutral when your car is on the tracks, the ghostly children will push your car off the tracks – and if you sprinkle talcum powder on your bumper, you may see some tiny, ghostly handprints.
    • The Briscoe Western Art Museum, formerly the Hertzberg Circus Museum, was originally the house of John McMullen – who now is said to haunt the Briscoe. Mr. McMullen met an untimely end in 1853, being murdered by a robber in the course of a home invasion.
    • Freeman Coliseum was originally the site where Teddy Roosevelt trained the Rough Riders. Legends tell of ghosts of past bull-riding accidents and specters of past Rough Riders.
    • Woman Hollering Creek, off of Interstate 10 between San Antonio and Seguin, is sometimes said to be haunted by the Mexican-American ghost La Llorona. Some believe this inconsolable women is mourning her children, others believe she mourns her husband, and still others believe that it is nothing but a trick, to lure kind outsiders for some unknown sinister purpose

4. San Antonio Holds the Guinness World Record for the Tallest Cowboy Boots in the World.

The famous 35-foot sculpture of cowboy boots outside North Star Mall was created in 1980 by the Austin artist Bob “Daddy O” Wade. You can find the gigantic cowboy boots in all kinds of postcards and photographs of San Antonio, but one thing is for sure – sporting a weight of over 10,000 pounds as well as their Guinness World Record, these cowboy boots won’t be going anywhere for quite some time.

5. Teddy Roosevelt Recruited the Rough Riders at the Menger Hotel

In a slight repeat of some of the “Haunted San Antonio” section above, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt famously recruited his rough riders at the Menger Hotel in downtown San Antonio. If you visit the Menger, be sure to check out its famous bar – it still sports several bullet holes from the Rough Riders, before they shipped out to Cuba!

6. The San Antonio Spurs are the Only Former ABA Team to Win an NBA Championship

You almost certainly know that San Antonio is home of the NBA’s famous San Antonio Spurs – the city’s professional basketball team. The Spurs have racked up an impressive five NBA titles over the decades, and have been the home of such basketball legends as G. What you may not know is that the San Antonio Spurs are the only former ABA team to have won an NBA title! Now that’s impressive! Go Spurs Go!

7. San Antonio’s Market Square is the Biggest Mexican Market Outside of Mexico

Historic Market Square, located on West Commerce Street in downtown San Antonio, just a couple blocks away from other historic landmarks such as the Alameda Theater, San Fernando Cathedral, is the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico! This three-block outdoor plaza has two sections, the “El Mercado” section – with 32 specialty shops – and the “Farmers Market Plaza” section – with 80 shops. This historic market has been around since the 1700s!

8. San Antonio’s San Pedro Park is the Oldest in Texas

San Pedro Park is the oldest park in Texas, and the second-oldest park in the United States (becoming a park way back in 1852). The park has a skating plaza, dozens of hiking trails, a swimming pool, and more.

9. The Only World Heritage Site in Texas is in San Antonio

There is only one UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas – the San Antonio Missions. This honor was conferred in July of 2015. There are four (or five, depending on how you count!) Missions included in the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, which was honored as a World Heritage Site:
    • The Alamo
    • Mission Concepcion
    • Mission San Jose
    • Mission San Juan
    • Mission Espada

10. Fiesta San Antonio

Fiesta San Antonio, a 10-day festival held every April, began as a way to honor the memory of the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Fiesta San Antonio includes the diverse events such as Fiesta at Hemisfair, the Texas Cavaliers River Parade, the Battle of Flowers Parade, the Fiesta Flambeau Parade, NIOSA (Night In Old San Antonio), Taste of the Republic, A Day In Old Mexico & Charreada, the Mariachi Festival, and more!

11. San Antonio has the First Modern Art Museum in the Southwest

San Antonio has the first modern art museum in the Southwest. Marion Koogler McNay, an art teacher and heiress to an oil fortune, brought modern art to San Antonio in 1954 with the McNay Art Museum. The Museum, which was Marion Koogler McNay’s personal mansion, now hosts roughly 20,000 works, including the work of both high-profile artists such as Picasso and O’Keeffe, as well as local artists that you won’t see at art museums outside of Texas or the Southwest.

12. San Antonio is “Military City USA”

San Antonio, with multiple Army and Air Force bases, is known as “Military City USA.” Some of these installations include:
    • Joint Base Camp Bullis
    • Fort Sam Houston
    • Lackland Air Force Base
    • Randolph Air Force Base
    • JBSA Kelly Annex