Everybody remembers the Alamo, but what visitors may not recall is that San Antonio is home to four other historic Spanish missions set along the banks of the San Antonio River. In fact, most of the other mission structures are more impressive in size and structure than the Alamo, and offer a history that is almost as interesting. Set in a quiet, rural area south of town—accessible from downtown via a new Mission Reach extension of the River Walk—Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada, Mission San Jose, and Mission San Juan are certainly worth a visit. Visitors touring by car or bicycle (the missions are all 3–5 miles apart) can fill a day learning about Spanish colonization in 17th- and 18th-century Texas. The missions were established between 1690–1720 by Spanish Franciscans and missionaries from other religious orders who came to spread Catholicism to indigenous people in the region. Yes, the sites all held ornate Spanish chapels, but they were more than just churches, they were fully self-sustaining communities—farms, forts, schools, trade and travel outposts, stables, mills, businesses, and homes. Travelers by car should plan on 2 to 3 hrs. for each mission. The National Park Service does an excellent job maintaining the missions' grounds and educating guests about their place in Texas history. Each mission has an information office with free maps and driving directions to the other missions, though the main visitor center is located at Mission San José. There you can view a short film about the history of the missions. A 12 mile-long hike and bike trail follows the San Antonio River and passes within a relatively close distance of each mission, making for a pleasant outing on a mild day. If you're there on a Sunday or on a religious holiday, you may want to attend mass. All four mission churches within the boundaries of the Mission National Park are active Catholic parishes offering regular services in English and/or Spanish. Mission San José was established in 1720 and is the largest and most popular. This is the best mission to visit if you only have time to see one. Be sure to see the mission church's famous rose window, and ask about the legends surrounding its creation and inspiration. Travelers who make it to Mission Espada should also check out the Espada Aqueduct, located about a mile north, built in 1746 and the last remaining Spanish aqueduct in the U.S.A.
San Antonio› Attraction
San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
Mission San José, 6701 San Jose Dr.
Our Rating Neighborhood South San Antonio Hours Daily 9am–5pm Transportation Bus: 42, stops at Mission San José (and near Mission Concepción) Phone 210/932-1001 Prices Admission free (donations accepted) Amenities Daily tours available, free film at the visitor's center located at the site of Mission San José Web site San Antonio Missions National Historic Park