This trip makes use of the morning to see the best art museums while the mind and spirit are still fresh. The second half of the day takes the visitor to the residential King William District and then to the outlying missions that dot the Mission Trail. If, by this time of day, it's feeling more like Mission Impossible, you can abbreviate the trip by seeing only San José and Espada. Between museum stops, I've sandwiched a visit to the city's impressive botanical garden, where you can replenish your energies gazing on all varieties of foliage. Note: This trip is best done with a car.
1. Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum
I love the building, the landscaping, and the view, but also the collection. It holds works by many of the great artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Cézanne, Matisse, and O'Keeffe.
2. San Antonio Botanical Garden
Here you'll find wonderful gardens, a great variety of habitats, and plenty of literature about xeriscaping. The city of San Antonio faces serious water problems. It's the largest city in America to use an aquifer as its main water source.
3. San Antonio Museum of Art
Housed in the old Lone Star Beer Brewery, the San Antonio Museum of Art is an excellent recycling of old structures to create a distinctive museum. Concentrate on the Rockefeller Center of Latin American Art, and if you still have energy left, follow your tastes. If you like Asian art, the museum's Brown Collection is rather good; if you prefer antiquities, there's a small but handsome collection of Egyptian and Greek pieces.
4. Take a Break
I like mixing up high culture and natural beauty with good food in relaxing surroundings. The old Pearl Brewery, 100 Pearl Pkwy., just off Broadway (www.pearlbrewery.com), which is only a few blocks from the museum, has become a gourmet center for San Antonio and home to a cooking school and some of the town's best restaurants. Take your pick of Mexican, Italian, seafood, or the Culinary Institute's cafe.
5. King William Historic District
After lunch, stretch your legs in this neighborhood, where there are about 25 blocks of houses. You can do a self-guided tour by picking up a booklet at the offices of the San Antonio Conservation Society, located at 107 King William St., or simply take in the views along King William Street, where you'll see the majority of the grandest houses.
6. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
These missions depict the story of an incredible human endeavor -- Franciscan friars walking all the way from central Mexico (riding horseback or in carriages was forbidden by their vows of poverty) into the wilds of central Texas, hoping to build here a community of God, free from the corruptions then occurring in the heart of colonial Mexico. The trail starts with Concepción. The missions are within 2 or 3 miles of each other, never very far from the river. In each you will find a park station that provides tourist info and driving directions. Of the four, make sure to see San José, the most historical and architecturally interesting, and Espada, which is still the center of a local community.