San Antonio tricentennial remembers the Alamo and much more

FILE - This March 6, 2013, file photo, shows the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. The Alamo is best known as the site of a legendary 1836 battle, but it was originally built in 1718 as a Spanish mission. San Antonio dates the city's founding to the opening of that mission 300 years ago and plans a week of tricentennial commemorative events for May. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

San Antonio, Texas, is remembering the Alamo along with the rest of its history as part of a 300th birthday celebration.

The city was founded in 1718 when Spanish settlers built the Mission San Antonio de Valero - today known as the Alamo - along the San Antonio River. In 1836, the Alamo was the site of a legendary battle as Texas fought for independence from Mexico.

A tricentennial commemorative week is scheduled for May 1-6. For visitors, May 4 will be of particular interest, with arts events, a festival and fireworks. For travelers who'd like to see San Antonio but can't make that week in May, the city is hosting exhibitions and other festivals throughout the year, and you can visit the Alamo anytime, along with the River Walk just across the street.


The Alamo and four other 18th-century missions built as outposts of Spain's colonial empire make up the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Texas. The commemorative week kicks off May 1 with a day of reflection on San Antonio's diversity and heritage that includes recognition for the indigenous Payaya people who inhabited the area before Europeans arrived. A candlelight vigil and sunset services will take place on the city's Main Plaza, with citywide ringing of church bells. A visual story about San Antonio's founding called "The Saga" will be projected on San Fernando Cathedral's facade that night and other times that week.

May 2 is themed on history and education with events at libraries and schools.

On May 3, Founders Day, college campuses host fairs, speakers and shows, and Morgan's Wonderland, an amusement park designed for children with disabilities, celebrates inclusiveness with free admission for all. (The park always waives admission for visitors with disabilities.)

May 4, themed on arts for all, is the best day for out-of-towners to join the celebration. Arts venues will offer free admission 3 to 6 p.m. A sculpture gift from the mayor of Mexico City called "Alas de la Ciudad" (Wings of the City) will be dedicated at the Tower of the Americas. And a festival will take place across a 5-mile route linking the missions along the river, with music, entertainment and fireworks.

May 5 will see the opening of a new linear park downtown, bringing the San Pedro Creek back to life with public art and greenspace.

May 6 will focus on military appreciation. In addition to a rich legacy of military history, San Antonio is home to more than 80,000 active-duty personnel and some 250,000 military retirees. Military facilities include Fort Sam Houston, Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases and Camp Bullis. Fort Sam Houston will open to the public May 5 and 6 for the first time since 9/11. Planned events include a parachute demo, flyovers, marching bands and a cavalry re-enactment.


Tricentennial-themed exhibitions include "Common Currents," featuring 300 artists who each created a work inspired by a single year of San Antonio history, displayed at downtown cultural centers and arts venues through May 7. The Witte Museum hosts "Confluence and Culture: 300 Years of San Antonio History" through Jan. 6. The San Antonio Museum of Art has two heritage-themed shows: "San Antonio 1718: Art from Viceregal Mexico," featuring art from San Antonio's first 100 years, through May 13, and "Spain: 500 Years of Spanish Painting from the Museums of Madrid," June 22-Sept. 16.

Annual events include the massive, colorful Fiesta San Antonio, April 19-29, which started in 1891 as a parade honoring heroes from the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. The Tejano Conjunto Festival, May 16-20, celebrates a unique cultural melange of Mexican, Spanish, Czech and German music and dance. The Culinaria Festival, May 17-20, is a food event that also showcases wine from Texas Hill Country. The Texas Folklife Festival, June 8-10, celebrates food, music, dance and crafts of the state's more than 40 ethnic groups. The Balcones Heights Jazz Festival runs Fridays in July, and a World Heritage Festival celebrating the missions' designation takes place Sept. 5-9.