Culture of San Antonio

Culture of San Antonio
The San Antonio River Walk.

The culture of San Antonio, Texas has a vibrant art community that reflects the rich history and culture of the area. This unique city offers some of the best cultural institutions, events, restaurants and nightlife in South Texas that both natives and visitors enjoy.


Annual culture events

  • Celebrate San Antonio is the city's New Year's Eve celebration held on South Alamo Street adjacent to HemisFair Park. The festival has several stages with musical entertainment, food, family activities and more. The evening culminates at midnight with a spectacular fireworks show that welcomes in the New Year. The fireworks are shot from the top house of the Tower of the Americas as well as from other locations on the ground.
  • Fiesta is an annual 10-day citywide festival held in April to honor the memory of the heroes of the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Over 100 events take place during the anniversary of Texas' independence from Mexico. The festival's beginnings date back to 1891 when a group of ladies decorated horse-drawn carriages, paraded in front of the Alamo, and pelted each other with flower blossoms. By 1895 the parade had developed into a week-long celebration and today this event, now referred to as the Battle of Flowers Parade, is the centerpiece of the annual celebration. Other major events that take place during Fiesta are Texas Cavaliers River Parade (the parade literally floats down the River Walk rather than city streets), Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade, Night in Old San Antonio (foods from around the world in historic La Villita), the King William Street Fair, the St. Mary's University's Fiesta Oyster Bake, Fiesta Arts Fair, and Cornyation.
  • Fiesta de las Luminarias takes place on the River Walk where the river is lined with 7,000 luminarias (candle-lit, sand-filled bags) to light Mary and Joseph's path as they search for shelter on the night before Jesus' birth. The procession is a Mexican-American tradition and takes place on nine nights in December. The festival procession has been held on the River Walk for over 40 years.
Downtown San Antonio at Christmas Time.
  • The Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony is presented by the Paseo del Rio Association and the City of San Antonio the day after Thanksgiving when the switch is pulled to turn on over 122,000 lights that illuminate the River Walk for the holiday season. To cap off the celebration, decorated floats wind down the river ending with a float featuring Santa Claus and his Latin counterpart, Pancho Claus.
  • The Passion Play held at the Cathedral of San Fernando, the oldest Catholic cathedral in the U.S., portrays the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion every Good Friday. The play has been held here for over 250 years.
  • The Michelob ULTRA River Walk Mud Festival is a festival to commemorate the yearly maintenance and draining of the channeled portion of the River Walk. Held each January since 1986, the festival crowns a Mud King and Queen, holds an art festival, Mud Parade, and Pub Crawl.
  • The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, established in 1950, is a 16-day event held in February at the AT&T Center and Freeman Coliseum. There are 20 PRCA rodeo performances held in conjunction with musical entertainment from country, rock ’n’ roll and Latin artists, livestock auctions, carnival rides and retail outlets at the event. The volunteer organization raises funds for its scholarship program with proceeds from this event.
  • In June, Shakespeare in the Park produces a Shakespeare play that is free to the public. The play is held at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
  • The Texas Folklife Festival (TFF) held in June is a four-day cultural festival that brings more than 40 of Texas' ethnic groups together in one place to showcase their authentic food, music, folk dancing and authentic crafts. The first TFF was held in 1972 and was modeled after the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival held in 1968 in Washington, D.C.
  • The Tejano Music Awards, an awards ceremony dedicated to Tejano music, was held every March between 1980 and 2000. After several years in Eagle Pass, the annual event will return to the city.[1]
  • In 2009, San Antonio became the first U.S. city to sanction and sponsor an official Diwali celebration including a fireworks display and 5000 people in attendance.In 2011, the attendance had increased to 15,000 people with three Mayors (present, recent and the past)presiding the event that showcased authentic Indian food, folk dances from various States of India, and the first ever Zumba Bollywood - a dance/exercise routine to the tunes of Bollywood music. This event commemorates the Sister City Alliance that was established in 2008 between San Antonio and Chennai, India. "Diwali San Antonio" will be celebrated annually on the first Saturday of November.


  • Artpace San Antonio is a residency, educational, and exhibition program that was opened in 1995. The foundation is housed in the renovated 1920s era Hudson Dealership building in downtown San Antonio. The organization promotes itself as a laboratory for the creation and advancement of international contemporary art. Artpace's primary focus is its International Artist-in-Residence program which annually invites nine artists to live and work in San Antonio to conceive and create pivotal art projects that are exhibited three times a year. A guest curator selects three artists, a Texan, one from another U.S. state, and one international to create new work while living at Artpace. In addition to these nine artist exhibits, Artpace has an additional four exhibitions a year.
Blue Star Art Complex
  • The Blue Star Contemporary Art Center (BSCAC) was established as a grassroots response to the cancellation of a contemporary arts exhibit at the San Antonio Museum of Art in 1985. The effort established a vibrant venue for the incubation of and exhibition of contemporary and new art in San Antonio. The center is housed in an adapted 1920s era warehouse facility located on the banks of the San Antonio River. The organization, which was originally operated by artists and volunteers and is now run by artist and director Bill FitzGibbons, was formally organized with a professional director and staff in 1988. Today the center a primary destination for new art in South Texas and the center has over 20 exhibitions each year that showcase local, regional, national and international artists from the emerging to internationally renowned. The facility in which the center is housed is now referred to as the Blue Star Complex and has been redeveloped as an arts-oriented mixed-use development that includes loft/studio apartments, galleries, retail, performance spaces, artists' work spaces, and design offices. The BSCAC is widely recognized as the catalyst for the gentrification of the South Alamo neighborhoods that surround the facility. In addition BSCAC is credited with the City of San Antonio's establishment of Contemporary Art Month held annually in July at over 70 venues throughout the city.
  • The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC), founded in 1980, is a nonprofit organization established for the promotion of the art and culture of Chicano, Latino and Indigenous peoples. The GCAC is located in the heart of San Antonio's west side and is currently the largest community-based, multidisciplinary organization in the United States.[citation needed] The center's public and educational programming consists of varied programs in six disciplines: Dance, Literature, Media Arts, Theater Arts, Visual Arts and Music. Annual events include the San Antonio CineFestival and the Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio.
  • The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures opened as the Texas Pavilion at HemisFair '68, the 1968 World's Fair. The exhibit was well received and remained after the fair closed. Now a museum run by the University of Texas System, its mission is dedicated to enhancing the understanding of cultural history, science, and technology and their influence upon the people of Texas. The museum achieves its goal through permanent exhibits on 26 ethnic and cultural groups, touring exhibits, publications, a library focusing on ethnic and cultural history, a historical photo collection of over 3 million images, outreach and education programs, and the annual Texas Folklife Festival.
The McNay Art Museum
  • The McNay Art Museum, founded in 1950, is the first modern art museum in the State of Texas. The museum was created by Mrs. McNay's original bequest of most of her fortune, her important art collection and her 24-room Spanish Colonial Revival-style mansion that sits on 23 acres (93,000 m2) that are landscaped with fountains, broad lawns and a Japanese-inspired garden and a fishpond. The museum focuses primarily on 19th and 20th century European and American art by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Diego Rivera, Mary Cassatt, and Edward Hopper. The collection today consists of over 14,000 objects and is one of the finest collections of Contemporary Art and Sculpture in the Southwestern United States. The museum also is home to the Tobin Collection of Theater Arts, which is one of the premiere collections of its kind in the U.S., and a research library with over 30,000 volumes.[2]
  • Museo Alameda is the visual arts and educational component of The Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture and is an affiliate museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Located in the historic Market Square in downtown San Antonio, this new museum opened April 13, 2007. The institutions mission is to tell the story of the Latino experience in America through visual arts exhibitions, education initiatives, performances and public programming. As an affiliate of the Smithsonian, the museum will have access to the world's leading cultural experts and the Institution's collection of over 142 million objects. The museum is the official State Latino Museum of Texas.
San Antonio Museum of Art
  • The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), is housed in the historic 1884 Lone Star Brewery and was opened in 1981. The building's renovation and adaptive reuse, designed by the Cambridge Seven Associates, won several architectural awards. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. SAMA is the only comprehensive art museum in South Texas with over 20,000 objects in its permanent collection. The museum's maintains extensive collections of Asian, Latino and Ancient art. Since opening in 1981 the museum has had three major expansions in order to house these important collections. In 1989 the Halsell Wing for Ancient Art was completed and in 1998 the 30,000 square foot (2,800 m²) Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art opened. The Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing opened in 2005. The museum's permanent collection also contains significant collections of American, European, Oceanic and Contemporary art. Artists included in the museum's collection are Andy Warhol, John Singleton Copley, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Wayne Thiebaud, Frank Stella, and Philip Guston.
  • The Southwest School of Art, one of the country's largest community-centered art schools (enrollment 4000+ annually), is housed on the former site of an Ursuline convent and girls school dating from 1848. The Ursuline campus, adjacent to the River Walk, is one of the finest surviving examples of early French-influenced architecture in South Texas and includes a rare two-story "pies de terre" (rammed-earth) building designed by Francois Giraud (later the first mayor of San Antonio), working with the French mason Jules Poinsard. The campus and grounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The school's Visitors Center Museum explores the 150-year history of the site. Contemporary exhibitions, about eight per year, are presented in the 3,500-foot (1,100 m) Russell Hill Rogers Gallery on the Navarro Campus and feature national, regional, and local artists whose work reflects the school's curriculum.
  • The Witte Museum, established in 1926 under the charter of the San Antonio Museum Association, is located adjacent to Brackenridge Park on the banks of the San Antonio River and is dedicated to the history, science, and culture of the region. The permanent collection represents ethnography (study of social and cultural change), decorative arts and textiles, and science. The primary focus of the museum is natural sciences with emphasis on South Texas and the history of Texas and the Southwest.[3]
  • Texas Transportation Museum is a small museum that has information about railways that served Texas. They also have a model railroad club and a garden layout.
  • The San Antonio Buckhorn Saloon & Museum, established in 1881, is located on the corner of Houston and Navarro street. The museum includes a taxidermied wing, that holds birds, big cats, reptiles, and large mammals. It also has a wax museum attached entitled the Halls of Texas History. In the saloon you can meet with old Cowboys as they tell you stories, while you order food from a western setting.


  • The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio as it's known in Spanish, is the city's central entertainment district. It is home to several nightclubs, pubs, bars and restaurants. Among them are the Original Mexican Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, Boudro's, Pesca, Las Canarias, V Bar, Biga on the Banks, Jim Cullum's Landing, On The Half Shell Oyster Bar, Durty Nelly's, Mad Dogs on the River Walk, Casa Rio, County Line BBQ, Howl at the Moon, Rainforest Cafe, The Little Rhein Steak House, Fig Tree Restaurant and Dick's Last Resort.
  • Also in Downtown, the street scene includes several lounges, restaurants and bars. Among them The Palm, Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia, Coyote Ugly, The Bonham Exchange, Rivercenter Comedy Club, Schilo's Deli, Zinc Wine and Champagne Bar, Steers and Beers Saloon, Morton's, The Steakhouse, Swig Martini Bar, Zen Bar, Suede Lounge, Drink, Club Rive, Tequila Del Rey, and The Basement.
Downtown San Antonio at Night.
  • The Strip (north of downtown) houses a concentration of clubs and bars catering to the LGBT community. Located on Main Street near San Antonio College, they include Sparky's Pub, Luther's Café, The Saint, The Silver Dollar Saloon, Pegasus, and HEAT. A block from The Strip are Woody's and Essence.
  • Another area popular with college students is the Saint Mary's Strip. In this area, several bars and restaurants can be found such as Paparay's, Joey's, The Mix, White Rabbit, Hardbodies, Demo's Greek Food, La Bikina, Jac's Lounge, Tycoon Flats, San Antonio Home Brew Supply & Bar, Limelight, and The Candlelight Cafe. The area is also home to the Josephine Theater, which since 1995 has been home to the Josephine Theatrical Company, a non-profit resident theater group. The theater originally opened in 1947 as an art-deco style neighborhood movie house.
  • San Antonio's largest university, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), is located on the northwest side of the city. Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille, The Flying Saucer, Hills & Dales Icehouse, Rome's Pizza, Chester's Hamburgers, and PF Changs are popular places on the northwest side.
  • There are several restaurants open 24 hours a day in San Antonio. Chachos, Mama Margies, Las Palapas, Whataburger, Jim's, The Original Mexican Restaurant, and Taco Cabana are all busy late-night establishments.
  • On the first Friday of every month, the area south of downtown known as Southtown or the King William District hosts an art walk known as First Friday. A diverse crowd of art lovers can visit galleries, art spaces, vintage stores, and street vendors selling art and jewelry, all while listening to live music played in the streets. Restaurants and bars in Southtown include Bar America, Blue Star Brewing Company (adjacent to Blue Star Contemporary Art Center), Rosario's, La Tuna, El Mirador, and Mad Hatters. Art spaces and galleries include Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, UTSA Satellite Space, San Antonio Art League, SAY Si!, Joan Grona Gallery, Cactus Bra Space, Three Walls Gallery, Justice Works, REM Gallery, San Angel Folk Art, Stone Metal Press, and Fiber Artspace. Events vary month to month and it's all free.
  • Second Saturday is usually on the following weekend after First Friday but sometimes falls on the very next day. Second Saturday is a monthly showcase of the area commonly known as SoFlo (a trendy abbreviation for the South Flores street where it is located) also known as the Lone Star District (named after the cross-street LoneStar Blvd. where the Lone Star Brewing Company once stood.) The area is only a few blocks South of the Blue Star District but is popular for those who want a less crowded environment than the one found at First Friday. Art galleries include One9Zero6, FL!GHT, LoneStar Studios, Salon Mijangos, Gallista Gallery, and Triangle Project Space. Artists in the area with studios include Andy Benavides, Justin Parr, Ed Saavedra, Zane Lewis, Thomas Cummins, and Dario Robleto. Once a year in the Fall, the S.M.A.R.T fair is an annual festival held to support the various arts in San Antonio.[4]

Performing arts

  • The Alameda Theater is one of the last grand movie palaces built in the U.S. (opening in 1949) and was the largest theater in the U.S. dedicated to Spanish-language entertainment. The theater is often referred to as the "Latin Apollo Theater" and is known for the house's extensive black lighted murals. Today the theater, in association with the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is the performing arts component of the National Center for Latino Arts and Culture, which was formally organized in 2001. Upon completion of the theater's renovation, it will be a state-of-the-art facility capable of housing performing arts mediums such as television and full Broadway productions, theater, opera, dance, concerts and film.
  • The Lila Cockrell Theatre, opened in 1968, is a performing arts venue that hosts ballet, opera, theater and individual concert events. The building is on the banks of the River Walk, and being a part of the adjacent convention center it also hosts general assembly and multi-media presentation events. A unique feature of the building is the Juan O'Gorman mosaic mural located on the exterior facade entitled "Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas." The mural symbolizes the progress made by the confluence of civilizations in the Western Hemisphere starting with Adam and Eve in the center, with European civilization depicted to the right, and indigenous meso-American civilization to the left.
  • The Majestic Theatre is home to the San Antonio Symphony, individual concerts and touring Broadway shows. The John Eberson-designed theater, which opened in 1929 as a grand movie palace, is well known for its Mediterranean-style architecture and twinkling starlit sky (complete with projected clouds that creep across the ceiling). The romantic ceiling and theater decor is amazing; it looks like a cross between a fairy tale castle and the Arabian Nights Entertainment. The theater is as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1975.
  • The Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, which opened in 1913, is the sister theater to the Majestic and plays host to smaller productions, banquets, cabaret, chamber orchestras and touring plays. An extensive renovation of the Empire was completed in 1989 and combined backstage areas with the adjacent Majestic allowing for more flexibility between the two venues. The Empire was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
  • The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, was founded in 1980 as a nonprofit, multidisciplinary organization. Located at the heart of San Antonio's west side, the Guadalupe is the largest community-based, multi-disciplinary organization in the United States. Each year the Guadalupe prescents and producesa season of events, exhibitions and festivals, including the San Antonio Cinefestival, the Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio, Hecho a Mano/Made by Hand, a season of plays by the resident youth theater company Groupo Animo, and productions featuring the Guadalupe Dance Company. Each of the six programs offer instuctional classes from creative writing to buton accordion and ballet folklorico instructions.

See also


  1. ^ Tejano Music Awards Returns to San Antonio, TX, Tejano Music Awards, October 25, 2006.
  2. ^ Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, New York Times.
  3. ^ Witte Museum, New York Times.
  4. ^ South Flores Arts District upbeat, lively, San Antonio Express News, January 25, 2008.

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