Jan 15 2011

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

As I look out over the fields of snow on this wintry day, I’m reminded of times spent in warmer places.  A year ago, we were just returning from a vacation in Texas, and one of the highlights of that trip was visiting the San Antonio Missions.

Mission Concepcion

Mission Concepcion

The Alamo may be the first thing that comes to mind when visiting San Antonio, but our kids weren’t impressed with it.  We walked through the crowded museum areas, circled it on foot, and took the requisite photo in front of it, but other than saying, “We’ve been to the Alamo,” it doesn’t stick in our minds much.

The Alamo

The Alamo

The Missions, however, offer a less-crowded peek at San Antonio’s history.  The four missions (Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, Mission Concepcion, Mission Espada) that are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are scattered south of the downtown area and can easily be visited one after the other for a half-day (or longer) adventure.  You can visit just one or two, but seeing all four will provide insight into both their similarities and differences.

Mission Espada

Mission Espada

The National Park Service visitor’s center is located at Mission San Jose, and this is a good place to start.  A small museum gives background and rangers are available to answer questions.  Our kids enjoyed the short film that is shown routinely in the visitor center.  Children can pick up a Junior Ranger booklet here and complete activities as you visit the missions; they’ll earn a badge upon completion.  The Junior Ranger program is an excellent way to pique kids’ interest in the places they visit.

Visitor Center

From the visitor center, walk to Mission San Jose, where you can wander through the courtyard and learn about the functions and activities that took place here.  The church itself is an important part of each mission, but the missions were also complete communities with all of the necessities of daily life taking place.

Mission San Jose grindstone

After seeing Mission San Jose, choose another mission to visit.  Some are more complete while others are more ruinous, but each has a unique feel to it.  Active Catholic congregations still use the Mission churches, so they are both historical and current.

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose

After visiting each of the Missions, we enjoyed good conversation.  Which was your favorite, and why?  What would it have been like to live at the Mission?  What was the most unique thing you saw?

Mission San Juan Model

Mission San Juan Model

If you take your kids to San Antonio, by all means see the Alamo.  But don’t discount the San Antonio Missions as another important stop in your itinerary while you’re in Texas.

Mission Mural

Have you been to the San Antonio Missions? What were your impressions?  Are there missions in other parts of the United States that you’d recommend visiting with kids?

Read more about San Antonio Missions National Historical Park at Uptake.

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6 comments so far

6 Comments to “San Antonio Missions National Historical Park”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Linda. Linda said: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: As I look out over the fields of snow on this wintry day,… http://bit.ly/fWl6S9 [...]

  2. Jen on 15 Jan 2011 at 9:09 pm

    This was one of our favorite stops in San Antonio! We had so much fun running around the grounds. It was great for the kids and my history lovin’ husband enjoyed learning more about it.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Photo Friday =-.

  3. The Park Rangers and staff of the San Antonio Missions want to thank you for the kind words in your blog. We are delighted that you and your family enjoyed your visit and hope you will return soon.
    We are now on Facebook if you would like to “like” us!

    Have a good summer!

  4. San Antonio Favorites with Kids on 25 Apr 2011 at 9:55 am

    [...] San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.  The missions are important in San Antonio’s history, yet still have active congregations [...]

  5. [...] Museum, San Antonio, Texas: The history of the area is portrayed with replicas of the San Antonio Missions, which we had toured the day before.  The ball area was hard to pull the boys away from.  But the [...]

  6. Ken Szymanski on 17 Oct 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I’m looking for some San Antonio Mission ceramic replicas as wall hangings – one for Espada, one for Concepcion, etc. We collected them about 15 years ago from a gift shop on the grounds of Mission San Jose. We had an unfortunate accident involving a carpentry crew today, and they got ruined. Whenever we go back to the Missions, they no longer carry these gift items – they sold for maybe $7 each back then, and were about 4″ x 4″. Does anyone have any ideas?

    We once lived in San Antonio, but now live in North Carolina.

    Here is my e-mail address: kszyman@aol.com

    Thank you.

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