San Antonio, Texas
Texans are proud of their state and their history, and San Antonio has played a major role in both. The city’s Spanish Colonial heritage is most evident in downtown, also home to San Antonio’s most-visited attractions.
People who have never been there may be surprised to realize that the Alamo sits in the heart of downtown. The 1756 mission chapel, better known as the Alamo for its role in the Texas revolution, still stands, and a few original outbuildings house exhibits. In a small park behind the church, re-enactors demonstrate how turkey quills were used to light cannons or the techniques doctors used to locate bullets.
La Villita was San Antonio’s first neighborhood, established nearly 300 years ago on the banks of the San Antonio River. The area has been preserved as a historic landmark and transformed into a modern cultural art hub with cobblestone streets, plazas and fountains. Nearly 30 historic homes and commercial buildings serve as art galleries, boutiques and artisan shops.
La Villita backs up to downtown San Antonio’s most-famous attraction: the River Walk. The River Walk is a pedestrian route alongside the channeled river, which is one story lower than the downtown streets. Restaurants, bars, hotels, shops and even an outdoor theater line its banks, and diners often wave to passengers floating by on water taxis and river tours.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
There isn’t just one downtown Oklahoma City; downtown is home to several districts, each with its own distinct OKC personality. Bricktown is a former warehouse quarter that is now the hip hub of downtown nightlife directly east of the convention center. The neighboring Boathouse District is a hub of outdoor adventure.
The Bricktown Canal cuts through the industrial-chic entertainment district just below street level, and Bricktown Water Taxi offers narrated water-taxi tours, private charters and dinner cruises. Groups can dine at Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, catch a show at Michael Murphy’s Dueling Piano Bar, and play games at Brickopolis or HeyDay.
In May 2016, a $45 million whitewater rafting facility opened in the Boathouse District, and groups can raft down both its recreation and Olympic channels multiple times.
“You can stay in Bricktown and go whitewater rafting the same day and be back in two hours,” said Tabbi Burwell, communications manager for the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Nearby, groups can zip line across the river, zoom down three-story-high stainless-steel slides and tackle SandRidge Sky Trail, an 80-foot-tall, six-level aerial obstacle course structure.
The city is also building a six-mile-long, modern streetcar system that will link several districts in and around downtown OKC, including Bricktown, when it opens later this year.