San Antonio is a wonderfully accessible city! A major draw to the city is the River Walk which follows the San Antonio River for about five miles. Development along the river started with the plans of San Antonio native and architect, Robert Hugman. Basic construction of walkways, bridges, dams and landscaping began in 1939 with the work being done through the WPA. Commercial development was slow. The first restaurant on the River Walk was built in 1946 and the first hotel in 1968. Today the river loop in downtown is lined with hotels, restaurants and shops. Since this is the oldest part of the River Walk there are some problems with accessibility. Most of the bridges that cross the river have a very high arch, so high that steps are necessary to climb them. Many of the access points from the city streets down to the walk have steps only. A map of the access points is available to download or you can pick up a paper copy at the visitor center. Keep in mind that you may have a hard time getting to all of the different areas on the loop because of the lack of accessible bridges. Also be careful along the walkway because many places do not have a railing or any guard along the edge.
We didn’t stay downtown but there are over a dozen hotels on the River Walk or very close to it. There’s enough to see and do to keep you busy for a least a week with many attractions within rolling or walking distance. Shoppers will enjoy La Villita Historic Arts Village but not all of the shops are accessible. History buffs won’t want to miss the Alamo just a few streets off of the River Walk. The San Antonio Visitor Center is located across from the Alamo. Also in this area are a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum,Guinness World Records Museum and similar attractions.
Wander a little north along the River Walk and you find a much more recently constructed section of the River Walk, Museum Reach, which is very accessible. All of the bridges are accessible and every access point to the walkway has a ramp along with steps. The San Antonio Museum of Art is right off of Museum Reach. Art installations are located along this section of the walk. Continuing to the end takes you to the old Pearl Brewery and if you’re lucky enough to be visiting on Saturday morning, the farmers market.
Traveling south along the River Walk will take you to Hemisfair Park , the location of the 1968 World’s Fair. The Tower of the Americas built for the fair, is 750’ high with an observation deck , restaurant and 4-D movie at the top. Hemisfair Park also houses the Institute of Texas Culture, a museum about all of the diverse groups of people who populate Texas.
Getting around downtown whether you’re on the River Walk or on the city streets is fairly easy. The river boats are accessible but the only space for a wheelchair is up by the boat pilot. A narrated tour is available or you can hop on the river taxis for a short or long trip along the river. The sidewalks and curb cuts at street level are in pretty good condition. VIA trolleys go to all the major attractions and are wheelchair accessible. The Alamo Trolley has narrated tours but limited accessibility. They request that people requiring a lift contact them 24 hours in advance. Boarding and disembarking can only be done at the Visitor Center.
If you venture out of downtown there are many other interesting attractions. We enjoyed visiting the first two of the Spanish missions along the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park trail. The missions were surprisingly accessible. We also visited the San Antonio Botanical Garden which is beautiful but the terrain is a little hilly and some sections have steps so a helper is useful. Even though we’ve visited San Antonio many times we still haven’t seen everything that it has to offer. To learn more to go the City of San Antonio website.
Check my blog for information about wheelchair access at other places that we have visited.