Fiesta San Antonio 7-Day RV Rally

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Things in Texas are always BIG, and Fiesta San Antonio is a huge Texas-sized festival!  Back in 1891, a group of local San Antonio ladies decorated horse-drawn carriages and paraded in front of the Alamo in order to honor the heroes of the Battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto.  Since then, it’s grown into a full blown celebration of San Antonio’s rich heritage and diverse cultures.

Fiesta Vaquero ParadeToday, more than 75,000 volunteers and 100 local nonprofit organizations continue the tradition, and Fiesta San Antonio has evolved into one of the premier festivals in the country.  More importantly, it’s actually a ‘Party With a Purpose’.  The funds raised by the official Festival events go toward providing services to San Antonio residents all year long.

Fantasy’s Fiesta San Antonio Rally kicks off with an orientation session and margarita party, followed by a gourmet Welcome Dinner.  The next morning, we’re off and running on a city tour, visiting the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, a lasting symbol of the Spanish mission efforts in Texas.

Mission San JoséFounded in 1720 on the banks of the San Antonio River, it was originally home to 350 Indian neophytes who worked in the mission’s fields and tended its livestock.  It became known as the ‘Queen of Missions’ and was an active social and cultural center.  We stop at the oldest standing church building in Texas, the San Fernando Cathedral (visited by Pope John Paul II in 1987) and then move on to the historic Menger Hotel for lunch.  This hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi, playing host to generations of guests including many U.S. Presidents.  Apparently, Teddy Roosevelt recruited his famed Rough Riders cavalry at the hotel’s bar!

Royal Parade Fiesta

That evening, we’ve got reserved riverside seats at one of the most unusual parades in America – the Texas Cavaliers River Parade!  It’s an evening of fun with live music and more than 45 decorated floats which actually float down the river – all raising funds for local children’s charities.

The AlamoRemember the Alamo!  After today, we’ll never forget it.  We start out with the IMAX presentation – ‘Alamo, The Price of Freedom’, a stirring tribute to the Texans who defended the besieged fort for 13 days against General Santa Anna’s Mexican Army.  Next, we visit the real thing – the Alamo itself, originally a mission but later a military outpost.  The Alamo played an important part in Texas history – providing a base for Texan rebels who wanted to separate from the rule of Mexico and become an independent nation.  We follow the original footprint of the mission and visit the Alamo Church, experience a living history demonstration and even witness a battle presentation.

We leave the Alamo and head to San Antonio’s famed Riverwalk for a private river boat cruise, where we learn more about the colorful history of this town and view the many activities taking place on the Riverwalk.  This river has supported San Antonio residents over the centuries – from the original native American hunters and gatherers to the Spaniards settling in its fertile soil to the priests in their missions to the shops and restaurants we see today.  We enjoy a riverside lunch at the historic Casa Rio restaurant and return to our rigs for a very special evening…NIOSA, aka ‘Night in Old San Antonio’.

Night in Old San Antonio_

NIOSA is a huge festival sponsored by the San Antonio Conservation Society and taking place in the historic La Villita neighborhood right on the banks of the river.  It’s our destination tonight.  The event brings the city’s heritage to life with 240+ food/drink booths, 13 live musical acts and more, representing 15 cultural areas.  Funds raised help to preserve historic buildings, objects, places and customs related to the history of Texas — food preparation and booths are all manned by volunteers.

El Mercado

Texans are a proud bunch, and the next morning we learn more about them when we visit the Institute of Texan Cultures in downtown San Antonio.  Part of the University of Texas at San Antonio, the museum explores the experiences of people from around the world who call Texas their home.  Next stop is the San Antonio Botanical Garden, 38 acres filled with blooming plants from all around the world.  It’s time to shop ‘til we drop at the largest Mexican market in the United States, El Mercardo, located in the historic Market Square.  This three-block outdoor plaza is lined with restaurants, shops and produce stands, selling everything from hand-embroidered dresses to leather goods.  There are working artists, dancers, cultural events and a lot of mariachi music!  We take to the skies tonight for dinner at the Chart House restaurant, 750 feet high atop the Tower of the Americas with spectacular views and the twinkling lights of the city.

We start the next day by taking the scenic backroads of Texas Hill Country via motor coach, touring the ‘Texas White House’ at the ranch formerly owned by President Lyndon Johnson and now a National Park.  We stop for lunch in Fredericksburg, a historic and picturesque German town, and visit the Nimitz Hotel right on Main Street.  The hotel was built in 1855 and had four rooms, but eventually expanded to fifty rooms and a Casino Hall which became the center of Fredericksburg’s social life.  Today, the hotel houses the National Museum of the Pacific War, established by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (a descendent of the original Nimitz family) to honor the men and women who served in the Pacific during World War II with him.  The six-acre museum also includes the George H. W. Bush Gallery, with exhibits depicting the destruction of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and featuring the HA-19, one of five Japanese two-man submarines which took part in the attack.  We can stop and reflect at the Plaza of Presidents, a tribute to the ten American presidents who served in the military in World War II.

Parade BandIf you’re looking for comfortable shoes, the SAS (San Antonio Shoemakers) factory is the place for you!  It’s our first stop the next day, where we learn how creating SAS shoes can take up to 100 different steps before they are declared SAS quality.  Next, we have reserved seats for the Battle of Flowers Parade – the oldest event and largest parade of Fiesta.  It’s also the only parade in the United States produced entirely by women — all of whom are volunteers.  The original purpose of the parade was to honor the Alamo heroes, and parade participants place a floral tribute on the lawn as they pass in front of the Alamo.  Marching bands, beautifully decorated floats, giant helium balloons, antique cars and horse-drawn carriages all add to the excitement.  After all, this is Texas!

There’s a farewell barbecue that evening, as we reminisce with fellow Fantasy friends.  Fiesta San Antonio puts on a brilliant show for us we will cherish for years to com.

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