A road trip from San Antonio to Houston is wrapped in both beauty and history.
While the drive from San Antonio to Houston only takes 3 hours, it’s possible to travel 300 years into the past. The stories left behind in the missions, ruins and museums are itching to be discovered by travelers like you. So add a few more songs to your road trip playlist and get ready for a trip back in time.
We’re starting in San Antonio but don’t get on the interstate too quickly. We have plenty of things to see and do right here. Between the Alamo and the River Walk, you already have a full morning of exploring. Get started bright and early to hit these two spots before the hustle and bustle catches up to you. The Alamo is free but requires online reservations. You should have no trouble snagging yours.
For lunch, either head to the Historic Pearl District or Southtown. The Pearl dates back to a brewery founded in 1883. Today, it’s a small trendy district with lots of history and hipster charm. There’s a boutique hotel, breweries, coffee spots and myriad photo-ops. Southtown is organic and artsy, with many of the local galleries and restaurants in converted houses. Don’t miss King William Street, with its beautiful Victorian houses built by German immigrants in the 1850s.
You checked the Alamo off your list, but there are four other impressive missions that make up San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Don’t be afraid to rent bikes if you’re up for the 2.5-mile ride between the sites. The bike trail is gorgeous, and each mission is stunning and unique.
Confluence Park is right by Mission Concepción, so be sure to stop by. Not many tourists are aware of this site, that was built to be a beautiful architectural feat, and to improve flood protection in the area. Another worthwhile stop by Mission San José is the Hot Wells ruins. The ragged structure of the burned and abandoned bathhouse is oddly solemn and almost eerie. The buildings on this property have burned down three times since 1894, leaving this intriguing historical landmark. It’s especially stirring as the sun sets and the ruins glow from lights below.
Whether you biked or not, you need a break. A dip in the pool at San Pedro Springs will perk you right up. The park surrounding it is the oldest park in Texas and is full of historical tidbits you can read about on plaques throughout. If you still have time, be sure to see the Spanish Governor’s Palace, an exquisite presidio ordered to be built by Spain’s King Philip V in 1722. A glimpse at Texas under Spanish rule is worth the $5 admission fee.
And before you hit the road (or the hay) don’t forget your souvenirs from La Villita. A walk around the block and you’ll find artisan after artisan selling beautiful handmade goods heavily influenced by the Mexican culture that thrives there.
After a full day of San Antonio, head out of town and take I-10 east. When you hit Texas’ famous Buc-ee’s gas station, you’ll take 183 south for 15 minutes and discover a little town called Gonzales. You may know it for being the site of the first battle of the Texas Revolution and its famous “Come and Take It” flag. The small-town atmosphere is cozy and inviting. Stroll through the historic downtown and find a place to eat and a shop to explore. Have an hour or two to spare? Take this historic driving tour that takes you all over town. Even some of the locals may not know all the dots on this map.
From there, keep taking 183 south about an hour to get to Goliad. Goliad State Park is almost entirely surrounded by the curving San Antonio River. There are bass to fish, trails to hike, and right next to the park headquarters, the towering white walls of the Mission Espiritu Santo sit bright and contrasting amid the greenery, as they have since 1722.
Just south of the park is the Presidio La Bahia, the Spanish fortress around which Goliad sprang up. Its history as a Spanish fortress and later a Texas revolution garrison is vivid and exciting. You can even rent a room and snooze right where the history happened. Ignacio Zaragoza was born right next door at what’s now Zaragoza Birthplace State Historic Site. Commemorate the hero of the Battle of Puebla where he led 600 men against 6,500 French forces and won.
If you’re up for one more mission site, a few minutes southwest of the city is Mission Nuestra Señora del Rosario. Read up on the history of the ruins that lie here. On the way out of town, you’ll pass Fannin Battleground State Historic Site. Take a break, view the impressive obelisk and read the signs to learn more about the site’s significance in Texas’s fight for independence.
Now on to Houston! By the time you get there, it’s probably time to grab lunch, and the foodie scene is thriving. The New York Times says, “Houston is America’s most exciting place to eat because it has one of the country’s most diverse populations.” Who’s up for sushi? Tapas? Tacos? Curry? Then on to the Museum District in central Houston. With everything from contemporary arts to the Czech Center, there’s a multitude of things to learn about in downtown H-town.
We started this trip as history buffs, so let’s finish the same way. East Houston is home to The San Jacinto Monument and Museum. The museum is a rich and vivid experience taking you back to the birth of the Republic. It’s a must-see.
In fact, it’s hard for us to cut much from our must-see list in Texas. The stories of this state are often surprising and exciting, and they leave behind stunning time capsules on the face of the land. We recommend you linger and meander through the traces of the wild frontier that once was, visualizing the lives that took place on the very ground on which you stand. Take your time, take it all in, and don’t forget to drive friendly, the Texas way.