San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is one of the most popular parks in San Antonio, TX. The mission system was established by Franciscan missionaries to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity and it played a key role in shaping both the cultural identity and natural landscape of the region.
The park includes four missions, each with its unique history, architecture, artwork, gardens, and wildlife. Visitors can explore the ruins of these colonial-era buildings as well as enjoy over 1 mile of trails that take them through thickets of prickly pear cactus or across expanses covered with wildflowers.
The missions are best explored on foot because no roads are leading into this area. It's also possible to spend an afternoon at Mission Concepción, which is served by public transit.
Mission San Jose
The largest of the four missions in the park with a total area of more than 24 acres. The highlight of this mission is its beautiful stained-glass windows and an 18th-century baptismal font made out of carved stone. This mission also houses stunning examples of Spanish Colonial art, including a painting of Saint Francis Xavier and intricately decorated altars.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
The chapel at Mission San Juan is the only one in this park that's still completely roofed and can be used for Masses which are held every Sunday morning. The walls feature gorgeous murals painted by local artist Paul White.
Mission San Francisco De la Espada
The most remote of the missions in this park, Mission San Francisco is a short walk from a parking area. It's also the only mission that has been completely restored to its original appearance and it contains an impressive collection of Native American artifacts dating back as far as 30,000 years. The site is currently home to a resident population of endangered whooping cranes.
This is the oldest mission in Texas and one of the best-preserved missions at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The restored buildings are furnished with beautiful wooden furniture, including an ornate bed that was made for Pope Gregory XIII's visit to Mexico City in 1576.
The park offers a variety of educational programs and special events for visitors throughout the year. Amenities include restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic areas with tables and grills as well as parking lots for those who prefer to drive in from nearby towns such as San Antonio or Seguin. There are also two visitor centers on-site, one located near the entrance of the park and another two miles away at Mission San Jose.
The four missions that makeup San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are a unique reminder of Texas' colonial past which have been preserved in their entirety by law, so visitors can enjoy an authentic experience without having to travel too far from home.