It has been roughly a year since the San Antonio Missions received UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. The four missions maintained by the National Park Service, as well as the Alamo (now managed by the state of Texas) all received this honor for their historical and cultural significance.
There is so much to do at the missions and around the missions, so many layers of history going back centuries, that I could write a whole guide book and still run out of room for suggestions. And I say that as a very non-expert on the subject.
Mobile Om occasionally offers free yoga classes at Mission San José, bilingual Mariachi Mass is offered on Sundays, all the missions are bikable with your own ride or a rental from B-Cycle (which is releasing new sleeker bikes this weekend), you can kayak or SUP down the river to make your stops at the missions, watch free movies at the Alamo, have a picnic, volunteer at the centuries old farm, do some architectural drawing, and so on. There is always something going on. And it’s almost always something free.
Mission San José is largest of the missions in San Antonio and tends to elicit a wow-factor with its “Old World” European feel. I’ve visited four or five times now and noticed new details on each trip. Somehow I overlooked the grist mill the first couple of times, which is a shame because I would have liked for my guests to have seen the pre 1800s structure. But that is also a testament to how easy it is to keep discovering new things at the sites.
The restored mill operates today, moving water through an acequia that once would have irrigated farmland, brought water to livestock and of course powered the mill to grind grain.
However it is the architecture that keeps bringing me back. The United States is a young country so our definition of old sometimes only goes back half of a century. Half of century does sound significant from an American perspective, but the missions in San Antonio were being constructed before George Washington and company ever made the great Brexit of 1776.
The oppositions of rustic raw materials in simple residences set next to intricately designed dome-topped churches allow for a sort of design inspiration you can’t find walking the streets of Manhattan or Chicago. But the missions are still only ten minutes outside of San Antonio’s downtown (excluding the Alamo, which is actually in the downtown).
For more information on the missions, visit Missions of San Antonio and the official website of the National Park Service. It’s almost time for NPS’s 100th birthday, so why not visit a National Park to celebrate?