Sited on rolling topography with views of downtown San Antonio, this 38-acre botanical garden opened in 1980 after decades of planning and advocacy by the San Antonio Garden Center. Located approximately three miles northeast of downtown, the site once housed a reservoir (today an amphitheater) used by George Brackenridge’s San Antonio Water Works Company. In 1899 Brackenridge donated 25 acres, including the reservoir and its surroundings, to the city, as well as a rectangular strip of land known today as Mahncke Park, which continues to connect the botanical garden to Brackenridge Park to its west.
Initially laid out in a master plan by landscape architect Jim Keeter, the landscape includes various formal display gardens connected by curving pathways. Located in the northwest quadrant of the site, the Texas Native Trail features more than 250 plant species from three regional ecosystems—the Hill Country, East Texas pineywoods, and South Texas coastal plains—centered around a small lake. The Lucile Halsell Conservatory, designed by architect Emilio Ambasz and completed in 1988, comprises five Modernist glass structures arranged around a central courtyard, each housing a different habitat. The Kumamoto En Japanese Garden, a gift from sister city Kumamoto, Japan, opened in 1989 in the western portion of the botanical garden. In 1988 The Sullivan Carriage House, designed by architect Alfred Giles in 1896, was relocated to the garden from downtown. It served as the site’s main entrance from 1995 to 2017, when the Welcome and Discovery Complex was opened as part of an eight-acre expansion led by Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, along with interactive spaces, including a family adventure garden and a culinary garden with an outdoor kitchen.