Confluence Park, San Antonio, TX

What's Out There San Antonio Wrap-Up

More than 1,100 people registered to tour cultural landscapes throughout the City of San Antonio on November 10 – 11, 2018. Nearly every tour during the What's Out There Weekend San Antonio was booked to capacity, making this one of TCLF's most successful field events yet. Participants raved about the Weekend, sharing that "this was the most absolute fabulous thing ever! As a local with a keen interest in learning more about San Antonio, programs like this always spark my interest," and “I thoroughly enjoyed the tours. The presenters were all very knowledgeable and well spoken. I learned so much that I had never heard of or known!” The Weekend also marked the official launch of both the What’s Out There San Antonio (online) guide and the printed guidebook.   

The Alamo, San Antonio, TX
The Alamo, San Antonio, TX - Photo by Dena Tasse-Winter, 2018

The Weekend kicked off with a Friday-night reception at San Pedro Springs Park, considered to be among the earliest municipal public parks in the United States. The evening was enlivened by a spirited mariachi band and performances by the middle-school musical troupe Mojo-rimba. The nearly 200 guests at the reception clearly enjoyed the music, as well as many local delicacies, including quesadillas, empanadas, and a vast array of specialty donuts. During the reception (generously sponsored and organized by the City of San Antonio), Xavier Urrutia, the director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, presented TCLF founder and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum with a proclamation signed by Mayor Ron Nirenberg officially declaring a “What’s Out There Weekend” in San Antonio, Texas. Birnbaum subsequently delivered remarks about the national importance of San Antonio’s unique landscape legacy.

On Saturday and Sunday, expert guides led more than 20 tours of cultural landscapes throughout the city. The tours truly demonstrated the breadth of San Antonio's designed and natural landscapes, from the Alamo to the River Walk. The results of a follow-up survey indicate that the majority of the tour-goers were local San Antonians, and that for about half of them, this was their first time visiting some of these nationally significant sites. As one person shared, “Having expert tour guides spend time discussing things [about] which they were passionate was superb. Engaging discussions about how to make San Antonio a better place for all of us was really interesting.”

Eastside Cemeteries, San Antonio, TX
Eastside Cemeteries, San Antonio, TX - Photo by Dena Tasse-Winter, 2018

Despite the unseasonably cool and damp weather, participants showed up bright and early on Saturday morning for the first tours. A favorite was the visit to San Antonio National Cemetery on the East Side, which, as one tour goer put it, “…was above and beyond my expectations! Everett Fly was an awesome and compassionate tour guide—the Buffalo soldier at the site was icing on the cake.” Because of the Veterans Day celebration, there were extra decorations and events at the cemeteries and special touches at the Alamo tours, including a military brass band.

Other Saturday tours included Trinity University, with an introduction by the president of the college; King William Historic District, led by three knowledgeable guides who each added their own perspective and stories (each guide had personal connection to buildings in the neighborhood); and Confluence Park, which included a fascinating account of the installation process for the massive concrete structures that arc above visitors’ heads. The day concluded with tours of the famed River Walk and the Pearl District, a contemporary public space designed to bring the city’s diverse residents together on shared, common ground.

Missions National Historic Park, San Antonio, TX
Missions National Historic Park, San Antonio, TX - Photo by Dena Tasse-Winter, 2018

On Sunday, a hardy crowd participated in a three-hour visit to Missions Concepción and San Jose, the latter of which features the famed rose window whose well-known outline has come to symbolize San Antonio (and can be found on the city’s official logo). A second tour of the Alamo was conducted, providing deep insight into a complex landscape that many San Antonians know little about despite passing it every day. Tours were also offered of Brackenridge, San Pedro Springs, and Woodlawn Parks, each illuminating a different aspect of the city’s public spaces and natural resources.

The Weekend was positively received by locals and visitors alike. When asked how the tours might be improved upon in the future, the most common sentiment was “only with better weather!”

Thank you to the What’s Out There Weekend San Antonio premier sponsors—SA300, San Antonio Parks and Recreation, and the Brackenridge Park Conservancy—as well as the local committee of experts, led by John S. Troy and Lynn Bobbitt, for making these events possible.

To learn more about San Antonio’s cultural landscapes and their designers, visit the comprehensive and richly illustrated What’s Out There San Antonio guide, which will continue to grow along with the documentation of the city’s landscape legacy.