Remember the Alamo! That’s the battle cry of San Antonio (at least to the many tourists who flock to the city for a photo of the famous mission). But, as you know, there’s so much more to the city.

Known for its abundant history, distinct heritage, and vibrant culture, San Antonio is also home to a number of more surreal stops.

From fanciful to far-fetched, freaky, and everything in between, these must-see-to-believe places add personality to the already-rich character of the city.

McNay Art Museum

Where: 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave.

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Not only is its Spanish Colonial-Revival courtyard a little piece of paradise, the museum also hosts a range of thematic, immersive experiences that are surreal in their own right. Fun fact: This place was the first museum of modern art in Texas, and now the eclectic collection has expanded to more than 22,000 works.

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The World’s Biggest Cowboy Boots

Where: 7400 San Pedro Ave.

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These boots were made for walking — for a giant, that is. The 35-foot-tall boots are kickin’ it right outside North Star Mall.

Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum

Where: 239 Abiso Ave.

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King of the commode and former plumber Barney Smith has been making art out of toilet seats for nearly half a century and his collection tops out around 1,500. There are anniversary seats he made for his wife; one seat for each state in the U.S.; seats with quirky found objects; and so many more. He offers tours by appointment. But, hurry, because the museum’s relocating to Barney’s hometown of Eastland, Texas.

Japanese Tea Garden

Where: 3853 N. St. Mary’s St.

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Zen is so in, at least at this natural sanctuary was once a rock quarry. Now, it’s a picturesque oasis with lush greenery, stone bridges, koi ponds, and waterfalls.  

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The Cove

Where:  606 W Cypress St.

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A surreal stop for multitasking, this place does double duty (make that quadruple duty) as a restaurant, beer garden, car wash, and laundromat. What’s more, they serve up delicious dishes that emphasize sustainable, organic, and local ingredients.

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McNutt Sculpture Garden

Where: 210 Market St.

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This tucked-away gem just off the River Walk is the Briscoe Western Art Museum’s lush outdoor space and it fully channels the wild, wild West with bronze sculptures and a few other quirky pieces.

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Mission San José

Where: 6701 San Jose Dr.

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Known as the “Queen of Missions,” this place was established in 1720 by Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus. The ancient quality is palpable — and the level of intricacy of some of the Baroque carvings is unreal.

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La Antorcha de la Amistad

Where: Downtown

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Translated as “The Torch of Friendship,” the monumental sculpture stands as an abstract beacon and was designed by world-renowned Mexican sculptor, Sebastián.

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Cascade Caverns

Where: 226 Cascade Caverns Rd., Boerne

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The real rock stars are here, where the cool, living cavern that's an underground marvel — and only about 14 miles northwest of San Antonio. In addition to all of the undulating formations, the millions of glistening water drops that decorate the Diamond Ceiling are pretty spectacular.

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Mi Tierra

Where: 218 Produce Row

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You can definitely get lit here. The party just don’t stop at this 24-hour restaurant in the El Mercado district, where every square inch of the space is covered in shiny things like stringer lights and tinsel.

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Buckhorn Saloon & Museum

Where: 318 E. Houston St.

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The unbelievable amount of taxidermy animals and other oddities are one thing here. But, the circa 1881 saloon-turned-museum also claims to be where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Rough Riders and Pancho Villa planned the Mexican Revolution. Who would have thought?

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Big Lou’s Pizza

Where: 2048 S WW White Rd.

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Pizza lovers will have all the hungry eyes for Big Lou’s impossibly huge 42-inch pizza. It has even been featured on The Travel Channel’s Man v. Food (for obvious reasons). It takes at least ten people to tackle the arm-long slices, so there’s plenty to go around.

Victoria’s Black Swan Inn

Where: 1006 Holbrook Rd.

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Hauntingly romantic, this 19th century Greek Revival-style plantation mansion on the banks of Salado Creek has a long history of unusual activity and is a prominent place for paranormal investigations. You can even join experienced ghost hunters on weekly tours.

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The Amazing Mirror Maze

Where: 217 Alamo Plaza

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To infinity and beyond! This 4D experience is a new-age funhouse at its finest. Thousands of mirrors loop through continuous circles, surprising corners, and dead ends. It's a pretty trippy Instagrammable moment, too.

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Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Where: 26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd.

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An up-close-and-personal romp with wildlife, this 450-acre Texan-style African safari park houses more than 500 exotic animals that you can see and sometimes even touch from your car.

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Donkey Lady Bridge

Where: Applewhite Rd.

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Rumored to be haunted by a frightening spirit known as the Donkey Lady, the bridge is nestled in the woods and can be quite scary at night.

Alamo Cenotaph

Where: 300 Alamo Plaza

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This towering monument is way more than meets the eye. It commemorates the men and women who chose to defend the Alamo rather than surrender — despite overwhelming odds. Cenotaph means “empty tomb,” but this memorial is also known as the “Spirit of Sacrifice.” 

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The Quadrangle

Where: Fort Sam Houston, 1400 E. Grayson St.

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The most enchanting white peacocks (and “regular” ones, too) roam freely at this fantasy of a place at Fort Sam Houston. The actual Quadrangle building and clock tower, originally constructed in 1876, is pretty impressive, too.

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Medina River

Where: Bandera and Medina Counties

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Peacefully winding through a tunnel of cypress trees and limestone bluffs, this river spans a surreally beautiful 120 miles before merging with the San Antonio River. It’s a little bit outside the city, but so worth the getaway, whether you hike and wander, kayak and float, or make camp.

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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower

Where: 1715 N. Zarzamora

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An architectural stunner, the striking basilica was dedicated in 1931 as a shrine to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.” The church is distinguished as one of only 82 in the U.S. and one of only four in the state of Texas that bears the important papal designation of “minor basilica.” You really have to go inside, though, to experience the full grandeur of the place of worship.

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Stonehenge II

Where: 120 Point Theatre Rd., Ingram

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You’ll feel like you’re not in Texas anymore at this site that’s about an hour and change from the city. The drive’s nothing, though, considering this place at the Hill Country Arts Foundation is an exact replica of the original Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. As if that wasn’t enough, there are two Easter Island statues, too.

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The River Walk

Where: 849 E. Commerce St.

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This world-renowned, historic urban waterway has an undeniable magic quality, what with the eateries, shops, cultural vendors, hidden gardens, riverboats, and more — even though it may be the ultimate tourist attraction.

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The Witte Museum

Where: 3801 Broadway St.

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A collision of nature, science, and culture, The Witte Museum has it all — but the dinosaurs and other creatures may instill the biggest flights of fantasy.

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Witte Treehouse

Where: 3801 Broadway St.

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Though technically part of The Witte Museum, the treehouse is such a special little place that it deserves its own callout. The treetop lookout boasts views of the San Antonio River and Brackenridge Park.

The Alamo

Where: 300 Alamo Plaza

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Its ubiquity may make this 18th century Spanish mission-turned-museum seem like such an ordinary place. But, as the site of that infamous 1836 battle for Texan independence from Mexico, its history alone is pretty unreal — not to mention its architecture.

Magic Time Machine

Where: 902 NE Loop 410

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With a smorgasbord of pirates, superheroes, and fairy-tale characters, this kitschy restaurant brings a surreal level of theatrics to go with your supper. (You can also order up some chill dry-ice drink fun, too.)

Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours

Where: Multiple locations

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Ghost-hunting takes on new meaning with these history-meets-mystery tours that hit up haunted San Antonio’s most paranormal locales.

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Kiddie Park

Where: 3015 Broadway

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Nostalgia reigns supreme here with the old-fashioned Ferris wheel, the famous hand-carved Herschell Spillman carousel, and other classic children’s rides. Even better? This charming place, that dates back to 1925, ranks as the oldest children’s amusement park in the country.

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Bracken Cave

Where: 26101 FM 3009, Gardenridge

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If Alfred Hitchcock made a movie called The Bats instead of The Birds, it would look like this place that’s about 25 miles out of the city. The summer home for more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats, this cave holds the world’s largest bat colony and their emergence from within at dusk is a sight to behold.

San Antonio Botanical Garden

Where: 555 Funston Place

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Natural beauty can be pretty fantastical, especially when mixed with dazzling contemporary architecture and glassy, geometric greenhouses, as proven by this place with 38 acres of ever-changing garden colors, textures, scenes, and more.

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Tower of the Americas

Where: 739 E. Cesar Chavez

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A soaring beacon in the sky, this 750-foot-tall place can’t be missed from any vantage point — and the panoramic views from the Observation Deck are pretty spectacular, too.

 

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