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San Antonio's Best Museums

For your money's worth, I've included the best of the best San Antonio museums below.  I enjoy museums but when on a trip I seldom feel I have enough time that I can spend it inside a museum.  So I mention those below well knowing you may never see the inside of any of them.  I will point out that the McNay is free, although it's far from downtown.  And the Institute of Texan Culture is not what one normally thinks of when he thinks museum.  I recommend both.  But the San Antonio Museum of Art is also extremely good and several times larger than the McNay.  And if you have kids you may want to go to the Witte as they have an entire children's section.

 

McNay Art Museum  Though no longer free it is still one of the best museums in town.  Unfortunately, it is not on the normal tourist path as it's on the north side of town and doesn't promote itself sufficiently to the tourist clientele.  It's within a few blocks of my home and is a favorite spot for bride's wedding photos.  Come early some weekend morning and you will find several ladies in white accompanied by their attendants being photographed on the grounds.  The museum building is originally the home of Mrs. Marion Koogler McNay who died in 1950.  Situated on 23 acres the museum is host of frequent distinguished lecturers.  You will like the art, the home and the grounds.

There must be a new trend in museum attendance late into the evenings.  The McNay now has a closing  time of 9pm on Thursday evenings.  Now that's pretty late.

 

6000 N. New Braunfels Ave.
210-824-5368
Gallery:Tue-Fri 10am-4pm; Thu to  9pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun noon-5pm; Grounds: daily 7am-6pm

Take Bus Route 14, can combine with Route 7 for other sites

 

Institute of Texan Cultures  If you're going to pay to see any museum, this is the one you need to go to.  It's not your typical museum, it's more a cultural museum of the 26 different ethnic and cultural groups that comprise Texas.  I find it very interesting and difficult to do justice to in a brief trip, but well worth the try.

 

Hemisphere Park
100yds from the Tower of America's
801 S. Bowie St.
210-458-2300
Tues-Sat 10am-6pm; Sun noon-5pm
Adm: $4 child-$7.00 adult

 

San Antonio Museum of Art  A fine museum housed in an old brewery building about a mile north of downtown.  Recognized as having a premier collection of hispanic art both ancient and modern.  This in addition to a prized oriental collection and contemporary art.

 

200 W. Jones Ave. 
210-978-8100
Tues 10am-8pm; Wed-Sat 10am-5pm; Sun noon-6pm
Third Thur. of mo. open till 8pm
Adm.  $1.75-$6
FREE Tues 4pm-8pm
Take Bus Route 7

 

Witte Museum  Located on the northeast edge of Brackenridge Park along Broadway St. the museum backs up to the San Antonio River.  An extremely little known fact is that the old "mother" irrigation canal that ran behind the Alamo starts just on the north side of the museum issuing from the river.  It looks just like a rock walled drainage ditch and normally you wouldn't give it a moments notice.  But this ditch, or canal, was dug by hand from this point all the way (about 6 miles) to the Alamo and several miles beyond.  There is no historical marker there and unless you read it here you would never know.  Of course, the 6 miles of irrigation ditch is now covered up and only one small piece of it exists, that I know of, on private property.

But to get back to the museum, it was founded in 1925 by an energetic Mrs. Ellen Quinllin who started it with a bequest of $65,000 from Mr. Alfred G. Witte, a barber, who made the stipulation that the museum had to be built within Brackenridge Park.  The museum houses predominately a miscellany of Texas/Natural History items.  Housed on the grounds are several historic buildings that were moved there: the Francisco Ruiz house (believed to be from before 1765, it was home of one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836) and the John Twohig house (a prominent citizen).  John Twohig destroyed his store on Main Plaza in 1842 when the Mexican army again invaded Texas.  This a precursory action that was in several years to lead to the War with Mexico.

 

3801 Broadway
210-357-1900
Mon, Wed-Sat 10am-5pm; Tue 10am-8pm; Sun noon-5pm
Adm. $5-7
FREE Tues 3-8pm
Take Bus Route 7

 

Museo Alameda-an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution This is our newest museum and how proudly I write that it is affiliated with the prestigious Smithsonian Institution.  Now the bad part.  It is not worth visiting.  At least at the moment.  Dedicated to showcasing the mexican-american influences upon our nation it is dreadfully inadequate, unsatisfying and embarrassing in its attempt.  Don't waste your time.  But it did get good press.  Here's the New York Time's critical assessment. Market Square (101 S. Santa Rosa)
210-299-4300

Tue-Sun 10am-6pm;Wed close at 8pm; Sun open at noon. Closed Mondays
Adults $8
     

 

The above are the primary museums that I consider one should see first before any others.  Of course, we wouldn't be caught dead without an entire tier of other museums, from exemplary down to "what was that all about".  The following are some other choices for your consideration, just in case you are desperate for something to do.

ArtPace
445 N. Main Ave.
210-212-4900
FREE
An incubator for artists.  ArtPace sponsors nine artists annually to two month residencies providing support for the artist allowing them to engender new art ideas.  The museum normally has at least two exhibits of recent artists in residence.

Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
Building C, Blue Star Arts Complex
1400 S. Alamo St.
210-227-6960
Looks better on paper than in reality.  Very contemporary art.

Instituto de Mexico
Hemisphere Park
600 Hemisphere Plaza Way
210-227-0123
It's been years since I've been there.  Last choice.

San Antonio Art League
130 King William St.
210-223-1140
Tues-Sat 10am-2pm
FREE
Very small art museum focused on Texas artists.  In the King William area.

Southwest School of Art & Craft
300 Augusta St.
210-224-1848
An historic set of buildings worth seeing just for themselves.  It's more school than a museum.  Offers all types of art education: jewelry making, paper making, sculpting, painting, photography, pottery, weaving, etc.

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