The last time I visited the San Antonio Missions, I was chaperoning a field trip with 3rd graders! This time, I was able to leisurely experience all five missions without having to make sure anyone was being left behind!
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There are five official missions: The Alamo, Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada. Because of the importance of The Alamo, it is featured in a separate post. This trip, I decided to take the Viva Missions Bus #40 since I was staying downtown and did not have my own car.
As soon as I checked in to the Marriott Rivercenter and put my stuff down in my room, I was ready to hit the sights! The concierge at the hotel told me that the bus stop was only 1 1/2 blocks at the Alamo Plaza. The bus stop was easy to find. I hopped on the Viva bus. The first driver was extremely friendly and helpful. He explained to me how to purchase an all-day pass.
As we went along the road, two other couples joined me on the bus. When we reached the first mission, Mission Concepcion, everyone but me got off. The driver asked me didn’t I want to join them. I explained that I had a plan – I was going to start at the furthest mission and make my way back. He looked at me and shook his head, “Hon, you don’t have a water bottle and it is over 100 degrees out there!” He suggested that I go to the first two missions and re-evaluate at that point whether to continue. That turned out to be a good call!
Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepcion de Acuna
The first mission on the tour is the Mission Concepcion. While there was a facility with bathrooms and a water fountain, there was no gift shop or a place to buy a drink.
Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo
The second mission on the tour is the Mission San Jose. As soon as we walked into the grounds, we heard that the movie explaining the history of the San Antonio missions was about to start. Air conditioning! If you only have time to see one of the missions, this is the one!
Mission San Juan Capistrano
If you’re running short on time, consider skipping the third mission of the tour. There is an indoor museum here (really more of a display) where you can see some of the history and how they even used the building within the last 50 years as a school. But other than the church, the home used by the priests, there really wasn’t much to see here. I think that the display was created as a way to keep visitors happy while passing the 30 minutes between buses. The bus drivers stop here for about 10 minutes after they drop off the passengers. We saw it driving away as we finished a quick look, so we forced ourselves back to the display, to use the restrooms, and to pass the time.
Mission San Francisco de la Espada
This last mission was an unexpected surprise. The congregation here was the most active. Not only was someone really good at putting some plants, but there is a small store that sells both religious artifacts and local items. The hit with our group was a freezer featuring local popsicles and sweet empanadas! Plus they had sodas!
Satisfied with our tour and feeling a bit better after our treats, we went back to waiting for the bus. What a surprise when we met the missing couple who had been riding the bus to stay in air conditioning! The trip back collected more and more sweaty and tired tourists. We exchanged tips on where to go eat and drink. What a marvelous afternoon!
8 Things to Know Before you Visit San Antonio Missions:
- There is free WiFi at Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose.
- Access a free audio tour on your smartphone at WorldHeritageSA.com.
- Bring water or something to drink – your opportunities will be limited!
- There is no cover or air conditioning at most of the facilities, so wear sunscreen.
- If your time is limited, visit Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose.
- San Antonio Missions hours are from 9 am to 5 pm
- San Antonio Missions are closed on Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1.
- For more details, check out the National Park Service website.
Although I was so hot and sweaty, I would do it again! Do yourself a favor and add the San Antonio missions to your Hill County itinerary!
Annick, The Common Traveler