By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse
Historic, Romantic, Festive….all are used frequently to describe San Antonio, Texas! It is the seventh-most populated city in the United States and was the fastest growing of the top 10 largest cities in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010. This popular western urban center is on the southwestern corner of an urban mega-region known as the Texas Triangle comprised of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.
PCSgrades has put together a list of all the things you need to know before relocating to this unique region. So get ready to enjoy this experience full of history and culture!
What You Need To Know
San Antonio sits just south of the Texas Hill Country 80 miles from the Texas state capital city of Austin. Travelling to the coast is a longer ride of just under 150 miles. In addition to the expected Spanish influence there is also a heavy German influence in the surrounding communities of Fredericksburg, Castroville, and New Braunfels
If you’ve received orders to the region, chances are you are headed to one of the major military installations housed under the name Joint Base San Antonio. Randolph AFB is headquarters for Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Personnel Center, and Pilot Instructor Training. Lackland AFB is home to the Air Force Cyber Command and Basic Military Training. Fort Sam Houston is home to the command headquarters of the United States Army North, the United States Army South, the Army Medical Command headquarters and the Navy Regional Recruiting. It is commonly referred to as the “Home of Army Medicine”.
Camp Bullis and Camp Stanley are located just outside the city. Port San Antonio is an industrial/business park and aerospace complex located on the old Kelly Air Force Base airfield. San Antonio is also home to six Fortune 500 companies and the South Texas Medical Center, the only medical research and care provider in the South Texas region.
Attractions include the SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme parks. The five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs also call San Antonio home.
There are more vehicles than ever on the roads surrounding San Antonio but depending on what you are used to, it may not seem all that bad. The San Antonio urban area ranked 33rd in the nation for time wasted during peak commute times. The good news is when there are major delays; drivers have decent alternative routes compared with other cities.
The mild San Antonio climate allows for diverse outdoor activities year round. Open spaces provide ample opportunities for bicycle riding, hiking and canoeing.
Remember the Alamo
Perhaps San Antonio’s most famous attraction, the Alamo is the home of the famous 1836 battle and becomes a living history with special demonstrations and events all year long. This beautiful 300-year-old former Spanish mission turned fortress is open year-round and is free everyone to visit.
A 15-acre urban retreat with a children’s Magik Theatre, a fortress playground, and cascading waterfalls.
More than 340 acres of woodland, trails and a historic par-72 golf course are sure to please outdoor lovers! Your little ones will love riding a miniature train around the park. Here you will also find the San Antonio Zoo, an elegant Japanese Tea Garden and the Witte Museum, featuring historic and science artifacts and the H-E-B Science Treehouse.
River Walk offers cobblestone paths with towering trees for four miles through the heart of the city. A variety of restaurants, are sure to please even the pickiest of palates. Work off your lunch or dinner with a relaxing canoe or kayak trip along a 1.6-mile stretch of the San Antonio River from Mission Road to Padre Park.
Missions National Historical Park
A chain of four Spanish colonial missions—Concepción, San José, San Juan and Espada—feature eight miles of paved cycling and walking path. Canoes and kayaks can be paddled along sections of the Mission Reach. The visitor center is located at Mission San José.
San Pedro Springs Park
San Pedro Springs is the second oldest municipal park in the nation and is truly an urban oasis. There are 46 acres featuring walking/hiking paths and a lake for summer swimming.
320 acres of wooded hills, rocky canyons and dry creek beds includes five miles of hike-and-bike trails, a playground with a climbing wall, an interpretive house and picnic pavilions.
Friedrich Wilderness Park
Five miles of hiking trails through a heavily forested and hilly 232 acres includes paths for disabled hikers and access to nature study and bird watching.
Phil Hardberger Park
Phil Hardberger Park is a 311-acre former dairy farm with two sections, one accessible from Blanco Road and the other from Northwest Military Highway. Both areas feature playgrounds, walking trails, picnic tables and dog parks.
Mitchell Lake Audubon Center
This 624-acre preserve is located on a migratory bird route and includes 7.5 miles of trails winding through wildlife habitats. Birdwatchers come from around the world to see more than 300 species—such as pelicans, egrets, roseate spoonbills, wild ducks and hawks—at this deep-water lake and surrounding brushland.
In downtown San Antonio, the .65-acre Dog Park at Madison Square Park features a fenced off-leash area, mutt-mitts, a doggie drinking fountain, and benches.
Hardberger Park on Blanco Road has 1.8 acres for dogs, including separate areas for small and large dogs and a two-story doghouse.
The west side of Hardberger Park on NW Military Highway features an enclosed 1.5-acre area for dogs, divided into sections for large dogs and small dogs.
McAllister Park has 1.5 acres set aside for dogs, which include a covered picnic area and walking trail.
You can expect mild winters and hot summers in this part of Texas. Mild is the key word as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and wild fires are rare. The coldest month is January with an overnight average temperature of 38°F. The highest temps occur In August with a daily daytime high of 94°F.
Customs and Traditions
- Fiesta San Antonio is a 10-day annual celebration in the spring. It started in 1891 as a one-parade event as a way to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. It has evolved into one of this nation’s premier festivals with an economic impact of more than $284 million for the Alamo City.
- San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo has events all year long. The Rodeo is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) and kicks off in February. In addition to the rodeo, there is Brickfest LIVE! – a LEGO Fan Experience built to inspire, educate, and entertain with LEGO bricks. The Ultimate BMX Stunt Show Experience is an exciting show featuring one of the Best BMX Stunt Show Teams in the Nation! Brad’s World Reptiles includes some of the most beautiful and exotic animals in the world!
Choke Canyon State Park
On the shores of a 26,000-acre reservoir about two hours south of San Antonio – boating, fishing, birding, hiking trails, camping and breeding alligators!
Visit the state Capitol to see artistic diversity at its finest! Have a meal at one of the many outdoor cafes and the music scene can’t be beat!
Enjoy some German food in this quaint city, which is a little more than an hour away from San Antonio. In addition to its German heritage and the National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg has plenty of birding, fishing, bicycling and rock climbing opportunities. The Fredericksburg area also boasts the second most visited wine area in the US, second only to the Sonoma wine region in California. Visit some of the over 40 wineries in the Hill Country along the Highway 290 Wine Road outside of Fredericksburg.
The pink granite exfoliation dome called Enchanted Rock is about an hour and a half north of San Antonio. The dome rises 425 foot above ground and covers 640 acres. Bring a kite and get ready for some great camping, picnicking and seven miles of hiking trails.
A Day at the Beach
Corpus Christi, on the Gulf of Mexico, features boating, fishing and a beautiful beach! Approximately 150 miles or a 2.5 hour ride from San Antonio.
There are many options for housing around Joint Base San Antonio. Randolph Family Housing is a gated community managed by Hunt Companies, with three and four bedroom homes ranging in size from 1500 square feet to just over 2200 sq. ft. All homes offer a list of amenities to include:
Randolph’s walk able neighborhoods include easy access to a community center and fitness center, parks, a pool and playgrounds.
Those looking to rent or buy off base have their pick in the cities around the installation to include: Schertz, Cibolo, Converse, Universal City, New Braunfels, Alamo Heights, Castle Hills, China Grove, Garden Ridge, Hollywood Park, La Vernia, San Antonio, Seguin, Selma, St. Hedwig, and Windcrest. The median home price for a three bedroom home is $150,900 and this might be a good place to buy as home appreciation is up 28.1% in the last 12 months. If you work with a PCSgrades reviewed realtor, you’ll find there is a rental or mortgage to fit every BAH.
Randolph Field Independent School District is a public school district and the children of those assigned to assigned to Joint-Base San Antonio are eligible to attend and do not have to physically reside on the base to attend.
Lackland Family Housing offers move in ready two-, three- and four-bedroom homes in both single-family and townhome styles in seven different neighborhoods. Balfour Beatty Communities owns the family housing and is responsible for maintaining, repairing and managing the community.
The median home price for a three bedroom home near Lackland is $150,900 and home appreciation is up 28.1% in the last 12 months. Military families reviewing off base neighborhoods in the area recommend those looking to rent or buy start their search about 30 minutes away from base.
To read some of the reviews of these neighborhoods written by your fellow military families, go to PCSgrades.com.
There are two schools located on base at Lackland: Lackland Elementary and Stacey Junior/Senior High School. Other independent school districts include Edgewood, Medina Valley, Northside, and South San Antonio. Options for high schools include the communication arts high school and the health careers high school. The Lackland AFB School Liaison Officer can be reached at 210-671-3722.
Fort Sam Houston
Post housing is privatized and managed by Lincoln Military Housing. There are 925 homes in 8 housing neighborhoods available. These duplexes, quadplexes, and detached houses feature central air, a refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher. Neighborhood amenities include community centers and outdoor recreation areas.
Fort Sam is in the center of town and can be reached easily from many different areas. Towns to check out include: Converse, China Grove, La Vernia, New Braunfels, and Universal City. Check out these neighborhood reviews at PCSgrades.com.
There is an elementary, middle, and high school on post that are a part of the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District. Bus transportation is not provided across district lines but is available to students who reside on post and live more than a mile from the nearest school available on-post.
Have you ever been stationed in the San Antonio area? Let other military and veteran families know what you liked or maybe didn’t like about the area at PCSgrades.com.
Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media/Community Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, Enterprise Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.