Visiting San Antonio was a part of our summer-long trip down to Big Bend National Park. Of course, we had the Alamo and the Riverwalk on our itinerary. However, like most of our adventures, we were looking for National Park Service locations. While planning our trip we came across information about the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. This National Park location includes a number of locations. However, our visit was only to the San Jose Church, and National Park Visitor Center. Of course, we also visited the Alamo. However, the Alamo does not fall under the NPS. Continue reading to learn all about this historic site, and how you can visit it in one day.
If you are new to the National Park Service be sure to check out our National Parks for Beginners page.
San Antonio Missions NHP Location
6701 San Jose Dr, San Antonio, TX 78214
There are four missions within the National Historic Park. They include Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada. They are located about 2.5 miles from each other. It is very easy to drive from mission to mission, and free parking is available at each mission site. The NPS visitor center is located at the Mission San José
National Historical Park Facts
Beginning in 1718, five mission communities formed along the San Antonio River.
Established over 300 years ago, Mission San Jose survives as an artifact of the Spanish Colonial period.
San Antonio Missions NHP was established on April 1, 1983.
The Park Protects many cultural sites along with some natural areas.
It includes Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada.
National Park Visitor Center is located at Mission San José and is open 9 am to 5 pm, 7 days/week.
As mentioned there are four missions under the National Park Service. Of course, there are five missions in total including the Alamo. However, we only visited the San Jose Mission. Our content is always related to places we visit in person. Therefore, we will review the San Jose Mission below. You can learn all about the others on the National Park Service website. The four missions that fall under the NPS are all within a couple of miles of each other, and can easily be visited in one day.
About the Mission San José Church
Mission San José is the largest of the five missions along the San Antonio mission trail. Missionaries founded Mission San José in 1720. It is often referred to as the Queen of Missions because of its beauty and size. However, since the mission site was so close to the San Antonio River, it was moved a few times and settled on its current location in 1740.
Unlike the other San Antonio missions, a masonry wall still surrounds this mission’s grounds and church. In addition, the builders constructed houses within the walls. These houses feature a room and a kitchen. At its peak, the mission housed approximately 350 people.
The centerpiece of this site is the Church. This church still stands and offers Mass. It falls under the control of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Our Afternoon at the San Jose Mission
The San Jose Mission was a quick ten-mile ride from the San Antonio KOA. We drove over to the Mission after lunch at the campground and spent a nice afternoon touring the park.
Of course, our trip took place during the month of August. Therefore, due to the heat, there were few people at the site. This of course made parking easy for the RV.
Like all National Park Service locations, we started at the visitor center and picked up our Junior Ranger activity guide.
It is important to mention that the visitor center was the only part of the park that had A/C!
After watching the movie in the visitor center we walked the grounds and visited the church. The church is an active Catholic church. It was amazing to see a three-hundred-year-old church that is still in use.
This was a quick, but great history lesson for all of us. As a Catholic family, it was also great to be able to see how our Faith was practiced hundreds of years ago.
If you are visiting the San Antonio area we highly recommend stopping at some of the other missions other than the famed Alamo. Of course, this is in addition to the Alamo!
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Have you visited the San Antonio Missions NHP? Have you spent time in San Antonio? How was your experience? Do you have any tips for visiting this historic city?