The San Antonio Missions National Historic Park includes four missions. They have Mission Concepcion, Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission Espada from north to south. The San Antonio missions preserve the largest concentration of Spanish Colonial churches in North America.
Here, we share information on how to explore all of the San Antonio missions. In addition, share our experience visiting the San Jose Mission and National Park visitor center.
San Antonio Missions Visitor Center 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 easy to drive from mission to mission, and free parking is available at each mission site. The NPS visitor center is at 6701 San Jose Dr, San Antonio, the Mission San José.
National Historical Park Facts
- Beginning in 1718, five mission communities formed along the San Antonio 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 from 9 am to 5 pm, seven days/week.
Exploring the San Jose Mission
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 called the Queen of Missions because of its beauty and size.
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.
Like all National Park Service locations, we started at the visitor center and picked up our Junior Ranger activity guide.
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.
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!
Missons Concepción, San Juan, and Espada
Mission Concepción is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. This awe-inspiring stone church took approximately 15 years to build and was dedicated in 1755. It appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. Due to the fact that it was built directly on bedrock, it never lost its roof or its integrity. It is the least restored church found in the San Antonio Missions NHP.
Mission San Juan was originally built in 1731. During its time, Mission San Juan was a self-sustaining community. Mission San Juan, with its prosperous farm and pasture lands, was a large supplier of agricultural produce. The people of San Juan established a trade network stretching east to Louisiana and south to Coahuila, Mexico. This thriving economy helped the mission to survive numerous epidemics and Indian attacks in its final years.
Mission Espada was the first Christian mission in Texas, founded in 1690 as San Francisco de los Tejas near present-day Weches, Texas. In 1731, the mission was transferred to the San Antonio River area and renamed Mission San Francisco de la Espada. Its church was completed in 1756. Mission Espada was built to convert local Native Americans to Christianity and solidify Spanish territorial claims in the New World against encroachment from France.
Although not a part of the San Antonio Missions NHP, the Alamo is by far the most famous and visited San Antonio mission.
We now recognize the Alamo as the church on the grounds. The Alamo was originally a Spanish mission church (1755-1793) and was initially named the Misión San Antonio de Valero, and it later played a vital role in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Fortunately for visitors, some traces from the battle still exist.
As of 2002, the Alamo welcomed over four million visitors yearly, making it one of the most famous historic sites in the United States. Visitors may tour the chapel and the Long Barracks, which contain a small museum with paintings, weapons, and other artifacts from the era of the Texas Revolution.
Although the Alamo is free to tour, you must reserve entry tickets before arriving.
Our Experience at the San Antonio Missions
Visiting San Antonio was part of our summer-long Big Bend National Park trip. Of course, we had the Alamo and the Riverwalk on our itinerary. However, like most of our adventures, we sought National Park Service locations. While planning our trip, we found information about the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Although this National Park includes several other locations, our visit was only to the San Jose Church and National Park Visitor Center. In addition, we also visited the Alamo.
Our time in San Antonio was great. Of course, August is hot and not the ideal time to visit San Antonio. However, you have to take advantage of what time you have.
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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?