The Witte Museum was San Antonio’s first public museum and it’s still one of the city’s most-visited attractions. Both locals and tourists are enthralled by this museum designed with the audience in mind. Visitors are encouraged to read, touch and play their way through collections that explore local history, science, dinosaurs and ancient Egypt.
The history of the Witte itself is interesting. In the early 1900s, a local schoolteacher had the idea to start a history museum and schoolchildren stood on street corners collecting donations. The first natural history collection bought with these funds was displayed at the main high school. A huge donation from businessman Alfred Witte allowed the museum to move to its current location on the banks of the San Antonio River in Brackenridge Park, just north of downtown.
The South Texas Heritage Center is the Witte’s pride and joy, and a good introduction to local history. Browse hundreds of artifacts from the 1850s, when the city was a hub of commerce for the Wild West; think guns, branding irons and cowboys sitting tall in their saddles. Look at historical photographs, or try your hand at loading a burro, a cart typically pulled by donkeys. Work a simulated herd of cattle along a trail using touch screen computers. There are daily demonstrations and historic log cabins to give you an idea about early life in the Southwest.
Another focal point, especially for children, is the H-E-B Science Treehouse, adjacent to the main building. It has hands-on science experiments across four floors and 15,000 square feet. Learn about sound waves, air power, energy and machines through fun, kid-friendly activities, such as a weight-sensory dance game.
Leave plenty of time for the extensive dinosaur exhibit, including fossils of Triceratops and the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The Egyptian exhibit is also popular, including a mummy that’s thousands of years old. It’s also worth exploring the courtyard where you’ll find the Trail Drivers Monument, created by American sculptor Gutzon Borglum. He also carved one of the most famous U.S. landmarks: Mount Rushmore.
Purchase tickets for the museum online or at the door. You can take a tour, and find one-of-a-kind South Texas souvenirs in the museum shop. There are no eateries inside, but you’ll find cafés and restaurants within walking distance.