This is one of the better yet under appreciated attractions in the city and certainly one of my favorite museums. Housed in a very uniquely shaped structure, the institute has been around almost 50 years. I used to visit as a child but was always rushed through a visit by either family or my school. As an adult I was finally able to do a solo trip and take as much time as I wanted to fully digest and appreciate everything that was presented.
Starting back as far as 13,000 BC the museum covers all of the inhabitants of Texas from the early "Indians" to the subsequent cultures that immigrated here from the many diverse parts of our globe. There are several areas that clearly delineate the various periods and cultures. There are many hands on areas and some clever constructs which helps reinforce the message they are trying to convey.
In the center of all of this was the multifaceted ceiling dome which allowed for a unique five minute presentation of the multitude of cultures and events of Texas displayed on the many different surfaces of the dome. On the first floor of the facility they will host different themes that change on a frequent basis. The current theme is the colorful and spiritual "Day of the Dead" which celebrates the Spanish/Mexican Holiday that coincides with the western construct of Halloween (Samhain).
If you really intend on learning while here, plan to spend a minimum of three hours to truly immerse yourselves. The entrance fee is nominal and you will be given the opportunity to donate a few extra dollars to allow a disadvantaged child the opportunity to visit without cost. There is limited parking immediately outside of the entrance but I suspect it will be enough on most days. On the first or what would be considered by many to be the lower level is a fountain complex which appears to be non-functional at the moment.
Near the entrance (on the second floor) is the gift shop where you check in to pay the fees. The gift shop offers a modest selection of books covering various topics regarding Texas and the local area and also has many related trinkets and simulated artifacts. The day of the dead theme is prevalent at the moment and they are offering some very unusual but imaginative items such as decorated purses and sculptures.
When visiting San Antonio, a trip to this museum is certainly one of the first things you should do to help enhance your appreciation of the city and states origins. The many other historical locations you will visit afterwards will have much more meaning and come into context.
It has come to my attention by my many friends that the Institute is most likely facing the prospect of closing it's doors to the public in 2019 due to funding issues. If this is true this will be a sad day for many. Considering this is a part of the attraction of the inner city tourism, it would be a great loss to our guests and our city's residents.
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