Amusement Parks
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Getting There

San Antonio

San Antonio
Mexican Marketplace
Six Flags
Sea World
If you are including San Antonio on a longer trip, such as the Big Bend National Park loop, driving is your only choice. But if your trip is just to San Antonio and back, we highly recommend you consider Amtrak. Even if Amtrak does not serve your locale, we suggest you drive to your nearest station and take the train. We say this for several reasons. You'd save the price of gas. Second, from most of America, it is a very long drive down to South Texas, and although you're on interstate the whole way, you're dodging trucks, construction, and heavy traffic. Thanks to NAFTA, tremendous amounts of freight are being shipped by truck north from Mexico, and it's flowing through San Antonio and on northward. Finally, this is one of the best Amtrak trips. Unlike many of their trips, where you depart or arrive at 3 a.m., both arrivals and departures from San Antonio are in the daylight. You come into one of America's most beautiful passenger stations (above left), on one of its most beautiful trains, the Texas Eagle. And, unlike Glacier, Rocky Mountain or Grand Canyon National Parks, you don't need your vehicle once you reach San Antonio. You walk to your hotel from the train station, and walk everywhere else during your visit.

If you haven't travelled by train for a while, you NEED an Amtrak trip to update your idea of what it's like. The futuristic engine, top right, the plush compartments, above, and the sleeping arrangements, left, are quite comfortable. You'll enjoy the trip so much it'll seem too short. If you've never travelled by train, you'll be fascinated by the way the attendant converts the day room (above) to the bedroom (left) in only a few minutes. The ticket includes your meals, and you'll find that a railroad dining car is a classy restaurant on wheels. The observation car (below) is a great way to relax and watch the country flow by, such as the Mississippi River we're crossing here. You do need to make your Amtrak reservations several months ahead of time, because they usually sell out, especially during Spring Break and Summer. There would be a lot more people using the train if more trains were available and if they served more locations. When you make your reservation, you'll book your sleeping compartment. There are individual compartments, couples rooms and family rooms. The price may seem high, but remember, you will not be eating in restaurants, staying in motels, or buying gas along the way.

Instead of being confined to your seat as in a car or van, on the train you can wander around. You can walk back to the lounge car, the snack bar or the observation car. You can use the wireless internet service and work on your computer. You can stretch out and take a nap, read, or play cards, chess or a board game. There are National Park Service representatives who give talks about the history, geography and other background of the area you're travelling through. Whenever the train stops, you can get off and browse for about 15 minutes in the stations along the way. Sleeping on the train is a great experience. The car rocks slightly, so it lulls you to sleep, or you can lay in bed and watch the night landscape roll by outside your window, lights twinkling in the distance as you pass farms, ranches or small towns. Modern trains are very smooth and quiet. Showering on the train is a unique experience, as you need to keep one hand on the siderails, but there's plenty of hot water. All considered, we think everyone should take a good train trip, especially school groups and families.

However, if you insist on driving we recommend stopping at Hot Springs, Arkansas, on the way down and Memphis on the way back. Take I-65 to Nashville, I-40 through Memphis to Little Rock, I-30 to Dallas, and I-35 South to San Antonio. Hot Springs is off the interstate on State Highway 7. Next morning, take Highway 7 South back to the interstate. Take 635 and 35E around Dallas (left), and in downtown San Antonio, take 37 for the last mile. Come off I-37 directly onto Commerce Street. Turn West four blocks, and turn right onto Alamo Plaza. The Menger, Crockett and Holiday Inn Hotels are clustered right around the Alamo. Be sure not to let your gas tank drop too low; there are several stretches of highway on this trip where gas stations are sparse. Prepare for a rough ride through Arkansas---they have the worst interstates in the nation. When you get home, have your alignment checked. Calculating your travel time, include delays through Austin. You may find yourself slowed to a crawl or totally stopped, regardless of rush hour or midmorning, workday or weekend. Figure on losing half an hour. You'll see a toll road bypassing Austin. Resist the temptation. The private company building it ran out of money, so they leave you stranded in the middle of scrub ranchland, surrounded by cattle and narrow back roads and no directions back to the interstate.
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