Out of all the dog friendly places to visit in San Antonio, Hemisfair park may have the most interesting history. Before it was an international tourist attraction, or the city park it is today, it was a theme park. In 1968, San Antonio hosted the World’s Fair which was named HemisFair (a capital letter is used to distinguish the World’s Fair from the current park).
The six month long event helped shape San Antonio, Texas, into one of the greatest places, but it was not easy. The park declares that Hemisfair is where San Antonio meets. Our adventure at Hemisfair revealed an interesting question. Is this park more like the World’s Fair, or the meeting place of us residents?
Things to Do at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio, TX
- Walk your dog
- Cool off on the splash-pad
- Bring your kids to the sandbox
- Play with a life-sized chess board
- Visit the spectacular playground
- Enjoy a drink from the coffee house
- Visit the Institute of Texan Cultures
- Rent a bike
- See a performance at the Magik Theatre
- Eat at the Tower of the Americas
- Participate in a free public event
Parking at Hemisfair
Fees: The park is free to visit
Hours of operation: 5am – 12am
Before visiting Hemisfair Park, we parked a couple blocks south of Cesar Chavez Blvd for free. It turns out, the two parking lots on Cesar Chavez Blvd have free parking during nights and weekends. It was a weekend, so we ended up walking a couple of extra blocks, but we never mind.
Parking near the Tower of the Americas will cost you $8, while parking behind the theatre will cost you $2, every 30 minutes. Another parking lot is available across the southwest intersection which is $.50, for every 30 minutes. We prefer the free parking and don’t mind walking a few blocks.
The World’s Fair
The Tower of the Americas was the focal point of HemisFair in 1968, and it is still the most notable aspect today. The tower is visible from many points inside the city, as well as a few outside its reach. We parked directly south of the tower and took the opportunity to capture a nice photo prior to reaching the park.
We used the crosswalk to cross the four lane street (Cesar Chavez) and make our way to the southwest corner of the park. During the World’s Fair we would have seen a ferris wheel, sky line and monorail, as well as other attractions. The tower, museums and courthouse are the only structures which have survived.
Hemisfair Park History
The place we call Hemisfair Park today was formerly known as Germantown. Prior to the World’s Fair, Germantown was chosen for urban revitalization. Over 2,000 residents were forced to relocate so that HemisFair could come to fruition. Millions of dollars were spent and millions of visitors attended the World’s Fair.
It was to be a celebration of San Antonio and its relationship with various cultures in the Western Hemisphere. The name HemisFair was chosen as a play on words prior to the World’s Fair. We noticed the place is currently known as Hemisfair, but this was not always the case. Even though the World’s Fair went on for six months, San Antonio ended up losing millions of dollars. At the time it may have seemed like a terrible investment.
However, San Antonio quickly became known as an important Texas city, much like a few of its neighbors. After HemisFair ended the park became a ghost town. It took nearly 20 years for the city to begin revitalizing the area once again. Eventually, a decision was made dedicating park space to the public which became known as Hemisfair Park.
While it does have the appearance of a commercialized community park, that is only due to updates which took place a few short years ago. I must admit, locating all of the dog friendly parks in San Antonio has resulted in a wealth of historical knowledge. I never expected to learn so much wonderful history simply by discovering dog friendly places. Being a person who loves learning new things, I’m very glad to have learned more about the area in which I live.
A Dog Friendly Hemisfair Park Adventure
Many amenities are found near the southwest corner of this Park. The very first thing we noticed was the chicken coop next to the coffee shop. Of course we also noticed the splash-pad and sandbox area where many little ones were playing.
We quickly spotted a dog friendly fountain and stopped to get a drink of water. If there is one thing the city doesn’t lack it is dog friendly fountains, and parks for that matter. Abbey thanks you, San Antonio!
After passing the splash pad we saw a giant playground across from the public restrooms. Such a playground almost made me wish I were a kid again. Moving on from there we came to the theatre. This interested me the most, as I have a college background in theatre. Sadly, the works of this theatre seem to be targeting those much younger.
What a family friendly area this has become! We continued around the building and came to a well-shaded patio with two seats from a carnival ride. They must be relics from the sky line at the World’s Fair. It was difficult to imagine where the rides were located back then.
Revitalization for Everyone
The city revitalized the entire area in order to host HemisFair. San Antonio has continued to update the area which has become Hemisfair Park today. But is it a place where we come to meet?
We passed the Texan Cultural Institute and came upon the water features. Near the Tower of the Americas there are waterfalls, streams and even an area to walk underneath droplets of water. The park water comes from the San Antonio River which was an addition dating back to the World’s Fair.
The entire area is great for unique pictures and has become a major tourist attraction. We played in the water, we took photos by a statue and behind one of the museums because we try to have fun. Correction, we try to have dog friendly fun.
I noticed the unshaded patio areas were too hot for Abbey’s paws. Consequently, we had to stick to the areas with grass, and there are a lot of grassy areas. As we walked around the Tower of the Americas we noticed several wedding parties taking place. San Antonio is a very popular place to have a wedding, or spend your vacation. In fact, the island next to Hemisfair, surrounded by the San Antonio River, is known as marriage island.
Why Visit San Antonio?
The World’s Fair was a celebration of the Americas. They wanted to celebrate the city of San Antonio and its history with those of other cultures. Millions of people came here to see what San Antonio was all about, and have a great time. These days this is still the case. People from all over the world visit San Antonio for many different reasons.
- Get married, or have a honeymoon
- Serve in the military
- Walk along the San Antonio Riverwalk
- Tour the Alamo and Spanish Missions
- Watch the San Antonio Spurs
- Visit Texas Hill Country
- Hiking with armadillos
Okay, that final one is probably my own personal reason.
As we left the park, I came to the realization that people from all over the world come to see us, just like they did during the World’s Fair. They come to see San Antonio. We’ve been to Hemisfair park several times, but only once since moving to San Antonio. It’s a dog friendly place and extremely family friendly as well.
However, it is also one of the top tourist attractions in America. Where do you go if you visit San Antonio? You go to Hemisfair Park. It’s connected to the San Antonio Riverwalk, the Historic Village, hotels, restaurants, Commerce Street, and the Alamodome. Of course, we already covered the things you can do at Hemisfair Park.
Hemisfair park isn’t where San Antonio meets. It is where everyone meets (dogs included)! People from all walks of life come to see us, to see our history, and to be a part of our community.
Source of HemisFair history: Hemisfair ’68, Texas State Historical Association, tshaonline.org
I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.
We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.
Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly. I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.