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A little slice of Europe in the heart of downtown San Antonio, the 15-mile River Walk is an essential part of the San Antonio experience. This is no ordinary riverfront, but a charming canal and pedestrian street that is the main artery at the heart of San Antonio's tourism efforts. For the best overview, hop on a Rio San Antonio river cruise.

You can meander past landscaped hotel gardens and riverside cafes, and linger on the stone footbridges that stretch over the water. During summer it gets mighty crowded, but at peaceful times (and as you get away from downtown) it's a lovely place to stroll – especially during the holidays, when it's bedecked with twinkling lights.

The River Walk used to be just a downtown thing, but a $358-million project completed in 2013 extended it to the north and south. As part of the 8-mile Mission Reach expansion, you can walk south to the King William District and beyond to the Spanish missions. The new 4-mile Museum Reach stretches north to the San Antonio Art Museum, the Pearl Brewery complex and Brackenridge Park.

Feeling athletic? Once out of downtown, cycling to the missions or to the museums via the River Walk is also an option. Check the B-Cycle website for rental locations.