Return to Previous Page

Walking tour an eye-opener for  S.A. native

Nancy-Cook Monroe, Social Studies  SAN  ANTONIO - EXPRESS NEWS COLUMNIST   January 6, 2012
See this Newspaper Story listed as the last review below or or another Newspaper quote:

“Best tour of any city I've ever been on: Non-cheesy, highly informative, and entertaining”  

Wary of organized tours for tourists, I wasn't planning on touring in San Antonio. After reading the reviews, I decided to give it a try. What a great choice! The 2 hour tour flew by and I learned more per minute than I could have imagined. The guide's story was artfully crafted to have an arc that took you from time period and location to the next. Fantastic ability to help us visualize the drama and bloodshed that is San Antonio's legacy, including the lesser-known roles of native and Texano populations. I would recommend this hands down, and already have. A must-see in a must-visit city.                                                    

Greenie C.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

“Absolute Must!!”
Expectations were high based on reviews but the tour was better than anticipated. . Gary brought history alive through great story telling which all comes together as the tour progresses. San Antonio has far more history than you hear on the other tours in town. The Alamo is explained in great detail as well as cause and effect of the battle. Fascinating!! Best value in San Antonio. Please include this tour on your next visit. You will not be disappointed!!
Reviewed April 14, 2012 via mobile

“Provides insight into the complex history of San Antonio...must see!

This +2 hr walking tour is something I would highly recommend to anyone visiting San Antonio. Fully expecting it to be a glorified "Alamo history" tour, we were extremely pleased to instead be treated to an in depth story of the surrounding neighborhoods of the city, the people, and the influence of many cultures coming together to make San Antonio a center of beautiful people and rich history. We were relieved that our guide avoided taking our tour through the walls of the actual Alamo site, and instead spent the beginning of our tour in the beautiful & shady square within sight of the area. There were only 6 of us on the tour, and we moved quickly from one spot to another, leaving time at the end of our tour for more extensive questions. We enjoyed this tour and our guide so immensely that we returned the next afternoon for the architectural tour of the King William District. This is a professional quality tour, and most definitely worth the "price of admission"!

Kalamazoo, Michigan

“Best Tour Ever”

We love to travel and learn. Gary, our tour guide, brought the history of San Antonio alive with his wealth of information on the peoples of this area. We took our tour the first morning after our arrival in town. Afterwards, we were equiped with the knowledge we needed to tour the Alamo.

New Bern, North Carolina 

I wish I could remember everything I learned on this tour!

Wow, what a way to learn about a city.  The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable.  His story telling style gave perspective, and history at the same time, while keeping interest.  We had a group of 4 cub-scouts in our tour group, and while I think they faded about 1/2 the way through, the tour wasn't "lightened" for their young ears (and the parents were warned that it wouldn't be)...

We went on a two hour tour, and every minute was pretty much packed.  There were a number of spots along the tour that were selected for their seating/shade which was a nice surprise.  I can't speak highly enough of this tour if you visit San Antonio, worth every penny.  

Honestly, if they hiked up the fee a couple dollars, I'd be interested in getting a laminated lanyard that had the highlights of the history and a souvenir of the city, and the tour... but that's more constructive marketing criticism than actual criticism of the tour or the guide.

Wendy G.  
San Jose, CA

“History in a nutshell - delivered in an informative and engaging way”

The two hours we spent with Gary went by really fast. Knowing practically nothing about the Alamo, Texas or even early US history, we felt that we understood all three by the end of the tour. Gary blends the history, the people, the buildings, the context and the meaning in an engaging story-like talk.

There was just the right amount of walking around, and care taken to ensure that the stopping points were in the shade and mostly places where we could sit down. In the heat of a San Antonio summer, we really appreciated that.

We'd definitely recommend it to anyone else who visits who wants education rather than entertainment. That's not to say it wasn't entertaining - it was - but we learnt more in two hours than we have all week.

Thank you Gary - you were the highlight of our San Antonio visit.
London, United Kingdom

“King William District”

We took the King William District Architecture Tour on a sunny morning. Jerry our guide was extremely knowledgeable about each of the homes. There are so many different styles and each one seems to have some unique feature as Jerry pointed out. The walk was leisurely and we always stood in a shady spot as Jerry explained the points of each house. We also took a short stroll along a part of the river that few see. It was a great two hour walk.

Simi Valley, CA

“Excellent, Interesting Tour”

You would miss 90% of San Antonio's history without this excellent, well-priced tour. They provide much more information than the Alamo!

State College, PA

Walk?  No, run to take this tour!

Best tip, and recent find, is to take the history tour by a company called San Antonio Walks. That is, if you really want to LEARN about the Alamo. Speaking as a past native for 35 yrs, now living in CA, I can tell you my city, San Antonio, which I still claim at times, allows just about anything and everything to disrupt your visit and enjoyment when visiting the Alamo.  Even when they actually do something related to it's history, it's way over the top and, well, cheesy. Especially annoying is the gunfire.  I guess they feel they must over-do  it's loudness to make the point?  Our other friends who were staying downtown were nearly shaken out of their nearby hotel beds??  Over the years I have personally witnessed demonstrations, loud preachers, nearby haunted mansion, etc., etc., etc.  Once, I complained to an Alamo Ranger, who said, yeh, we get a lot of complaints about that?  You can even hear much of this nonsense inside the Alamo grounds!

OK, back to San Antonio Walks.  Despite having to move down the Plaza due to (once again) excessive noise, we marveled at how much information concerning the Battle was gleaned in about 20 minutes. Their treatment gave the often needed, but rarely discussed, CONTEXT  for the battle.  We got a timeline of events to show WHY it occurred.  Another deftly handled piece was the chronology of key events during the battle phase.  However, as we moved throughout the downtown, we received a unique perspective of the seige by seeing exactly where other events took place and how they related directly to the battle. I'd never heard of this before and this was a truly creative and helpful take.  I could go on and on about the balance of the tour regarding the city – brilliant!   I guess I focused on the Alamo to relieve myself, and perhaps others,  regarding the fustration which comes from promoting San Antonio as a one hit, historical wonder (the Alamo).   Not something I like to admit.  However, I can now at least offer you a remedy - take this tour. They “get it”, the Alamo and much more!  It was like a “fix” for me.

Hallowed ground?  The City and DRT (Daughters of the Republic of Texas) promote the Alamo as such; in practice, it's quite another thing. I would urge them to stop the constant detractions round about the Alamo which they not only allow, but seem to foster; reducing the Alamo to a prop venue. 

So, if you want to make sense of the events and meaning of the Battle of the Alamo, we actually view this tour as necessary, and nevermind tourists, every resident of San Antonio should take it.  Like me, I think you'll find your city is fascinating historically – not just the Alamo!  More power to San Antonio Walks!  It would just be nice if the "powers that be" would allow us to enjoy their tour more!  BTW, our friends (of German descent) felt the same and enjoyed the surprising impact the Germans had on the city's history.

Bronson Caufield
Palm Springs

“Much more than a typical your -- a real education in the history of San Antonio”

Our guide, Gary, gave us a detailed, in-depth narrative on the history of San Antonio and its place in the history of Texas. He makes the Alamo literally come alive with his stories: the events that led up to the famous battle, the battle itself, and its aftermath. By the time you walk away, you can imagine yourself knowing the main players and having actually been there at the time.

The Alamo is central but there is much more. He also talks about the roles played by the various cultures who settled the area, about the architecture, and about the development of the city and the River Walk.

This is not a touristy highlight-reel tour, but a real education by someone who clearly knows his stuff. We've taken a lot of tours in a lot of places (including another in Texas that was virtually info-free) and this was unquestionably one of the best. If you're visiting San Antonio (and especially if you're a history buff), then this is a must-do.

Btw, don't be too concerned about the walking; he spends a fair amount of time at each location, covering it in depth, so the pace is not taxing; he usually stops in shady spots and occasionally by benches.

Postscript: We liked this so much we signed up to take his tour of the King William district. If you enjoy Victorian architecture, then that too is a lot of fun.

Fairfield, Connecticut

“Great review of Texas history well beyond the Alamo”

Even in San Antonio's 100 degree heat, Gary provided a fun, interesting and information rich 2 hour walk around Old San Antonio (with great use of shade trees for cover :-)). We had two 11 -year old girls with us and they enjoyed the walk as much as we did. I was delighted to hear my daughter talking to a friend on the phone after we returned from San Antonio. She was talking about the trip and sprinkled in lots of the historic facts she learned on the walk. Awesome.

San Diego, California

“Best way to understand the Alamo”

We took the History tour with Gary and found this to be an excellent tour. Gary is a great tour guide and very knowledgable about the history of San Antonio. This is a serious history tour and probably isn't for kids or people not that interested in the history of the Alamo or the city of San Antonio. We went on the 9:45 tour, on a weekday during November, and we were the only people on the tour. So not only did we get an excellent tour but we got a private tour, which made it even better.

Surprisingly, there is actually very little information about the battle or the history of the Alamo when you visit the Alamo. Even though this was the third time I had seen the Alamo, I never quite understood how the battle went down or why the Alamo was so important. Gary makes it easy to understand the battle and the roles the Alamo has played in history.

After giving you all the details on the Alamo, the history tour moves on to other areas of San Antonio and you get a brief history of La Villita, the role of German immigrants in San Antonio, and the Riverwalk. Also, very interesting.

The cost of the tour is $16/person. The tour lasted about two hours and there were many parts of the tour where you could sit down. You make a reservation by sending an E-Mail to the address on the San Antonio Walks website. The website is kind of funky and could use a revamp. Don't let it put you off. This tour was really good and the guide is a pro.

Lansing, Michigan

“A Highlight of our San Antonio trip”

We started taking walks in London last year and found them to be very interesting. We often have done a trolley/bus tour of a city when visiting but none of those in San Antonio appealed to us. When we saw the review for a Walk, we decided that would be our orientation to San Antonio. What a great choice! Gary, our guide, has to be one of the most knowledgeable people about San Antonio in the area. Any local social studies teachers should be required to take his walk. We learned so much about the history of the area and how it affected Texas and the United States as a whole. You can tell how much Gary enjoys doing the tour as you walk along. If you are going to be in San Antonio, make this one of the first things that you do!

K Glen

“Get to know San Antonio”

I've found the walking tours to be the best way to learn about the cities I've visited, and the San Antonio Walks tour was great. Starting from the Alamo, our guide talked about the events that lead up to the fight at the Alamo, to the development of San Antonio, River Walk, and how the various ethnic groups that influenced the development of San Antonio and Texas. The walk was easy, and our guide stopped at spots where we could sit while he talked.

Portland, Oregon

“Ready to Ace My Alamo Exam!”

I was in San Antonio for business, and could not get away during the regularly scheduled group walks. I called their ‘888’ number and arranged a Private ‘VIP’ tour. The arrangements were made by phone; I followed up with an email too, because I get nervous with only voice contact. ‘Gary’ gave us a special phone number to use on the day of our tour in case there were any last minute scheduling problems (we did not need to use it). He suggested we do our best to tour inside the Alamo prior to meeting up with him, as the paid professional guides are not allowed inside. We had done just that, as well as seen the 45 minute IMAX movie ‘Alamo-The Price of Freedom’ shown at the RiverCenter Mall. Gary was exactly where he said he would be at the arranged time. Our VIP tour lasted about two hours and covered about a mile and a half area. There was always a shady place to sit or lean at each of the stops we made. The story of the Alamo and San Antonio came alive as he took us around. We learned so much about the culture of San Antonio at the time and how it has continued to influence today. He pointed out numerous architectural points of interest and beautiful areas to re-visit when we would have more time to stroll. I would have walked by or missed all together some of the treasures of San Antonio had I not taken this tour. In my book, it is a must!

By the way…Gary likes you to hold off on ALL questions until he is finished at each station…then ask away. Do yourself a big favor and bring along Sunglasses, a bottle of water and add sunscreen if you are touring during the bright part of the day.

So get out of your car and take this walking tour. The Alamo story is not the only one you will walk away with. He takes cash only...don’t forget a generous tip…it is well deserved!

Vienna, VA

“Teeming with historical information”

Gary provided a fascinating, information rich tour of key points in San Antonio history. He really brought the city to life! The walk is less than a mile long, so not too difficult. I also appreciated that each time we stopped to talk, Gary was conscious of the hot sun and found shady spots for us to stand in. If you are looking for a lot of historical information, this tour is for you, but if you prefer a guide who glosses over the details only hits the basics, then I would look for another service.

Atlanta, GA

I learned more as a tourist than as a local! 

I lived in San Antonio for 4 years, left and came back for another 3 years before work took me out of state. I came back for a conference and learned more about San Antonio and the downtown area in 2 hours, than I had learned in my 7 combined years as a local resident. This was like a mini "Da Vinci Code" of San Antonio! The only down side was that it was pretty cold that day, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before you go.

J. Luh
Eureka, CA

 “The best history class we ever took!”

What a professional presentation of the history of this lovely city -- from the early 1800s to the present. The Alamo may be the center of the city's past, but it was so helpful to have the Alamo put into the context that made it all so much more meaningful. Far too interesting to call this walking tour "too much history". The history of San Antonio is one of the city's prime draws! Wear comfortable walking shoes.

John & Glow
Santa Barbara, California

“Just do it!”

The Walking Tour is astonishing in its completeness on not only the history of San Antonio as it relates to The Alamo, but the mix of immigrants that have influenced this wonderful city. Don't worry about the "walking" part. Check the weather, and if a nice cloudy day is an option, select it; but on our hot, hot day, we had everything from folks with oxygen tanks to walkers, and everyone got along fine. Try to do this early in your visit, because you will have a much deeper appreciation for your own, personal sighseeing tours. You'll wisely select those attractions you want to pay special attention to. We took the River Cruise as well as the walking tour, and there is no comparison. Take the River Cruise, but do it for the "ride," not the information you'll receive.

Winston Salem, NC

"Best Ever”

I live in San Antonio and have finally found a local tour here that I would call impressive. San Antonians are fond of telling people how great our city's history is, but like me, no one really seems to know what that is exactly. Over the years, the tours I've taken here with my visitors give a factoid here and there, but somehow, you know there must be more to the story but you can never put a finger on it. Well, the folks at San Antonio “Walks” have. Hard to imagine why it's taken so long for someone to come up with such an explanation. The “Walks” people tell a story which is intelligently discussed and the guides are excellent presenters. I thought their “take” on the Alamo and the City was unique. In fact, I'll never look at either the same way again. I was especially happy to realize the great history I spoke of was even greater than I thought. They gave a world class tour that ranks with the best anywhere. So yes, it's a gem of a tour and a “must do” for tourists and local residents alike. Best ever!

San Antonio,TX

During out visit to San Antonio in March 2010 we went on a guided walking tour about the Alamo. The factual history delivered by the tour guide gave us a clearer understanding of the events that took place at the Alamo. We would therefore highly recommend this walk.

Hailsham U.K.
2010/East Sussex/UK

“Great attention to detail, loved the history behind the architecture and it's previous tenants...”

Okay, I thought to myself, here we go again another tour about some "old houses", boy was I wrong! First of all, when we got there, the crape myrtles were in full bloom, the jasmine was filling the air with such a beautiful aroma. Not to mention the nice overcast! Yes, we were off to a great start. As we approached the KING WILLIAM DISTRICT...I was in awe of these amazingly built houses. I loved the attention to detail...( it obvious that these home builders took a great deal of pride in their workmanship). Gary, our tour guide was just as impressive! I was amazed at the amount of knowledge he had to share with us concerning the families who lived there originally and how they came to settle in that area. The tour was a great experience, I learned a lot about these beautiful old homes, not to mention the rich history the KING WILLIAM DISTRICT. I was so impressed with it all, I pictured myself for a moment wanting to live there! This tour is highly recommended to anyone who loves: history, architecture and a well rounded tour!

I. Ruiz
Brownsville, Texas

Luckily, I found this tour via TripAdvisor and it was great!

Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and provided us with a plethora of information about San Antonio, the Alamo, and the Riverwalk.  If you like history and a good storytelling, this is the thing for you!

Bob C.

Walking tour an eye-opener for  S.A. native

Nancy-Cook Monroe, Social Studies  SAN  ANTONIO - EXPRESS NEWS COLUMNIST   January 6, 2012

Between seventh grade Texas history class and, much later, chatting with County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who is so keyed up over Texas history that he seems to have fired cannons and penned treaties himself, many of us lifetime San Antonians feel like experts on our history. No longer. After a 2 - hour walking tour of historic spots downtown, I am humbled by the master, Gary Pepe, founder of San Antonio Walks, which offers tours noting the history and architecture of downtown and King William.

After doing “tons of research,” relying most heavily on firsthand accounts, Pepe started the tours.   “I'd been on tours all over the world and wondered why we don't have an ongoing, prominent walking tour,” he said. (Not too heavy on walking, however. Our tour revealed how many historic spots were covered in less than a mile.) I signed up last August and waited until the temperature dropped 50 degrees, curious to learn what tourists are told about our common story. Turns out the other five “tourists” were local, too, except for Jesse Kharbanda, who lives in Indiana and was visiting his brother, Dave, and their family.

Rather than tossing out titillating tidbits, Pepe condenses layers of scholarship into 21/2 and a half hours, weaving stories with stops to the actual places where events occurred — now paved or trod over by visitors of Asian, Japanese, Greek, Mexican and other origin.“I have people from Boston and Charleston who think they own U.S. history, but after seeing San Antonio they say, ‘Well, maybe I need to rethink that,'” Pepe said.

Martha Lentz, a tour participant whose family emigrated from Germany and Prussia, was quick to answer Pepe's question on why San Antonio's German population, so successful in the late 19th century, was suddenly shunned. “World War I,” she replied.  During that war, Pepe said, King William Street was renamed Pershing. Alameda — plural for alamo, which is a cottonwood tree — was the original name of a street between Commerce and Market Streets.

Some things never change: two divisive issues at the time of the Battle of the Alamo were immigration and taxation.  Still, said St. Louis transplant Beth Johnson after her tour, “I'm even more proud to live here than ever!”

For information on this and other San Antonio Walks tours, see

Return to previous page
For information on Food Tours San Antonio, see