One of the great icons of the American Southwest, the Alamo sits at the center of the city of San Antonio. “Remember the Alamo!” was never a question, but a pledge of allegiance that inspired frontier-era Texans to fight and win their independence from Mexico. The significance of the Alamo varies depending upon how you look at it—some see it as the first triumph of Yankee imperialism, others as a sad case of mighty slave-holding Southerners spreading their dominion—but from any angle, the story is quite compelling. The Alamo itself is a small Mexican church, built in 1724 and taken over by a group of Texans and Tejanos, including a band of American mercenaries led by Davy Crockett, in December 1835. Led by Colonel William Travis, the volunteers were besieged and held out several months before they were eventually killed by the Mexican Army. Other Americans then defeated the Mexican Army and established the Republic of Texas, which briefly existed as an independent nation before joining the United States in 1845. The Alamo Church (300 Alamo Plaza, 210/225-1391, daily, free), right downtown, still stands much as it has for nearly 300 years and is a pilgrimage spot—one of the most visited sites in the country.

To soak it all up, stay the night at the historic Menger Hotel (204 Alamo Plaza, 210/223-4361, $116 and up), across the street. The surrounding city of San Antonio is attractive in its own right, with the lively River Walk winding through downtown, and numerous other sights and attractions. Austin, the Texas state capital, is just a ways up the road from “San Antone,” and between San Antonio and US-83, the Texas Hill Country is perhaps the most beautiful part of the Lone Star State.

For more information, contact the San Antonio visitors bureau (800/447-3372).