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September 2, 2004
The Sullivan Carriage House, the handsome main building originally constructed in 1896, is the gateway to the garden. It was designed by Alfred Giles and relocated from its original downtown location in 1988. The ticket booth, cafe and gift shop are located here. If you plan to have lunch here keep in mind that the cafe is open only from 11am to 2pm and is not open at all on Mondays. The handy brochure has a map of the bucolic grounds, which cover 33 acres.
The highlight for me is the award-winning Lucile Halsell Conservatory, a pricy complex of glass houses that have different ecosystems (desert, tropical, palms, ferns). Ambasz has an affinity for "green" architecture, so he designed his buildings as containers that are extensions of the earth. These architectural vessels would protect the plants with an emphasis on the ideal light and heat levels. The different conical and triangular shapes are the exposed skylight rooftops of the buildings, as the lower levels are located below grade. The 65-foot high Palm House has a prominent exit but its entrance ramp may not be obvious to passersby. Step up along the processional ramp to the top so you can marvel at the treetops around you. The benches along the shaded arcade of the courtyard are curious, looking like jagged slabs in a morgue.
For a step back in time, walk around the path of the lagoon to look at examples of old frontier houses set in flora native to various regions of Texas. There is an adobe house, a log cabin, and several rustic wooden houses. Ducks congregate around the edges of the lagoon, as there are dispensers for duck food here.
Other highlights include the lovely Kumamoto En Japanese Garden, the Formal Garden, and the Fountain Plaza. There are all sorts of specialized gardens (roses, herbs, cactus) and even a "Garden for the Blind". Be sure to saunter up to the romantic Overlook for panoramic views of the entire grounds and of San Antonio itself. There are benches all around the garden, but the population of small and quick ants seems to flourish in these surroundings so watch where you sit.
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is open from 9am to 5pm daily; it is located a few miles north of downtown. You can arrive by car or you can take the VIA number 7 bus, which is nicknamed the "Sightseer Special". The bus ride from downtown to the garden is under 30 minutes and costs under a dollar each way. If you purchase a $3 VIA one-day pass, you can receive additional discounts at the gift shop.
From journal Bill in the USA - SAN ANTONIO
July 14, 2001
I was amazed. This is one of the best botanical gardens and conservatories I have ever been to. The San Antonio Botanical Garden and Lucile Halsell Conservatory (operated by San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department) are on 33 acres that opened in 1980. The botanical gardens have many native, floral, and exotics gardens, and the conservatory has incredible futuristic glass structures with a tropical lake/pond in the middle of them.
You enter the grounds through the Daniel Sullivan Carriage House, which was built in 1896 (and is now a historical building), and moved from its original downtown location stone-by-stone. There is a small gift shop and a restaurant inside. After our early July visit, the carriage house provided much needed relief from the Texas heat.
The grounds have many fountains and beautiful places to rest, and escape the Texas heat. The 33 acre gardens contain gardens with native plants and landscapes from all over Texas, called the "Walk around Texas". This area has wild flowers, plants and trees native to the Hill Country (Central Texas), an area with plants native to East Texas with a lake, and a southwest Texas garden.
Among the other permanent gardens, is the "Garden for the Blind" to challenge senses of smell and touch, and there is an absolutely perfectly groomed and maintained Japanese Garden with a sparkling clear pond. There are other gardens that are ever-changing.
The gardens looked good to me (a visiting family member is the expert), but the highlight for me was clarly the incredible conservatory with different climate controlled simulations of regions of the world, to feature plants from all over. The glass buildings were futuristic looking. Some were pryamid-shaped, and other larger ones were round/cone shaped. Each building was controlled for different climates, including a tropical house, desert house, palm house, fern room and more.
Most of the conservatories had neat misting machines (watch your cameras) that provided very humid environments to great effect on the awesome plants. In one of the large buildings, they have a walk that is almost like a spiral staircase that provides great vantage points. Between the conservatory buildings is a tropical lake with many water plants, tropical plants, and birds and butterflies everywhere.
The San Antonio Botanical Gardens and Lucille Halsell Conservatory is located at 555 Funston Place in an out-of-the-way neighborhood close to downtown San Antonio. To get there from downtown, take Broadway Street (it turns into Broadway Avenue and back into Broadway Street) north to Funston, and turn right (there will be signs). Their phone number is 210-207-3255.
If you would like a break from the tourist crowds of the Riverwall, Alamo, and other attractions, this place is perfect.
From journal San Antonio