Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio

Y’all! I cannot wait for you and your families to see what’s coming to San Antonio next. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s pure San Antonio. And it’s part of an even bigger, grander vision for breathing new outdoor life into downtown in the Alamo City.

This weekend, you’ll get to play in Yanaguana Garden, the first phase of the new Hemisfair Park. And let me tell you, it’s designed with free fun and San Antonio families in mind. There’s even a SPLASH PAD! You heard me right: a splash pad, in the heart of San Antonio, surrounded by seating for parents, a juice bar, and a BBQ restaurant (both of which will open in the coming months – but the splash pad opens this Friday, October 2!).

San Antonio splash pads at Yanaguana Garden in Hemisfair Park

But, I’m getting ahead of myself (just too excited, I guess!). Anne Krause, the executive director of Hemisfair Conservancy, took me on a hard hat, behind-the-scenes tour recently as the park prepares to open. The new Hemisfair promises to be unlike anything San Antonio’s seen before, featuring three world-class parks, local businesses, shops and restaurants, residences, and, eventually, 3,000 more parking spots.

The People’s Park

Over the last few years, San Antonio citizens joined meetings to discuss and give their ideas for the new park’s design.  Yanaguana Garden, which runs from Cesar Chavez to East Nueva, stakes its claim as the first phase of the new Hemisfair Park.

Coming next is Civic Park which provides eight acres of green space that will accommodate 10-12,000 people for concerts and other outdoor activities. Civic Park opens in 2018, which just happens to be San Antonio’s tri-centennial and the 50th anniversary of the ’68 World’s Fair, held in Hemisfair Park. How cool is that?

Tower Park, which will be located beneath the majestic Tower of the Americas, opens in 2020 as the last phase of Hemisfair. Plans for that park are still in motion and there will be opportunities for the public to add their ideas, thoughts, and opinions to its design (stay tuned to the Hemisfair and Hemisfair Conservancy Facebook pages for details).

Because Hemisfair will be a sustainable, self-funded park, as well as the largest outdoor gathering space for city-wide celebrations, it’s been dubbed, “The People’s Park.” Yanaguana Garden came to life through bond funds. However, Civic and Tower Parks will be created and sustained through donors in our community – donors just like you! You can claim your part of Hemisfair Park with a donation as small as $10 (and naming rights are still available for larger donations). Here’s where to donate to Hemisfair Park.

The free, three-day celebration at Yanaguana Garden

This weekend, Yanaguana Garden opens with three days of free celebrations. Free? Yes, free! San Antonio parks, including Hemisfair, are always free to visit. And there will even be some free parking in areas around downtown (see map below!). But on this special weekend, plenty of other freebies abound. Local businesses planning to inhabit the park will be on hand at the grand opening to give out free food and drink samples (although their locations in the park won’t be open until early 2016) . There will be free Hemisfair swag, live music, free Magik Theatre performances, free arts activities for the kids, free Snapple, free fruit, free books during the bilingual story time, and so much more.

Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair Park in downtown San Antonio, Texas

Here’s what Yanaguana Garden offers visitors:

  • A 20-foot pergola, designed pro bono by Overland Partners, which boasts three different kinds of vines so something will always be blooming.
  • Oversized chess and checkers (the pieces for which were purchased through crowd-funding)
  • A large splash pad, with kid-activated buttons and lots of seating for parents
  • A giant sand play area with a super cool drip section so kids can sculpt in the sand
  • Plenty of shade (some trees in Yanaguana Garden were relocated from where the new Convention Center now sits)
  • Lots of seating built in to the design of the park, much of it covered gorgeous mosaics designed by Oscar Alvarado
  • “PLAY Theater,” a stage-like piece of art designed by Jennifer Khoshbin, located in the Magik Theatre courtyard for kids to imagine and act out their own scenes
  • Clean, colorful, airy restrooms, perfect for changing little ones into swimsuits for the splash pad (and there are changing tables in both the men’s and women’s restrooms!)
  • Climbing structures designed in Europe to provide safe, yet challenging play
  • Bouncy, rubber surfaces to break any falls
  • Swings designed to stimulate the vestibular systems
  • Picnic tables (that are actually works of art!)
  • Complete accessibility to ensure Yanaguana Garden is accessible to everyone as possible
  • Historic homes, preserved to become the locations of local businesses
  • Large mosaic art by Oscar Alvarado of a panther and a bird. Both were born of a legend of the Payaya Indian tribe tells about the Yanaguana (meaning, “spirit waters”). A legend, as told by a representative of the tribe, tells of an anhinga bird emerging from a hole in the ground being chased by a blue panther that later emerges from the same hole. Droplets of water from the bird’s wings fell to earth and created life. These stunning, lively mosaics are part of the playground and meant for claiming upon.

Panther and Bird mosaics by Oscar Alvarado on the playground at Yanaguana Garden in San Antonio

Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair Park in downtown San Antonio, Texas

And, here’s what you can look forward to during Yanaguana Garden’s three-day grand opening festivities:

Friday, October 2, 6:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. 
Theme: family-friendly first Friday with food, art and music

6-9pm – Food from Con Safos, Paleteria SanAntonio, Bite Street Bistro and Box Street Social
7-8pm – Revolucion Coffee + Juice
6-8pm – Spare Parts Mini Art Museum
6-7:30pm – RoTenGo
6-9pm – Barbaco Co. Apparel screen tees, Gardenia Gardens seedling planting, Live Art by Albert, Picasso Pixie
6-11pm – OK Bar Beer Tasting

Saturday, October 3, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. 
Theme: The BIG DAY with food, activities and programming

10-10am – Opening Ceremony and Ribbon Run
9am-12pm – Revolucion Coffee + Juice
10am-1pm – Paleteria San Antonio
11am-5pm – Con Safos
11am-5pm – The Fridge and Cheesy Jane’s foodtrucks
11:30-2pm – Will Parker musical performances
12-6pm – Bilingual Story Time with UNAM
1-6pm – Snapple Free Ice Tea Giveaways
2-4pm – Royal Punisher Jazz Band
2-6pm – OK Bar Beer Tasting
4-6pm – Say Si Musical Production
4-6pm – Face Painting

Sunday, October 4, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Theme: Art & Health

10-11am – Yoga by Revolucion Coffee + Juice
10-11am – Free Fresh Fruit
10am-1pm – Revolucion Coffee + Juice
11am – 1pm – Justin Boyd – Sound Art Active Listening Session
11:30am-1pm – Stuart Allen – Kite Making Art Session
11am-5pm – Truck’n’Taco and Saweet Cupcakes Foodtrucks
1-2:30pm – Karen Mahaffy Shadow Tracing Art Session
1-3pm – Alex Rubio – Mural Painting Art Session
1:30-2pm – Capoiera and Fitness Demonstration by Rio Fit
2- 3pm – Jennifer Khosbin – Lyrical Performance Art Session
2- 4pm – Palateria San Antonio
2-4pm – DT Buffkin Band
2:30-4pmJoey Fauerso – Constellation and Star Chart Art Session
2-6pm – OK Bar Beer Tasting
3-3:30pm – Hula Hooping by Rio Fit

Free parking options for Yanaguana Garden's grand opening on October 2, 3, and 4, 2015 in San Antonio

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