Celebrate 50 Years in San Antonio this April 6-8 at ¡Viva Hemisfair!

Megan Lagrone |

San Antonio, TX (March 6, 2018) – San Antonio continues to celebrate its Tricentennial year with ¡Viva Hemisfair!, a fun-filled celebration taking place April 6-8 in and around the city’s Hemisfair Park. The event will mark 50 years since San Antonio hosted the 1968 World’s Fair on the park’s grounds.

While the 1968 World’s Fair brought people from all over the world to San Antonio, ¡Viva Hemisfair! will celebrate San Antonio’s present-day diversity with cultural activation zones from Mexico, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Rather than presenting formal delegations from each of these regions as was the case in 1968, each cultural zone will be hosted by local San Antonians with a connection to these heritages. The celebration will feature local art, musical performances, interactive demonstrations and gourmet food, along with a children’s garden with art installations, a ‘60s retrospective fashion show, special events to honor 1968 World’s Fair attendees and more.

The Institute of Texan Cultures, Hilton Palacio del Rio, the Tower of Americas, Magik Children’s Theatre, the Mexican Cultural Institute and Universidad Nacional Autonama de Mexico are among the venues that will participate in the celebration.

Hemisfair Park was designed specifically for the 1968 World’s Fair, which was the first World’s Fair in the southwestern hemisphere. More than 6.4 million people from around the world visited San Antonio for the fair in 1968. Much has changed in the last 50 years, but San Antonians’ love for celebrating the city remains strong.

See below for a “then and now” look at how San Antonio’s Hemisfair has changed over the last 50 years.

Hilton Palacio del Rio

Then: Inspired by the Spanish Governor’s Palace in downtown San Antonio, the Hilton Palacio del Rio combined old-world charm with state-of-the-art building technology. Standing 22 stories high at 232 feet tall, the hotel was the tallest building constructed using modular monolithic technology at the time. In order to be completed in time for the 1968 World’s Fair the guest suites were completely constructed off-site and transferred by truck to the building site. Furnishings were mounted to the walls and then the rooms were lifted by crane to stack on top of each other in a checkerboard pattern. H.B. Zachary, owner of the hotel, and his wife were the first official guests to check in and then proceeded to “ride” in their room as it was lifted by crane to sit in its rightful spot. The entire building project was completed in 7 months.

Photos courtesy of Hilton Palacio del Rio:

Now: The Hilton Palacio del Rio is credited by many as a major influence on San Antonio tourism, ideally located down the street from the newly-renovated Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The hotel is counting down to its 50th anniversary celebration and is asking guests to share their stories and memories of past stays on its Facebook page using the hashtag #HPDR50.

Photos courtesy of Hilton Palacio del Rio:

San Antonio River Walk:

Then: The River Walk underwent a quarter-mile expansion starting in 1966 in anticipation of the 1968 World’s Fair. The expansion was intended to create a convenient pathway to new shops, restaurants, and attractions that had opened up along the San Antonio River. It also connected the rest of the river to the then-brand-new convention center.


Now: The expansion of the river for the 1968 World’s Fair is credited with helping make San Antonio an iconic travel destination. Today, the River Walk stretches 15 miles through the city and features recreational hiking trails, public art and scenic picnic spots, as well as a variety of restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. The Mission Reach of the San Antonio River is an eight-mile extension of the River Walk that connects visitors to four of the historic UNESCO-designated Spanish colonial missions. Completed in 2009, the Museum Reach is a 1.33-mile extension of the River Walk which connects key cultural attractions like the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Witte Museum, the San Antonio Zoo and the Historic Pearl Brewery.

Photos Courtesy of Visit San Antonio:

Tower of the Americas

Then: Built as a top-billed attraction for the World’s Fair, the 750-foot Tower of the Americas was constructed by San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford. The 1.4-million-pound top house was built on the ground and hoisted to the top inch-by-inch using 24 steel lifting rods. The tower took 18 months to complete.

Photos courtesy of Hemisfair:

Now: The Tower of the Americas still stands tall and is a must-see for San Antonio visitors. The tower’s Chart House restaurant revolves at a rate of one revolution per hour and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city. For guests who prefer to stay grounded, the Tower of the Americas now features a 4D theater on its ground level that tells Texas’ storied history. During ¡Viva Hemisfair!, guests can get 50 percent off a ticket with purchase of one regular-priced ticket. Tickets include unlimited access to Flags Over Texas, the 4D Theater Ride and the Observation Deck.

Photos courtesy of Visit San Antonio:

UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

Then: Originally built as the Texas Pavilion for the World’s Fair, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures housed exhibits focused on the cultures of the people who settled Texas. It also featured a then state-of-the-art projection system that screened hourly showings about Texas history.

Photos courtesy of the institute of Texan Cultures:

Now: The Institute of Texan Cultures’ 182,000 square-foot museum is still the go-to destination for information about Texas history. The museum screens informational and entertaining programs about Texas history and culture (with an updated modern system), and is also host to major festivals like the Texas Folklife Festival and the Asian Festival. The Institute was acquired by the University of Texas at San Antonio and is responsible for preserving Texas history. During ¡Viva Hemisfair!, the Institute of Texan Cultures will offer free admission to festival goers.

Photos courtesy of the Institute of Texan Cultures:

For more specific information about daily events happening during ¡Viva Hemisfair!:

Media Contact

Megan Lagrone
(210) 207-6808

About Visit San Antonio:

Visit San Antonio is a 501(c)6, and serves as the sales and marketing arm of San Antonio as a leading leisure and meetings destination. San Antonio welcomes 20.9 million overnight leisure visitors annually. Hospitality is one of the top five industries in the city, contributing $13.6 billion into the local economy and employing more than 130,000. More information about Visit San Antonio can be found at