The 1889 World’s Fair had the Eiffel Tower. The 1893 World’s Fair had the Ferris Wheel. And the 1968 World’s Fair had the Tower of the Americas.
The centerpiece and theme structure of HemisFair ’68, the tower still dominates the skyline of San Antonio today. The Tower of the Americas is known largely for four things:
- Fireworks. Traditionally, the city’s official Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve fireworks display have been set off with the Tower as a backdrop.
- The annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Lonestar Tower Climb and Run. This is a one-mile run followed by a quick jog up the steps in the core of the Tower. Climbing the steps of the Tower sounds like fun. Running up the steps does not sound like fun.
- The rotating restaurant at the top of the Tower. For years the restaurant was operated by the same people who run the Jim’s restaurant chain. In 2004 the concession was taken over by Landry’s. Landry’s is a Texas chain of seafood restaurants that are nicer than casual dining, but not so fancy as what you normally think of when you think of a “fine dining” establishment. Traditionally, my family would go to the Landry’s that used to be on Riverside Drive* when we would go up to Austin to watch the bats at the Ann Richards/Congress Avenue Bridge. We could drop in in our jeans and t-shirts and not feel out-of-place. The Chart House Restaurant, the restaurant in the Tower, is fancy. Lots of tourists probably drop in in their jeans and t-shirts, and I’m sure they get fine service, but if you go, you probably want to wear your nicest jeans and a polo shirt instead, perhaps.
- The observation deck. This is what most people go up in the tower for. There are two levels — an interior section that had historic photographs showing what things used to look like in the direction where you are looking and an exterior level that has only plexiglass and wires separating you from the outside. It was very windy in the exterior observation deck the day we went.
*This restaurant is, as of the time I’m writing this, a Joe’s Crab Shack.