BASH: Bexar/Atascosa Secular Homeschoolers hosted a field trip to The Majestic Theater where we enjoyed a tour provided by the Las Casas Foundation. This was an all ages tour for $5.00 per person that lasted approximately an hour. What we learned was fascinating and covered a broad range of subjects. Some of the details likely slipped by the younger kids but everyone seemed to enjoy the tour because of all the interesting architecture, art and the grandeur of the place. This was definitely a tour worth booking and will be considered for future homeschool activities.
In order to reserve a tour, homeschool groups of at least ten people need to contact the Las Casas Foundation for scheduling. This organization, formed in 1988, is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the Majestic Theater and its sister theater, the Empire. The Empire is also available for tours for an additional $5.00 per person. Scheduling has to occur to give priority access to those rehearsing, performing or working on maintenance so have a few dates in mind and be flexible.
We met at the side entrance, which is located to the left of the front doors. Once let in, we waited in the foyer until the entire party was assembled and then the tour began. The restroom facilities are typically not available on the tour. We were allowed access because of the many children in the group but they had to make a special trip to unlock them. For homeschool group tours, this is of particular note so you can make alternate arrangements if necessary. Allow ample time to arrive, factoring in parking and walking, because once the tour starts, the doors are locked and no further entry is allowed.
The tour guide took us through the Elizabeth Huth Coates Foyer, the Rotunda, the Main Floor and Mezzanine Level. During the tour, our guide discussed the history of the Majestic, pointed out various pieces of art and architectural details, and discussed the preservation and restoration efforts. You will need to climb stairs and there is no other access to some features while the theater is closed. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the backstage area because of liability and safety issues. The tour is thorough, interesting and the tour guide was knowledgeable. She was friendly and patiently answered as many questions as possible. She offered to research any follow-up questions the group had if she did not immediately know the answer.
Some of the features that were of particular interest to our group included the artwork, aquarium and elevator in the foyer. The elevator is operated manually, so highly trained ushers must stop it for you without creating too large a step. In addition to some interesting architectural pieces and art work in the rotunda, many kids were interested in the child sized water fountains. We learned that the reason they were so short was not for child access but for when the big skirts with petticoats was in fashion so that women could, in a lady-like manner, drink by kneeling on the small stool. We also saw the former nursery which is now used for ushers. You have a great view of the stage from the Mezzanine level where artistic and architectural details were pointed out including the only gold leafing in the theater.
The Majestic Theater is located at 224 E. Houston Street in downtown San Antonio. Parking is an additional cost so you should factor that in. If you are going to pay a day rate, you may consider touring some other attractions or walking on the Riverwalk to maximize your time and expense. The nearest parking is the Mid-City/Houston Street Parking Garage located on the corner of College Street and Navarro, across from La Mansion Hotel. The cost for parking as of May 2014 is $3.00 for the first hour, $7.00 for two hours, $9.00 for three hours and a daily, flat rate of $10.00.
This tour held the interest of all those in the homeschool group which included preschool age through adult. It was a low-cost homeschool field trip that was fun and educational. BASH homeschool group will consider the Majestic tour for future homeschool field trips and may include the Empire Theater tour next time. It is a highly recommended tour for anyone interested in theater, art, architecture or history of San Antonio.