STAYING IN SAN ANTONIO FOR THE WEEKEND
The days of its exclusivity to ranchers are long gone. San Antonio no longer wears spurs or chaps, preferring instead skinny pants and trendy footwear. But don’t worry, San Antonio still sports its signature cowboy cap, so there’s no need to worry.
But today, this city that was once the epicenter of the revolt against Mexico is a thriving cultural center rich in history and art. There’s something for every rancher, veteran or rookie, to get him hooked. French, Spanish, Mexican, Republic of Texas, Confederate, and American flags are just some of the many that have floated over San Antonio throughout its history. San Antonio is a city that proudly displays its Spanish heritage, despite being a genuine American metropolis.
The city’s past is as plentiful as its buildings. San Antonio was founded around the Alamo, the site of the famous standoff between Texan revolutionaries and Mexican troops. The city is proud of its rich history and encourages both foreigners and locals to explore it without fear of reprisal. Native Americans, Mexicans, Germans, Texans, African-Americans, and Southerners all coexist in this modern metropolis, giving San Antonio a rich and varied cultural background.
The more you explore, the more you’ll find. El Mercado, a genuine Mexican market, and a riverboat cruise along the River Walk, San Antonio’s most renowned attraction, are both worth your time. Visit the mission churches along the San Antonio Mission Trail or take a stroll through the King William Historic District. No matter what you’re looking for, this unique region of the globe has it.
Four paths take visitors to popular destinations like the Alamo, the Spanish Governor’s Palace, La Villita, Sunset Station, the Southwest School of Art and Craft, the Institute of Texan Cultures, the King William Historic District, and the downtown shopping district. (More on each of these attractions later.) Several additional cultural and amusement venues have been added to the route network. (Information center found at 260 E. Houston; 210-362-2020).As the eighth largest city in the United States, San Antonio is a good candidate for a vehicle rental.
But VIA Streetcar is the best option for most people’s travel requirements. This open-air replica of genuine streetcars has been cruising the streets of San Antonio for over 50 years. It’s possible that the Alamo Street Victorian Inn will be your first visit.
This historic building dates back to 1896 and has recently undergone an extensive renovation. It now features private bathrooms with marble showers and whirlpool tubs, and the second-floor verandas are tastefully furnished. The River Walk, the Alamo, and the Convention Center are all within walking distance of this budget B&B, which is situated right on the Trolley route and only 15 minutes from downtown.
The elegant La Mansión del Rio (112 College Street; 800-292-7300) is a historic landmark on the River Walk that dates back to 1852 and has been meticulously renovated. Its prime location allows guests easy access to the city’s best dining and nightlife along the River Walk. Board the VIA Streetcar and head to the Alamo, San Antonio’s most renowned historical landmark. (300 Alamo Plaza; 210-225-1391;
Though it was initially constructed as a mission across the river from the tiny town of San Antonio, the city has grown to encompass the Alamo. For 13 days, around 4,000 Mexican troops and 189 Texans battled here for Texas independence from Mexico.
Despite the fact that the Mexican army prevailed, many Texans maintain that the result of this fight marked the final step toward Texas’s complete autonomy. Located at the beating center of this bustling metropolis, the Alamo is a sacred shrine to the city’s faithful. When it was found that a hotel’s shadow could potentially fall across the Alamo at certain times of day, the hotel’s construction plans were halted. The Alamo is significantly smaller than most people think it is; all that is left of the initial fort is the chapel and the Long Barracks.
The Alamo is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 10 am to 5:30 pm, Sundays. We ask that you consider making a contribution in lieu of admission fees. The San Antonio Mission Trail is a walking path along the San Antonio River that passes by several of San Antonio’s old mission churches.
Missions San José, San Juan, Espada, and Concepción are located in these four buildings. This National Historic Park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., every day of the year. Mission San José is the biggest and most well-known of the mission homes, and it can be found at 6701 San Jose Dr. (210-932-1001). The church’s carvings and the Rose Window, one of the finest examples of Spanish colonial ornamentation in the nation, are its most recognizable features.
Come on in through the old Sunset Saloon and snap some pics in front of the 1916 Steam Engine 794. Spend the evening sipping an MPO (Margarita Pour Off Queen) under the stars at Aldaco’s (100 Hoefgen; 210-222- 0561; www.aldacos.net), while listening to the smooth sounds of Latin music.Sunset Station (1174 E. Commerce; 210-222- 9481), also known as the “building of 1,000 lights,” is where you should go to end your day. Sunset Limited, which travels from San Francisco to New Orleans and San Antonio, made this station, built in 1902, renowned.
El Mercado, also known as Market Square (514 W. Commerce; 210-207-8600), is the biggest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico and is a great location to start the day. Market Square is a free attraction open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and it features 32 stores styled after traditional Mexican marketplaces.
Explore the vibrant marketplace and pick up some genuine souvenirs, clothing, and tasty treats at a discount. Listen to the mariachi bands and observe the vibrant folk dancers twirl to the music. Visit the Farmers Market Plaza, home to 80 unique stores, later on.
Visit Mi Tierra Café & Bakery for a delicious meal of fajitas, steak, and enchiladas, plus Spanish rice and refried beans. You can get sugary cuernos (the Mexican equivalent of the croissant), crunchy semitas (flat bread dusted with cinnamon, sugar, and nuts), and delicate palmitas from Mi Tierra’s patisserie.(a flaky, sugary pastry).
Put your shopping aside and unwind with a cruise down the San Antonio River. One of San Antonio’s biggest draws is the riverwalk right in the middle of the activity.
Down by the river’s calm waters, you’ll find restaurants and stores connected by winding cobblestone paths. Indulge in a narrated boat trip down the San Antonio River for 35 minutes or check out a Mud Festival for real (Rio San Antonio Cruises; 800-417-4139 or 210-244-5700); Take a stroll through three miles of verdant vegetation and towering trees.
To get to the Rivercenter, a three-story glass mall with restaurants, stores, and nightclubs, you can hail a river taxi.
Is it already time for dinner? What about some authentic Texas barbecue? River Walk’s County Line Restaurant (W. Crocket Street; 210-229-1941) has both an outdoor bar and a funky Texas roadhouse vibe on the inside.
The term “Get it all over ya’!” was created by these hard-nosed individuals. Texas-style home cooking at its finest, including BBQ ribs, sliced franks, coleslaw, beans, and bread. Put in an order for a pitcher of ice cold lager or a pitcher of frozen margaritas.
The King William Historic District is an absolute must-see on any visit to San Antonio. It spans 25 blocks near the San Antonio River’s southern shore and is home to some of the city’s most opulent residences. Originally settled by Germans in the 1840s, the city’s primary thoroughfare was given the name of Prussia’s Kaiser Wilhelm I in the 1870s.
There was a name shift after World War I, but it was later reverted to the original English form, King William. Literary greats such as Sydney Lanier, Josephina Niggli, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Sandra Cisneros all have ties to the region.
The European-style Guenther House (205 E. Guenther; 210-227-1061 or 800-235-8186) can be located at the very end of the King William Historic District. It was constructed by Carl Hilmar Guenther, the founder of Pioneer Flour Mills.
In addition to being the oldest operational flour mill in the United States, the mill also houses a fascinating exhibit dedicated to milling history and a highly regarded dining establishment. Relax under the terraced balcony with views of the San Antonio River while feasting on Champagne chicken enchiladas and authentic German pastries made with San Antonio River Mill mixes.
San Antonio’s first neighborhood, La Villita (418 Villita; 210-207-8610; formerly a hut settlement for Spanish troops) is the next area to explore and is known for its abundance of local art. After the 1819 storm, primitive huts were supplanted by adobe homes.
The area has been revitalized and now features cobbled streets and an arts and crafts community. The revitalized art scene is located in the city’s old town center, which is now home to galleries, museums, studios, and eateries. Stores are available daily from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM; no tickets are required.