Rich in culture, the River City beckons history buffs, food fanatics and adventure seekers alike.If you have visited Dallas, Houston and Austin, you’ve done a good portion of your Texas homework, and for that, you earn gold Lone Stars. But in many ways, San Antonio offers the quintessential Texas experience: Its Spanish missions, Alamo-centric lore, abundant Tex-Mex cuisine and championship-caliber Spurs of the NBA will inspire you to don a 10-gallon hat, climb into a saddle and round up some cattle — or maybe just to eat, sightsee and have fun.
The second-most-populous city (Houston tops the list) in the country’s second-largest state (behind Alaska), San Antonio has a cornucopia of tourist attractions contained in a compact, pedestrian-friendly space. Mosey on down and see for yourself.
STAY The restaurant- and shop-lined River Walk is even more charming when it’s mere steps from your hotel’s lobby. There are several options right on the waterway, including the Westin Riverwalk, which boasts 473 rooms and a water feature of its own: a heated outdoor pool. The Hotel Contessa nearby is a four-star luxury lodge with all the expected amenities and a Mediterranean style. Or, give a nod to history by booking a room at the Emily Morgan Hotel, a charming and reasonable alternative overlooking the Alamo that dates back to the 1920s and whose namesake was believed to have played a saucy role in Texas’ fight for independence, distracting Mexican leader General Santa Anna and giving the Texas army time to strike.
EAT & DRINK San Antonio’s Little Rhein Steak House, a local landmark, is an absolute must, but only if you like prime beef, excellent wine and an elegant, rustic ambience. The oldest two-story structure in the city, it was constructed in 1847 in what was then known as the Rhein district, and it has been operating as a steak house since 1967. Biga on the Banks offers the new American cuisine of chef Bruce Auden, a James Beard Award nominee. Try the achiote-roasted pork tenderloin or the close-to-bouillabaisse. When you’re ready for a nightcap, head to the Menger Hotel, where former President Theodore Roosevelt and Babe Ruth once imbibed.
DO Before there was the rental-car company and the college-football bowl game, there was Mission San Antonio de Valero, site of the Battle of The Alamo in 1836 between Mexican troops and Texas loyalists. Now more than 2.5 million visitors a year come to see the location of the last stand of James Bowie, Davy Crockett and others. Walking tours and on-site group history talks will help you to remember the Alamo long after you’ve left. Built in 1926, the Aztec Theatre fell into disrepair and was closed in 1984. But the San Antonio Conservation Society saved it, and now it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a prime place to check out live country and gospel music. Looking for something a little more, er, underground? Try the Natural Bridge Caverns, located about 30 minutes outside of downtown San Antonio, which provide cave-exploring adventures led by tour guides.
SHOP Those in the market for souvenirs would regret skipping a trip to Fiesta on Main, a third-generation family-owned and -operated Mexican-themed shop stocked with handmade gift items. Or stop into Redbone Guitar Boutique, perfect for ax enthusiasts who appreciate eclectic tastes and a personal touch.
If You Go
(210) 224-6500 www.starwoodhotels.com
Emily Morgan Hotel
EAT & DRINK
Little Rhein Steak House
Biga on the Banks