Imagine the perfect blend of cultures—Old Mexico, Native America and the Wild West—coming together in a beautiful city infused with rustic charm, innovative cuisine and eclectic shopping. Welcome to San Antonio, a historic hub in the Lone Star State where you can relax on a river barge, explore sprawling caves and eat until bursting—all in the same day. Imbued with Hispanic culture and down-home appeal, the warmth of the city extends from its festive events to its spicy food and vibrant arts scene. Artisans abound, creating bold and dynamic treasures. From the Missions to the Hill Country, here are some not-to-be-missed stops to eat, shop and play:
Where to Eat
Think you can handle ‘Texas-sized portions’? Try the three-pound cinnamon buns at Lulu’s Bakery & Café or a 42-ounce pizza at Big Lou’s Pizza—both featured on The Travel Channel’s Man v Food Nation.
For something more upscale, savour the scrumptious flavours at Pearl, a culinary mecca where the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus is located, along with its Latin restaurant NAO. At another hotspot, Cured, James Beard nominee Chef McHugh gathers fresh regional ingredients to create mouthwatering cured foods, from charcuterie to pickles.
At the recently opened Rebelle, housed in the St. Anthony hotel, sip cocktails named after the seven deadly sins. The resto blends Texas ranching with chic French bistro fare, such as cassoulets, chargrilled octopus and lobster in green curry.
Where to Shop
Sprouting from a former auto body shop near downtown San Antonio, Grass Works was established in 2006 by John Duang Hanesworth to showcase sustainable items built by artisans they met while travelling. Among the unique wares found in their showroom and garden: Ong rainwater harvesting jars, handcrafted bamboo furniture, Zen-like pavers and quirky garden art.
The Tiny Finch packs a big design punch. Located at the Pearl Brewery, the earthy home goods boutique—described by Owner Courtney Beauchamp as a ‘lifestyle store’—carries funky rugs, clothing, jewelry, greeting cards, pottery & more.
Be sure to visit Market Square, named one of America’s top-10 outdoor markets, featuring 32 shops along three blocks of authentic Mexican and Southwestern artifacts and pottery, restaurants and produce stands in the city centre. Working artists, musicians and dancers create a dynamic, lively cultural atmosphere.
Southtown—a thriving arts district—features a variety of interesting shops, including Pulquerios, which carries unique imported gifts and specialty items and El Sol Studios, with its folk art, handmade jewelry and unusual items from Tibet and Nepal.
Things to See & Do
For one day in October, a stretch of concrete on historic Houston Street becomes a community canvas for Artpace Chalk It Up, where artists, students and cultural organizations create short-lived masterpieces for 20,000 fans who help make a giant public mural. The free festival also features food trucks, live music, a photo booth and more.
Looking for an off-the-beaten-path oddity? Check out Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Museum. The former 95-year-old master plumber has amassed a massive collection of toilet seats transformed into eccentric folk art chronicling his fascinating life. The museum doubles as his home, so call before you visit!
Of course, you must Remember the Alamo—one of five missions established in San Antonio and a famous symbol of Texas liberty. Fun fact: singer Phil Collins recently donated his impressive collection of Alamo artifacts—curated over several decades—to the Texas General Land Office, which guards the Alamo for the people of Texas.
After the Alamo, the second most popular destination in Texas is Paseo del Rio—The Riverwalk. Lined with restaurants, patios, galleries and shops, this festive area meanders through downtown at 20 feet below street level. Take a tour on a river barge, absorb the natural beauty on hiking and biking trails, or watch a river parade. The city recently completed a massive expansion project that lengthened the walk from three to 15 miles.
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