Remember the Alamo! But don’t forget the food, crafted beer and charm of this Texas city
Plenty of work awaits Home Furnishings Association members at next month’s Networking Conference in San Antonio (June 4 to 6). But there’s also plenty of wonder waiting for you, too. Close your eyes and imagine the aroma of fajitas floating from table to table along the famed River Walk. A gentle wind delivers the sounds of a mariachi band, signaling that Market Square is around the corner. Wisps of air carry the fragrance of roses through the King William Historic neighborhood.
Visitors can’t help but get swept away by the exuberance that flows like a breeze across San Antonio.
Visitor’s might be surprised to learn San Antonio is America’s seventh-most populous city. And, its reputation as an exciting vacation getaway has grown with its size. San Antonio is a place of many bright colors, incredibly friendly people and much to see and do.
The River Walk is a public park lining both sides of the San Antonio River as it wends through downtown. The Commerce Street area draws visitors to a spicy salsa of bars and restaurants. Platters of flavorful food arrive on waiters’ arms to patio tables filled with guests enjoying prickly-pear margaritas. The mood and music are festive, embracing people from midmorning until well into the night. Bright red boats and water taxis navigate the river; their operators point out places like the Esquire Tavern, a bar that opened in 1933.
Away from the downtown, the San Antonio River has its quieter side, offering long stretches of beautifully maintained walkways. A morning stroll brings you to sculpture punctuating the banks, rose hedges in small gardens and colonies of swallows under bridges.
The river’s north end leads to the Pearl Brewery site. The 19th-century buildings now house retail shops, loft apartments, restaurants and the teaching kitchens of the Culinary Institute of America. The next bend of the river leads to Brackenridge Park, home of the San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium, a golf course and a Japanese tea garden.
To the south, the San Antonio missions—San Jose, Concepcion, San Juan and Espada—provide a fascinating glimpse into the 1700s, when Spanish friars established new communities along the river. The missions possess simplicity, yet architectural features, such as stained-glass windows and wrought iron, speak to their prominence. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is part of a USESCO World Heritage Site.
San Antonio’s most famous mission, the Alamo, lies in the heart of downtown, flanked by the Spanish Governor’s Palace. Together with La Villita, a little village that once housed Alamo soldiers, these vestiges of early settlement have many stories to tell. At historic Market Square, Mi Tierra restaurant remains open 24 hours a day, as it has been since 1941, serving authentic Mexican cuisine, drinks and baked goods. Like so much else here, early evening catches the square at its best. Open-air entertainment, bars and shops stir up the excitement.
San Antonio has much more to offer than history lessons. A dozen art museums and institutions span a wide range of cultural interests. The San Antonio Museum of Art houses several major collections, perhaps the most outstanding being the Latin American folk pieces contributed by Nelson Rockefeller. At the 38-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden, colors flash kaleidoscopically in the sunlight throughout the formal and display gardens. A highlight is the Texas Native Trail, a walk through diverse habitats of the Lone Star State: the Piney Woods of the eastern state, cactus country of the southwest and the remarkable Texas hill country with its blaze of Indian paintbrushes and bluebonnets.
San Antonio’s outskirts boast major attractions for families. Sea World has a water-park section called Aquatica, where among the various water rides there’s also a wading pool with stingrays. Six Flags Fiesta Texas recently uncoiled the Iron Rattler roller coaster, which provides an 180-foot straight drop at speeds of up to 70 mph. The SkyScreamer soars in a 998-foot circle at speeds up to 40 mph.
San Antonio serves as a gateway to the Texas Hill Country, a destination dear to the hearts of all Texans. Luxury resorts lure people from the exuberance of downtown to quiet relaxation on the
northern fringe of the city. The resorts offer vistas of the Hill Country, fine dining, luxury spas and tour-level golf courses. The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, where the Networking Conference will take place, has a five-acre water playground.
The state’s ranching heritage is still alive and kicking at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, held in February. Ranch traditions, such as calf-roping and bull-riding, are showcased during Charreada at Charro Ranch. Working dude ranches in the area offer visitors Western-style encounters with horses and longhorn cattle.
Visitors can experience the best of all worlds in San Antonio: the boisterous downtown, the beauty of botanical gardens, the visual and performing arts, and the leisure activities of stellar resorts. A festival is on the calendar every month. For more information on this year’s HFA Networking Conference site, go to www.VisitSanAntonio.com.
HOW TO GET THERE
It’s easy to get to San Antonio for next month’s HFA Networking Conference. Southwest, Delta, United and American offer both nonstop and connecting service to San Antonio International Airport.
WHERE TO EAT
Nao Latin Gastro Bar, 312 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio; (210) 554-6484, www.naorestaurant.com. The restaurant focuses on Latin cuisine with dishes such as empanadas, duck carnitas and charred octopus. Main dishes $18-$68.
Cured, No. 101 306 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio; (210) 314-3929, www.curedatpearl.com. Cured is all about regional ingredients and “lovingly hand-crafted cured foods,” so don’t be surprised if you find yourself ordering pork belly. Main dishes $24-$42.
Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery, 136 E. Grayson St., No.120, San Antonio; (210) 455-5701, www.southerleigh.com. Modern Texas meets modern South aesthetic, with cracker-crusted Gulf redfish and cheddar, bacon and chive biscuits. Main dishes $20-$35.