Though the city is over 300 years old, in the past 5 years, San Antonio, Texas has had a major facelift. New developments in hotels, restaurants and events have made this city in the southern U.S. an attractive place for a family getaway. Here are a few reasons I discovered on a recent visit to San Antonio.
There’s A Distillery Converted to a Luxury Hotel
If you love architecture, decor and a little funk, Hotel Emma is where you need to rest your head. Once a 19th century Brewhouse, the 146-room riverfront hotel incorporated some of the original machinery and stonework walls, balancing it Moorish chandeliers, modern and Southwestern furniture. Located at the newly developed mixed use space – The Pearl, the hotel is at the doorstep of chef-driven restaurants, trendy boutiques, green spaces and the Texas campus of the Culinary Institute of America. San Antonio’s first food hall and a popular weekend farmers market are also located here.
San Antonio is a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy
With its confluence of cultures, San Antonio is one of only two cities in the country designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, honoring the city’s culinary history. This means, there are lots of local, family-run, and historic restaurants to eat at. Instrumental figures in obtaining the designation – Chef Johnny Hernandez (as seen on Food Network) has a dozen establishments; and Chef Elizabeth Johnson runs Pharm Table, a cozy cafe serving organic and vegan dishes. For delicious Tex-Mex in a vibrant setting, head to Mi Tierra; and enjoy the best pancakes and waffles in the gardens of an art nouveau-style home that was once home to the founders of Pioneer Flour Mills – The Guenther House.
There is a Lot of Fiesta
Forget Cinco de Mayo. Every April, San Antonio turns into a family-friendly cultural affair with over 100 events, including festive parades, patriotic observances, music concerts, lively fairs, creative culinary offerings and even, a pooch parade! Elaborate gowns are worn by Fiesta “royalty” and trading Fiesta medals is the norm in San Antonio during this unconventional festival.
Fiesta is a citywide celebration and involves all aspects of the community to organize, attend and host fundraisers. This year marked 127 years since the start of this annual party.
World Heritage Sites
Together, with The Alamo, San Antonio’s five historic missions form a UNESCO World Heritage site (the only one in Texas) and are the largest concentration of Spanish Colonial architecture in North America.
The complexes were built by Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century and illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain. Here you can see archaeological sites, farmlands, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems.
A Historic Riverwalk Runs Through Downtown
The Riverwalk is the most popular tourist spot, with hotels, shops and restaurants located along the San Antonio river. Take a cruise with Go Rio to learn about the important structures located here, or rent out a dining boat for a party or proposal. Grab a drink at The Esquire – the oldest bar on the San Antonio Riverwalk (1933), or tacos and margaritas at Casa Rio – the first restaurant to open on the Riverwalk (1946) and still in the same family. The Riverwalk is especially crowded on weekends, when local vendors set up shops along the banks, selling handmade arts, crafts, jewelry and unique items.
What originally started as a project to help alleviate the Great Depression, was later guided by engineers from Disneyland, and became the central hub for visitors to San Antonio.