San Antonio's easygoing Tex-Mex charm seems unusual for a city that is the 9th largest in the United States. This vibrant yet laid-back city is a pleasant change of pace from the grandiose hustle and bustle of Dallas or Houston. Though it is busy and crowded in the tourist season it doesn’t feel that way (so long as you’re not in an automobile), and there’s no sense of urgency to enjoy the many attractions this wonderful city offers.
Who can visit San Antonio and not go see Texas most famous historical landmark, the Alamo? The original little quasi-fort that David Bowie and company defended against Santa Anna’s army is now an entire complex dedicated to the memory of the defeat of said proto-Texan patriots. There are tours all day long, museums and gift shops and high-definition films on the Alamo played at the landmarks new IMAX Theater.
No visitor to San Antonio should miss the lovely River Walk, or Paseo Del Rio. This stretch of flood canal and its attending walkways, cantinas and shops are touristy but not intrusively so, just like most of San Antonio. The River Walk sits well below street level, giving it a nice feeling of seclusion from the rest of the city. Yanagua River Cruises allow visitors to see the whole thing by boat.
Kids will have plenty to shout about in San Antonio. Sea World San Antonio features the pods of crowd-pleasing dolphins and Orcas everyone’s come to expect. If the kids want to get wet themselves then Splashtown Water Park is what’s in order. Fun for the whole family can be had on the many rides at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, only a short drive away from downtown San Antonio.
Sports fans in San Antonio have several interesting options. The San Antonio Spurs professional basketball team calls the city home, for example. San Antonio contains a growing number of first-class golf courses for visitors who want to hit the links. Other stripes of gamesmen will find excitement in the Horse Racing action at Retama Park.
San Antonio has a number of interesting museums. The San Antonio Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of Ancient Asian and Egyptian Art and the price of admission includes access to the next-door Nelson A Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, which focuses on Spanish Colonial Mexican and Pre-Columbian Art.
The Museo Americano is affiliated to the Smithsonian Institute and provides exhibits of Latino art, history and culture. For modern American and European art there’s the excellent McNay Art Museum.
Music lovers will be pleased with the variety found in San Antonio. The Landing Jazz Club is the place to go for polka; just kidding, they book jazz, and good jazz at that. If you’re in the mood for authentic country-western then Far West Rodeo is a safe bet, and they have a dance hall and a mechanical bull for all you extroverted types. If you just have to get your fix of barbershop style 4-part harmony then look up the outstanding Alamo Metro Chorus.
There are many places to eat, drink and be merry in San Antonio. Italia Ristorante on the River Walk is elegant, romantic and delicious, but not exactly cheap. La Fonda’s genuinely Mexican and genuinely tasty dishes will fill you up without totally emptying your pockets. If you only have a few bucks to spend, take a look at the Tip Top Café, which provides big portions of American fare at reasonable prices. For a brew, why not hit the Esquire? They claim to have the longest bar in Texas, and in Texas they take these things seriously. Gay visitors to San Antonio are sure to have a good time knocking back a few at the Saint.
The weather in San Antonio is nice pretty much year round, with some 300 odd days of sun a year. Visitors may find themselves present for any number of the cities festival and celebrations, from the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo at the SBC Center to the nine-day, every-body’s welcome party that is Fiesta San Antonio. Visitors lucky enough to be in San Antonio for Christmas can experience the beautiful and moving La Posadas procession, in which thousands of candle-bearing citizens make their way along the River Walk.
San Antonio is the location of San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United Stated.
There are accommodations at every price level in San Antonio, but the Menger Hotel, built in 1859, is one of the coolest. Legend has it Gen. Lee rode his horse into the lobby. Every city has certain drawbacks, and in San Antonio it’s the driving/parking situation. It’s absolutely bloody terrible. If your accommodations don’t provide parking, then you can try your luck at the meters around Travis Park. Don’t hold your breath.