Words by Justine Harrington
San Antonio, home to Texas’s top two attractions: the Alamo and River Walk, is easily one of the most culturally rich cities in America with its multifaceted heritage, strong Hispanic influences and contemporary charm in the form of a vibrant arts, culture and food scene. Sun-seeking Canadians will appreciate the city's 250 annual days of sunshine and year-round temperate weather, meaning San Antonio is in season, no matter the month. Here’s where to stay, what to do, and most importantly, where to eat and drink, when you’re in the “Alamo City.”
SEE & DO
San Antonio’s most iconic landmark (apart from the Alamo, of course) is the River Walk, a lushly landscaped network of hike-and-bike pathways. In the city centre, the tranquil San Antonio River is lined with lively bars, restaurants and shops. Though it may seem cheesy at first glance, no visit to the River Walk is complete without taking a barge cruise. Hop aboard a GO RIO! Cruise to enjoy a fun, narrated tour peppered with campy one-liners, local lore and fun facts about the surrounding landmarks.
Another way to experience the River Walk: rent bikes via BCycle (the first-ever bike share in the state) to explore the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, where the 24-kilometre Mission Reach Trail connects all five of the city’s centuries-old Spanish colonial missions, including the Alamo. The missions are an architecturally impressive sight, as evidenced by their UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Mission San Jose | Jennifer Hubbert
North of downtown, the bustling Pearl district is the former home of the Pearl Brewery, which operated from 1883 to 2001. Today, the neighbourhood has been transformed into a hotbed of trendy eateries, galleries, shops, cocktail bars and more. The weekend farmers’ market is a foodie’s dream, with rows and rows of gleaming produce that’s all sourced from within a 240-kilometre radius of San Antonio.
Visit San Antonio
A short walk away is San Antonio Museum of Art, while the McNay Art Museum sits on nine pristine hectares in Alamo Heights. The former houses a vast collection of everything from Egyptian artifacts to contemporary sculpture and paintings, while the latter boasts stunning medieval and Renaissance art with several modern masterpieces from O’Keeffe, Picasso, Gaugin and others.
La Villita Historic Arts Village | Visit San Antonio
Just south of the River Walk in San Antonio’s city centre, La Villita Historic Arts Village is a collection of funky galleries and independent shops selling Mexican folk art, textiles, metal jewelry and other unique handicraft items. In hip Southtown, the Blue Star Arts Complex is home to the city’s longest-running contemporary art space, as well as the beloved Blue Star Brewery. Check out Market Square (El Mercado), a three-block outdoor plaza in downtown, where the sounds and flavours of Mexico abound – stroll past rows of authentic Talavera pottery, colourful pinatas, specialty blankets and cowboy hats, while mariachi bands play. Just be sure to make time for a frozen margarita at Mi Tierra. At Nativa, a boutique in Alamo Heights, shop the gorgeous hand-embroidered clothes and accessories made by collectives of female artisans in Mexico. When night falls, head to the San Fernando Cathedral to see The Saga, a dazzling 24-minute video art installation designed by the French artist Xavier de Richemont that’s projected directly onto the cathedral’s ornate facade.
EAT & DRINK
Cured | Visit San Antonio
In case you hadn’t heard yet, San Antonio is a culinary epicentre (named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2017) where swanky farm-to-table restaurants coexist with long-time taquerias and cantinas, plus the Culinary Institute of America campus. Cured is the homegrown standout here. An early adopter of the local food movement, this nationally praised restaurant takes charcuterie and smoked meats to another level entirely. Meanwhile, Bliss’ menu changes with the seasons, uses the freshest quality ingredients and favours creativity over familiarity. Boudro’s Texas Bistro serves an enticing blend of Texan fare and bistro cuisine, Acenar is upscale Tex-Mex at its finest and Rosario’s is a true San Antonio institution, known for flavourful Mexican dishes and unforgettable margaritas.
Esquire Tavern | Regina Pyne
The legendary Esquire Tavern was founded the same year that Prohibition ended (1933) and the bar's signature cocktails and hundred-foot-long wooden bar top have been keeping locals coming back ever since. Just off the River Walk, SoHo Wine & Martini Bar serves the best martinis in town (according to this writer), while Alamo Beer Company offers a family-friendly beer garden, live music, food trucks and crisp, refreshing brews.
Housed in the former Pearl Brewery, stately Hotel Emma is the buzziest hotel in town – and for good reason. This luxurious 146-room property has a unique blend of industrial-chic elements and five-star amenities, like a rooftop pool, cruiser bike rentals, access to a private library, and an especially thoughtful touch: a complimentary La Babia margarita upon arrival. If you’re in the mood for sheer opulence, you can’t go wrong with Mokara Hotel & Spa which offers world-class spa treatments in a peaceful spot on the River Walk.
Hotel Havana | Nick Simonite
Hotel Havana is a siren's call for design lovers. The hotel’s roots trace back to 1914, but in 2010, famed hotelier Liz Lambert put her stamp on the place, and the result – Cuban-inspired grandeur meets cutting-edge boutique charm – is unlike anyplace else in town.
This article was presented in collaboration with
Visit San Antonio.