A weekend getaway in San Antonio, Texas

Once a year (not in 2020) my girlfriends and I try to get together and meet somewhere for a long weekend in the United States. Between California (where they live) and New York we have done Chicago and we were looking for another “middle group”. We were debating between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. We ended up choosing San Antonio because we thought life would bring us to Austin in the future (bachelorette parties, friends moving there, etc). I won’t sugar coat it, while San Antonio was interesting to see, for an out of state visitor I think it would be better suited to be tacked on as an excursion from another trip, rather than a stand alone trip itself. 

The stand out part of San Antonio was how warm and inviting the people are. In other border cities there is often segregation between those of Mexican-American descent and those of European-American descent, this was one of the most congenial diversity that I have seen. All the locals were welcoming out of towners and quick to share their love for the history of their Texas Mexican Spanish ancestry.  

Accomodations: We stayed at an Airbnb in the Monte Vista section of San Antonio. It is always nice to stay in an area that locals live in. It is less touristy than the main downtown. We had the opportunity to explore Hotel Emma in Pearl Brewery, which looks fabulous if your budget can afford it. 

Friday:

Arrive and get settled into your accommodations. Grab some dinner at La Fonda on Main (2415 N Main Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212), a Tex-Mex restaurant with a quaint old school Mexican ambience. The Paramour (102 9th St #400, San Antonio, TX 78215) also offers great rooftop drinks for those who will make it into town before sunset.

Saturday:

Start your morning off at Commonwealth Coffee in Hemisfair Park. Hemisfair Park is the location of the 1968 World’s Fair. Talk a stroll through Yanaguana Gardens (which reminds me of a subdued version of Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain).

“Yanaguana” means “refreshing water” by the indigenous Payaya people who inhabited the land before the Spanish came in 1718.

I recommend working your way to Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio Market Square, there is roughly one mile between Commonwealth Coffee and Mi Tierra Cafe. During this walk make your way through La Villita HIstoric Arts Village and the Riverwalk, passing by the Cathedral, City Hall, and Governor’s House.  

First stop after Yanaguana Gardens is to window shop the artesenary in La Villita Historic Arts Village. The area originally served as a Barracks for the Alamo, but now mostly supplements as a quaint shopping area, offering stores with local art, handmade jewelry, and souvenirs.

Continue on to the RiverWalk, sometimes referred to as “the American Venice”. 

The Riverwalk referred to as “American’s Venice”, reminds me a bit of Disney meets river, and it should because of the engineer, C.V. Wood who was contracted by the City of San Antonio to help with the riverwalk designs was also the engineer for Disney! Since then the riverwalk has seen much expansion, and some of my personal favorites of the walk are getting out of the retail area and a little more natural waterways in the neighboring communities. 

Make your way through the Riverwalk to San Fernando Cathedral also called the Cathedral of Our Lady of Candelaria and Guadalupe. The exterior is beautiful and often has multicolored lights displayed on it for different holidays and festivities. Behind the Cathedral is San Antonio City Hall followed by the Spanish Governor’s Palace.

Finally arrive at the San Antonio Market Square. In 1780 the King of Spain gave it to the settlers, now it offers festivals and numerous Mexican crafts and clothing stores. Get some breakfast at Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia (218 Produce Row, San Antonio, TX 78207), a Tex-Mex Bakery. 

After the Tex-Mex Bakery, head over to the Alamo (300 Alamo Plaza; San Antonio,Texas). The 1744 Alamo Mission, which later was the site of a devastating battle loss of the Texans fighting for independence from Mexico. Davy Crockett famously died here and became the name of the eponymous 1950’s miniseries. 

After the Alamo, head back to the riverwalk for a stop at Schilo’s (424 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 78205), a famous German deli with hearty sandwiches. 

You can choose to go home and refresh or continue exploring the city at this point. 

Evening: 

The Tower of the Americas in HemisFair Park is great for sunset, normally it costs $11 to go up, but is free if you get a drink or dessert at Chart House (739 E César E. Chávez Blvd, San Antonio, TX 78205). 

Alternative option: The Botanical Gardens often offer $60 Wine Down Saturday events, from 6:00PM-10:00PM.

We enjoyed live music and grub from the casual, Sam’s Burger Joint (330 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215). 

Sunday:

Start your morning with some breakfast tacos from La Gloria’s (100 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215). The outdoor patio offers great views of the river and quaint ambiance. Walk along the river to San Antonio Museum of Art which is free on Sunday from 10:00am-12:00pm and they provide Docent Led Gallery Talks from 11:00 -12:00 pm. 

After the museum, head over to Pearl Brewery, a converted 19th century brewery compound which now has shopping, food halls, and dining. On weekend mornings there is a farmers market.  On premise is the Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery which is located in the Hotel Emma (136 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215), which offers upscale refurbished architecture and good food and drink.

Burn off your lunch with a long bike ride through King Williams Historic District and the San Antonio Missions. Start your bike ride at Blue Star Bikeshop (1414 S Alamo St). It is an 8 miles bike ride down to the last Mission Espada.  and then rent B-Bike (Bike rental) all the way up the Mission Reach Trail. Blue Star Brewery is on the trail and a great place to stop and get refreshments. It is worth the extra ten minutes to add a loop of the King Williams Historic District.The neighborhood was formerly an enclave for affluent german immigrants. Take your time to gawk at the grandior of the homes and mansions!

Head back to your accommodations and get ready to fly home. Cheers to a leisurely weekend in San Antonio.

A day in…the Mission District!

The Mission District is named after the historic Missión San Francisco de Asís and the adjacent Basilica, known colloquially as “Mission Dolores.” In more recent times, the neighborhood has been a hip Latino neighborhood, known for its art, music and food scene. While gentrification has changed the vibe of some sections, such as Valencia Street and the neighborhood surrounding Mission Dolores Park, much of the southeastern neighborhood still holds roots as a working-class Latino enclave. While this guide is mostly focused on the Mission neighborhood, I include a stop in the Castro District with an evening restaurant option there. 

If you like exploring the bay area in day trips, check out my “A Day in” itineraries for Carmel, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Morning: 

The ornate Basilica in Missión San Francisco de Asís.

Start your morning off with a coffee to go at Four Barrel Coffee (375 Valencia St).

Take a look at  the Missión San Francisco de Asís and adjacent Basilica at the corner of 16th and Dolores Streets. The Mission, founded in 1776, is named after St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order.  The Mission church, which is the smaller white adobe building next to the basilica, was dedicated in 1791. It is said to be the oldest intact building in San Francisco, having survived the 1906 earthquake while the neighborhood buildings burned down. The Mission includes historical information about the Native Americans Ohlones, who inhabited the coastal areas around San Francisco and who were evangelized. 

Walk three blocks to Tartine Bakery (600 Guerrero Street.) for pastries. Enjoy your treat at Mission Dolores Park while people-watching and taking in the views of the city.

Afternoon:

Window-shop down trendy Valencia Street. There is a striking contrast between Valencia Street and Mission Street which caters to the traditional Spanish speaking population in the surrounding environs. 

A yummy burrito from Farolito; you can split with a friend!

Try a tasty burrito from Farolito (2779 Mission Street) for lunch. Don’t forget cash because they are cash only. Another good burrito place is Taqueria La Cumbre (515 Valencia Street) and for any empanadas lovers I would recommend Venga (443 Valencia Street). 

To work off the burrito head down 24th Street to Precita Eyes Muralists (2981 24th Street), a nonprofit organization promoting positive community change through artistic expression. Pick up a $5 map of the murals in the neighborhood and learn more about the meaning behind the artwork (most are deeply-rooted in ideals of social justice.) A significant number of the murals are around Balmy Alley, Clarion Alley, and the Women’s Building (3543 18th Street). Continue on 24th Street until Potrero Street then come back and take a right up Mission Street. 

While mural-viewing, stop for a margarita with a view of the city at El Techo, (2516 Mission Street). They have a reasonable-priced happy hour from 4-6 PM on weekdays.

Epic “Maestrapeace” mural at the Women’s Building. This portion of the mural depicts Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemalan human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Finish your mural tour at the “Maestrapeace” on the Women’s Building (3543 18th Street) or continue on to Clarion Alley. Walk to the Castro to see the LGBTQ epicenter of San Francisco. Indulge your sweet tooth with a treat from Hot Cookie (407 Castro Street). Spend some time walking around and get a chuckle out of the cleverly-named storefronts. 

Evening: Dinner and a movie! 

The iconic Castro Theater

Choose between Castro Theater, Alamo Drafthouse or Foreign Cinema!

Option 1: Grab a seat at the iconic Castro Theater for a movie and grab some post-movie grub at either the nautical Woodhouse Fish Comp or stylish Fin Town. For those musically inclined, the Castro Theater does sing alongs to Disney Movies and even movies like Bohemian Rhapsody. They even provide small goody bags! More information can be found on the Castro Theater website (castrotheatre.com/singalongs.html).

Option 2: Go to the Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie (reserve tickets in advance to guarantee good seating.) 

Option 3: Have dinner at Foreign Cinema, a restaurant which has a cool vibe, where you can sit outside and watch old black and white movies while you dine, or try the indoor ambiance of the building with its high ceilings with movies projected onto the wall (make a reservation, evening seating on a first-come first-serve basis; bar seating can be limited).

A huge thank you to Jamie for giving me all the tips on your vibrant neighborhood! Another thank you to Sarah for testing everything out with me!

If you are looking for other neighborhood guides in the Bay area, check out my guides to Berkeley and Oakland.