What to do in San Antonio
There’s more to San Antonio than the Alamo. In fact, the Alamo—originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero — is just one of five beautifully preserved Franciscan missions that altogether make up a National Historical Park and the state’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
An out and back trail connects each of the missions, situated roughly 2.5 miles apart, and follows the path of the San Antonio River. While you can rent a bike at any one of the BCycle stations along the route, we recommend starting at Concepcion Park or, if you’re up for a longer ride, begin and end at the Blue Star Arts Complex to reward yourself with a pint at Blue Star Brewing Company. Another way to experience the Mission Reach is to book a guided kayak tour with Mission Adventure Tours. The 3-mile excursion includes several adrenaline-inducing chutes and a lesson on the region’s flora and fauna.
For a less active, but equally thrilling experience, head to where the locals hang out: the Pearl, a bustling dining and entertainment district that was once home to the Pearl Brewery. Its highlights include a weekend farmer’s market, a food hall, lots of green space, a splash pad for kids, and some of the best restaurants in the city (more on that in a minute). The Pearl also plays host to seasonal happenings, like a colorful Dia de Los Muertos celebration in November and pop-up events for the weeks-long Fiesta carnival in April. One of the complex’s best hidden gems is Jazz, TX, an underground jazz bar located in the basement of the brewery’s old bottling department that features all kinds of music from Latin jazz to Texas swing.
Another nighttime spectacle not to be missed is San Antonio: The Saga. Projected onto the front of the San Fernando Cathedral downtown, the free light show is French artist Xavier de Richemont’s interpretation of the city’s history. It lasts 24 minutes and plays three times a night, four nights a week.
Where to eat
The best place to begin your culinary journey is at the aforementioned Pearl District, home to the San Antonio campus of The Culinary Institute of America and more than 20 restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs. Kick things off with pre-dinner drinks at High Street Wine Co., a cozy bar with an outstanding lineup of wines by the glass, beer, and cider. Then, choose between La Gloria for tacos, tortas, and the best prickly pear margarita in town, or Southerleigh for their take on Southern staples (the snapper throats alone are worth a trip). Brasserie Mon Chou Chou, with its rich French fare, is perfect for a boozy brunch, while Botika, a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and Peruvian cuisines, offers inventive bento box lunches.
The chef and six-time James Beard Award-nominee Steve McHugh is behind two of the city’s most talked about restaurants. Cured, located in the former Pearl Brewery’s administrative building, is McHugh’s homage to cured meats with upscale charcuterie boards and house-made pâté and foie gras. A mile upriver, his second restaurant, Landrace, boasts a patio overlooking a serene stretch of the River Walk and delicacies like raclette grits and bison short rib, plus a roving bar cart used to make custom Old Fashioneds table-side.
If you’re celebrating something special, consider two memorable, albeit very different experiences. Several restaurants along the River Walk offer scenic dinner cruises, allowing diners to enjoy a meandering meal on an outfitted river taxi. On land, Mixtli is a culinary exploration of Mexico with 10 courses that double as edible art, masterminded by the chefs Diego Galicia and Rico Torres. The hard part is snagging a seat—you must buy tickets to dinner in advance — but once that’s out of the way, the only thing left to worry about is where to start on the extensive mezcal menu.
Where to stay
There’s a San Antonio hotel for every kind of traveler. In town for work? The Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk is a 10-minute walk to the Henry B. González Convention Center and offers a peaceful respite after a long day of networking. When you’re officially off the clock, check out a complimentary bike or enjoy a nightcap at Otro Bar, cantilevered high above the treetops. The Canopy is also pet friendly with a special Paw Perks Program that comes with a perfectly sized dog bed, local treats, and a canine city guide.
Hotel Emma is a sure bet for when you want to impress. Located inside the Pearl Brewery’s former brewhouse, it blends the building’s industrial past with five-star amenities (think freshly made macarons at turndown service and in-room spa treatments). While away an afternoon in the private library or post up at Sternewirth and ask the bartender for the juicy backstory behind the Three Emmas cocktail.
With an impressive modern art collection, DJ-hosted pool parties, and a CBD-infused high tea, the Thompson San Antonio Riverwalk appeals to a well-heeled, younger crowd. Upgrade to a suite for a patio with skyline views and oversized soaking tubs.
For a family affair, look no further than the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. Spread across more than 600 acres, the resort features a Pete Dye-designed golf course, a full-service spa, and a water park with a lazy river and four waterslides. Adjoining rooms and access to nearby attractions like Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Natural Bridge Caverns make planning a cinch, leaving more time to enjoy your vacation.