The Party Runs Day and Night
SAN ANTONIO — The River Walk, annual events like Fiesta and, this year, the city’s 300th birthday have turned San Antonio into party central. Embracing that spirit, distinctive hotels are offering programs to captivate guests and locals alike.
Opened in November 2015, the Hotel Emma anchors the Pearl, the River Walk eat-drink-shop-play mecca based where Pearl brewery operated from 1883 to 2001. The casual-elegant hotel — named for Emma Koehler, who kept the brewery running during Prohibition (and after the murder of her three-timing husband) — captivates guests and locals with lively attractions. The remarkable repurposing of historic brewery fixtures adds to the ambience.
Cooking demos, mixology lessons, regional wine tastings and craft classes at the hotel resemble parties.
Recently, a local baker taught 30 women, men and children how to decorate sugar skulls, a traditional memento honoring deceased loved ones. Guests created micheladas with Tejas beer, pickled garnishes, spices and chili salt. A “Cowboy Barbecue” book signing provided tastings. Dinner parties have included the James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour. Sternewirth Tavern and the riverside Supper restaurant attract locals with seasonal fare and superlative cocktails.
Tuesday and Thursday tours with nibbles and signature cocktails reveal secrets behind the Emma’s architecture: Machine parts were crafted into railings, intimate lounges are tucked into huge brewing tanks and a bottle-labeler was crafted into an awesome chandelier.
Tip: Groove to free live music after dark, then mingle by the indoor or outdoor fireplaces.
John Wayne and Princess Grace partied here, airline and pro sports team deals were made here, and socialite weddings continue to this day. Opened by cattlemen in 1909 as downtown’s first luxury hotel, the St. Anthony became a fresh go-to spot for hip locals after its multimillion-dollar restoration in 2015. Diverse indoor and open-air social spaces, each spectacularly decorated with original and reproduction furnishings, recall an age of cheery opulence.
A “live it up” vibe energizes two-story Rebelle, the wood-paneled St. Anthony Club (the city’s first private social cocktail club, now open to the public), an indoor sculpture garden that shimmers with Swarovski crystal fixtures, a New Orleans-style terrace overlooking street action, and the bright arch-windowed parkside atrium. Take your drink to the spacious rooftop patio, where Sausalito hand-painted tiles accent mini-lounges, or a cabana by the heated zero-entry pool.
The historic Alamo National Bank building, a 24-story skyscraper that opened in 1929, was restored in 2007 and turned into a friendly hotel. Original features include soaring 50-foot ceilings, travertine flooring and stained-glass windows.
Free daily guest perks include big breakfasts, day-to-bedtime soda, popcorn, coffee and soda, and the everyday Kickback happy hour on the mezzanine overlooking the gold-trimmed lobby. Kickback includes complimentary tacos and fajitas with fresh fixin’s, chili, nachos and handcrafted cherry margaritas, bloody Marias and Spanish tequilas.
Guests can take those sips and noshes to six terraces, an indoor pool with windows framing downtown views, a rooftop pool and whirlpools, and an observation deck. Coming this spring: a public-welcome lobby bar and bank vaults converted to meet-up nooks.
Tip: From the Drury’s balconies, watch SAGA, a free 24-minute light show projected on the neighboring San Fernando Cathedral at 9, 9:30 and 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
In 1914, a grocer built Hotel Havana in the Mediterranean Revival style popular in Cuba, with colonial shutters, Bastrop pine floors, 20-foot ceilings, iron-railed terraces and palm trees.
This National Register of Historic Places member’s Ocho lounge serves Latin-inspired dishes, tequila and cocktails like the Hemingway Daiquiri in an atrium overlooking the River Walk. Locals come for appetizers and drinks, pop-up markets, perfumery and other workshops, and Havana Hi-Fi Thursdays, when a DJ spins psychedelic soul, funk and Afro-Latin music.
Hidden in the basement is the candlelit Havana Bar.
Tip: Catch a free sound-sight-taste event here, such as Musica En La Calle on Dec. 14.
Named for Davy Crockett, this legend opened in 1909 just 18 steps from the Alamo. It serves Texas-shaped waffles and tasty tacos at its complimentary breakfast.
Tip: Ernie’s Bar has earned the hotel a following for its Texas craft beers.