SAn Antonio has long attracted history buffs since its central role in the founding of the Republic of Texas. (Remember the Alamo?) These days, this city also embraces the new. A preservation and expansion project at the Alamo, adding a new exhibit hall and collections building featuring weapons, relics and original documents, makes it a great time to visit or revisit the culturally rich south Texas city. But that’s not all — San Antonio has also taken off in culinary terms of late, with the recently revitalized Pearl District just north of downtown serving as home to several newer restaurants and trendy bars.
This fall also brings October’s first four-day Tasting Texas, Food and Wine Festival in partnership with the James Beard Foundation. Visit now and soak up San Antonio’s history, culture and tons of craft cocktails.
Where to stay in San Antonio
Thompson San Antonio
Book now: Thompson San Antonio
Housed in a glass-clad high-rise, the 162-room Thompson San Antonio, which opened last February, is a short walk from downtown attractions like the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, but it’s also pleasantly secluded from what it’s too an oasis of its own. Rooms feel intimate and atmospheric with dark wood furniture, slate-blue walls, leather armchairs, and marble bathrooms. The pool and spa (choose the River Rock massage or Quartz Firming facial) are important bonuses. And don’t miss the chic rooftop bar Moon’s Daughters, where drinking is easy thanks to cocktails like the Yarrows Rosa, made with grapefruit rose vodka and elderflower liqueur, framed with nectarberry salt.
Canopy by Hilton
Book now: Canopy by Hilton
Right on the Riverwalk, the elegant and annual Canopy by Hilton is the place to see and be seen. The 195 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows are decorated in muted whites and grays, along with colorful art, fabrics, and tiles to pay homage to San Antonio’s culture and history. The hotel’s Domingo Restaurant sits next to the Riverwalk, while the party continues upstairs at the sleek, open-air Otro Bar.
Where to eat and drink in San Antonio
Though it masquerades as an Apothecary Kitchen serving super green shots and ginger-turmeric amuse-bouche, Pharm Table is south of downtown near the charming King William Historic District, is a culinary highlight that you should not miss. Chef and owner Elizabeth Johnson’s worldly menu includes Peruvian ceviche, mushroom tacos and a curry bowl laced with tamarind and mango powder. Sit on the sunny terrace and combine with a Za’atar Sidecar.
Sample crispy steamed buns, dragon buns and flavorful eggplant noodles at Asian-Peruvian-tinged Botika in the Pearl District. At the helm of the restaurant is Executive Chef Geronimo Lopez, who previously served as Executive Chef and Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America’s third campus in San Antonio.
Sternewirth tavern and club room
In the former Pearl Brewery warehouse, the 146-room Hotel Emma’s Sternewirth Tavern and Club Room is equal parts industrial and cozy, thanks to high ceilings, fireplaces, leather sofas, and lots of candles. The 13-page cocktail, wine, spirits and beer menu includes the signature Three Emmas, made with beer and rose syrup, Botanist gin and grapefruit, and Blanton’s single barrel bourbon.
For a quick bite, head to Pearl Food Hall and seek out Mi Roti, which serves roti wraps filled with jerk chicken or curried chickpeas and coconut spinach. Grab one on the way to the airport; you will thank yourself later.
Roadmap Brewing Co.
In the few years since opening in 2018, Roadmap Brewing’s beers have already won a number of major awards, including a bronze medal for English Pub Ale at the 2021 US Beer Open. Don’t miss the Electric Skateboard Session IPA and Freudian Slip as well N’ Slide Vienna camp.
What to do in San Antonio
Visit: Ticket prices vary, tickets.jazztx.com
Tucked away in the basement of the historic Pearl Brewery, Jazz TX is a live music venue with a rotating calendar of nightly jazz, blues and Texas swing shows. Get a front-row seat, order a few rounds of whiskey or bourbon cocktails, and linger a while.
The McNay Art Museum
Visit: Tickets are $20 for adults, mcnayart.org/visit
Though you’ll need a cab or Uber, it’s definitely worth making the trek to the McNay Art Museum’s 22,000-piece collection, housed in two wings, one of which is a Spanish Colonial-style house called the Der Heir and avid art collector Marion Koogler owns McNay and the other modern steel and glass pavilion added in 2008. From Renaissance art to works by Monet, Picasso and Calder to Southwestern art, the breadth of the collection is impressive. For a short breather, step into the pretty courtyard of the old house, no doubt a popular spot for San Antonio weddings and events.
Visit: Admission tickets are free but require reservation, www.thealamo.org/visit
Take the Alamo’s self-guided audio tour to understand its 300-year multi-layered history from Spanish mission to garrison and symbol of the Texas Republic. Founded in 1718 by Spanish missionaries, the Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, was built to convert indigenous groups to Catholicism and to serve as a place of work and home. (There are also four other Spanish Colonial Missions that can be visited along with the Alamo.)
At one point, the Alamo complex consisted of 30 adobe buildings. The main chapel and barracks still stand today, while the rest of the buildings were destroyed or lost over time as San Antonio grew. The Battle of the Alamo was an 1836 siege by Mexican soldiers who stormed the Alamo and killed hundreds, including Davy Crockett, but eventually set the stage for Mexico’s defeat and the emergence of the Republic of Texas.
The first piece of a larger Alamo preservation project, a $15 million exhibit hall and collections building to showcase musician Phil Collins’ collection of Alamo artifacts (who would have guessed it?), debuts this fall. This new addition to the complex will add 10,000 square feet of exhibition space.
>>Next: A Native Texan’s List of the 8 Best Barbecue Spots in the Lone Star State
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