Looking for travel ideas for this summer?! I've got one for you today!
My husband and I recently took a much needed weekend getaway to San Antonio, Texas. In case you aren’t familiar with this city, San Antonio is one of several major, urban cities in Texas. I live in the Greater Houston Area, so I’m pretty partial to H-town, but next to that, San Antonio is my favorite big city in Texas! It is rich with history, dating back to the days before Texas won its independence from Mexico, and is the site of the Alamo - the infamous Spanish Mission where such figures as Davy Crockett and James Bowie made their heroic last stand alongside the other defenders of the Alamo. Every single man lost his life in the fight, causing the rest of the Texas Army to rally with cries of “Remember the Alamo” and push on to defeat the Mexican army and win our freedom!
The other most famous landmark of this culturally and historically rich city is the San Antonio Riverwalk. In the 1940’s, the riverwalk was built around the natural spring-fed river as more of a city park than a tourist attraction. Over time restaurants, hotels, and other businesses sprang up on the water’s edge, turning the river into more than just a place to enjoy a walk, but a center of trade and tourism.
I’ve been to the Riverwalk a few times through the years, and on this trip I was once again reminded of how beautiful it is! The difference from being at street level and then going down to the river is like night and day. The atmosphere is completely different and the temperature lowers, which is a relief in the Texas heat. It’s like a Texan version of Venice, characterized by Spanish-style architecture that pairs perfectly with the nearby Alamo, giant cedar trees (to ward off the mosquitoes!), beautiful landscaping, and art installations. Through the center "horseshoe" of the river where all the restaurants are, you can hear the sounds of mariachi bands and other live musicians. I will warn that it is always very crowded throughout the afternoon and evening in this main section - make sure to watch your step so you don’t get pushed off into the water - but it’s so worth battling the crowds!
So what all is there to do on the Riverwalk--and beyond? Check out this list of attractions and restaurants that we have either visited or want to in the future, along with a hotel recommendation and some important notes about parking!
There are many hotels you can pick from in San Antonio. Most in downtown, however, are very expensive, especially if they are located on the Riverwalk. A Home2Stay by Hilton just recently opened on the water, right outside the horseshoe section of the river. It had the best price of any of the nicer hotels on the river and our room was huge! I highly recommend it!
If you don’t want to stay downtown, there are plenty of other hotels further out in the city. Plus, an AirBnB is a great option! There are tons of those in this area, though I don't think there are many, if any, on the river.
No parking is free downtown! We found this out the hard way the morning we were set to leave for the trip. This forced us to rearrange our budget, and due to the crazy high price of $67 for TWO DAYS in the parking garage across from our hotel, we decided not to un-park our truck and just stay exclusively on the Riverwalk.
My family has always enjoyed finding interesting places to go eat whenever we are out of town, because why eat the same things you could have at home when you are on vacation!? For this weekend trip, I made sure to do my research and find places we wanted to try. Unfortunately, all my plans ended up going out the window because of the parking situation, and we didn’t eat at a single place I had planned! BUT the good news is, everywhere we ended up going instead was amazing! So I wasn’t that disappointed.
This Italian restaurant is one I don’t remember seeing on my previous visits, so it might be new. We took a chance on it our first night in town, and it paid off! The atmosphere on the patio was perfect and our food was delicious! I had the Penne Al Arrabiata and my husband had the Chicken Parmesan with Fettuccine Alfredo subbed out for the traditional Spaghetti.
This restaurant caught my eye on our first night when we were trying to find somewhere to eat. It was one of the closest ones to our hotel and when we walked past, I was struck by the beautiful outdoor seating area. I would describe it as a boho/Mexican style, and in the evening, there are lanterns lit everywhere that create such a lovely atmosphere (minus the loud music they sometimes play at night!). We decided not to eat dinner there because we weren’t really feeling Mexican food, but we did go there for breakfast the next day. My husband and I both ordered the Churro Waffles. They were crazy good, topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and drizzled with dulce de leche caramel! There were also a lot of other delicious looking savory items on the menu if you don’t want something sweet.
This restaurant was located a short walk from our hotel, inside of another hotel on this quiet section of the Riverwalk. This restaurant serves upscale American food in a lovely, cozy atmosphere. The prices were kinda high (definitely a splurge meal!), but their portions were huge and the food was spectacular, so we felt it was worth it! They serve complimentary blueberry muffins with pink Himalayan salted butter--so delicious! For an appetizer we ordered the Queso Blanco that comes with homemade tortilla chips, and for our entrees, my husband ordered the Black Truffle-glazed Roasted Half Chicken and I had the Bacon-crusted “Smothered” Pork Chops, plus their White Cheddar Jalapeno Grits as a side. Goodness, this food was delicious! I couldn’t even eat it all! We ended up taking my second pork chop and the remainder of the grits to go and ate it as a little snack before breakfast the next day! LOL
When we checked out of our hotel on Sunday morning, we finally had a chance to try a restaurant not on the water. Originally, I had planned to go to this really cute looking French restaurant, but it was pretty expensive, even for brunch, and with the unexpected parking fee, we decided to find a more budget friendly option. We ended up settling on this little restaurant at the edges of downtown. It was so cute and colorful and the menu looked delicious. I had my heart pretty set on it, so even though there was a forty-five minute wait, we decided to stay. And let me tell ya, it was worth it! I had the Sriracha-Honey Chicken and Beignets and my husband had the Blueberry Muffin Waffles–and it was all amazing! I wish it wasn’t so far away, because there were so many other dishes that looked amazing as well!
Other Restaurants to Try:
- Mi Tierra (I’ve been here and I’d say it’s the best Mexican restaurant in the city!)
- Guenther House
- Brasserie Mon Chou Chou
Visiting the Alamo is a must when you’re in San Antonio, especially if you’ve never seen it before. It’s located just outside the Riverwalk and is easily accessible even if you’re walking everywhere like we were. While the grounds are now small compared to what they were at the time of the battle, it’s a beautiful and interesting place to see--plus, admission is free! Since 2020, you now have to schedule your tour to enter the iconic Alamo mission structure and the exhibit hall (something we didn’t know until we got there). However, you can walk around the outside of the building, walk through the beautiful garden surrounding it, enter the large gift shop, see the statues of the famous Alamo defenders, and tour the barracks. On the weekends, they also do weapons demonstrations in the street in front of the Alamo, which we happened to arrive just in time for!
I’ve already talked a lot about this, so there isn’t much more to say besides this is a MUST SEE place! If you’re in town and have never been, make sure to at least take a stroll through part of it, or better yet, hitch a ride on the boat tour where your guide will point out all the major sites and give you a full run down on the river’s history.
This mall is not very big, but it’s still worth a visit, especially if you have children, since they have a LegoLand store, a brand new Aquarium, and a massive jungle-gym obstacle course. There are several chain restaurants located just outside it, along with inexpensive food court restaurants right inside the riverside entrance. This is also one of the best places to board the boat tour.
This little village of restaurants, gift shops, and art galleries is actually the site of one of the oldest settlements in San Antonio. The way to enter it from the river is directly through the outdoor amphitheater. I would love to see a play here some day! The stage is located on one side of the river, and the seats are grass covered steps on the opposite side!
San Antonio has one of the best zoos I’ve ever been to and I would highly recommend a visit if you have the time, especially if you have children! We spent a weekend in San Antonio with my husband’s family in January of 2020 and took my nephew there. He loved it, and us adults did, too!
The Pearl District
This is a new, trendy area of town I had hoped to be able to visit on this trip, but we’ll have to stop by there next time. It’s named after the Pearl Brewery, which has now been turned into a hotel. There are many restaurants here, including some of the ones I mentioned in my list (Supper and Brasserie Mon Chou Chou).
This is another place I had wanted to visit but we ran out of time to see before leaving town on Sunday. From the pictures I’ve seen, it’s absolutely beautiful, plus it is free to enter! There is also a tea room on the grounds if you want a light lunch.
Other Nearby Major Attractions:
*Photo by Eric Francis on Unsplash*