Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m so excited, because today my friend Karen is taking the wheel of the blog and sharing a place I’ve always wanted to visit – San Antonio! She and I have never met in real life, but we bond on social media over a shared love of travel, food and dogs — all the finest things in life 😉 So I was thrilled when she offered to post about how to spent the ultimate long weekend in San Antonio, complete with what to see, eat and do. After reading this, I’m ready to have sangria in hand browsing this beautiful, historic town!
The Ultimate Long Weekend Guide to San Antonio
If I had to sum up the year that my family spent in San Antonio, Texas in one sentence, it’d be: We didn’t love living there but if you haven’t been there, you should totally go visit! Most are surprised by our confession because San Antonio has such a great reputation – it’s a city certainly not lacking in culture and attitude. After all, Davy Crocket didn’t say “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas” dripping in sarcasm. The famous frontiersman died fighting in the Battle of the Alamo and over the years the battle cry “Remember the Alamo!” has become synonymous with grit and conviction – two attributes woven throughout the city’s rich history.
Despite my husband and I having little desire to be stationed in Texas again, we wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to spend a long weekend in San Antonio. Located 80 miles southeast from it’s sexier cousin, Austin, San Antonio has plenty to offer beyond the Alamo. That being said, it’d pretty much be considered heresy to visit the city and not at least stroll by the Alamo Mission. While views of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium and Guinness World Records Museum across the street sadly compete with sacred space, the structures and grounds beyond the iconic façade provide a sense of tranquility that is appropriate for the former Franciscan mission where several hundred Texan Revolutionaries and Mexican Soldiers lost their lives.
Arguable the second most-popular attraction in San Antonio is the River Walk – a collection of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River and manmade canals in downtown San Antonio. It’s worth it to take one of the infamous Go Rio River Walk boat tours – the guides do great job providing an overview of the city’s history and highlighting interesting and humorous facts as you cruise under the infamous arches. The crowds and chain restaurants can make the River Walk feel a bit inauthentic but there are little jewels burrowed throughout. High points include the James Beard Award nominated The Esquire Tavern, which is the oldest bar on the River Walk and home to the longest wooden top bar in Texas and Iron Cactus Mexican Restaurant, which is especially fun after hours. The River Walk has an open container policy, so feel free to an alcoholic beverage while walking along open water – a frozen sangria is especially refreshing on a hot summer day.
Located in the downtown Hemisfair Park, the Tower of the Americas is the second-largest observation tower in the United States and the most prevalent structure in the San Antonio skyline. There is an observation deck but if you’re pressed for time, skip it and head over to Historic Market Square instead. Home to over 100 shops and stalls that many describe as the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico, Historic Market Square often has live music as you browse authentic Talavera pottery and other handcrafted works of art. Be sure to also grab a churro!
Just north of downtown is a mixed-use neighborhood based around the historic Pearl Brewery, which operated from 1883 to 2001. Affectionately known as The Pearl, the space features dining, shopping, and plenty of green space along the river. We much preferred walking along the river from The Pearl than the actual River Walk. Whether you have brunch at Supper, lunch at Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery located in the original Pearl’s Brewhouse (pictured), or dinner at Cured, you won’t be disappointed with time spent at The Pearl. A couple of miles away, the San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden is located within Brackenridge Park, which is also home to the San Antonio Zoo and the Witte Museum. It’s a bit surreal to walk throughout a traditional Japanese tea garden in the heart of San Antonio and the dichotomy makes it worth a visit.
As much as downtown San Antonio has to offer, our favorite places in the area are found outside the city limits. If possible, rent a car so you can truly explore Texas Hill Country. And if you find yourself in San Antonio on a Saturday night between the months of March and November, head 30 miles north to Bulverde to the Tejas Rodeo Company. Watch a traditional rodeo and stay for live music and dancing well into the early morning hours. You can eat at the Tejas Steakhouse and Saloon beforehand or you can grab a Shiner Bock and Frito pie to enjoy in the stands. Seriously – don’t miss this Saturday night rodeo for the quintessential Texas experience.
It isn’t summer in Texas until you float down the Guadalupe River in a tube with a beer in hand. We absolutely loved hiking and swimming in Guadalupe River State Park, which is about 45 minutes north of downtown San Antonio. Whether you hike through rapids in the water, swing from a rope on the banks, or sunbathe on the river’s edge, the Guadalupe has something for everyone. If you want to stay more local on the water, you can easily rent a kayak and paddle on the San Antonio River at Davis Lake.
Whenever we hosted visitors during our brief time in San Antonio, we were always left with a newfound appreciation for the city upon their departure. We’d sit on our back deck with margaritas and watch the infamous Texas sun set over hill country. Our conversations would often take us to faraway places we hope to live someday but we’d always concede that we were thankful for the opportunity to experience San Antonio. We may not want to live there again, but we will continue to tell people why they should visit. And eat all the tacos. Go ahead and remember the Alamo – I know we always will.