There is something for everyone to fall in love with in San Antonio. It is the seventh largest city in the United States and the second largest in Texas. It is a big city with the heart of a welcoming friendly small town. The Crown Jewel of San Antonio is the enchanting magical (Paseo del Rio) or River Walk. It is a series of twisting turns, and charming bridges, with grand vistas highlighting its beautiful courtyard parks. It flows for fifteen miles through the heart of downtown San Antonio.
The San Antonio River Walk which is a major tourist attraction today was almost obliterated after a major flood in 1921. In the flood fifty people lost their lives, nineteen million dollars of property damage occurred, and the downtown area was under nine feet of water. Plans to pave over the storm sewers along the downtown area called Great Bend were made, but thankfully the wives of the prestigious businessmen waged a campaign to save the river and ultimately create an oasis in an urban environment.
H.H. Hugman, the River Walk’s hero, a twenty-seven-year-old architect, shared his brilliant solution with Mrs. Lane Taylor, the President of the San Antonio Conservation Society. She endorsed his plan and set about socializing with the other business men’s wives, politicians, and city engineers, to champion Hugman’s vision. Living in New Orleans for three years made Hugman familiar with how the Mississippi River showcased the French Historical architecture and culture of the city. He took this inspiration to harness the river while highlighting the Mexican architecture and culture of his new home. He made the river walkable, navigable, flexible, and aesthetically pleasing.
It took decades for San Antonio River Walk to reach its full potential, but now it delivers a tranquil, soothing means to navigate the city. It is just below street level and only steps away from the historic Alamo fortress and mission. There is sightseeing, al fresco dining, boutique shopping, music, and fun. You can explore by foot, hop on a guided barge tour (San Antonio’s answer to gondolas), or on some sections of the walk you may rent an electric assist BCycle.
Other attractions along the River Walk include Museum Reach, a three-mile free open 24/7 pedestrian walkway, that takes you past museums, pavilions, benches, restrooms, public art. fountains and other water features. This landscaped environment also includes 70,000 plants. From April through October 60,000 Mexican Free-tailed bats reside under the I-35 bridge. Their evening departures are spectacular to witness.
The King William Historic District was named to honor Prussia’s King Wilhelm in 1870 by the many German immigrants who settled in San Antonio. It is home to preservationists who have restored these magnificent mansions and estates. In the Blue Stars Arts Complex, there are artists’ studios and galleries to tour. There are theatrical plays, dance performances, and outdoor film screenings available to you. In April there is the local favorite King William Fair featuring outstanding music and food.
If you are looking for local flavor check out the Historic Pearl. It is both a neighborhood and a former 1894 brewery, at one time the largest in Texas. It hosts 324 apartments, fifteen restaurants some are chef-owned, cafes, thirteen retailers, and eighteen resident businesses. The revitalized Pearl Bottling Department is now San Antonio’s first food hall. One of the three Culinary Institute of America campuses hosts classes at the Pearl. Twice a week there is a Farmer’s market. The Pearl is a trendy hipster hot spot vibe you will savor.
Further south, along the San Antonio River basin, sits a UNESCO World Heritage site the largest concentration of Spanish colonial missions in North America. It includes five 18th century frontier mission complexes, as well as farmlands, and a ranch plus granaries, residences, and churches built by Catholic Spanish Franciscan missionaries.
For those thrill seekers interested in water and theme adventures there are world-class offerings such as SeaWorld and Six Flags. Six Flags Over Texas founded by Angus G. Wynne, Jr., a Texas oil man, opened in 1961 and was named for the six flags of Texas that have flown over the state. A display of flags representing the six countries are Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. There is also Aquatica, Kiddie Park, and Morgan’s Wonderland, an amusement park for all ages and abilities. Thirty-three miles from San Antonio is the Schlitterbahn New Braunfels which calls itself the World’s Best Waterpark.
The people of San Antonio are passionate about festivals, they come together every year come as a community to facilitate over 100+ fiesta celebrations honoring the long-standing history and traditions of the city. One of the upcoming top free festivals is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) honoring the dearly departed loved ones who still live in our hearts on October 29 and 30 at the Hemisfair in downtown San Antonio. The festival features local art, food, live music, and entertainment. This is partying with a purpose as proceeds benefit Inner City Development. A new culinary event to premiere October 27 through October 30 is the Tasting Texas Wine and Food Festival. Visit San Antonio and Culinaria have partnered with the world-renowned James Beard Foundation to showcase distinguished and upcoming chefs all over Texas and the famous wineries of Texas Hill country. I hear one of the star chefs Rick Bayless of Chicago’s Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco may make an appearance.
Emilie Du Jour who is the Media Relations Manager for Visit San Antonio shared her love for the city of San Antonio recently during a lovely lunch meeting. She is originally from France but fell in love on a trip with the city of San Antonio. She returned to attend and graduate from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She gushed about all that San Antonio has to offer. Her family loves to visit her in her adopted city of San Antonio. I always thought France was the place to fall in love with but Emilie has me rethinking that. I hope you get a chance to fall in love with the city of San Antonio and all it has to offer.
Photos: Courtesy of Visit San Antonio