Travel Diary: Exploring San Antonio in a Day
It's interesting to revisit a place when you are an adult compared to when you were a kid. You see things through different eyes and you come to appreciate things you never thought you would. I haven't been back to San Antonio since I was seven. Back then, I only remember seeing the Alamo, tall and looming against the pitch black night. I remember being sweaty and overheated in the hot summer sun at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, getting excited about Tweety bird merchandise, and reveling in the new pink and purple glitter butterfly clips in my hair.
As an adult, I've come to appreciate the unique charm of San Antonio. It's colorful, vibrant hues- the old world, mysterious feel that is full of history and tradition, one that is both proud and humbling at the same time. My eyes drank in the color murals that were almost at every corner. My mouth watered at the sight and smell of delicious barbacoa and sweet horchata, and Texas classics like savory chicken fried steak.
While there were quite a number of tourists lurking about, I definitely feel that San Antonio is an underrated city. For me, I definitely didn't appreciate it before, but after 24 hours of exploring some of San Antonio, it's quite the lovely gem, and perfect for a weekend getaway.
The First Night: Driving in, Texas Sized Food
Our drive from Houston to San Antonio was approximately 3 hours, from start to finish. Non-Texans, if you haven't driven on the big open roads of Texas during sunset, I definitely recommend it. Of course, don't forget to stop by Bucee's for some delicious snacks and bottled water, just to tide you over until dinner.
Our first destination of choice once we drove into town was Lulu's Bakery and Cafe for only two things: chicken fried steak and a cinnamon roll. Texas sized. Between four people, the giant chicken fried steak, sides, and cinnamon roll was plenty to send us into a food induced coma. It was definitely hard driving to our Airbnb, and my plans to visit a late night arcade went right out the window. I just wanted to sleep.
The Next Day: Eat, Drink, and Immerse in Culture
Breakfast was the first thing on our minds the next morning (duh) and Barrio Barista was at the top of my to try list. It was a last minute addition too, as I had only heard about it from a friend the day before. The cafe was relatively busy for a Saturday morning, but it didn't take long for us to order and find a table. The food came shortly after. Imagine- buttery croissant breakfast sandwiches, a sweet potato breakfast hash full of flavor, the fattiest barbacoa tacos with creamy avocado slices and green salsa, and last but not least- barbacoa. grilled. cheese. Wash it down with a refreshing and creamy iced horchata latte.
After that carb-load, we were ready to hit the town. We had a non-Texan with us, so naturally we had to go to the mecca of all that is Texas- The Alamo. We parked at a public parking garage and walked to street level and explored the rich Texas history. Entrance to the Alamo is free, but the cute trinkets and souvenirs might get ya. From the Alamo, a short walk will take you to the famous Riverwalk - restaurants and shops stretched over a mile of picturesque river. From there, you can walk along the river and explore the different sights, smells, and sounds. We walked the entire way through the Riverwalk to the San Antonio Museum of Art.
My friends know that if they ever travel with me, chances are that there will be an art museum on the itinerary. The San Antonio Museum of Art boasts an impressive collection of Spanish and Mexican religious antiquities, as well as a collection of Chinese porcelain, Egyptian artifacts, as well as paintings from every era. The modern art collection was also wonderful, but alas, I could not find a Rothko. (a side note - I like to play a little game with myself where I try and find a Rothko at every art museum I go to.) I was most surprised to find that there was a painting by John Singer Sargent in their permanent galleries ( the artist behind the infamous Madame X).
From the art museum, it is a 10-15 minute walk to The Pearl, a historic brewery turned into a beautiful space for restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels. There is an indoor food hall, a farmers market on the weekends, countless boutiques, bakeries, bars, and lots to see and do.
We made a pit stop at the indoor food hall to have a little refresher- for me, a root beer float. For my friend, a local beer.
We made our way over to Hotel Emma to check out Sternewerths- the space was gorgeous, with tall ceilings, cozy leather couches, booths, and chairs, and a classic bar that turned out delicious cocktails and bites.
We walked around and perused the cute shops before snack break #2- at Lick Honest Ice Creams - salvation in the Texas heat. While I'm glad to know that Lick is expanding outside of Austin, I couldn't help but wonder - will there ever be a Houston outpost?
If one is feeling ambitious you could walk all the way back to the Riverwalk. But why do that when you can take a scenic ride via water taxi?
There are stops throughout the river where you could pay a fare to ride the river by boat. This kills several birds with one stone. 1) It's something to do 2)You can take in the lovely views while floating on the river and 3) You don't have to walk all the way back.
There are numerous restaurants up and down the river, but if you're looking for top notch Tex-Mex or Mexican, chances are, the restaurants on the Riverwalk won't cut it. In the interest of time, we did try Casa Rio, and I did enjoy my street tacos.
After dinner we piled into the car and drove around the King WIlliam Historic District - beautiful tree lined streets and historical houses are the perfect setting for an after dinner walk. Do try to make it before or during sunset, so that you could still see the wonderful architecture.
Once it got dark, we headed back to downtown San Antonio (which is quite lively on the weekends, by the way) to Main Plaza for "San Antonio | The Saga: A Video Art Projection". Free and open to the public, spectators can view beautiful art projected on a cathedral to music. The pictures tell the history of Texas and San Antonio's significant role throughout time. The show can be viewed Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 9pm, 9:30pm, and 10pm.
And approximately 24 hours from when we first arrived to San Antonio, it was time to fill the car up with gas and head home. Till next time, San Antonio!
- Lulu's Bakery & Cafe
- Barrio Barista
- The Pearl
- Lick Ice Cream
- Casa Rio
- The Alamo
- San Antonio Museum of Art
- The Pearl
- Riverwalk River Taxi
- Downtown San Antonio
- Main Plaza