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  • Writer's pictureAmy Leggett

Best of San Antonio-The Ultimate Guide

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Just a short drive away from Austin (an hour and a half to be exact!) is the wonderful city of San Antonio. San Antonio was where Davy Crockett was heading when he famously said "You can all go to hell and I will go to Texas!" I had heard great things about San Antonio and its' famous River Walk and wanted to check it out for myself. Let me tell you, it definitely lived up to all the hype. My daughter and I truly enjoyed our visit to San Antonio and we encourage you to join us and Davy Crockett and head to Texas!

Best Place to Stay:

There are several hotel options in San Antonio. Wherever you choose to stay, I would recommend choosing a hotel situated on or near the River Walk. We stayed at the Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk and I highly recommend it! The location was great as it is literally right on the River Walk and only a short walk away from most of the other things you will want to do. The Canopy also has a highly acclaimed restaurant right on the property that I will highlight below. It is also a brand new hotel so everything is really nice and fresh!

Best Things to Do:

  • Gruene Historic District/New Braunfels: About half way between Austin and San Antonio (or approximately a 45 minute drive from each) is the Gruene Historic District located in the city of New Braunfels. Gruene (pronounced "green") is a charming rustic Texas town with a distinct history. It is home to Gruene Hall, built in 1878, which is the oldest dance hall in Texas. Many big name country music stars have played here over the years. Gruene Hall still has live music every day so check the schedule and try and catch a show in this historic venue! There are also several local shops to pick up a memento from your trip, including the Gruene General Store which hasn't changed much since it opened in 1925. If you make a trip to Gruene, make sure to plan to each lunch or dinner at The Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar highlighted below in Where to Eat!

  • Walk or Cruise the River Walk: Once you arrive in San Antonio, the first thing you will want to do is check out the River Walk. You can stroll up and down both sides. There are several bridges that can take you up and over the river whenever you want to get to the other side. Check out all of the restaurants and shops that border the River Walk and decide which ones you want to return to during your stay! There are also free water taxis that will take you up and down the river throughout the day. You can also buy a ticket to take a guided cruise up and down the River Walk. We chose to do a cruise at night so we could see the River Walk all lit up.

  • City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off Tour Bus: I always recommend doing these bus tours on the first day or two of your trip when they are available. Riding the full loop gives you a lay of the land and a little history about the area you are about to explore. We bought a package that included a two-day bus pass and the River Walk boat cruise. Having a two day bus pass works to get you around the city and back to any places on the tour bus route that you want to return to. There are other packages that include discounted tickets to additional sightseeing spots. Check out all your options here.

  • The Alamo: The most famous site in San Antonio is a must see! Known as the "Shrine of Texas Liberty", the Alamo represents the heart of Texas pride and the spirit of its' people. I admit didn't know (or remember) the history of the area and I found the tour entertaining and educational. It gave me a whole new respect for the history of Texas in their fight to be independent. To do a self-directed tour you must reserve a FREE timed-entry ticket. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket for a guided tour that will give you a complete history of the Alamo with a directed tour. I would recommend the guided tour for the complete experience. You can find information on securing your timed entry ticket and tour prices here.

  • Historic Market Square: The Historic Market Square is an area "where the culture of San Antonio comes alive". There are over 100 locally owned businesses located in the Historic Market Square that allow you to enjoy the sights and flavors of old Mexico. You can find authentic Mexican curios and artifacts, hand-crafted leather goods and hand-woven Mexican blankets for $10. After shopping you can enjoy authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine at one of the several restaurants in the Square. Or you can just enjoy an authentic Mexican churro with your choice of dipping sauce! Yum! A trip to San Antonio is not complete without a visit to the Historic Market Square (and it is a designated stop on the Hop On/Hop Off tour bus mentioned above). Find more information on the Historic Market Square here.

  • La Villita Historic Art Village: La Villita Historic Art Village is located on the southern bank of the River Walk and is easy to get to while strolling on the River Walk or after your tour of the Alamo. The "Little Village" is an artisan village that has been listed on the U.S. Government's National Register of Historic Places. The cobblestone streets are lined by historic architecture opening up into spacious outdoor plazas. La Villita has a storied history, but these days serves as a mecca for artisans and entrepreneurs selling their wares in over 25 boutiques and performers entertaining visitors at cultural events throughout the year. La Villita is the perfect place to find unique gifts and mementos to remember your San Antonio experience. I bought a beautiful hand embroidered kaftan at Villa Tesoros that caught my eye and I get numerous compliments every time I wear it!

  • Pearl Shopping District: One of the stops on the Hop On/Hop Off Tour Bus is the Pearl Shopping District. It is a little out of the way, so if you don't do the Tour Bus you will have to have transportation to get here if you don't want to hike all the way over from the River Walk area. If you do choose to go, you will find a lovely shopping area anchored by Pearl Brewery. There are several different retailers with an eclectic mix of items from books, kitchen wares, free trade artisan crafts, home decor and clothing boutiques. There are also a number of different restaurants to choose from aside from the Brewery. On the weekends they have a large Farmer's Market with Saturdays dedicated to local farmers and ranchers and Sundays featuring local artisans. Definitely check out all that the Pearl Shopping District has to offer and plan to make a stop during your stay.

Best Places to Eat:

As I mentioned above, San Antonio is known for its authentic Mexican food and its Tex-Mex cuisine. We only had a couple of days and were trying to cram in all of our sight seeings so we didn't do too many "sit down" meals. We were able to check out a couple of places (and try a couple of special San Antonio treats, so that can get you started if you find yourself in San Antonio.

  • The Gristmill Restaurant: After checking out Gruene, make sure to grab a bite at the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar before you head out of town. The Gristmill is located beneath the Gruene landmark water tower in the ruins of a 1878 Cotton Gin overlooking the Guadalupe River. It is included on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Gruene Historical District. There are multiple levels of dining and an outdoor beer garden. We sat on an open air patio nestled in a grove of trees overlooking the River. It felt like we were eating in a tree house! The food was delicious and the setting was beautiful.

  • La Panaderia Bakery and Cafe: For breakfast we stopped at La Panaderia Bakery and Cafe and we were not disappointed with our choice! La Panaderia is owned by two brothers who grew up baking bread and pan dulce with their mother in Mexico. They decided to share their Mexican heritage and love of baking with their San Antonio community by opening the cafe in 2014. They had so many delicious pastries it was hard to choose!

  • Domingo: Domingo is an open-air restaurant located beneath the Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk where we stayed. The vide is cool and relaxed enhanced by the open air concept. The patio of Domingo is right on the River Walk so you can watch the boats float up and down the river and the people strolling along the River Walk. Domingo serves Mexican dishes with South Texas flavors. I had the Grilled Adobo Chicken Tacos which were delicious. Madison and I split the Skillet Cornbread made with cheddar, zucchini, and green chiles and served with honey butter. It was AMAZING! The drinks are "agave forward beverages" that are styled with edible flowers creating a drink almost too pretty to drink...notice I said almost.

San Antonio is an incredible city with lots to do! I encourage you to plan a visit and suggest combining it with a visit to Austin to do all the things I highlighted in my Austin blog which can be found here. By the time you are done exploring these parts of South Texas you will be saying "y'all" and speaking with a country twang while craving BBQ and Tex-Mex!


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