by Emily Barton & Elizabeth Breakstone
Heading to ALA Midwinter in San Antonio? If so, then read on. You’ll find a list of spots to visit while at the conference. We went all out to compile the list below, checking with San Antonians, consulting guidebooks…we even tried Google. We divided our list into " bun appropriate" locations for those NMRT’ers that get excited about history. And, because we know you’ll be taking in a lot of information at the conference, we put together a " Where take your hair down" list, so you can get out, relax, shop, catch some music and maybe have a drink. This is just a sampling of what San Antonio has to offer—it’s the tenth largest city in the country, so there’s lots to do.
Bun Appropriate Locations
(300 Alamo Plaza) The Alamo is one of the most famous historical landmarks of the Southwest. The Alamo stands as a reminder of the 189 brave men who fought and died there in a battle against Mexican General Santa Anna. If ghosts are your thing, check out the Alamo City Paranormal Club tours of the Alamo (210/436-5417) Take the time to visit while at Midwinter.
San Antonio Missions National Historic Park (Mission Trail)
(2202 Roosevelt Ave)
Located alongside the San Antonio River this park is composed of four missions built by the Franciscan Friars in the 18th Century. It includes the Mission San Jose built in 1720, Mission Cencepcion built in 1731, Mission San Juan Capistrano built in 1731, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada originally built in 1731 and reconstructed in 1868.
Spanish Governor’s Palace (105 Plaza de Armas)
This palace was once a military commander’s home when the structure was part of a Spanish fort constructed in 1722. If you are fond of Spanish colonial antiques you’ll find this home to be of interest. National Geographic magazine calls it the most beautiful building in San Antonio.
(318 Houston Street)
The museum is connected to the Buchkhorn Saloon and got it’s start in 1881 as a drinking establishment, not cultural institution. It’s tremendously kitschy and features such treasures as a hall of mounted stuffed animals from around the world, a Texas History wax museum that is not to be missed, western artifacts, and pioneer exhibits and displays.
(418 Viliita St.)
La Villita was inhabited by Coahuiltecan Indians, followed by Spanish colonists and was an original settlement in the San Antonio area. It is now a collection of arts-and-crafts shops and a national historic landmark. It features exhibits sponsored by the San Antonio Conservation Society.
Davy Crockett’s Tall Tale Ride
(329 Alamo Plaza)
A ride that takes you an a narrated tour of the "life and times of Davy Crockett – as he told them." It comes highly recommended to anyone with an appreciation of humor and history from a San Antonio native.
Guinness World Record Museum
(329 Alamo Plaza)
Who can resist finding out who holds the record for the longest kiss, the fastest men's mile, the most expensive movie ever made, the largest feet, the smallest GPS watch and the most active volcano. Attached to the museum is Ripley’s Haunted Adventure a year-round haunted house sure to spook the best of us. Okay, it’s not really much of a cultural site, but it sure is entertaining.
Where to Let Your Hair Down
A historical shopping area that has been a part of San Antonio since the early 1800’s. Here you will find the "largest Mexican style marketplace in the country," a farmers market, and an open air restaurant. In fact, chile con carne, the state dish of Texas was invented in this marketplace. If that is not a reason to visit I don’t know what is.
Paseo Del Rio/The River Walk
No tourist should go to San Antonio without taking time to see the river walk. Found below street level in downtown San Antonio, the cobblestone walkway is lined by greenery on one side and by shops and restaurants on the other. For just a few bucks, you can catch a Riverwalk cruise. Many restaurants also offer dinner cruises on the river.
(10500 Sea World Dr.)
It might not be your first thought, but, hey, it’s one of the state’s biggest attractions and the largest Sea World in the United States. 16 miles northwest of town, this is the home of Shamu, Namu, Kandu and Baby Shamu as well as many many many other sea creatures.
- Buckhorn Saloon (318 Houston Street) Winner of the "best attraction" award from the downtown alliance, the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum is a great place to stop in and soak up some San Antonio history and culture while having a great time. The lunchtime restaurant features great food such as mouthwatering steaks.
- The Esquire (155 E Commerce St) has what’s billed as the longest wooden bar in Texas... what more could you want?
- Blue Star Brewing Company (1414 S Alamo St) Located at the back of the Blue Star Arts Complex, this brewpub and restaurant is a casual place to grab a beer and a bite.
- The Electric Company (1430 N Main Ave) is a lesbian-owned mixed bar with a happening dance scene.
- Howl at the Moon (111 Crocket St. W) This bar features dueling pianos and a fun atmosphere. Stop by while you are in town to listen to some music, have a drink, and relax try this bar. It comes highly recommended from a native. Warning though, he tells me the menu, like many along The River Walk, is quite pricey.
The Riverwalk has a number of upscale restaurants, mostly Mexican and TexMex. These are better for people watching, not for the food. That said, there are some recommended spots to check out.
- Las Canarias (112 College St.) is expensive, but is supposed to be very good. It specializes in local cuisine.
- Boudro’s (421 E Commerce St.) is upscale TexMex, featuring guacamole made right at your table.
- Schilo’s Delicatessen (424 E. Commerce St), an 80 year old German restaurant, has great beer, hearty food and, after 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays, some very classic Alpine folk music.
Away from the Riverwalk, you’ll find many other options.
- At Market Square, you’ll find lots of kiosks selling Mexican food.
- Madhatters (320 Beauregard St., King William District) is a bakery with over 70 types of tea. It is apparently quite charming.
- El Mirador (722 S St. Mary’s St, King William District) is hailed by many San Antonians as reliably awesome. Check out Sopa Azteca Saturday’s special tortilla soup.
- Willard’s Jamaican Jerk Bar-B-Que (726 E Mistletoe Ave, Brackenridge Park area) is a tiny smokehouse just off the St. Mary’s Street strip.
- Josephine Street (400 E Josephine St, Brackenridge Park Area) This restaurant, in an old Victorian house, offers good ol’ steak and whiskey.
San Antonio’s music scene isn’t quite as big as nearby Austin’s, but there’s still lots going on.
- Jim Cull’s Landing (1174 E Commerce St) for Jazz
- Rosario’s (910 Alamo St) for Jazz and Salsa
- White Rabbit (2410 N St Mary’s St) for punk and indie
- Sam’s Burger Joint (330 E Grayson St) for rockabilly, ska, punk and open mic
- Carmen’s de la Calle Café (720 Mistletoe Av) for Friday night flamenco