For a trip to the Hill Country, choosing the right route can make a difference in enjoying the journey. Four and a half to five hour drive depending on whether you take the fast route or the scenic route. A stretch down I 35 South will get road trippers to San Antonio in about 4 to 5 hours, while a country route on Hwy 281 South, will take about 6 hours. Either way, the heart of Texas is calling, and it’s time we answered.
San Antonio is like being seeped in Texas culture, so drink in the colors, the music, the spices and the magic that make this city one of the country’s most visited.
On the Way
IH 35 (2-2 ½ hours south of Dallas)
The town of Salado had a heyday back in the 1800’s when it was formed along the Chisolm Trail. Stage stops littered the area along the creek. Today this town is sparkling again, sprinkled with boutiques, home style restaurants, and the appeal of a small village. This is the perfect midway point between Dallas and San Antonio to stop and walk Salado’s historic and charming paths for shopping, snacking and simple Texas talk.
Where to Stay
204 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, TX 78205
Price: $109 to $189 per night, depending on room
Widely known as the doorway to Victorian luxury near the Riverwalk, the Menger Hotel, is a San Antonio treasure. The building, dating back to 1859, originally served as the state of Texas’ debut brewery, the Menger became a legend, housing and cozying guests for the next 150 years. Elegant and refined, this hotel spares no comfort.
Bullis House Inn
621 Pierce St
San Antonio, TX 78208
Price: $75 to $135 plus tax per night, depending on room
Hours: Sat, June 20 – 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun, June 21 – 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A neoclassical manion, located in the historic sector of San Antonio, the Bullis House Inn is named for General John Lapham Bullis, who had a hand in capturing the infamous Geronimo. Highly recommended by magazines such as the New York Times, Frommers and Southern Living, this inn is just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown and landmarks like the Fort Sam Houston quadrangle.
Where to Eat
Josephine Street Café
400 East Josephine Street
San Antonio, TX 78215
Hours: Mon. – Thur. 11a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri – Sat 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., closed Sundays
The Josephine Street Café is a stomach-full and an eye-full. Located in what was before the Fincke’s Meat Market building, Pat Molak and Mary Jane Nalley, have been cooking up classic burgers, steaks and sinful desserts here since 1979. The décor is charming and like no other, especially the tree right in the middle of the restaurant who has lived there for literally half a millennium. Where else can you eat under the shade of a tree while indoors?
The Guenther House
205 E. Guenther St
San Antonio, TX 78204
Hours: Daily 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Constructed in the Art Nouveau style of the 1920’s, the Guenther House is an all-in-one home run for San Antonio culture. A historic home that can be toured containing a small museum, the Guenther House also has a restaurant known far and wide as a breakfast and lunch must. Built in the early 1900’s, the home reflects the close-knit family life of the Guenther family, famous for milling flour. This restaurant is only open during breakfast and lunch times, so make sure to come early and try Guenther’s Favorite Breakfast Platter with two freshly baked Pioneer Brand Buttermilk Biscuits, smothered in one of the many flavors of San Antonio River Mill preserves: peach, strawberry, blackberry or jalapeño; fresh fruit and Applewood smoked bacon or country sausage patties. This is the place to start a day in San Antonio right.
What to Do
San Antonio is known as a top art city in the South, marinated in color, music and more, the city leaves visitors in awe and reflection.
San Antonio Art Walk
First Saturday/Primer Sabado
W. Commerce and Santa Rosa Street
San Antonio, TX 78201
Hours: first Saturdays of the month, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Since Texas was a Republic, Market Square has been the place to find what one wanted, needed, and desired. The first Saturday of every month the Downtown Market Square floods with local talent including art, music and activities. This free event welcomes visitors from noon to 6 pm and is more than enough to fill an afternoon. Normal hours for Market Square shops are daily from 10 am to 6 pm during non-peak seasons, and until 8 pm during the summer. In 2005, Market Square added another must-see, Museo Alameda, a Smithsonian affiliate, specializing in San Antonio’s rich Latino art roots. Also recommended are First Fridays and Second Saturday art events.
McNay Art Museum
6000 North New Braunfels
San Antonio, TX 78209
Price: Adults $8.00, Students/Seniors $5.00, Children 12 and under are free
Hours: Sun. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Monday, Tues., Wed., Fri. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thur. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In 1954, Marion McNay’s 24-room Spanish Colonial Revival house began its journey to become one of San Antonio’s most prized art museums. Located in the well-to-do community of Alamo Heights, she began her collection with Diego Rivera’s oil painting, Delfina Flores. Marion expanded her collection to include nearly 20,000 pieces including Medieval and Renaissance art, 19th through 21st century European and American paintings, sculptures and photographs, and art of New Mexico and the Southwest. A trip through the garden and a break by the outdoor fountains will finish off this unique San Antonio artistic delight.
San Fernando Cathedral
115 Main Plaza
San Antonio, TX 78205
Hours: Mariachi Mass begins at 5:30 p.m.
For celestial inspiration, visit the San Fernando Cathedral. Crafted in 1731, by the whim of King Phillip V of Spain, this church was destined to invoke life and love in San Antonio. The Cathedra’s Saturday mass at 5:30 pm is especially excitintg. This Saturday mass puts a twist on ceremonial worship, entertaining patrons with a live mariachi band. The Cathedral itself is a sight to see. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided or guided tour. Tours will last about 45 minutes as participants soak in the art, architecture and color that went in to this master cathedral. A guide for the self-guided tour can be bought at the “Los Padrecitos” gift shop. Self-parking is available in the private lots surrounding the Cathedral at $5.00 per car. Guided tours can be scheduled through the Historical Centre Foundation at (210) 576-1365.
318 E. Houston Street
San Antonio TX 78205
Price: Adults $18.99 plus tax, children $14.99 plus tax
Hours: Museums open at 10 a.m., closing times vary; Café opens at 11 a.m., closing times vary
Within walking distance from the Alamo and the Riverwalk, lies the Buckhorn Museum and Saloon. An all-in-one venue for those who love to take in quirky sites, Texas treats at the Café and then wash it down with distinct brews at the saloon, every inch of the Buckhorn Museum area is filled with tidbits of culture. For more than 100 years, it has served at a place for locals to enjoy each other’s company and conversation. Today, museum displays at both the Buckhorn and the Texas Ranger Museum will spur conversations that will last through dinner. Complete with a gift shop, this would be the place to pick up something for everyone back home.
San Antonio Trolley Tour
321 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, TX 78205
Hours: Daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Price: $10 – $26, depending on pass purchased
There are places one has to see when visiting any city, however, they should not be daylong excursions. A Trolley Tour is one way to snap those souvenir shots and still have a day to spend seeing other nooks and crannies that require more time and energy. An hour long tour around downtown includes a swing by the Tower of Americas, The Alamo and other Spanish Missions on Mission Trail, King William Historic District, and Hemisfair Park.
Riverwalk Boat Tours/Dinner Cruises
205 N. Presa Building B. Suite 201
San Antonio, TX 78205
Price: standard tour $8.25, $6.00 Bexar County Residents, $2.00 Children (1-5 years), Chartered Dinner Cruise, prices vary
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Strolling the Riverwalk is free and full of attractions. It can also get crowded. One worthwhile alternative is taking a quick cruise on the water. River taxis leave regularly and provide a full 45 minutes of fascinating information on the city and the sights along the water’s edge, under bridges and past the crowds. An exceptional option would be to float down this famous river at night, when the lights of the restaurants and bars illuminate and enchant even more. Many local restaurants offer dinner cruises to groups, however, a minimum number of people must come with each group. There is still hope for a romantic night cruise. Iron Cactus, Café Ole, Boudro’s offer community dinners so that small groups can join in with a group of friends in the making as they sip and savor local Tex Mex, grilled sensations and meals that will make a night ride in San Antonio one to remember.