SAN ANTONIO’S FAMOUS River Walk offers travelers plenty of entertaining options: a romantic barge ride under a canopy of 200-year-old cypress trees, riverside tables perfect for sampling margaritas and local cuisine, and plenty of spas, restaurants, bars, and shops. Ever since the 1968 HemisFair put the spotlight on the ingenious development that turned the land along a former flood-prone river through the middle of town into one of the most alluring urban developments, the River Walk has drawn people from around the world to its banks for alfresco dining, shopping, and nightlife.
Author Terry Scott Bertling Photography Dave Lauridsen
DAY TWO / At El Mirador, try the huevos rancheros (eggs over a corn tortilla served with salsa) or chilaquiles (fried tortilla strips with scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, and salsa). Either will prepare you to feast your eyes on the Museo Alameda, the National Center for Latino Arts and Culture, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and the city’s newest museum. Located in the historical Market Square, the museum is a colorful and eclectic celebration of Latino culture. Don’t miss the funky Regalo Gift Shop installation designed by local artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz. And while you’re in Market Square, swing by the Galleria Ortiz to shop for art and then by Mi Tierra Café y Panadería (bakery) to pick up some pumpkin empanadas for later.
Next, check out the Central Library. Sure, it has books (a nice Latino collection on the sixth floor) and shows the influence of Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta. But the second-floor Fiesta Tower, by glass artist Dale Chihuly, is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Have a seat and marvel at the 26-foot tower made of 917 pieces of colorful hand-blown glass.
Don’t worry that you’re leaving the library empty-handed; you’re going to The Twig Book Shop, a popular independent store with plenty of Texana and regional literature for late-night hotel reading. Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo and John Phillip Santos’ Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation are popular local picks.
After such a busy morning, it’s time to head to Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine for some traditional fare in a hacienda-inspired setting. Take a seat on the terrace and enjoy the fountains and lush gardens while you dine on enchiladas verdes.
You could fill an afternoon wandering the galleries at the San Antonio Museum of Art, but focus on two highlights: the Latin American wing that covers 4,000 years of Latin American history via Nelson A. Rockefeller’s extensive folk art collection, and the Persian ceiling, another Chihuly creation, featuring hundreds of hand-blown glass pieces.
Tired of just looking? The next two stops give you the chance to take in more beautiful art—and buy a piece or two. The Southwest School of Art & Craft has a great shop full of work (textiles, pottery, jewelry, cards, and more) by talented artists. And local glass artist Gini Garcia will amaze you with her work at Garcia Art Glass. You’ll be glad you can pull out your wallet and ship home anything from $65 glass flowers to $12,000 chandeliers.
Let’s hope you saved some energy for dancing, because dinner is next door at Azúca Nuevo Latino, where you can enjoy a Cuban sandwich or paella Latina and live entertainment. On Friday and Saturday nights, the dance floor is packed with people moving to the beat of salsa or merengue music.