We always travel with our kids. However, when my husband was invited to speak at a conference in San Antonio Texas, we figured this may be a great weekend away just the two of us. Lucky for us, his parents live in Dallas. So we flew from Baltimore to Dallas, dropped the kids for an awesome, fun-filled weekend with the grandparents, and took the next flight to San Antonio, Texas.
We didn’t arrive into San Antonio until evening. The sun had already set, and we headed straight to the Hilton Palacio Del Rio for check-in. Despite some issues with our room, we eventually settled in. The hotel has an interesting history as it is the only modular built hotel. Other than that, it is a rather non-descript, average hotel. The Hilton Palacio Del Rio is a convenient walk to the convention center and right on the Riverwalk.
Craving some good Tex-Mex, we headed to Paloma Blanca, a restaurant a bit outside of the city that was recommended by a friend. We can’t get good Tex–Mex where we live, so when in Texas, we try to search out some good stuff. Paloma’s is a large, with seating both inside and outside. It’s about a 15-minute Uber ride from the downtown. The food was good; serving a variety of enchiladas, fajitas, flautas, and some house specialties. What really stood out were the salsas. They were spicy, tangy and fresh. I gorged myself on their homemade chips and salsas while rinsing it down with some margaritas.
After a good night sleep and still full from dinner, I grabbed a coffee and headed straight out the hotel to the river walk. The River Walk is located right below street level of downtown San Antonio. I was happy to get there early and beat the onslaught of crowds. I found it to be a nice alternative to taking a walk on the city streets. It’s not a place where I would sit and eat in one of the many restaurants that line the river, as they cater to the tourist trade. There’s a section that runs through downtown that has a multitude of convenience/t-shirt shops. But overall, hit the pavement early in the morning, and you’ll have a chance for a charming walk along the river.
When I was out, most of them were not yet open, so I enjoyed watching the runners, the early morning walkers, the ducks and birds and drinking my coffee. It was cool and shaded by trees and buildings. It is a total of 15 miles in length, with only a couple of those miles in the downtown area. It is was a nice walk while I enjoyed my morning coffee and worked off some of the chips and salsa from the night before. My walk was a mile or two, but I enjoyed the watching the ducks and the people. You can also use the Riverwalk as an alternative way to get to the many attractions in San Antonio instead of the busy streets of the downtown. It’s prettier and more peaceful.
Along the River Walk, in the downtown San Antonio area, there are river barges giving tours of the river area sites. I was a bit skeptical; it seemed like an overly touristy thing to do, with canned commentary. However, the guide used humor and wit, discussing history and points of interest on the tour, and engaging us all. He even told us to come back as it was Saturday and chances of us seeing one of the many weddings that happen on a small island called Marriage Island would be high and he would be happy to take us. The tour is 30 minutes in total which is a perfect length for kids.
After surprisingly enjoying the river barge tour, I walked down the Riverwalk and over to The Briscoe museum. I have to be honest, before the barge tour, I didn’t know what the Briscoe was. Upon entering, paying my $10.00USD entrance fee, I was instructed to start the tour on the third floor. That was different: usually, museums start their exhibits on the first floor and make your way up. Makes sense though; starting on the third, you work your way down, eventually to the first-floor exit.
I was immediately drawn into the museum’s total dedication to the American West experience. The museum featured exhibits of ornate Western-style saddles, including one that once belonged to Pancho Villa, the famous Mexican fighter. The saddles were encrusted with silver, had designs all over, and must have weighed a ton. I could only imagine the poor horse that had to carry this on its back.
The ornateness didn’t stop there. The spurs used for the horses were silver with detailed designs and spikes that formed a circle that spun with the movement of the rider’s boot. Once again, my mind went straight to the horses that had to bear the kick from the rider wearing the spur. Among the other artifacts were stagecoaches, covered wagons, pottery, and swords.
On the second floor, one room taught me about the chuck wagon, the forerunner of our modern-day food trucks. The cowboys would actually rate the chuckwagons and the quality of the food. I was fortunate enough to be there during an exhibit that highlighted women and the Western experience. It spoke to me knowing that their lives were not easy. Many of them raised their families, tended to the farm and animals, and fought right along with the men, yet not get their fair recognition. I was happy to see the education on how tough their life was; these women did it and made it work.
My visit took about an hour, and worth it as it is uniquely dedicated to the American West. It’s not a museum you will find in many places.
Lunch At The Esquire
My husband finished his conference and met me on the Riverwalk so we could enjoy lunch together. We opted to visit one of the oldest bars in San Antonio, The Esquire. The Esquire was opened right after alcohol prohibition in America ended in 1933. We entered from the street and right away noticed the long wooden bar on our left-hand side. We soon came to find out that it is the longest wooden bar in all of Texas. Things are always bigger in Texas. We headed back to the host stand and were fortunate enough to grab one of the few (maybe 4) tables out on the back deck. The deck overlooks the Riverwalk and is shaded nicely by the many trees and buildings.
Since it was a bar with a bar menu, burgers, sandwiches, few salads, some entrees like Frito pie which I understand is a Texas thing. We chose to go with the standard bar food, burgers and ordered some of the local San Antonio craft beers. It’s not destination dining but hit the spot. Eating in a bar that’s been around for almost a century doesn’t happen often.
After lunch, we headed to the Alamo for a visit. It was an easy 10-minute walk from the Esquire. I had always imagined The Alamo being located out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dry, flat, dirt land with few shrubs, and tumbleweeds rolling by. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Alamo was right in the middle of the city of San Antonio, surrounded by busy streets and souvenir shops. A bit of a letdown from what I had imagined being, but I was still excited to see The Alamo, as it was such an important part of American history.
We did have to wait in a line that took about 40 minutes, but once in, the first visit was the missionary church of the Alamo. The church was empty, just some details explaining the different areas, nothing more. Blank, stone, walls, and a small interior. It was a short visit, maybe 10 minutes top. The Alamo is definitely a must-see USA, bucket list, but check out these other bucket list, must-see places in the USA.
Once outside, we then headed to a couple of different areas. First, we walked past the living history encampment where actors are dressed in time period costumes, recreating scenes from the time of the battle. We caught a quick glimpse, but it seemed they were on a “break” from battle as they were all just sitting around.
After we headed towards the Long Barrack Hall. The Long Barrack Hall is a museum dedicated to The Alamo and the Texian- Mexican Battle. I was impressed with all of the artifacts and information inside the area. It is a narrow building so it did get a bit crowded in some areas, but nothing to impossible to work with. I spent a while reading about the long history and politics that went far beyond The Alamo itself. The exhibit is highly descriptive and interesting and helped me understand just how complicated the entire Texian-Mexican battle was.
On the recommendation of a friend, we chose to spend our evening at The Pearl. The Pearl is a mixed-use space built in the former historic pearl brewery. It is a sprawling complex of residences, restaurants, retail, events, hotel, an amphitheater, and is a third campus to The American Culinary Institute. When we arrived, there were families hanging out in a common area, enjoying the evening hours with picnics, couples walking and having drinks, and friends out for the night. Right away we thought of how much fun it would be to have the kid there with us.
We strolled around taking in the area, checking out the shops, various restaurants, until we finally settled for a glass of wine at High Street Wine and Co. A cozy wine bar with indoor and outdoor seating, serving select wines with a small assortment of cheese and charcuterie to accompany the wines.
We then headed over to Cured for our dinner. The restaurant cures its meats in their own “cave” as well as pickling their vegetables in house. They source their meats, produce, cheese, and most beer locally. We decided to split 6 of the charcuteries options along with some of the cheese offerings. The 12 month cured culatello ham melted in our mouths, and pork rillettes mixed with apple and jalapeños ( the jalapeños must be a Texas thing), had the perfect combination of salt, sweet and spice spread on homemade flat, toasted bread. The local cheeses were aged perfectly and we enjoyed one crumbly cheese and one hard cheese.
It is a family-friendly restaurant. Vegetarians be warned, the selections will be few.
It was a great way to wind down a full day in San Antonio before heading back through Dallas to grab the kids before heading home.
Texas is full of exciting cities large and small and full of history with great art scenes, If you want to check out a smaller Texas town, head over to Buda Texas, located in the Hill Country, to check out what small towns of Texas have to offer.