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Traveling to San Antonio TX, USA | Travel Guide!

San Antonio's history, predating even the earliest days of the US, all comes together in the mammoth annual Stock Show & Rodeo

by Nick Dalton
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traveling to san antonio tx

Traveling to san antonio tx would be adventurous, fun, and memory warming journey. The river walk, historical places, rodeo and ranch, etc will make your trip awesome! Take time to read this travel guide before traveling to san antonio tx to make your tour more enjoyable.

Everyone’s heard of the Alamo, when Mexican troops over-ran the quaint church and settlement in 1836, but in this sun-drenched, south-western metropolis the Tex-Mex culture and colour have evolved into something energetic and timeless.

San Antonio, as it’s often known, is an astonishing mix of food, music and cowboy living, all underpinned by a fiery, flamboyant religious backdrop – and brought together in the Stock Show & Rodeo that attracts 1.8m people over 18 breathless days.

San Antonio city

River Walk

Another sunny day on the River Walk

San Antonio sits 80 miles south of the Texan capital, Austin, and some 140 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the Mexican border to the west. It’s on the edge of Hill Country, rolling, dusty terrain while in most directions beyond the urban sprawl, it’s flat and pale.

Founded in 1718, part of the Spanish Empire, in 1731 it became the first chartered settlement in what is present-day Texas. From 1821 to 1836 it was part of the Mexican Republic when – inspired by the Alamo defeat – it was won back by independent Texas forces before being absorbed into the USA in 1845.

The city centre mixes Victorian brick, early 20th century grandeur and modern architecture, not least the Tower of the Americas, 750ft-tall centrepoint of the 1968 World’s Fair, with a revolving restaurant, and was the country’s tallest observation town until 1996, when pipped by Las Vegas’s Stratosphere Tower.

Around much of it meanders the San Antonio River, narrow and mostly below street level, bordered by historic buildings now mostly exuberant bars and restaurants, an area known as the Riverwalk, as small boat tours weave through.

The Stock Show & Rodeo


The bronco riders at San Antonio Rodeo, invitation only, are some of the nation’s best

This is one of the nation’s biggest rodeos. It is almost three weeks of roping, riding and rampant entertainment each February which in 2024 celebrated its 75th anniversary. It takes over the 18,000-seat indoor arena of the San Antonio Spurs baseball team (who go on the road) and the copious grounds. By day there’s a massive funfair with rather serious rides, huge barns where livestock is displayed in pens (children prodding huge hogs between the crowds on their way to weigh), outdoor runs for imperious creatures looking like Champion the Wonder Horse, and a mini-arena where young crash-helmeted children ride sheep. There are shops (boots a’plenty), food (barbecued ‘Texas-sized turkey legs’ for $23) and live music, such as Austin country guitar hero Scotty Alexander, in shed-like bars.

Come darkness there’s a daily main event. I saw Noche de Vaquero, a celebration of Mexican cowboys – and cowgirls – and their charrería horse skills. A melee of Mexican dancers, running horses and riders leaping from mount to mount, all to the sound of a mariachi orchestra – violins, trumpets and lots of sombreros – culminating in the extraordinary bull jumping, an acrobat somersaulting over a charging beast. That was followed by five Grammy-winning Texan Latino band La Mafia on a revolving stage.

Next night was rodeo proper, reckoned one of the world’s best, part of the national circuit… bareback riding, roping, bull riding and more, followed by veteran country star John Michael Montgomery, a man of many chart hits, on the slowly twirling stage.

An astonishing event that attracts 100,000 people a day for 18 days – families, beer-and-bourbon aficionados, barbecue fans, country music lovers and would-be cowboys as well as real ones. It’s run by 6,000 volunteers and all profits help students with tuition fees. 

Rodeo and ranch

Rodeo and Ranch

Larry Cortez gives a lasso lesson at Rancho Cortez

When there’s no Stock Show, there are still ways to get your cowboy kicks. Rancho Cortez is a relaxed dude ranch, just over an hour from the city in the pretty cowboy town of Bandera. At the helm for 22 years now is Larry Cortez, veteran cowboy with a Brit sense of humour – thanks to spells in Wimbledon teaching posh mums how to ride. Take a calm trail ride or hone your skills, learn to lasso (“All it is is a piece of string, don’t let it beat you up”) and sooth your aches in the indoor and outdoor pools. Accommodation is everything from a bunkhouse to an 11-person lodge, including meals in the warm, timbered dining room – but day visits are fine too. 

Half an hour from the city, Tejas Rodeo has been hosting Saturday evening rodeos for almost 20 years. Its season runs March-November, a 1,400-sellout in an open-air barn surrounded by timbered Western-style buildings, including steakhouse and saloon, packed with saddles, spurs, rifles and Western art dating back to the late 1800s. Live music until late. 

What to see

Alamo in the city centre

The beauty of the Alamo in the city centre

The Alamo is the first stop, the Spanish Mission, site of the battle made famous by John Wayne’s 1960 movie in which he played Davy Crockett. The siege, Texans against the forces of Spain’s General Santa Anna is the stuff of legend – and the place is eerie in its history. The small church in the heart of town is beautiful (free admission but reservations needed; audio tours and museum are extra and a guided tour is worthwhile) and the surroundings are undergoing a big revamp with recreated gate and wall restoring the original footprint of Alamo Plaza and a museum and visitor centre coming to a building across the street.

Early 2023 a museum opened displaying the Phil Collins Collection, the Genesis drummer’s long-curated Alamo memorabilia and artefacts, inspired when, aged five, he saw Disney’s Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. At nearby San Fernando Cathedral a tomb claims to be the resting place of Crockett, fellow fighter Jim Bowie and Alamo commander William B. Travis but its authenticity is doubted.

If the Alamo is the visible heart of the city, the River Walk is the hidden one, a colourful, lively yet peaceful place for the most part below road level as it meanders in a horseshoe, footpaths on either side offering walks or simply a path between the bars and restaurants. The channel was made floodsafe and the first shops opened in 1929 but in past years it has become a major attraction. The Briscoe Western Art Museum, opened in 2013, occupies a grandiose Greek Revival building, the public library from the 1930s. A beautiful retreat where the classic work of artists Frederic Remington and Charles M Russell sits alongside contemporary works and towering sculptures.

Mission San Jose

Peaceful Mission San Jose, a six-mile river walk from the Alamo

River Walk has been extended to take in the river as it reaches north, an area dubbed Museum Reach, passing the Museum of Art and reaching Pearl, a glorious collection of shops, restaurants, bars and nightspots in the enormous old German brewery of the same name. And south, Mission Reach, a six-mile stretch passing through the King William Historic District of huge homes and the buzzing, revitalised Southtown district. Increasingly rural it wanders past three more Missions – Conception, San Jose and San Juan – before reaching Mission Espada. All are beautiful and free, and the path is open to bikes and ebikes, both of which can be hired. 

Americas in the open air

The circular walk around Tower of the Americas in the open air

Tower of the Americas on the World’s Fair site has to be done. There’s a viewing deck with café at 579ft – although the vista is flat and uneventful there’s a 360 degree outdoor walk. The Chart House restaurant, slowly turning, majors on fish but many visitors simply grab a drink at the bar for a touch of the high life.

Pearl is a massive German brewery on the River Walk dating from 1883, now a magical world of cool bars and trendy restaurants, more than two dozen of them, plus hip shops and entertainment in many buildings and a park-like courtyard. In spring 2024 Pullman Market opens, with heritage grain bakery, Texas produce and more restaurants and food outlets. Just opened is Stable Hall, the original stables, now a magical concert hall, polished wood floor, raised boxes and neat bar, focusing on local country and roots acts, including cult post-punk roots rocker Alejandro Escovedo. 

Where to eat

Johnny Hernandez at Casa Hernán

Johnny Hernandez at Casa Hernán – he’s hot stuff in the city restaurant scene

Chef Johnny Hernandez is the flavour of today for his smart Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes and six restaurants. Top is La Gloria, with a deck overhanging the unhurried River Walk at Pearl – and reckoned to serve some of the city’s best margaritas. I tried Sunday brunch at Casa Hernán, by the Blue Star arts complex in Southtown, Johnny’s rambling former house and now filled with Mexican art and furniture… a heaped buffet of chicken enchiladas and so much more, not to mention mini margarites with exotic fruits.

Just around the corner is his Burgerteca, burgers with a Mexican twist: Oaxaca with its added mole negro, black beans, pickled red onions and avocado, and the Chicken Chipotle. And then there’s Super Bien, a cantina at the airport, with made to order dishes. 

Mi Terra

The colour of brunch at Mi Terra

Brunch is a big thing. Mi Terra was opened in 1941 as a three-table bakery for farm workers and has spread to cover a city block, a colourfully-decorated gem, like a festival every day. Saturday morning saw it packed with families and their gaily-dressed children, couples and lively groups – although breakfast is served 24 hours a day. Signature dish is huevos rancheros – eggs with chilli sauce, refried beans, fried potatoes and tortillas – as you’re serenaded by mariachi musicians. 

Crockett Tavern

The cool cowboy setting of the Crockett Tavern

The Crockett Tavern is a cowboy-era Western dream in the historic Crockett Hotel, built in 1909, only yards from the Alamo where frontiersman Davy Crockett made his last stand – and its terrace overlooks it. Curious local fare – beer battered cactus fries, pork cracklins’ with Bulleit bourbon BBQ sauce, cornmeal fried shrimp plus steak and ribs – in an evocative setting that’s also a cool bar with a Texan beer list as long as a rifle and cocktails like the Mission Mule: pineapple jalapeno tequila, pineapple schnapps, lime, and habanero syrup.

Pinkerton’s is the place for barbecue, a rustic retreat in the heart of the city. Ribs, beef, even jalapeno sausage, priced by the pound and served in a jovial atmosphere.  The River Walk has enough eating places to keep you full all trip but one of the best is Boudro’s, a favourite here since 1986, its tables spilling out on to the warm riverside. This has a Gulf Coast feel with plenty of seafood – blue crab tostada, shrimp and grits – along with wood-grilled steaks such as the Texas sirloin with fries, fried jalapenos, plantains and chimichurri sauce. Wash it down with a prickly pear margarita.

Where to drink

ReRooted is an ‘urban winery’ on the World’s Fair site, a wine bar/tasting room that opened in February 2024. Wine is all on tap – order a glass or a ‘growler, a carafe in a reusable bottle. It’s the dream of certified sommelier Jen Beckman, who has helped open five wineries in the burgeoning wine area of Hill Country (Texas has just overtaken Oregon as the state with the third highest number of wineries, behind California and Washington State). She makes own label wine with grapes sourced from Texan vineyards using shared wine-making facilities; the tap-to-glass philosophy saves 3-4,000 bottles a year. The place, is industrial chic with organic local art, perfect for a glass or two, to try samplers or for tastings. 

El Honky Tonk is a pleasingly unkempt shopfront bar with live country(ish) music on a tiny stage in the window. Lively and friendly. 

River Walk is a bar-hopper’s paradise, a world of margaritas (the Thirsty Aztec sells a two pint version) along with a host of alternatives whether the Esquire Tavern, the oldest bar on the River Walk and home to the longest wooden bar top in Texas, more than 100ft, the Oktoberfest air of the Bier Garten, even Mad Dog’s Brit-themed pub.

Where to stay

Hyatt Regency River

The Hyatt Regency River Walk’s stunning view

Hyatt Regency Riverwalk opens on to the River Walk, a vast glass-fronted atrium with the contemporary Kitchen/Bar gazing over a tree-lined indoor pond with the river on the other side. Big rooms have big views – mine gazed at the Tower of the Americas – and there’s a 9th floor open-air rooftop pool. 

grand style

The grand style of the Menger

The Menger, the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi, is a grand, elegant Victorian edifice – 2024 is its 165th birthday. In 1898 soon-to-be president Theodore Roosevelt gathered his Rough Riders volunteer force for war against Spain in the bar (built in 1887 as a replica of London’s House of Lords pub). The hotel has hosted 11 other presidents from Ulysses S Grant to Bill Clinton. 

Hotel Emma at the Pearl brewing-turned-lifestyle complex was a 19th-century brewhouse and mixes industrial heritage – iron beams, unrestored brickwork in the lofty lobby bar – with delicate colonial rooms. Rooftop pool like something from a Hollywood movie and in the heart of the riverside entertainment hub. The Sternewirth tavern and club room is a polished piece of history while Supper (curiously an all-day offering) mixes tradition with a contemporary take: try the crispy smoked Hill Country quail with whipped potato, green tomato jam and chili honey. 

How to do it

Delta, in conjunction with Virgin Atlantic, has regular flights to San Antonio via New York or Atlanta. 

More information: Visit San Antonio 



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