San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the United States but somehow it feels like Texas’s best-kept secret. This year is its 300th birthday, making it the perfect time to visit. In addition to all the regular things to do around the city, there are hundreds of special events taking place – see the box for my don’t-miss picks.
We recently visited on a road trip through Texas with Hertz. I’ve shared before my love of the road trip in general and the great Texas road trip in particular. (On this campaign collaboration, Hertz provided the car and covered the cost of our rental.)
My husband, teens and I drove the Deep in the Heart of Texas route. It circles the middle of the state, taking in rolling hills and lush countryside along with fab city stops like Abilene, Fort Worth and the great city of San Antonio. The Road Trip Planner has easy-to-follow routes in areas across the U.S. – check it out for your own American #Hertztrip road trip!
About San Antonio
The great thing about the San Antonio is that its Hispanic roots are obvious in everything from its name to its Spanish colonial and Mexican architecture. It was founded by a mission in 1718 in what was then Mexico. Here you can have both a truly unique Texas experience. Its vibrant Hispanic culture meshes with its Texan side in everything from the history to the food to the arts and beyond, making it the kind of experience they will remember forever.
6 things you MUST do in San Antonio with kids
It is a really easy city to wander around because there is so much colour and buzz. Here are my six unmissables:
1. The Alamo – You’d think Texans wouldn’t want to talk about the Alamo seeing as it was the site of a spectacular defeat of the Texas revolutionaries by the Mexican general Santa Anna. But the rallying cry of “Remember the Alamo” typifies the Texan spirit: grit, gumption and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s said Davy Crockett was one of the casualties here. There are daily tours ($15, good for 10+ years), audio tours ($7), history talks (free) and a Living History Encampment in the grounds (free and great for photo ops) as well as an extensive gift shop. Entrance to the Alamo itself is free; get there early to avoid the crowds (and the heat).
2. The Riverwalk – New York has the High Line; San Antonio has its Riverwalk, a 15-mile park that borders the San Antonio river. It passes the Alamo and can then be followed downtown where it passes through great shopping and restaurant quarters. The central section has street musicians and even the odd mariachi band. You can walk the winding path, eat lunch or dinner, grab drinks, shop or stay at one of the waterside hotels. There are river taxis, which get mixed reviews online. (Free – any age from babies in pushchairs upwards, although there are sections with steps for access.)
3. San Fernando Cathedral – If you’re worried that “But it’s Texas’s oldest church!” won’t cut it with your children, relax. I’d never been to it in my many visits to the city before – it was a delight to discover it now. The beautiful cathedral is moments from the Riverwalk so doesn’t need a special trip and is steeped in history. However, at night it becomes the backdrop of superb illuminations designed by French artist Xavier de Richemont. Stunning enough to make a hardened teenager draw breath (Free – any age; www.mainplaza.org / https://sfcathedral.org/).
4. Witte Museum – This is a fabulous collection of “everything Texas” from local dinosaurs to the history of San Antonio. The awesome four-floor interactive area H-E-B Body Adventure (named for the supermarket sponsor) can keep your children entertained for hours. I love the goofy performance about digestion although it was aimed at smaller children. (from $12 – great for 4 years+; wittemuseum.org)
5. Market Square (El Mercado) – We loved the traditional Mexican feel that has been cultivated in this shopping area. It is worth going into Mi Tierra just to see the vast collection of pinatas hanging from its ceiling (we’d also recommend their margaritas and pan dulce). On one visit we bought religious bracelets from a group of nuns who had set up a table opposite the pastry country. This restaurant which started as a three-table cafe now can be heaving at busy times; if you plan to eat go early enough that the kiddies can tolerate a wait. There is everything on offer at the Market Square Mercado from sombreros to ceramics to festive Mexican garlands and, if the sights and smells aren’t enough, there are often Mexican performers too. (Free – great for 10 years+; getcreativesanantonio.com/Explore-San-Antonio/Market-Square)
6. Eat! – The food is San Antonio is one of the best reasons to make sure you have lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day. We ate a delicious lunch at Acenar, which has a modern take on Mexican cuisine and a colourful patio overlooking the Riverwalk. We went crazy for the jicama shrimp tacos — sauteed shrimp in tiny corn tortillas topped with shredded Mexican turnip and tamarindo sauce. I would come back for the ceviche, queso flameado (melted cheeses with mushroom, chorizo, onions and peppers) and chicken empanadas — and that’s just the starters! Plus forget baked beans for the kids. Here the children’s menu tempts them with yummy quesadillas, enchiladas and chalupas. Look out for my review of the visit soon! Other great things to eat while in San Antonio include barbecue, burgers, steaks, and traditional as well as reinvented Mexican food and dishes from all over Latin America.
Don’t-miss events for San Antonio’s 300th Birthday
Feb 3rd – WESTERN HERITAGE PARADE & CATTLE DRIVE (www.sanantonio300.org/event/western-heritage-parade-cattle-drive-3/)
This is Texas and if we want to drive 100 steers through the city centre, we will! Music, wagons and more cattle than you know what to do with!
April 24 – FORD MARIACHI FESTIVAL (https://www.sanantonio300.org/event/ford-mariachi-festival-kickoff-river-walk-coronation/)
Traditionally – ie, flamboyantly – dressed mariachi bands converge on the Riverwalk to serenade you over margaritas.
THROUGHOUT THE YEAR – SAN ANTONIO MURAL RIDES (www.sanantoniomuralride.com)
A guided tour by bike to some of the city’s great guerrilla art ($40) – perfect for street art fans.
June 28th -July 4th – BUD LIGHT STARS, STRIPES AND LIGHTS (www.sanantonio300.org/event/bud-light-stars-stripes-lights)
Possibly the most patriotic display in America, the Riverwalk will be lit up by 2,000 torches with a “star-spangled banner” theme for Independence Day.
Disclosure: My car rental was covered by Hertz. All opinions are my own.
To book your road trip visit Hertz.co.uk and use the Road Trip Planner to plot your route.
Have you been to San Antonio?
Tell me what you liked or what from my list appeals.
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