If you’re a Texas native like me, you know San Antonio as a city 3 hours outside of Houston that houses The Alamo — that thing from that one war that we had to study but retained no info. (Kidding, sorta.) But actually, San Antonio is a cute little city with a small-town feel and was named one of the top places to visit this year by National Geographic and Travel + Leisure. Sounds like reason enough to visit our Texas sister city. No? We’ve got some other ideas to tempt you…
I have been champing at the bit to get to Hotel Valencia in San Antonio since August — so like SIX MONTHS LATER, I had some high expectations. Valencia is a sister location to CityCentre’s Hotel Sorella and downtown’s Hotel Alessandra. It’s just as gorgeous, with a tad more of a dark and tribal vibe to it. And, it’s RIGHT on the Riverwalk. We walked almost everywhere and a stop by the hotel between adventures was an easy trip.
I loved the second floor check in and bar area. There’s an adorable patio and a complimentary breakfast to enjoy. Plus, when we got back to our hotel, we had a nice night cap at the popping Naranja bar.
Our room was pretty darn cute, with a couple streetside windows that I wished gave us some more natural lighting because the room was pretttty dark (overcast weekend, womp womp). Plus, the staff at Valencia were so great. They tried to get us checked in earlier than the usual 4 pm time. It didn’t happen for us, but points for trying!
Our first move, obviously, was margaritas and tableside guacamole at Iron Cactus on the Riverwalk. This one was recommended to me by one of you readers! Iron Cactus is a tequila bar and, as we learned, just a cool place to chill for a couple hours. We started with some queso and guac (seriously, both were so delicious, so do not make yourselves choose) and some “Z Best” margaritas (think: mexican martinis from Trudy’s!). We forced ourselves to get actual entrees (we needed sustenance!) but struggled to finish our soups and salads because the subject of tres leches came up…. we wanted that asap. It was probably top 5 tres leches I’ve ever had. On the super touristy Riverwalk, I really thought Iron Cactus was a great stop for lunch, brunch or dinner.
We headed to the Pearl District for dinner. The Granary was my pick of allllll the amazing looking restaurants in this development. (Think CityCentre, but bigger and growing!!). I highly recommend going to the Pearl District during the day too. We had a quick trip and couldn’t swing it, but I would have loved to do some shopping!
Anyways, this cute BBQ spot in a tiny house off the main part of the Pearl. I think they have a simpler BBQ menu for lunch, and they have a very chef-driven menu for dinner. We split a cheese tray then the brisket and pulled pork BBQ tray. It was absolutely phenomenal, and will dream about that brisket for probably ever. We had a few beers, too — mine was a Granary custom brewed beer! — and then split their yum cheesy pie.
Even though we loved our dinner there, I’d say try lunch and a day trip to the Pearl District.
Mi Tierra in Historic Market Square
While I’m no San Antonio expert, this one was a fun find — and a recommendation from some of y’all on Instagram! We walked to the Historic Market Square for one goal only: PASTRIES! And boy did we pull out all the stops. I literally walked down the line saying: “Oh, and one of those. Yup, that one too. No just put both in there, that’s fine.” Five pastries for two people sounds excessive, but, tbh could have done one or two more. Get the cream cheese one and the…. brown gunky one? Omg, I’m the worst, but I do NOT know what I ate but I know that I loved it.
Mi Tierra never closes, btw! It’s Mexican and there was a 30-minute wait at 10 am on a Sunday, so yeah, pretty poppin! Luckily, you just had to wait in a short line to get pastries.
Probably the nicest little treat was discovering about Nightly Spirits in San Antonio — only in its second weekend of existence!! Your ticket includes a 2-hour tour around downtown SA with a couple stops at bars. We started at the Bar 414 in the Sheraton Gunter. Apparently, jazz musician Robert Johnson recorded a few albums in room 414, then a murder happened there. SPOOKY.
Next, we went to Aztec for a roadie.. err, a river-y? It’s legal to drink on the Riverwalk, so this one spot sells frozen drinks to grab and go. I got the big souvenir cup full of strawberry and lime margarita. I was impressed that I, A. Really, really, really liked it! Usually those things are too sugary for me, but this one was yum! And, B. Finished it in 18 minutes. Maybe don’t recommend doing that, but the tour was moving up to street level so I had to chug!
Every once and a while, our amazing tour guide Allie would stop and tell us a ghost story. It was pretty fun and not too serious, which was nice. We ended back at Bar 414, but not until after a stop at another bar in another hotel with another murder.
I think it’s a new mission of mine to find a fun craft brewery and just……. chiiiilllll — I’ve got some Austin recs and loved doing this in Boston at Sam Adams. Alamo Beer Company was a tricky one to get there, and once there, not too sold on their beers, but I just loved sitting outside, petting strangers’ dogs, playing board games (tho, Alamo, you should really invest in some new ones) and sipping beer. I tried a flight, so I got a good taster. The IPA was my favorite, if I had to choose.
Cave Without a Name
The tour was a full hour long and they have them pretty regularly throughout the day. You’ll learn about stalagmites and stalagtites, cave bacon, cave fried eggs, chair formations and more — one of those wasn’t real. Plus, you get to learn about the three brave little punks who followed a sheep down a sinkhole to discover the cave by lantern light. And about how the owner made moonshine near the entrance during prohibition time. There are bats, salamanders, cave streams and, fair warning, at one point the tour guide turns off all the lights. GASP!
Remember the Alamo
Ya gotta do it. If not only for the Instagram.
But in all seriousness, the Alamo marks what makes Texans so special. All those dudes came together to fight Santa Ana and, even though they were absolutely massacred, Texas banded together to win its independence anyways. Go Texas.
Shop in the Pearl District + Drinks at Hotel Emma
I know I’ve already mentioned, but regrets on not visiting during the day. However, one cool perk of visiting at night was being able to see Hotel Emma at night for a quick drink. The hotel and development is so cool and historic. Tbh, if there was a historic tour of the Pearl District, I’d take it.
Want more Central Texas travel tips? See our Travel Page and other travel guides:
- A Houstonian’s Guide: 48 Hours in the Hill Country
- Glamping in Austin
- Glamping in College Station
- 24 Hours in Bee Cave & Dripping Springs
- Do’s and Don’ts of Fredericksburg