I wasn’t born in San Antonio, Texas, but I was born and raised in Laredo, a small town roughly two hours and a half away. Growing up, there wasn’t much to do. As anyone from a small town knows, it’s easy to get caught up in a vicious and repetitive routine, seeing the same people while frequenting the same shops, movie theaters, and restaurants. Thankfully, if you’re like me, you had a “big” city to escape to on the weekends. San Antonio was mine.
My family’s weekend trips to the Countdown City (San Antonio’s unofficial nickname thanks to its 210 zip code) are some of my most cherished memories. I can easily recall the sheer excitement of my 10-year-old self being told we would be taking a road trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas for roller coasters and funnel cake, going back-to-school shopping at North Star Mall, and, of course, cheering for the San Antonio Spurs at home games. To me, San Antonio was (and still is) everything.
As I grew up, the purpose of my visits naturally changed. Trips in the backseat of my mom’s white Suburban became solitary journeys in my own white Ford Mustang. Days that were spent at theme parks became late nights partying on The Riverwalk; trips to shopping malls became vintage shopping excursions. It’s not to say I’ve forgotten the spaces of my childhood, but as I’ve gone through my own fair share of changes, so has the city.
Despite not being a traditional San Antonian, I feel helplessly connected to the city. Home to the historic Alamo, there’s a unique blend of Mexican and American culture that has remained. As a proud Mexican American, perhaps that’s why I’ve always felt right at home here and why I always make it a point to return.
The magic of San Antonio is one-of-a-kind and is something the individual must experience for themselves. If a real visit is something you crave, read on to find out all the best places to stay, eat, drink, dance, and shop. Whether you decide to head down south today, or sometime tomorrow, San Antonio will be waiting for you. Bienvenidos!
WHERE TO STAY:
Hotel Emma: It's hard to believe the Hotel Emma used to be a brewery. Founded in 1849, it hasn't lost its old-world charm, but former fermentation tanks are now private banquettes at the Sternewirth Bar and Clubroom, an old ammonia compressor remains smack-dab in the lobby, and exposed brick can be found at any turn.
Hotel Contessa: Located right along The Riverwalk, Contessa is quintessential south Texas. Palm trees decorate the eclectic and modern lobby. But its undisputed crown jewel is its decadent heated rooftop pool, perfect for scoring a much-needed tan or for taking a nighttime swim under the Texas sky.
Hotel Havana: If you're looking for a little distance from the touristy crowd, let Havana be your home away from home. As a premier boutique hotel, each of its 27 rooms is decorated with colorful regional art, perfect for sparking your creative side. Should you get hungry before dinner, head down to Ocho for a coffee and decadent pan dulce.
Emily Morgan Hotel: Ever thought about staying in a haunted hotel? Look no further! Legend has it that the luxurious Emily Morgan is a hotspot for paranormal activity. USA Today named it the third most haunted hotel in the world in 2015. After several multi-million dollar renovations, its cozy library and outdoor pool will make up for a few ghosts and spooky happenings if that's not a draw for you.