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San Antonio, Texas

The birthplace of Tex-Mex

More than 3 million people flock to San Antonio yearly to remember the Alamo, see the River Walk and fill up on more margaritas and kitschy crafts than is considered healthy. From the aguas frescas (fruit-infused water) to the Mercado (marketplace) to Willie Nelson's country store, San Antonio can take you from holy to rowdy, from bustling to quiet just by turning a corner.

San Antonio River TaxiSan Antonio River TaxiI recently spent a few days in San Antonio and remembered within a few minutes of arriving why it's one of my favorite cities. Even Men's Health magazine thinks it's pretty special - they ranked San Antonio as one of the happiest cities in the US.

Whether you're in the hotbed of margarita-ville on the River Walk or listening to the wind whisper through the oak trees where William Travis drew his famous line in the sand, it's a special place - with great food.

Where to stay in San Antonio

There are 50 hotels within walking distance of the River Walk. I stayed at the Westin Riverwalk, and a couple steps from the doors of the hotel put me in the center of the River Walk. Upon my arrival, I met a friend for lunch at Las Ramblas and from our table we watched a couple repeat their vows on Wedding Island - which sees almost a wedding a day.

If you're looking for lodging with a more Texan feel, check out the Menger Hotel. Operating since 1859 opening, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt and Roy Rogers have rested here. The older section of the hotel boasts 4 poster beds, but you might want to consider a balcony overlooking the Alamo.

Where to eat in San Antonio

San Antonio restaurants live by the "no jacket required" rule - except in very few establishments. It's a bi-cultural town with some German and Latin inspired cuisine thrown in - prepare your gullet for spicy foods, heavy sauces and lots of meat. If you're staying on the River Walk, there's no shortage of tex-mex restaurants serving behemoth margaritas and local beer (thanks to the German brewing tradition).

Las RamblasLas RamblasIf a big steak or rice and beans isn't your style, you'll find other choices, such as Sushi Zushi along the River Walk as well. Our top pics include:

Las Ramblas - Old world tapas with Spanish/Mediterranean fusion. Sit outside on the patio and you might be lucky enough to watch a wedding while you dine.

Biga on the Banks - Our meal started on a beautiful note when our server poured champagne  - to thank us for being Open Table guests. Fine dining with an inventive menu, Mediterranean ambiance and a view of the River Walk. Chef/owner, Bruce Auden, changes the menu daily.

What's old is new again

Few US cities can claim the uniqueness of San Antonio. Nowhere in the US does the term Tex-Mex take on more meaning (about 60% of locals have Hispanic heritage). If you go, make time to explore.

River Walk

River Walk TerraceRiver Walk TerraceSan Antonio's River Walk is 3 miles of scenic cobblestone paths 3 stories below street level. Stretching through downtown, the Paseo del Rio and connects the city's main tourist attractions. Plans are underway to extend it another 10 miles to Brackenridge Park to the north and the missions to the south. Thankfully, there are plenty of river taxis and charter boats to take you where you want to go.

The Alamo

Historic AlamoHistoric AlamoThis year marks the 175th anniversary of the Alamo and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have unique activities planned each month. Click on over to VisitSanAntonio.com for a full calendar of events.

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park

San Antonio is home to the largest concentration of Catholic missions in North America. Built in the 18th century by Franciscan friars from Spain, the four missions are still active parishes and a living historical monument to the forces that shaped San Antonio. For more information, visit National Park Services.  

King William & Monte Viste Historic Districts

For a change of pace, visit the biggest German settlement in the area and stroll the glorious Victorian homes from San Antonio's gilded age. During December you can even tour the interiors of some of the homes- visit the King William Association for more info. If you rent a bike, continue your tour to the artsy, ethnic Hispanic neighborhoods to the south and east.

When to go to San Antonio

Texan TributeTexan TributeEarly spring and fall are the best times to visit San Antonio. From the end of May to October, intense Texan heat can make sightseeing uncomfortable. If you travel during the summer months, break up your stay with a trip to Six Flags Fiesta Texas or Sea World. From November to April, Texas can play host to heavy rains, which often results in flash floods in the Hill Country.

San Antonio is the 8th largest city in the US and is often equated with other great tourist destinations, such as Boston, New Orleans and San Francisco. But while hundreds of millions of dollars have transformed this once military city into a bustling tourism town eager to great guests, they've managed to maintain their small town flavor.

I'm looking forward to my next trip back to San Antonio - because every time I visit, I experience something new in this very big small town. Ever been to San Antonio? What do you love best about it?

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DH and I went to San Antonio quite a number of years ago to a tennis resort. We fell in love with San Antonio. The River Walk--how gorgeous was that? I felt a million miles away from any big city. Being inside the historic Alamo sent chills up my spine. It's quite the story. I wish we had more time there. I would definitely go back.

I agree, Wendy - beautiful! This was my third trip to the city and sadly all have been business trips. Need to make a plan to go just for fun! Julia

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