San Antonio: Crocodiles, Ghosts & Lots of Fun

Our family went to San Antonio for Spring Break and so many people inquired, “Why San Antonio?”  My quick answer was: Southwest Airlines flies there direct and it seems like it’s kid friendly.  That’s it! After our visit, I am a true aficionado of this charming Texas town.

We are notorious as a family for winging it when it comes to vacations, especially Spring Break.  By the time we finally get the Christmas decorations down, it seems time to head off for Spring Break.  This year was no different.  The Gulf Coast with its mercurial weather had no appeal this year and a big trip like Washington, D.C or New York was out of the question–too much planning, on too short of notice.  So, off to San Antonio we went.

San Antonio is frequently listed as one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the US. It is beautifully preserved thanks to a group of determined-take-no-prisoners women who said, “No, you are not going to tear down our historic buildings.” And the River Walk, (El Paseo del Rio) with its meandering paths and lively atmosphere, was a complete stroke of genius as it was only created in 1939.  San Antonio is known for its festivals, and through the visitor bureau, I heard about Luminaria or Arts Night in San Antonio.  It is wonderful evening of dance, music and drama.

St. Patrick’s Day on the River Walk

San Antonio is an easy city if you are a tourist. You don’t have to rent a car unless you want to head to the Hill Country to see the bluebells, and on every corner there is an information officer ready to point you in the right direction.  Even the downtown public bathrooms are immaculate.

Skip

We began our trip with Skip, the cab driver, a colorful character to say the least, and a native San Antonian. I have listed his number as you will glean a wealth of information from Skip.  He used to be a big game hunter and told us as a boy he used to feed live chickens to the crocodiles in the Historic Menger Hotel cement pond.  Since we were staying at the Menger Hotel, our ears perked up.  We knew it was haunted – but live chickens?!- this was too good to be true.

The Menger Hotel is beautiful with its Victorian architecture. Tales of ghosts and slamming doors are provided at no charge by every chamber maid and door man. With its proximity to the Alamo (only a stone’s throw), it’s plausible because of the bucket loads of blood shed there. The Menger isn’t five stars, but it’s darn affordable.  The trip to Miami where we booked the entire family – yes, all five of us – in one very small suite, cured us of booking one room. The Menger is known for its homemade Mango ice cream (a favorite of the lovable, pudgy Bill Clinton) and we concur–it’s delicious.

The Alamo is always crowded, but Skip said to watch the IMAX film next door to understand why the Alamo held such an important place in history. The film is short, sweet and worth your dough.  We decided not to wait in line to tour the Alamo, so we rode a carriage around the Alamo instead.

The River Walk is spectacular. Not only can you see the lovely historic buildings while you walk, it’s filled with fabulous restaurants and shops.   Boudro’s is always on every must go list of places to eat.  It’s got it all: Texas Beef, seafood and big ol’ margaritas! My favorite is the guacamole made table side.

By all means, take a River Boat Tour to get an overview of the city. The guides are well-informed, funny and give you a great sense of the  history of the city.  We learned that the River Walk is drained every January to clean it out of all the items tourists find necessary to pitch in the waterway.  If you’re wondering, the #1 thing they pull out of the river is restaurant silverware; the oddest thing has been a wheelchair.

For the kiddos, I give San Antonio really high marks on stuff to do. Here’s a quick list:  SeaWorld, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Brackenridge Park including the San Antonio Zoo, Schlitterbahn Water Park and Witte Museum.  And, I haven’t even listed the things to do in the surrounding area.

We hit SeaWorld with a vengeance and totally got our money’s worth. SeaWorld has great shows with whales, porpoises and rides.  After my second ride on the Vomitorium, I thought, “Why don’t they have an age restriction on this ride, not a height restriction?”  The entire fam suited up and sat in the splash zone to see Shamu.  Dripping wet and cold– we agreed, it was worth the money.

San Antonio is a city to wander in and enjoy the sunshine.  With the Gulf Coast oil spill, we may all be spending more time inland.

There is a second part to this post:  San Antonio for Lovers. I must disclose that I did not do this tour; however, I did lots of research while I was there.  My second post, coming sometime in the next month, will include the perfect hotel, romantic meal including a brunch suggestion and stroll through a gorgeous neighborhood.  Of course, I found the perfect shop and shopping area. More to come.

If you want to go in June, Southwest is offering flights for as little as $123 one way.  We know the ladies at Belle Meade Travel and they, too, can hook you up.  See our related posts below for more info on them.

Skip Jennings-Yellow Cab
Phone: 210.833.0545

If you do want to see the Hill Country outside of San Antonio, one of our favorite design blogs might entice you: http://hillcountryhouse.blogspot.com/