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San Antonio Vacation

Tourist Guide

Big, Bold and Beautiful
Historic Texas

The San Antonio River Walk is a fun place to take the family
San Antonio River Walk


Today, we pay homage to the San Antonio River. The Payaya Indians who lived on its banks named the river Yanaguana, which means "clear water." On June 13, 1691, Spanish explorers came upon these limpid waters, and in honor of the feast day of St. Anthony, they named it San Antonio. From the beginning, the river played a very important role in the development of the city: a complex water system was built around it to supply five Spanish missions that were erected between 1718 and 1731. Water was diverted into stone-lined acequias (irrigation canals), and in fact, San Antonio has the oldest and most extensive Spanish-Colonial water system in the U.S.

See the entire length of the San Antonio River Walk from the comfort of a river cruise
River Cruise

The San Antonio River Walk is now at your feet, and accordingly it is best explored by walking, but a river-barge cruise, such as the one offered by Rio Cruises, adds additional perspective. A cruise offers a scenic and refreshing ride past shady banks and welcoming architecture, including the recently renovated (and unabashedly tropical) El Tropicano hotel. A shuttle service is also available, local restaurants cater dining cruises and narrated tours provide 40-minute overviews of the two-and-a-half mile River Walk. A river taxi ride on the new Museum Reach extension of the River Walk will take you past public art installations to the Pearl Development, which has restaurants, shops, farmers’ markets and cooking schools.

Our historic journey continues with one of San Antonio's best known art institutions, the Southwest School of Art, once home to an Ursuline convent and now a stop on the barge circuit. Don't miss having lunch at the on-site Copper Kettle. Housed in a charming, antique-filled space, the restaurant's homey soups and salads are served by volunteer waiters who know how to make folks feel at home. The school's exhibition space across from the red-hued public library was crafted from a tire store and houses specially curated shows.

The Spanish Governor's Palace in San Antonio has been painstakingly renovated to look exactly as it did centuries ago
Spanish Governor's Palace

After lunch, we suggest you have a rental car reserved; you'll need it for Day 3 in any case, and it's the best way to get to The McNay Art Museum: the first modern art museum of Texas, specializing in late 19th- and 20th-century European and American art. Founded by Marion Koogler McNay in 1950, the museum occupies her former estate on landscaped grounds just north of downtown.

On your way back downtown, The San Antonio Museum of Art (which is located in a handsomely updated and expanded 1884 brewery) showcases Greek, Roman, Latin American and Egyptian antiquities as well as contemporary art. There is also an extensive collection of Latin American folk art in several galleries. On a side note, these particular galleries were named after the famous Nelson Rockefeller, a major collector and donor. Finally, a glassy new addition also features the museum's extensive holdings of Asian art.

Biga on the Banks is one of the best restaurants on the San Antonio River Walk
Biga on the Banks

For a great dinner, consider Biga on the Banks, one of San Antonio's most highly regarded restaurants. Located on the River Walk, Biga's seasonally changing menu, courtesy of star chef Bruce Auden, features modern American cuisine that combines regional flavors with Mexican and Asian influences. Alternatively, Boudro's on the Riverwalk offers Texas bistro fare riverside or in its mirror-bedecked interior.

Just off the river, and minutes from both Biga and Boudro's sits Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar, a convivial gathering place boasting a lengthy wine and champagne list as well as a solid menu of casual foods. Consider it your evening-ender — especially if weather permits hanging out in the intimate courtyard.

Continue to Day 3


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* River Walk image by Craig Stafford/SACVB


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