Three-Day Stay: San Antonio

A perfect itinerary for exploring all that this culture- and history-rich Texas city has to offer

Centuries of multilayered history — from the indigenous Payaya people and Spanish missionaries to Mexico’s independence and the emergence of the Texas Republic after the battle of San Jacinto in 1836 — have long drawn visitors to San Antonio. Add in newer culinary and cultural highlights, a lively urban walking trail along the San Antonio River as well as a cooler, comfortable winter climate, and this southern Texas city is ripe for rediscovery.

Day 1

the Thompson is set in a 20-story glass tower.

Situated in between San Antonio’s historic downtown and the trendy Pearl District, the 162-room Thompson, housed within a 20-story glass tower, is the perfect perch. Along the northern portion of the city’s River Walk, the year-old property is minutes from San Antonio’s famed sites yet a tranquil oasis in its own right, with rooms swathed in midnight blue and caramel brown tones, as well as a serene outdoor pool and spa. Don’t miss the indoor-outdoor rooftop bar, Moon’s Daughters, where the ginger, blood orange and pineapple-laced cocktails make for easy drinking. The Thompson also boasts a fantastic art collection, including Jeff Koon’s Red Balloon Dog and several locally commissioned pieces.

asian-peruvian fare at Botika

After settling in and grabbing a cocktail or two, make your way to Botika, in the Pearl District, for Asian-Peruvian dishes such as dragon rolls, green papaya salad, empanadas and spicy eggplant noodles. The intimate restaurant is helmed by chef Geronimo Lopez, who previously served as the executive chef of the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio outpost.

End the evening at Jazz TX (shown above) nearby, in the former bottling department of the Pearl Brewery, where jazz, swing and Latin bands perform live nightly. If you’re craving something sweet to go with the music, order a slice of pecan pie, which was officially declared Texas’ state dessert in 2013. (Interestingly, Texas produces 20% of the country’s pecan crops.)

Day 2

coffee and pastries at La Panaderia

Start your day at La Panaderia. Opened in 2014 by brothers Jose and David Caceres, who got their start by selling their mother’s homemade loaves in Mexico City, the bakery-cum-café does brisk business in all manner of pastries and breads. Fuel up with a croissant and coffee or order from an extensive breakfast menu of eggs, French toast and apple or guava jam-filled empanadas.

Join a morning tour of the Alamo, arguably Texas’ most important historic site. Built in 1718 by Spanish missionaries and originally known as the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo would later become famous for a violent battle in 1836 when Mexican soldiers sieged the complex, setting the stage for Mexico’s eventual defeat and the founding of the Texas Republic.

A major preservation project is underway at the Alamo, with a $15 million exhibition hall and collections building opening next year. The site will showcase Alamo artifacts amassed by English musician Phil Collins, who became passionate about the Alamo after seeing the movie Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier as a child.

For a more active option, consider a guided half-day bike tour with Cycling San Antonio (shown below) that hits all five missions in the city as part of the Mission Reach bike and hike trail. Riders will visit Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), as well as the other four missions of Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan and Espada.

grab lunch at Pharm Table.

Come lunch, dig into cilantro-coconut guacamole, mushroom ceviche and Thai zucchini-noodle salad on the bright and colorful patio at Pharm Table, a plant-forward restaurant from award-winning chef-owner Elizabeth Johnson. All about clean eating without sacrificing deliciousness, the inventive dishes here draw inspiration from the Blue Zones, Ayurveda and other anti-inflammatory diets.

Spend the afternoon exploring the downtown section of the River Walk, where lively cafes, bars and shops line the banks of the San Antonio River. The 15-mile River Walk was initially devised after a deadly flood in 1921, beginning with a simple drainage system and eventually giving way to an intricate floodgate system that doubles as an urban walking trail along the river.

Next, head to the gorgeous 146-room Hotel Emma, set in the original Pearl Brewery. Built in 1894, the property is named for formidable Emma Koehler, who kept the brewery afloat after her husband’s death and through the Prohibition years by switching operations to dry cleaning, auto repair, and ice cream and soda production. Come dinner, the hotel’s all-day Supper restaurant offers ricotta drop dumplings; roasted sweet peppers and eggplant with Rogue River blue cheese; and roasted quail with rice grits and hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf). Wash it all down with the property’s signature La Babia margarita, made with orange liqueur.

Hotel EMMA, set on the river, offers fine dining at supper restaurant, as well as chic accommodations.

Keen to stay the night? Book one of the terrace-view rooms (for the stunning patio overlooking the river) or a top-floor suite, which features exposed brick walls, vaulted ceilings, claw-foot soaking tubs, as well as woven leather chairs and colorful textiles.

Day 3

innovtive cuisine at Jardin

North of the city, in the Mahncke Park neighborhood, the San Antonio Botanical Garden (shown above), a 33-acre sanctuary and living museum with 250 plant varieties, is an ideal morning excursion. The garden actively works to research and propagate endangered native species such as the South Texas ambrosia and slender rushpea. Stroll the formal and native gardens, conservatory buildings and water lily pond before ending at the Jardin restaurant. Nosh on roasted-carrot hummus, housemade edamame falafel and focaccia-style pizzas.

the stunning grounds at McNay Art Museum

After lunch, make your way to the McNay Art Museum for a bit of culture. Comprising two wings — one the Spanish Colonial Revival-style home of heiress Marion Koogler McNay, the other a modern glass pavilion added in 2008 — the museum is a must-visit while in San Antonio. The buildings and grounds alone are a sight to behold, not to mention the 22,000-piece collection, which includes medieval art, European and American paintings, as well as modernist sculptures.

For a grand finale, snag a table at seasonality- and sustainability-minded Cured, from six-time James Beard-nominated chef Steve McHugh. Start with the delectable cheese and charcuterie plates; follow with fried chicken with smothered greens and cathead biscuits; and end with the bread pudding. Cured’s sister restaurant, Landrace, is incidentally located within the Thompson.

fried chicken and all the fixin's at Cured


Enjoyed this? You might also enjoy these articles from the winter edition of Invited magazine:


5 Tips to Crush Your Fitness Goals

Turn your 2023 resolutions into results!


A Delicious Endeavor

Invited’s Chef of the Year contest brought culinary competitors and Members to Casa de Campo for a spectacular event