Historic cities often pose unique challenges for accessible travel. Our accessible experts Barbara and Jim Twardowski travel to San Antonio to navigate the Alamo and beyond with Barabar’s electric wheelchair and report back on the city’s challenges and rewards.
Lush green foliage and 300-year-old oak trees shade the meandering sidewalks and foot bridges that border the San Antonio River one story below street level. The River Walk originally opened in 1941 with stairways to the street level, rock walls lining the banks and stone paths. Built decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act, the city of San Antonio has been improving wheelchair accessibility along the River Walk by installing ramps, adding new paths, and providing elevators.
While the paths can become quite narrow, we found the River Walk to be extremely accessible. Built along the River Walk is a plethora of restaurants, hotels, bars and shops. The atmosphere is festive.
Before visiting the River Walk, be sure to download the accessible maps which show the best paths and locations of elevators. Before we would venture out, Jim consulted the map and determine the most appropriate route. Many restaurants and shops look as though they are inaccessible, but often have an alternate entrance for wheelchair users. We quickly learned that Jim needed to step inside and ask whenever the accessible entrance was not obvious.
Dozens of restaurants overlook the river where patrons sip margaritas as mariachi music drifts on the breeze. Our favorite spot for dining is anywhere outside. We stopped at the 50-year-old Casa Rio for Tex-Mex cuisine. The street level entrance to the restaurant has steps so we took a detour — walking across the street to catch an elevator that took us down to the river level and just a few feet from the host’s station. We were immediately seated at a table on the edge of the sidewalk. Ducks diving for the remains of chips that bus boys toss into the water provided the entertainment as we waited for our meal.
For a complete list of events on the water go to their website. A wonderful way to become familiar with the River Walk is to take the 40-minute tour offered by the wheelchair accessible Rio San Antonio Cruises. A boat captain explains the sights along a 2 1/2 mile stretch. Cost for general admission is $8.25. The same company operates River Taxis to the Museum Reach (Rio Taxi Red) and the Downtown Reach (Rio Taxi Yellow). A combination Red/Yellow 24 hour ticket allows for unlimited rides and costs $15.
Keep reading for a full rundown of accessible hotels, restaurants and other services.