Travel Tips

Ask the Locals City Guide: San Antonio, Texas

Locations in this article:  Austin, TX Houston, TX

The AlamoTune into Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio, which airs every weekend from a different location around the world! This weekend, Peter was in San Antonio, Texas, broadcasting from Pesca on the River inside the Watermark Hotel and Spa.

Now, we certainly don’t want to forget the Alamo, but this Texan city has plenty of culture along the San Antonio River and beyond, so we asked the locals to share some of their favorites…

Tracy Barnett, freelance journalist

Though plagued by a long history of poverty and violence, San Antonio’s West Side is also the birthplace of a vibrant arts scene. The casual visitor will find a colorful, welcoming community full of Mexican and Chicano culture, authentic pride and some of the world’s best tacos. For me, the West Side is the true heart of San Antonio.

Conjunto Festival San AntonioGuadalupe Cultural Arts Center is a beautiful arts venue and culture center, showcasing everything from the Tejano and conjunto music of San Antonio native Flaco Jimenez to the Latin American film festival to live teatro campesino. The gift shop is full of great finds, including a supersized Virgin of Guadalupe candle, a spectacular mosaic created by San Antonio artist Jesse Trevino. The artist, a veteran, lost his painting hand in the Vietnam War, and his struggle to express his vision has made him the beloved artist laureate of San Antonio.

San Anto Cultural Arts Center is a non-profit organization that works with West Side youth to engage their energy in the arts. One outgrowth has been the fantastic collection of murals that you can see scattered throughout the neighborhood. Visitors can arrange for a guided walking tour of the murals complete with a history of the area and stories of the local who created these works of art.

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The north-central part of San Antonio is an artistic hub of the city. Visitors can take a riverboat all the way from the heart of downtown to the Pearl Brewery landmark and view public art all along the way.

Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas - Albert BierstadtThe Museum Reach, part of the multi-million dollar expansion of the famous River Walk, is now halfway finished.

It’s already a showcase for the San Antonio Museum of Art ( and the newly hip and happening Pearl Brewery Complex (, where you can eat at the Texas Farm to Table restaurant, check out the goodies and listen to live music at the Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, and shop at specialty boutiques like the Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina. Soon the river will also reach the Witte Museum and Brackenridge Park.

For more off-the-beaten-path suggestions, visit and

Shelley Grieshaber, Director of Education, The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio

De Wese’s Tip Top Café is a legendary comfort food spot in San Antonio serving the best chicken fried steak, onion rings and other dinner-style favorites for decades.

Jerusalem grill San AntonioWhen you’ve had enough of San Antonio’s famous Tex-Mex, try something different at Jerusalem Grill, a fantastic Mediterranean restaurant featuring the best Middle Eastern-Lebanese menu in the city … and they’re open late (midnight on weekdays and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday).

To date, Dough Pizzeria, one of an elite 32 restaurants in the United States and number 292 in the world to receive the prestigious certification from L’Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana for serving authentic Pizza Napoletana. The best pizza, homemade burrata and great Italian wine list make this the perfect restaurant for singles, couples or the whole family.

Thai Lao Orchid is a hidden gem on Broadway just inside Loop 410 (I-410 which circles the city), serving authentic Thai and Lao cuisine. From traditional Thai soups and curries to specialties such as nem tadear (crispy rice with chicken, lemongrass and chile) this restaurant’s fresh, bold flavors are perfect.

You can listen to the San Antonio radio show online here:

The Lodge at Castle Hills represents San Antonio’s fine dining at its best in a stunning stone mansion turned into a warm and inviting restaurant. Critically acclaimed chef Jason Dady and his staff make every meal feel like a special occasion with their unique Texas-inspired creations. Even budget diners can experience a great meal with the restaurant’s two-course lunch menu for $12 and three-course menu for $16.

Ladies bootsMaria Watson Pfeiffer, local historian and author

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park comprises four Spanish colonial missions that are now linked together as a park located just a few minutes from downtown. The visitor center at San Jose has a wonderful exhibit and film about the history of the missions, and within the park you view the 270-year-old Espada irrigation system with its dam, acequias (irrigation ditches) and aqueduct.

San Antonio’s Southwest School of Art and Craft is a nationally recognized art school situated on an urban oasis on the river in downtown San Antonio. The buildings are fine examples of French-influenced architecture designed and constructed by local architects and builders. Stop for some comfort food at Copper Kitchen, located on the campus of the old Urusline Academy, and pick up some mementos at the gift shop.

Looking to do some shopping in San Antonio? Don’t miss shopper extraordinaire Suzy Gershman’s Postcard from San Antonio.

Japanese Tea Gardens San AntonioThe Japanese Tea Garden, located just north of downtown in Brackenridge Park, features a sunken water garden in a rock quarry pit. The garden was designed and built in 1916-17 by the city’s parks director using prison labor. The Jingu family lived and worked here for many years until they were evicted during World War II.

The facility operated as a Chinese Sunken Garden for several years, and was rededicated as the Japanese Tea Garden in 1984. Although the facilities fell into disrepair for some time, recent projects have restored the garden to a lush landscape with pathways weaving up and down the stone walls and across the fish-filled ponds.

Great neighborhoods beyond downtown include the King William Historic District (south of downtown) developed by early German residents in the 1850s, and Monte Vista (north of downtown), developed at the end of the streetcar line beginning in the 1880s.

King William features an eclectic array of Victorian and turn-of-the-century architecture interspersed with a few modern houses. The commercial streets through the neighborhood, St. Mary’s and S. Alamo, are lined with shops and restaurants. Monte Vista features some pre-20th century architecture, but the majority of it dates back to 1900-1940, representing fine examples of all of the popular styles of that era. Bustling Main Avenue is lined with a variety of restaurants and shops.

Compiled by Sarika Chawla for

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