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It’s easy to remember  the Alamo and the River Walk. But that’s not all this bustling city has going for it. Texas’ second-largest metropolis overflows with Spanish-Latino flavor. Take it in with a cooking class; by touring the Mexican market; or on a fly-by  tour. Come on, let’s get a rollin’ on down to San Antone!

By Gabbi Chee

Photography By Will Van Overbeek

 

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Stay:

The Westin La Cantera Resort   Located on one of the city’s highest points, this vast spread  includes a spa, kids’ club, six pools, and an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course. 

Mokara Hotel & Spa   Sip a poolside drink on the roof of this luxe hotel, which fronts the buzzing River Walk. 

Inn at Craig Place   Among the niceties of this down-to-earth B&B just north of downtown: a three-course breakfast delivered daily to your room. 

 

Jump in a chopper for a tour that’s…

 

 

Over the Top

Close your eyes and picture the Alamo. You probably conjured up the iconic facade, right? To see Texas’ most famed battle site from a new perspective, take flight with Alamo Helicopter Tours . From your hovering perch, you’ll be able to make out the building’s cruciform shape, evidence of its roots as a Spanish mission. This pilot-narrated aerial excursion also affords a bird’s-eye view of the region’s expansive rock quarries—one of which supplied building materials for the Texas Capitol—as well as an overhead look at Lackland Air Force Base. And, you’ll gaze upon San Antonio’s tallest building, the 750-foot Tower of the Americas, and fly over four lesser-known missions—Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada—before touching down. 

 

 

 


Stop for a snack at…

The Sandbar   Sustainable seafood flown in daily and a menu that’s always changing make this upscale fish house a can’t-miss. 

Henry’s Puffy Tacos  Meat, cheese, and guacamole stuffed inside a puffed-masa taco shell: This crispy-crunchy SA specialty is about to be your new favorite food. 

 

Now’s the time to…

 

 

Olive It Up

Every dish on the syllabus of a Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard cooking class contains some form of the tangy fruit, be it the olive itself or its oil, both of which are grown and produced on-site. Learn how to prepare dishes like Italian wedding soup, grilled shrimp salad, and olive oil panna cotta under the masterful instruction of Cathy Tarasovic, who studied culinary arts in France before settling in San Antonio. The deft chef’s demonstrations include a healthy smattering of tips (blanching basil helps retain its flavor and color) backed by 20-plus years in the restaurant biz. The best part comes at the conclusion of class, when you enjoy the freshly prepared meal alongside a glass of local zin. Interested in learning more about olive farming? Tag along with Sandy Oaks owner Sandy Winokur on one of her weekly grove tours. 

 


Make time for a visit to…

Tejas Rodeo   Watch the pros compete in bull riding, then jump on the mechanical bull and test your own skills, at this cowboy showdown 30 miles north of the city. 

AT&T Center   NBA players may be locked out, but you’re still welcome to explore the home of the Spurs on an arena tour. 

Azuca   Chris “QuickSlow” Cook teaches salsa dancing at this Nuevo Latino restaurant near the River Walk. Keep practicing post-lesson to the tunes of a live band. 

 

Make a cultural connection in a…

 

 

Bustling Bazaar

With a Latino population of more than 60 percent, it’s no surprise  that San Antonio boasts the largest Mexican market north of the Rio Grande. In El Mercado ’s 34 shops, you’ll find everything from traditional talavera pottery to vibrantly colored clothing and lucha libre masks. El Mercado is just one part of the historic Market Square, a shopping and dining district that also comprises  the Farmers Market Plaza and several eateries, including the 24-hour Mi Tierra Café Y Panadería. During special events like this month’s Feria de Santa Cecilia (November 25 27), a festival honoring the patron saint of music, the Square teems with local musicians, dancers, and food vendors. With mariachi music and the wafting scent of deep-frying churros in the air, it’s easy to forget you’re still on American soil. 

 


Stop for refreshments at…

Bubblehead Sample a blended beverage at this funky hangout, where baristas add chewy tapioca pearls and other “sinkers” to their creative concoctions. 

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar   Find your match on the extensive global wine list, which includes some 45 varieties available by the glass. 

Blue Star Brewing Co. The multitasking owners of this SA original serve their own beer, burgers, and more, as well as run the bike shop next door. 

 

Take the city in stride with a…

 

 

Riverside Stroll

Texas’ No. 1 tourist attraction is the River Walk , the carless cluster  of hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops lining the San Antonio River. Enjoy the beauty minus the bustle on the mellow Museum Reach, the latest extension of the meandering path. Begin with a latte from Expresso, inside El Tropicano, the River Walk’s first hotel, then continue north to the San Antonio Museum of Art. Back on your tour, take note of Donald Lipski’s suspended fish sculptures and the audible artistry of Bill Fontana’s Sonic Passage, which loops ambient nature sounds, before ending at the repurposed Pearl Brewery , now home to a host of local restaurants and shops and a Culinary Institute of America outpost. Prefer to ride back? Hail a floating Rio Taxi for a narrated passage  to any point downriver.

 

 


Getting There Fly into San Antonio International Airport (SAT), about 8 miles north of downtown.

Getting Out  Don’t miss the Ford Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony on November 25. For more events, see visitsanantonio.com .

Getting Around VIA Metropolitan Transit ($1.10 one-way, $4 for a day pass) operates three streetcar lines through downtown. For access to surrounding areas, take a VIA bus. viainfo.net

 

 

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