There’s nothing I love like hitting the road to see a new place, and it’s even better when my husband can come along. This weekend’s destination? San Antonio, Texas, home of the Riverwalk, the Alamo, and a brand new Home2 Suites, Hilton’s newest brand.
We arrive in San Antonio for a long weekend and head straight to our hotel host for the weekend, Home2 Suites by Hilton. The property opened only one month ago, meaning that everything at this property is fresh and eye-popping fun. In the urban neighborhood of downtown San Antonio, this adaptive reuse project has breathed new life into a local historic landmark building to create the latest hip and humble hotel.
Built inside the Beaux Arts style South Texas Building (originally a bank), the 14-story, 128-suite hotel is located in San Antonio’s central business district, next to the San Antonio Children’s Museum and just a few minutes’ walk from the Riverwalk. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the hotel made it a priority to maintain the integrity of the historic and beautiful structure throughout the construction process. Says General Manager Andy Rodriguez, “We preserved the exterior and only made a few minor modifications to the interior . . . The building is a pier and beam structure, which we incorporated into our design, and we were able to salvage all of the original windows and elevator doors.”
The property is decorated in lime and orange, with fun, funky furniture and up-to-date styling, even on a budget. It features an indoor saline swimming pool and six different room layouts, with 96 king studio suites and 32 queen studio suites. Included in the reasonable room rate? Free wi-fi and printing, access to bright, inviting community spaces, and the “Inspired Table” complimentary breakfast.
After we settle in and check out the room’s amenities (huge, walk-in shower, flat screen TV, and kitchenette), we head down to the Riverwalk for dinner on a barge. While a tour guide explains the history and development of San Antonio’s crown jewel, we feast on Caesar salad, prime rib, and lemon pie. When the evening cools, the lights come on along the river, and the staff offer us wool ponchos to wear. It’s romantic and unique, the perfect introduction to this Southwestern city.
Day 2 breaks sunny and cool, perfect weather for northeasterners escaping from a mid-October blizzard (what was up with that?). Our first stop? The four beautiful missions (San José, San Juan Capistrano, Espada and Concepción) that make up the National Historic Park established by the Catholic Church’s Franciscan Order in the 1700s. They feature diverse architectural styles and Spanish colonial art; our tour guide does a great job of explaining the history of the relationship between the native peoples and the Spanish settlers.
Our tour also offers a sneak peek at the River Walk’s new Mission Reach, an eight-mile section extending from Mission Concepción to Mission Espada. The project restores riverine features, reintroduces native plants and reconnects the river’s cultural/historical features.
After touring the missions, we’re starving – good thing, because Mi Tierra serves up enormous portions of Tex-Mex to its hundreds of lunch guests. The famous landmark is popular with hometown regulars for its authentic Mexican food and warm Texas welcome, complete with festive décor on the ceilings and walls. I order the tamale plate, and, even though I’m more than full, I eat the whole thing – it’s that good. My husband can’t quite make it through his deluxe Mexican meal; he comments that it’s a sin to leave the excellent guacamole unfinished.
After heaving ourselves up from the table, we head just outside to the Farmers’ Market and El Mercado. It’s the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico, and it offers great bargain-hunting and unique shopping and food opportunities that combine the cultural, artistic and ethnic influences of the Southwest and south of the border. We pick up a few souvenirs – a straw cowboy hat for me, a couple of ornaments for the kids, and a painted animal for our mantle.
Last stop of the day? The Alamo, the city’s first mission (est. 1718). It was the site where 189 Texan heroes including Jim Bowie, William B. Travis and David Crockett bravely battled General Santa Ana’s army in March, 1836. Probably most interesting about seeing the Alamo up close and personal is learning about the efforts to restore it and its beautiful painted decorations; we watch as conservationists slowly wash the plaster of the oil and dirt that has accumulated over the years, exposing the original plaster and frescoes.
After the Alamo, it’s back to the Home2 for a much-needed nap. I snuggle in the huge, comfy bed while my husband watches Texas sports on TV. Then it’s time for our last big Texas tradition: a good steak. We walk two doors down to Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, where Executive Chef Mark Bohanan brings the famed Texas steak experience to the highest fine dining level with Japanese Akaushi Steaks and mesquite-grilled prime aged center cuts of Midwestern corn fed beef, an array of fresh seafood and flaming table-side desserts. My filet is grilled perfectly, needing no sauce or enhancement to make that great Texas beef flavor come out; Steve’s ribeye is just as good, although he sneaks bites of my filet when I’m not looking.
We wake up on our last day in San Antonio to a warm and cloudless morning and take a stroll down to the Riverwalk, where breakfast at the Original is the perfect end to a wonderful weekend. It’s quiet on a Sunday morning, but the ducks swim by on the river, and joggers pass with their dogs. We read the paper, toss some tortillas to the ducks, and plan our next visit to San Antonio. It’s not adios for us – just hasta la vista, until we see you again.
This trip was sponsored by Home2 Suites by Hilton and the San Antonio Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.