Monday, June 9, 2014

20 Things You Should Know About San Antonio

Main Plaza and San Fernando Cathedral 

When you visit San Antonio/SA-town/Alamo City/River City/San Antone, there are some things you ought to know.

1) Visit the Alamo but don't you dare say you're underwhelmed. Plot twist:  It's not famous for its grandeur, it's famous for being the site of one of the most inspiring defeats in history. Visit to get the whole story, but know that it is hallowed ground, not a theme park.

2) If you're coming in summer, think long and hard--do you want to bear scars from seat belts and steering wheels for the remainder of your life? If the answer is "yes, these are honorable battle wounds," by all means come and join the game of surviving the heat! If not, come for the holiday lights in December. It'll only be 50 degrees.

3) The dynamic in this city is diverse in the truest sense of the word. It's a colorful mix of Mexican/American/Southwestern/Cowboy influence. There are areas where you will find billboards composed entirely of Spanish (you quickly learn to read it at at least a rudimentary level), and chic barbeque restaurants (yes this is a thing). Eat the TexMex food. Go to the Seattle-like coffee shop.

4) We have so much history downtown. (As a history major and history buff and lover of all things history, this town is a treasure trove.) Hit up:

-Market Square, the old farmer's market
-La Villita (one of the city's first neighborhoods)
-The St. Anthony (hot spot of the 1930s and 40s, lodging of many an A-list golden age Hollywood celebrity),
-The Menger Hotel (Teddy Roosevelt stayed here, need I say more?)
-San Fernando Cathedral (oldest operational cathedral in the US, full of history and old-world charm)

The St. Anthony 
5) Read some O. Henry stories set in and around San Antonio on your way here--it makes it just that much cooler. And then visit the O. Henry house. Because there's honestly no end to the historic sites you could track down here.

6) Don't wear the logo of any NBA team that is not the Spurs. San Antonians are typically nice and welcoming, but nothing will earn our wrath and outright animosity as quickly as a Mavs or (Lord help you) Heat t-shirt.

7) This city is all about colors. Fiesta colors. They're everywhere, and yes, they clash with the Texas flag but who cares?

8) Visit the Riverwalk. Just do it. Eat at Schilos (a German restaurant founded in the 1910's and stationed at its current location since the 1930s), and then take a Riverboat tour or just walk. It's beautiful.

9) Cowboy hats and cowboy boots are common sights. People wear them on a day-to-day basis Also, camo. Trucks are camo, boys wear camo, girls wear camo. The whole redneck schtick is kind of the furthest thing from my taste (I'm definitely a city girl), but it's something to know.

10) This is Military City, USA. There are 4 air force bases in this town, and if a new family shows up in church, there's about a 75% chance they're military. You will see a plethora of uniforms if you go downtown or to a theme park on a holiday. Support our troops!

11) Everybody drives trucks. Unfortunately, not everybody is particularly try not to lose your mind when you see the over-sized truck parked in a compact car spot (!!!). Also, some people who drive these trucks do not have correspondingly large brains or particularly sweeping peripheral vision, so watch yourself.

12) Visit the Pearl Brewery, especially on a Saturday mornings for the Farmer's Market. You can eat at La Gloria or Cured (both of which I hear are quite good. I am a poor college student, so I can't testify first hand), visit a fancy shop, grab an empanada at a food stand, or just stroll along the Riverwalk. The Pearl is historic, renovated--very chic, and just all around good fun.

13) On many evenings in summer and certainly during the holidays, there's a bagpiper (or bagpipers) on the corner of Losoya and West Market St, across from the Convention center. Always fun to run into them on your way to La Villita.

14) Broadway is really fun--yes, San Antonio has a Broadway street. Pick a cool fall day, get a some walking in (or just drive). There are so many used book stores, antique shops, restaurants, bakeries--not to mention University of the Incarnate Word, which has a gorgeous and historic campus. Hit up Central Market, drive through Alamo Heights to see 1920's houses, visit an antique store, hike through the Botanical and Japanese Tea Gardens, visit The Bird Bakery (interesting fact--it is owned by Armie Hammer's wife, Elizabeth Chambers, and she's often there...but not only is it connected to celebrities, it serves some pretty good cupcakes, is really cute and staffed by very nice people), and take the zoo train through Brackenridge Park.

15) It usually takes about 1/2 an hour to get places, so be aware of that.

16) This is very much a mañana town. Don't expect business transactions to happen between Friday at 4:00 and Monday at 10:00. There is no such thing as urgent. People are generally not in a hurry, even if they're late. Northerners, stay calm. Take deep breaths. Don't lose your minds.

16) If you're not used to driving in a big city with spaghetti bowl highways, make sure that you call a taxi or me. Driving in this town is a skill as you become accustomed to never seeing a blinker on a lane change and incredibly indecisive drivers. And don't even bother trying to look at a map, you'll just hypnotize yourself with the psychedelic circles that make up our freeway system.

17) This is about the most San Antonio thing to ever happen.

18) Go

19) Spurs

20) GO!!!!!!!!

Come visit, y'all!

Fellow natives and former tourists--what would you add to this list?


Joanna Webber said...

Good to know! I'll let you know if I'm ever in the area. :-)

Brianna Wachter said...

Love this list! Someday I will come visit you and we can run around San Antonio and you can tell me the history behind everything and it will be perfectly lovely.