City Cheat Sheet: A Travel Guide for San Antonio, Texas

Missions National Historical Park photographed by Lilianna Story.

WHY VISIT THE BEAUTIFUL, FESTIVE CITY of San Antonio, Texas? The Scout Guide San Antonio editor Francie Mannix can name a few reasons. Looking for excellent Mexican food and Margaritas? You’re in luck. “San Antonio has hundreds of Mexican restaurants, and there’s a dual cultural mix because of the proximity to Mexico, she says. “You can find authentic, delicious Mexican food and Margaritas at Soluna, La Fonda, Paloma Blanca, Los Barrios, La Gloria, and Mi Tierra, just to name a few.” The culture, history, and architecture are a draw, too. “San Antonio is a historical city with five beautifully restored Missions from the Alamo and a Riverwalk with shops and restaurants running through downtown. Visit these historical sites by riding bikes along the Mission Trail or hop on a river taxi from downtown to the Pearl District. Once people visit San Antonio they are immediately hooked by its cultural charm and history,” Francie explains, adding that the thriving arts scene adds to the allure. “Our museums and galleries are astounding, including Blue Star Contemporary, Artspace, San Antonio Museum of Art, the McNay, and the Witte.”

Ready to plan your visit (or staycation)? Here, Francie shares her favorite local finds and activities for taking in her city.

*Please note that due to COVID-19 some of these businesses might be closed or have specific guidelines in place. We recommend calling ahead and/or visiting their websites for the latest information on their status, offerings, etc. 

WHEN TO GO // If you can, try to visit in the springtime! The flowers are blooming along the Riverwalk and the city is very lively. Also, Fiesta, an annual festival held in San Antonio that dates back to the late 1800s, is during April, which we highly recommend attending. It is the highlight of the year for most San Antonio locals and visitors alike.

WHERE TO STAY // Hotel Emma (136 East Grayson Street). In a renovated 19th-century brew house, this super-chic hotel is known for its rooftop pool and historic tavern/club room, the Sternewirth (which serves killer margaritas).

Saint Anthony Hotel (300 East Travis Street). Located right in downtown San Antonio, this is a more traditional yet luxurious lodging choice known as “The Waldorf of the South.”

WHAT TO SEE // The Alamo (300 Alamo Plaza). You absolutely can’t come to San Antonio and not visit this iconic, historical landmark.

River Walk’s Mission Reach (multiple entrances). An eight-mile stretch of trails and parks along the river that provides the perfect family-friendly opportunity to walk around and see parts of the city, including all of the city’s historic missions.

Mission Concepción (807 Mission Road). Francie’s favorite mission; its festive Mariachi Mass on Sundays shouldn’t be missed.

San Fernando Cathedral (115 West Main Plaza). Centrally located, this is the oldest standing church building in Texas (founded in 1731). An ideal stop for any lovers of history and architecture.

San Antonio Museum of Art (200 West Jones Avenue) and The McNay (6000 North Braunfels Avenue). Two of San Antonio’s amazing art museums.

Garcia Art Glass Gallery (715 South Alamo Street). For an hour or two, definitely visit this incredible studio to see hand-blown, glass art being created.

Ruby City (150 Camp Street). A contemporary art center designed by the renowned architect David Adjaye and late visionary Linda Pace. Admission is free to the public.

Pearl’s Farmers Market (312 Pearl Parkway). A favorite Saturday spot for many locals, as the market highlights the produce and items from farms, fields, and ranches in the surrounding area.

WHERE TO SHOP // The Tiny Finch (302 Pearl Parkway, Suite 116). A shop with everything that you could possibly want, including art, clothes, gifts, home goods, jewelry, and accessories. You’ll have trouble not buying everything in the store.

LeeLee (303 Pearl Parkway, Suite 105). A women-owned boutique that’s known for their beautiful collection of shoes and clothing.

The Sporting District (302 Pearl Parkway, Suite 108). Offers a curated selection of clothing, accessories, and lifestyle merchandise for men.

Adelante Boutique (303 Pearl Parkway, Suite 107). A family shop that was founded in 1975. They provide fabulous women’s clothing.

Julian Gold, Citrine Home, Framed, and Meadow (McCullough Street). A cluster of wonderful shops in Olmos Park that can satisfy all kinds of shopping needs.

WHERE TO EAT // Paloma Blanca (5800 Broadway Street). This Mexican eatery serves amazing dishes—including gluten-free options—in a casual atmosphere.

Little Red Barn Steakhouse (1836 South Hackberry Street). A family-owned institution that’s been in San Antonio since 1963. Picking between their chopped steaks and chicken fried steaks is a hard choice because they’re both so good!

Casa Rio (430 East Commerce Street). For an iconic San Antonio riverfront dining experience, this is the spot. Casa Rio has ample al fresco seating and Francie’s favorite queso dip.

Chris Madrids (1900 Blanco Road). A newly opened and renovated restaurant that serves some incredible burgers (pro tip: try the Macho Burger).

Schilo’s (424 East Commerce Street). For lunch or dinner, grab a table here at San Antonio’s oldest restaurant, which still has that Wild West Saloon feel. Francie says that their famous split-pea soup is worth ordering even on a hot day.

Cured (306 Pearl Parkway). If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, this place in the Pearl District makes a killer charcuterie plate.

The Maverick (710 South St. Mary’s Street). A French brasserie with a Texas twist. Francie recommends their mixed grill so you can try all of the delicious meats and poultry prepared on their wood burning oven and rotisserie.

Lily’s Cookies (2716 McCullough Avenue). A shop that makes unique, custom-designed cookies—be sure to check out the cookie of the month.

Cinnaholic (812 South Alamo, Suite 113). While this bakery provides a range of wonderful sweet treats, they specialize in gourmet cinnamon rolls. You can even pick a “create-your-own” option where you choose the frosting and toppings.

WHERE TO DRINK // Commonwealth Coffeehouse (Multiple locations). A local favorite for grabbing a cup of coffee or a sweet treat.

Bakery Lorraine (Multiple locations). Whether you’re looking for coffee or a small breakfast bite, this bakery is a fabulous place to start your morning.

Down on Grayson (303 East Grayson Street). When you’re in the mood for a delicious cold drink, try sitting outside at their adorable patio and ordering the frozen Moscow mule.

The Menger Bar (204 Alamo Plaza). Located next to the Alamo, this historic bar, where Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders would hang out, serves great cocktails to sip on while you take in its history.

The Esquire Tavern (155 East Commerce Street). James Beard Award-nominated and home to the longest bar in Texas, this tavern—and its fantastic drinks—is a must-visit.

Maverick Whiskey (115 Broadway). Situated downtown in a restored bank building, this San Antonio distillery offers fabulous cocktails.

LOCAL PRO-TIP // San Antonio boasts some of the most beautiful historic buildings downtown. Our Tower Life Building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Saint Anthony Hotel was once known as the Waldorf of the South.

You can download this San Antonio Cheat Sheet by clicking here. For additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in San Antonio, visit The Scout Guide San Antonio city website.