You’ve heard of the Alamo. You may have even visited it — stood on the spot where Davy Crockett supposedly died, took a picture of the golden line that was drawn in the sand by William Travis, and was probably shocked to learn that we lost the battle there. But, outside of that slightly underwhelming experience, San Antonio has much to offer. Here are a few places — straight from a local — to make your stay in the SA one to remember.
No, I’m not suggesting wandering around the city looking for a fella in a Stetson and telling him you’d like to save a horse. Cowboys is a dancehall which often has great live music. Don’t freak out, it’s not a bunch of cousins doing line dances, though, yeah, you’re bound to see a few belt buckles and boots. This is the place to be on Wednesday because it’s College Night. Anyone with a college ID gets in free, so don’t forget to pack your WildCARD. There’s also the bikini contest, which I suppose might interest the guys. You’ll do some country dancing like the Texas Two-Step (if you don’t know what that is, asking for a lesson is a great way to pick up the opposite sex), though you’ll also get some of the usual club music every so often. If you’re tired of the pole at the Keg, expand your horizons and dance on the bar at the front of Cowboys, though try to keep it classy lest you be caught on one of the jumbotrons above the stage. And if you’re really looking for some authentic Texas fun, be sure to ride the bull.
Get there: 3030 NE Loop 410 @ I-35
This dueling piano bar is the place to go for interactive entertainment. Musicians take over two baby grand pianos onstage and battle for the audience’s pleasure. There’s singing, dancing and drinking. Every two hours the contenders change, and every hour there’s “Showtime” when the employees lead the audience through a choreographed routine to familiar tunes, jingles and TV theme songs. This is where you want to be on Thursday: College Night. There are plenty of drink specials and again, no cover.
Get there: 111 West Crockett St. #201
This park is a gorgeous place to spend spare time, especially the waterfall by the Tower of Americas. The park was originally created for the 1968 World’s Fair and exemplifies that idea of celebrating diverse cultures, especially that of San Antonio. You’re also bound to notice the incredibly tall skinny building whose top is spinning. This is the Tower of Americas. The twig it seems to be placed on is nothing but elevator shafts to get you to the top. Upon reaching the top, you will find a restaurant that rotates 360 degrees every hour so you can see the whole city. The food is sub-par so I would suggest skipping the dining and checking out the observation deck one night for a fantastic scene of bright city lights.
Get there: 600 HemisFair Park
Call: (210) 223-3101 (for the Tower of Americas)
Here you can do some of that after-Christmas shopping, souvenir searching and authentic dining. Tons of shops, mostly family-owned, line Market Square (more commonly referred to as El Mercado). I’ve found great jewelry with a Southwest accent, a few surprisingly comfortable luchador masks and the set of longhorns that now sit above the door to my room. Every visit is satisfying, whether I buy something or not. At times there are even musical acts out in the courtyard. One absolute must in visiting El Mercado is Mi Tierra Café & Bakery. It’s open 24 hours and you’re bound to catch a Mariachi band playing while you enjoy some quality Tex Mex like the Barbacoa Mexicana or indulge your sweet tooth with some Leche Quemada (Mexican caramel candy with pecans).
Get there: 514 W. Commerce St.
Call: (210) 207 – 8600
Looking for some culture outside the clubs? King William’s District is the first designated Historic Neighborhood in Texas. It’s a great place to walk around simply to see the massive houses constructed in the 1800s. The neighborhood is located downtown near the River Walk and it’s perfect for a picturesque stroll under a few pecan trees (the state tree, again, if you weren’t in any Texas history classes growing up). You can pick up a walking tour map with background information on the houses and the history of the area at the San Antonio Conversation Society downtown.
Get there: 1032 S. Alamo St.
Call: (210) 227-8786
If there’s one place you must eat at while in San Antonio, this is it. Boudros sits along the River Walk and serves a combination of Texan and Southwestern cuisine. It’s a great restaurant to go with the family and even a nice spot to sit down and enjoy a long lunch. If it’s warm outside, be sure to get a table by the river. The food always satisfies but a must-have is the guacamole. The waiters make the house recipe right in front of you, so everything is as fresh as possible. For the main course, there’s surf and turf and everything in between — and it’s all delicious, so you can’t go wrong.
Get there: 421 E. Commerce St.
Call: (210) 224-8484
It was a German athletic club before it became a USO site during WWII, but now this building houses San Antonio’s hottest gay nightclub. The five bars and three dance floors are a sight to see. Each room packs out with people whether they’re chatting at the bar, rocking out by the wall of televisions playing music videos or dancing shirtless on the platform in the ballroom. I know that some of you may be saying, “I don’t swing that way.” Well, neither do a lot of us who go. It’s an eclectic crowd and if you’re still not all that comfortable with go-go boys dancing on stage, check it out on a Wednesday, which is both College and Straight Night.
Get there: 411 Bonham St.
Call: (210) 271-3811
If you’re in the mood for some Tex Mex and you so much as glance at a Taco Bell, you are wasting your time. Taco Cabana began in San Antonio and some might argue that to this day it is as much a part of the city as the Alamo. That may be stretching it, but the simple truth is that it’s an authentic San Antonio experience everyone must have. Personally I’m a big fan of the chicken quesadillas, but everything has pretty much the same ingredients.. If you’re really hungry, a cabana bowl is the big value item with plenty of sustenance. This is the best place to be if you’re craving something south of the border around 2 a.m. and you’ll most likely be joined by other hungry, or even just social, college students. Look for the bright pink building that looks like a flamingo exploded.
Get there: 2908 Broadway
Call: (210)829-1616 or click here for more locations