I’ll be honest. Texas has never been on my list of places to visit. I found out this week, however, that San Antonio has a lot to offer.
I was in the city for a work conference, but did have a bit of time to explore San Antonio. After the first day of the conference, my coworkers and I were treated to a tour of the River Walk. It’s quite beautiful and a wonderful showcase for the city.
The San Antonio River is both natural and man-made. In 1921 a hurricane hit San Antonio and the accompanying flood killed 50 people. Originally, the city planned on covering the river and turning it into an underground flood control system. Public outrage over the plan put a stop to it. Architect Robert H. H. Hugman felt that the river could become a tourist attraction and presented a plan to add a bypass channel to handle potential flooding and to turn the area around the river into a park. The River Walk was born.
The River Walk is a beautiful place, and it’s no surprise that it’s become San Antonio’s top tourist destination. Restaurants, shops and hotels line the river and the adjacent streets. One thing that struck me was how the buildings lining the river reflect many different styles and time periods. This interesting building is what I think of when I think of Texas architecture.
Architect Robert H.H. Hugman is memorialized in the face of the building now housing the Republic of Texas Steakhouse. A few feet from the building there’s also a plaque memorializing the creative mind behind the River Walk.
There’s a lot of art to be seen along the River Walk. Murals by Oscar Alvarado are located under the many bridges that cross the river. The Arneson River Theater is an outdoor amphitheater located in a bend of the river, and is a popular concert venue. The Briscoe Western Art Museum backs up to the river and the beautiful “Camino de Galvez” sculpture by T.D. Kelsey sits along the river behind the museum.
While many of the restaurants and shops along the River Walk are relative new comers to the city, there are several establishments that have been there for many years. The Esquire Tavern, established in 1933 to celebrate the end of Prohibition, is one. Despite a recent renovation, walking into the Esquire is like walking into the tavern when it first opened 85 years ago.
After the river tour we enjoyed a dinner at the Iron Cactus Restaurant. By the time dinner was over, it was dark. The River Walk is quite beautiful at night as well.
San Antonio changed my mind about Texas. There’s more to the state than just Austin. San Antonio is definitely worth another visit.