San Antonio City Guide
This guide is SO overdue but Brandon and I wanted to make sure we created something extremely useful for you guys when it comes to San Antonio. We’ve had a few questions since we started One Swainky Couple about things to do in San Antonio, restaurants, places to stay, etc. That being said, San Antonio is still not an overpopulated place for tourists and I think it’s underestimated! There have been so many Saturdays where we feel like we’re on vacation, simply because of the fun atmosphere and beautiful weather that this city brings on a regular basis. Get ready for a long one today, because we’re sharing everything you need to know about visiting San Antonio, Texas.
Where To Stay.
Obviously, we haven’t stayed too many places in town ourselves because we live here and also have family close by. On our wedding night, we stayed at Hotel Emma, which is easily one of the trendiest spots in town. Their bar and library area is unreal and in the morning, complimentary homemade pastries by the pastry chef are put out for guests with their coffee. That was all I really needed to be sold on this cool spot.
My sister got married in the St. Anthony Hotel and it’s another great hotel. Brandon and I had our first date at their restaurant, Rebelle, and it’s got such a chic vibe to it. You also can’t beat the downtown location if you want to stay near the River Walk.
Hotel Havana is another amazing spot downtown and gives off a somewhat retro hipster motif with vintage furniture and colorful accents. We continued our first date in their bar, Ocho, which is located in a basement level and gives off a speakeasy feel.
Finally, Hotel Elian is another great choice if you plan on doing a lot of shopping. It’s located right near our gorgeous outdoor mall, La Cantera, making it easy for you to get to all of the good shops.
Where To Eat.
Now, onto the best category of all: FOOD. Arguably one of the best reasons to come to San Antonio is the plethora of authentic Mexican food and talented chefs from the Culinary Institute of America (located close to downtown). The Pearl Brewery area is our favorite for food and this is where many of the said chefs end up working or opening restaurants. We’ve separated the food into geographical locations though, since San Antonio is so spread out. The top three areas to visit are: downtown, The Pearl, Alamo Heights, and the North Side.
Newly renovated and bursting with fresh flavors and restaurants, the Pearl is where we spend a ton of time. You can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants in that area and they even have an “elevated” food hall with gourmet ramen noodles, burgers, fancy donuts, and more. While you’re down at The Pearl, make sure you stop for Lick Ice Cream and Local Coffee. Bakery Lorraine is also an amazing treat if you’ve got a serious sweet tooth like I do.
Most people choose to stay downtown but I’ll just caution you that there are lots of “gimmicky” restaurants that look authentic but don’t have the best Mexican food. We recommend La Fogata if you’re set on Mexican or Boudros (get the tableside guacamole). For a nice date spot, Biga on the Banks is excellent and then you can head to Ocho for cocktails.
This is the equivalent of Highland Park in Dallas. There are lots of great restaurants in this area, but our favorites are easily Paloma Blanca (my personal favorite for Mexican), Bird Bakery (an amazing spot for lunch and dessert), and Snooze (great for brunch). Revolution is a new-to-me cafe that serves delicious açaí bowls and fresh brewed coffee. I love the atmosphere of it and have been spending some time there blogging this summer.
We live on the north side of San Antonio, so we obviously had to include some of our “neighborhood” favorites. Trilogy Pizza is so delicious and we love their deep dish pizza. It’s also a nice spot to grab a glass of wine. Another favorite is El Marisol and it holds a special memory for us because we had our rehearsal dinner there! For a good burger, head over to Big’z Backyard Burgers (also very kid friendly). Thyme for Lunch is an excellent, healthy breakfast/lunch spot with homemade everything. Finally, Paesanos is probably one of our favorite restaurants in town. It’s Italian food and we absolutely love their special salad with parmesan chicken on top (we split the salad; it’s massive!).
Where To Go.
San Antonio is HUGE as far as square miles go; the benefit to this is that it’s relatively easy to get around and we don’t have terrible traffic like Houston or Dallas. It’s still a growing city and doesn’t feel overcrowded in popular spots. There are so many things to do, but we’ve rounded up our favorites that would be nice to visit almost any time of the year.
- The San Antonio Botanical Garden: San Antonio is lucky to have lots of warm days, even in the winter. It’s not uncommon for us to have 70 degree days in December so don’t underestimate outdoor activities if you’re coming in the cooler months. We love the Botanical Garden and have visited multiple times. It’s a large area and quite close to prime restaurants that we mentioned above.
- The San Antonio Zoo: Our city has an awesome zoo! They’ve added on and revamped it so this is a great activity, especially if you’re coming with kids.
- Sea World: Another huge attraction here! San Antonio Sea World is amazing and one of the primary reasons tourists flock to our city.
- Fiesta Texas: This is a Six Flags theme park so you’re going to get all the rides, games, and food that you would typically expect at a Six Flags. Brandon and I have only been one time (before we met, when we were growing up). Neither of us are huge rollercoaster fans so this is one that we don’t feel the need to spend money on.
- River Walk: You could easily spend a half day on the River Walk. With lots of shops, restaurants, the boat tour of the city, and even a full mall, The River Walk/Alamo is the number one tourist destination. Keep this in mind though because it’s always very crowded! Go at night when they have all the colored lights lit in the trees 🙂
- Hardberger Park: If you want to make time for fitness during your stay, Hardberger Park is the best place to go! Biking, walking, and running trails weave for miles and this massive park offers so much! They’ve even got free yoga classes and nature walks on the weekend.
- The Vintage Bouquet Bar: We did a blog post about this spot here but if you’re wanting to take a floral arrangement class, this is the BEST place to do it. My mom and I loved our experience and learned so much.
- The Flower Vault: We also blogged about the Flower Vault. If you’re a blogger visiting, this needs to be a place you visit!
- Belle and Union: Located in the shopping center of Quarry Village (right next to Kendra Scott), this little southern store has the cutest stationary, gifts, home items, and their own printing press. It’s a great place to pop in and it’s located in the Alamo Heights area.
- Yanaguana Park: Another fun little park here in town! This one is much more urbanized because it’s right downtown. The play area is really nice for kids and they also have a big fountain you can run through during the summer.
- La Cantera: My favorite place to shop in the city! This mall has everything you could ever need, plus it’s outside! I never feel like I’m going to the mall with La Cantera because it’s so beautiful to walk around and just enjoy the day. There are also a few great restaurants out there so definitely plan on having a meal!
- The Pearl Brewery: We mentioned this place in the restaurant area above but there is so much to do! They have culinary classes, boutique shops, outdoor movies on the lawn, and it’s just a great place to walk around and explore.
What To Know
A few last suggestions if you’re planning a San Antonio trip. I think it is vital to have a car. The city is SO spread out and we do not have great public transportation. If you’re only staying downtown and don’t mind taking an Uber, it’s fine not to rent a car. However, if you’re staying a while and plan on venturing out, I would just get a rental.
We are a very relaxed city. Unlike Dallas, where everyone seems to get dressed up, San Antonio is extremely casual. Even at nicer restaurants, you’ll still find people wearing jeans or shorts. That being said, Brandon and I love getting dressed up and we don’t care if we’re the only ones who look a little more formal. So do what you’re comfortable with, but know that the majority of people will be casual.
It gets HOT. If you’re from Texas, then you know this. The summer months have streaks of 100+ degree days and we don’t start cooling down until October, if we’re lucky. The best time to visit would be March, April, May, and October, November, December.
Let us know if you have any questions about the city! We’re more than happy to help. Feel free to ask below with a comment, or just email us: firstname.lastname@example.org