Written by stomps on 03 Jan, 2007
After dinner, at around 8:30, we decided to check out the partying going on outside the hotel before it got too packed. The main center of the partying was not the Riverwalk, which still had a number of people on it, but rather, on South…Read More
After dinner, at around 8:30, we decided to check out the partying going on outside the hotel before it got too packed. The main center of the partying was not the Riverwalk, which still had a number of people on it, but rather, on South Alamo St. This entire street, which borders on Hemisfair Park, where the Tower of the Americas is located, was blocked off to make way for six stages (featuring six different kinds of music), food vendors of all types, carnival rides, and of course, the 250,000 people that would be enjoying them.As we turned onto Alamo St, we were greeted with strains of jazz music and an already bustling street. We passed booths hawking all sorts of 2007 and New Year’s Eve wares, from blinking glasses to tiaras, and others offering an array of Mexican foods (although no sopapillas, which is what my mother really wanted). We kept getting stuck, since we had a group of at least 15 people that couldn’t manage to keep together. People kept seeing other people they knew, or something interesting, so we’d have to look around and stay in the same place until they came back.We finally found our way to the Univision area, which, funnily enough, had a stage offering Latino music. Cristina’s family started dancing, and it was fun to watch for a while, but my family isn’t into dancing—I can’t remember a time when I’ve ever seen my dad even pretend to dance. He was feeling the cold the most of any of us, and since Cristina said her family tends to get stuck in the Univision area for quite a while, we moved on, trying to find things to keep Dad interested and warm.After walking a few more blocks, I spotted my favorite food stand ever—the funnel cakes. The line was pretty long (although by the time we got ours, there was no line at all), and after much indecision, we decided to wait in it. 15 minutes and $5 later, we had the largest funnel cake I’ve ever seen. It was delicious, and between all of us, we soon finished it.By this point, our group was down to my family, and Cristina’s aunt and cousin. Her cousin and my brother really wanted to go on a spinny ride, and made a beeline as soon as we turned the corner into the kid’s carnival area and they spotted the “Starship 3000.” The Starship one of those rides where it spins so quickly that the centripetal force pushes you against the outer walls. They attempted to drag me on with them, but I didn’t feel that it was worth $3 to see half a funnel cake decorating the walls around me. The lines weren’t long at all, so they got on immediately. Unfortunately, it was completely enclosed, unlike the ride next to them, which was the same, but open to the air—so we couldn’t see them screaming their lungs out and generally looking terrified. They soon exited, looking rather inebriated—my brother actually stumbled down the stairs!All of us were now getting tired of the crowds and of being on our feet for so long. After I bought some blinking 2007 glasses, a ripoff at $10 but in honor of the fact that 2007 is the year in which I will graduate, we worked our way back to the Marriott. We had walked a lot further than we remembered, and it took quite a while to make it back—and in the process, both Cristina’s cousin and I got hit on. My mom found me getting hit on rather amusing; I did not.The street festival was a lot of fun, and definitely worth going to, although I was very glad that I had a different vantage point to watch the New Year’s fireworks from that was less crowded and featured comfy sofas. Maybe this isn’t in the spirit of New Year’s partying to the fullest, but this way, my entire family enjoyed it, and we got to relax in the process!Close
Written by Idler on 17 Aug, 2006
Traditions Live On in San AntonioOne thing that becomes immediately apparent to even a casual visitor is that San Antonio is a composite, blending diverse ethnic groups and heritages. German, American Indian, Eastern European, African-American, Southern, Western, but above all a vibrant Hispanic legacy…Read More
Traditions Live On in San AntonioOne thing that becomes immediately apparent to even a casual visitor is that San Antonio is a composite, blending diverse ethnic groups and heritages. German, American Indian, Eastern European, African-American, Southern, Western, but above all a vibrant Hispanic legacy combine in a rich cultural mélange that sometimes yields surprising results. The best traditions in San Antonio are a blend of the old and new, and the city is at its finest when its ethnic diversity shines through the tourist façade. Musical Traditions San Antonio hosts a rich musical scene, especially when it comes to conjunto, a boisterous accordion-driven music which fuses European dance forms such waltzes and polkas with the pulsating rhythms and dramatic lyrics of traditional Mexican music. Conjunto’s soul, however, is pure American. Like the blues, jazz, rock ‘n roll, and other seminal American musical forms, it changes with the times yet always preserves its roots. Several conjunto festivals are held in San Antonio each year, not to mention that each autumn San Antonio hosts the International Accordion Festival. Having recently discovered Tejano conjunto and having long been a fan of other accordion-rich genres such as Cajun, zydeco, and klezmer, I’d give my eye teeth to attend this world-renowned gathering of accordionists. Of course, there’s far more to San Antonio’s musical scene than conjunto. The city abounds in bars and clubs featuring country and western music, not to mention jazz clubs and larger venues for everything from classical to hip-hop. And if it’s a good old-fashioned honky-tonk you’re after, San Antonio is the place to go. The city is also famous for its fiestas, and needless to say music (along with food and drink) is the main fuel at these festivities. Chances are if you can’t find music to your liking in San Antonio, then you simply aren’t trying. Glorious Foods and Vibrant MarketplacesAnyone who comes to San Antonio expecting to dine primarily on burritos and tacos had better take a closer look at the city’s sophisticated restaurants and lively markets. Each fall the city stages an ambitious New World Food & Wine Festival, which showcases not only regional cuisine but focuses on the city’s role as a cultural gateway to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. You can find those burritos and tacos in San Antonio, sure, but you can also find world-class cuisine as well. I had the pleasure of attending the 2005 New World Food & Wine Festival (which I hope to write about it in more detail in a separate journal), where I sampled everything from wild boar tenderloin to fine "reposado" tequila. San Antonio has just about any type of restaurant you can name, plus a few you might not have thought of yet. The city is famous for its Tex-Mex cuisine, of course, not to mention its "chili queens," long since departed but still fondly remember. The tradition of chili queens dates back to the 1880’s, when San Antonio was a bustling cattle, railroad, and military town. Hispanic women would make a special homemade stew from beans, chilis, and beef. They’d load their chili onto colorful wagons to transport it to the market, where they’d keep their wares warm in big pots hung over mesquite fires. The "chili queens" would dish out their fiery concoction to eager customers. Crowds would gather, and as the sun set lanterns were lit and the night was filled with the music. It must have been quite a scene. Alas, the chili queens are now but a distant memory (public health regulations put an end to this in the 1930’s), but you can still enjoy a night of music and song, especially at San Antonio’s El Mercado, a large and colorful indoor market similar to a Mexican market. I stopped by El Mercado one evening to visit Mi Tierra Restaurant and Bakery, a San Antonio institution. This lively place features wonderfully detailed murals featuring portraits of local personalities, restaurant employees, and the Cortez family, which has run this likable eatery since 1941. Mariachis strolled from table-to-table in the packed dining room, which was lit by thousands of twinkling colored Christmas lights left up year-round.El Dia de Los MuertosFlanking Mi Tierra’s entryway are two windows, which during my visit were filled with displays for El Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, celebrated at the end of October and early November in San Antonio as it is in Mexico. At first glance, Dia de los Muertos displays may seem garish or simply macabre, with skeletons, skulls, coffins, and votive candles vying for position on the ofrenda or offering for the day. But look more closely and it becomes clear that these offerings are an enticement to the spirits of the departed to return to the earth. Typically, an ofrenda will include the favorite foods and items of loved ones, and candles and incense are lit to help the departed find their way back home. Sweets (including skulls and coffins fashioned from sugar), specially baked bread, flowers (especially marigolds and cockscombs), elaborate wreaths, and cut-paper decorations are also placed on the altar in honor of the spirit guests who are said to return to earth for this special occasion. I saw a number of ofrendas for Dia de Los Muertos while in San Antonio, including a very poignant one dedicated to troops stationed in Iraq at the Institute of Texan cultures. The city got into this traditional celebration in a big way in 2005 beginning in mid October with exhibits, lectures, performances, and workshops around town. What impressed me most about the displays I saw was that unlike Halloween, Dia de Los Muertos is still relatively untainted by commercialism. While many of the displays may seem whimsical, there’s a reflective side to this distinctive celebration. Religious TraditionsThe earliest of San Antonio missions, Mission San Antonio de Valero, founded in 1718, is better known today as The Alamo, but this was but one of a chain of missions the Spanish established. Today Missions Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada comprise the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, one of the few urban national parks in the country. What interested me most about these historic missions is that with the exception of the Alamo, all of them are still active parish churches. One afternoon while visiting Mission San Jose (1720), the largest and best restored mission, I found worshippers seated in quiet contemplation and prayer inside the lovely church, while elsewhere park volunteers gave interpretive demonstrations on life during Spanish Colonial times. There’s a sense of continuity in these places that is quite special.If the missions provide a sense of religious tradition, in the geographic center of the city stands what is perhaps San Antonio’s spiritual center, San Fernando Cathedral. Founded in 1731 by settlers from the Canary Islands, it is said that several heroes of the Alamo, most notably Davy Crockett, William Travis, and James Bowie, are buried there, but historians and archaeologists have pretty much discredited this claim. That does little to detract from San Fernando’s glory, however, for not only is it the oldest continuously used cathedral in the U.S., but it is also still very much the at the heart of the city’s spiritual life, with over 5,000 people attending weekend masses. The afternoon that I visited testified to the vibrancy of the cathedral. Camera-toting tourists stood admiring the altar and religious statues while at the back of the nave a priest blessed visiting children. Outside, a cluster of thirsty patrons thronged an umbrella-shaded refreshment cart, while across the street in the main plaza, the inevitable breadcrumb-tossing old lady drew a flock of cooing pigeons. Echoes of the Wild WestLet’s not forget that San Antonio was once a frontier town, a meeting place for ranchers, cowpokes, traders, Native Americans, and any number of colorful characters. Teddy Roosevelt mustered his Rough Riders at Fort Sam Houston, and a local citizen who refused to brand his cattle and let them roam the plains freely, one Samuel A. Maverick, gave rise to the eponymous term for an independent cuss. To get a taste of San Antonio’s storied Wild West past, I spent an entertaining hour at the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, a somewhat touristy but impressive collection of mounted trophy animals ranged alongside and above a old western style saloon. A true testimony to the art of taxidermy (and every animal-lover’s nightmare), the collection began back in 1881 when the saloon’s original owner began dispensing liquor in trade for deer antlers – a surefire way to appeal to the hard drinking if-it-moves-shoot-it set. Whether it’s a vintage tequila or a quiet place for reflection, chances are one of San Antonio’s enduring traditions has it covered. Close
Preserving a Rich Architectural HeritageSan Antonio was one of the first cities west of Mississippi to make a concerted effort to preserve its historic buildings, beginning back in 1924 with the foundation of the San Antonio Conservation Society. Not only has this guaranteed that…Read More
Preserving a Rich Architectural HeritageSan Antonio was one of the first cities west of Mississippi to make a concerted effort to preserve its historic buildings, beginning back in 1924 with the foundation of the San Antonio Conservation Society. Not only has this guaranteed that the city’s architectural riches are left intact for future generations, but the preservation of these structures has added considerably to San Antonio’s appeal as a tourist destination. In a particularly clever move, many of the graceful older buildings have been converted, or are in the process of being converted into visitor-friendly attractions and hotels, while others are entering a second life housing new businesses and attractive condominiums. Frankly, I hadn’t come to San Antonio expecting such architectural largesse, but the city’s varied mosaic of older buildings alongside interesting new ones quickly seized my attention. Here just are a few of the many architectural sights that caught my eye while visiting San Antonio. Spanish Colonial TreasuresSan Antonio is best known for its cache of wonderful Spanish Colonial buildings, especially the Spanish Governor’s Palace and the five missions that comprise the Mission Trail. The imposing San Fernando Cathedral, which underwent considerable expansion in 1868, as well as the historic district known as La Villita, dating from the earliest settlements of the city, are other remnants of the days when the Spanish rather than the U.S. flag was flown. It goes without saying that Spanish Colonial Revival buildings are also extremely popular in San Antonio as throughout the Southwest, and many of the city’s hotels and upscale residences boast tile roofs, adobe walls, and lovely arched courtyards. The 1880s-1920s Building BoomThe second half of the nineteenth century brought waves of immigrants and newcomers to San Antonio, ushering in an era of boom-town growth and prosperity. These immigrants bought with them the building traditions of their homelands, including German decorative woodwork and Italian stonecutting techniques. Just as importantly, the leading citizens of this period had grandiose designs and expectations for the city, resulting in the sort of architectural smorgasbord that many prominent American cities display, with a profusion of Beaux Arts, Italian Renaissance Revival, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Late Gothic Revival, and other fashionable styles. San Antonio’s City Hall, for example, is a fine example of a French Second Empire Building, while the striking Bexar County Courthouse, constructed of vivid Pecos red sandstone, was inspired by the Romanesque Revival. During the 1920s, the city went on a skyscraper-erecting binge, perhaps as part of the successful campaign to wrestle away from Dallas the distinction of being Texas’ largest city, an honor that Big D was soon to reclaim. The 13-story Medical Arts Building (which is now the Emily Morgan Hotel), The 30-story Tower Life Building, the 24-story Nix Professional Building, and the 21-story Milam Building were all erected during the 1920’s. These structures were not just tall, they were profusely ornamented, with stone gargoyles, decorative tiling, art deco motifs, and terra cotta flourishes on the outside and opulent marble, brass, and bronze surfaces on the interior. Many of these buildings can be enjoyed by simply strolling along San Antonio’s famed River Walk. As you walk along, look up, for the Tower Life Building, the Bexar County Courthouse, and the Nix Professional Building among others suddenly seems to spring up from behind the trees, a reminder that you are, after all, right in the heart of downtown San Antonio.Opulent Theaters The renovation of San Antonio’s historic theaters has been central to the emergence of a vibrant theater and arts district. The Majestic Theater, built in 1929, was once the largest theater in Texas and the first in the state to be completely air conditioned. No ordinary movie palace, the Majestic boasted a vaulted ceiling onto which twinkling stars and drifting clouds were projected by a then state-of-the-art projection machine. A splendid melding of Spanish Baroque and Mediterranean architectural styles, the Majestic fell on onto hard times and eventually closed its doors in 1974. However, soon after that the theater was donated to a foundation which raised $4.5 million dollars for its restoration and reopening in 1989. Nearby another historic theater, the Empire, followed a similar trajectory, and was reopened in 1998. The older and smaller Empire, which opened in 1913 and became a prominent theater on the vaudeville circuit, was modeled after a European palazzo, albeit with such modern (for the time) touches as electrical lighting and fans. But perhaps the most unusual of San Antonio’s historic theaters is the Aztec, which reopened in April of 2006 after an ambitious restoration and expansion. The Aztec was one of the few Mayan Revival style theaters in the country. It featured an ornate interior with colorful murals depicting Mesoamerican themes, elaborate relief carvings, huge columns, and an immense two-ton chandelier. The Aztec now houses an entertainment complex with an iWERKS (similar to IMAX) screen, a special effects show, and shops and restaurants. The new complex is striving to become an "anchor" for the west end of the River Walk. Façade of the Texas Theater Finally, the historic Alameda Theater, the largest Spanish-language movie palace ever built in the U.S., has been restored and is part of a larger project intended to showcase Latino cultures. Along with the soon-to-open Museo Americano, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the 2,400-seat Alameda provides a unique venue for Latino performing arts. River WalkIt may be hard for visitors to today’s San Antonio to imagine, but one of the city’s most beloved features, the River Walk, was a project that was nearly paved over – literally. The river was an unruly one, and after a particularly bad flood in 1921 which killed fifty people and destroyed a number of businesses downtown, a proposal was made to put the river safely underground beneath a carapace of cement. Fortunately, an alternate plan emerged to tame the river by means of floodgates, while at the same time developing the areas along the bank as an entertainment area with cafes, shops, hotels, and restaurants. The project got a real boost during in1968, when HemisFair brought an infusion of cash and visitors to the area. I visited San Antonio that year with my mother, and while I retain virtually no memory of HemisFair itself, I can still vividly recall the colorful café awnings and picturesque vendors along River Walk. Coming back to the area again this past fall, I found River Walk even more alluring than I’d remembered, for not only have the trees and gardens matured, especially in some of the serene park-like stretches, but new hotels and other ventures have emerged. In fact, some fear that the River Walk may have become too successful for its own good, as large chain restaurants and glitzy tourist attractions have become more prominent. Hopefully wiser heads will once again prevail and measures will be taken to preserve the unique character of the river. Looking forward While you can’t spend a day in San Antonio without absorbing at least a little of its history, you also can’t help but notice that the city is as obsessed with the future as it is with the past. This is Texas, after all, so the local movers and shakers think on a grand scale. One such vision for the future is the conversion of the former Pearl Brewery into an ambitious combined residential and educational complex. The old brewery now houses both the Center for Foods of the Americas and the Aveda Institute beauty school, but future plans call for hundreds of condominium units as well as retail and office space surrounded by a lush public gardens, plazas, and public pathways along the San Antonio river. Projects such as these, which find new uses for old structures, are truly what San Antonio does best. Close
Written by hagnel2 on 16 Jun, 2006
We left our Inn at 8:30am and returned at 10:30pm. Tired slightly inebriated and in love with this city.We started our walk along the river beside our Inn, a tree-shaded area alive with joggers and walkers. We soon discovered the waterfall that lulled us last…Read More
We left our Inn at 8:30am and returned at 10:30pm. Tired slightly inebriated and in love with this city.We started our walk along the river beside our Inn, a tree-shaded area alive with joggers and walkers. We soon discovered the waterfall that lulled us last night was a weir that was around three feet in height, later we discovered quite a few along the waterway. The stairway to street level was just beyond the weir and so we exited and turned right toward Hemisphere Park. Two large pillars supported an arched decorative iron scroll boasting the parks name. Beyond the entrance we could see the Tower of the Americas symbol of San Antonio’s 1968 worlds fair and the cities two hundred and fiftieth birthday, inside the grounds are fountains, picnic areas and various buildings. The tower dominates the park, unfortunately it was closed for renovations and we were too early to visit the Texas Institute of history. The park area is vast and a popular site for festivals. Turning left as we exit the park we pass high-rise hotels and the River view mall. We return to the mall later by boat. Passing by the Menger Hotel we note a plaque outside telling of Theodore Roosevelt’s connection we return later. (See entry on Menger.)The Alamo. Despite the early hour masses of tourists thronged the Alamo plaza and queues were forming outside the chapel shrine. We turned left through the entry to the courtyard and entered the long Barracks. After watching a very moving film on the battle we explored the museum. The museum was filled with artifacts from the mission era, mock ups of the mission and custodians are on hand to answer all questions. Guides in the cavalry court give outdoor talks. Guides also give information on the collection of cannons, one proud father was taking a photo of his young son balancing on a huge cannon as a guide walked by he nonchalantly remarked "Lot of history there son that’s the 18 pounder that was actually used." The Alamo gardens are worth a visit in their own right. The Daughters Of The Republic offer a self-guided walking tour brochure; pick up a brochure in the gift shop, it certainly helps clarify names and history of the gardens contents.We waited in line to see the interior of the chapel / shrine but I was disappointed at the noise and lack of respect shown inside. Notices requesting silence pointed out this was a shrine and battlefield but the request was completely ignored. Inside flags and mementos are on display but we didn’t see everything the noise was too much for me. Outside the chapel loudspeakers touting business for the wax works and Ripley’s (directly facing the shrine) seemed out of place, why on earth would such businesses be allowed to locate so close to the shrine. Following lunch at O Briens we took a river cruise and it was well worth the money. There were around 25 people in the boat, and quite a few children. Our tour guide was a young student with a wicked sense of humour and very informative. The narrated cruise took us past places we might have missed walking and it was very relaxing. I was extremely impressed with the river walk, our tour guide pointed out that the river flowing through the city a slow stream no deeper than a swimming pool ends up in the gulf of Mexico150 miles away to the southeast.Our tour ended at the Riverview mall where we alighted and listened to a very good Mariachi trio. We didn’t explore the mall but it was very modern with a Dillard’s and Foley’s and many upscale specialty shops on the ground floor. Neil needed a battery for his watch and there were lots of jewelers to choose from.Down the street from Alamo Plaza on Houston is the Buckhorn Saloon a San Antonio landmark of sorts. Established in 1881 its museum features wildlife exhibits from all over the world. There are three floors and the building houses a café, curio store and saloon bar. (See entry.) I will say the Margaritas are very good and generous.During that day we visited some of the older sections of town some of its churches, then rested and recuperated along the shady areas of the river. We had a lovely day and it certainly whet our appetite for a longer stay.Close
Written by melissabowman on 19 Apr, 2007
San Antonio has a few amusement parks that would make tons of fun for the children. I have not been to any of these places, but was amazed by what was available and thought I would share this for future travelers with kids. For starters,…Read More
San Antonio has a few amusement parks that would make tons of fun for the children. I have not been to any of these places, but was amazed by what was available and thought I would share this for future travelers with kids. For starters, San Antonio has Fiesta Texas. Fiesta Texas is now owned by Six Flags. Fiesta Texas is know for its huge roller coaster called the Rattler. There is also the Superman Krypton coaster, Boomerang, and Scream, all three are thrilling rides. There are plenty of family rides, fun rides, and entertainment throughout the whole park. The park offers shows and live musical performances that are at no extra cost. There are tons places to eat and lots of little stands to refresh yourself while waiting in lines.Admission to the park is $46.99 and $31.99 for children 48" and under with kids under 2 FREE. Daily parking is $12. The park hours are different throughout the year, so check for your specific visit.Next is Sea Wold San Antonio. This is also an amusement park with roller coasters and rides. This Sea World has more to offer than San Diego. There is of course the usual Shamu show and plenty of other live animal shows. They have a dolphin show, sea otter and seal show, they also have tons of animal attractions where you can get up-close and personal with the animals. Like Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Sea World offers tons of family fun and entertainment and endless choices of food. Admission to the park is $44.09 for adults and $35.09 for children. You will also have to check the hours here as they change throughout the year.The next place worth mentioning is the Tower of the Americas. The tower is 750 feet tall and offers breathtaking views of San Antonio. The tower hosts an observation deck, an upscale eatery, and a 4-D multi-sensory theater. The cost of the observation deck is $5 for adults and $3 for children. The hours are 10am-10pm daily. You can buy passes for multiple attractions, such as the observation deck, the 4-D theater, and also a theater ride. Of course, the restaurants will also have their normal menu prices. The restaurants that are offered are Salt Grass Steak House, Landry's Sea Food, and the Rain forest Cafe.These are just a few of the places I thought would be worth mentioning as great places to take the kids and would be fun for the whole family. I hope you will have fun and consider these places when choosing San Antonio as a vacation destination.Close
In the hour and a half between when we left the street festival and midnight, we didn’t do anything particularly interesting. Mostly, we just sat and chatted, played with Cristina’s adorable dog, and watched New York’s New Year’s Eve celebrations on TV.At 11:50, the champagne,…Read More
In the hour and a half between when we left the street festival and midnight, we didn’t do anything particularly interesting. Mostly, we just sat and chatted, played with Cristina’s adorable dog, and watched New York’s New Year’s Eve celebrations on TV.At 11:50, the champagne, blowers, tiaras, and hats came out, and people started going outside. For many, this didn’t last too long, because it was a chilly 38 degrees outside, complemented by a stiff wind. I had to remove my hat and glasses and leave them inside for fear of watching my $10 blow off the side of the Marriott and into the Rivercenter below.What a sight there was from our balcony. Well before midnight, when we looked into the distance into the suburbs, we could see fireworks going off everywhere. Apparently everyone in the greater San Antonio area had acquired illegal mortar shells and were firing them off like there was no tomorrow. The entire horizon was lit up in white, blue, pink, and green explosions. It was absolutely spectacular, and was definitely the largest firework display that I have ever seen. After 10 minutes, by the time the New Year actually rolled around, the horizon was thick with haze.We couldn’t quite have an official countdown to the New Year, since everyone had a different time on their watch, so we just waited until the crowd began to roar before we began shouting “Happy New Year”, blowing on our airhorns, and hugging and kissing everyone in sight. The moment that the crowd began to roar was the moment that the lit up elevator in the Tower of the Americas reached the top, turning the giant “2006” on the Tower into a “2007” and setting off the beginning of an amazing fireworks spectacle. For nearly 20 minutes, fireworks shot up from behind the Tower and out from the Tower itself while the people in San Antonio continued their pyromaniac tendencies and lit up the sky behind. The finale was awesome, with multiple mortar shells exploding over the Tower as it spewed yellow in every direction.As soon as the Tower finished its display, most of my family and all of Cristina’s family rushed back inside, attempting to warm their chilled limbs. I stayed outside for a little longer, rapt. The fireworks on the horizon had slowed, but were still very obviously there, and I couldn’t get over the sheer number of them.The only downer of the night was that I couldn’t get a hold of James before the New Year began, since my phone card couldn’t handle the volume of calls going through. However, I eventually got a hold of him and let him listen to the din, which had changed from airhorns and fireworks to the honking of car horns, as everyone in the traffic jam below showed everyone just how happy they were by deafening them.All in all, it was the perfect way to bring in the New Year. I was surrounded by my loving family (minus one, who had celebrated the New Year 16 hours before me) and friends, with a glass of champagne in one hand and a camera in the other to capture the festivities, watching the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen. San Antonio does New Year’s right—much better than a dinky fireworks display over the bay—so it’s no wonder that 250,000 other people spent the evening in downtown. I think that, at least while I’m in America, this way of spending New Year’s Eve might have to become a tradition.Close
Since we had no plans until 4pm, which was when we had to check into our hotel room, New Year’s Eve morning was a perfect time to have a stroll around Trinity University, one of my brother’s top choices of school for next year. Fortunately,…Read More
Since we had no plans until 4pm, which was when we had to check into our hotel room, New Year’s Eve morning was a perfect time to have a stroll around Trinity University, one of my brother’s top choices of school for next year. Fortunately, we left ourselves plenty of time to do so, since all of us were so lazy that we didn’t manage to check out of our hotel room until a little before noon. My brother, who had been asleep on the floor for most of the morning, proceeded to fall asleep as soon as he got in our van, so it was up to us to find Trinity for him.Trinity is located just off of US281 North at the Hildebrand exit. As soon as we exited the freeway, we turned right, passed the University of the Incarnate Word, and immediately found Trinity to our left. After getting slightly lost a few times, we finally found some visitor parking on Trinity Place and a nice, large, labeled map of the entire university. This allowed us to actually pick out a few things we’d like to see, rather than wandering completely aimlessly.The campus reminded me a lot of my school, Rice University, in that you can’t tell that it’s located in the middle of a large city. Yes, a freeway runs past some of the dorms, but the campus is so covered in trees and filled with new-looking red brick buildings that you feel, as my brother described, like you are “in a pretty rural area.” Even if you aren’t considering attending here, I think it’s a nice place to stop by and have a walk through the trees or have a lazy afternoon lying on the grass. Near the main administration building is a beautiful fountain, which has the brick bell tower towering above it. When we walked up to the tower, we found that it was blocked and the stairs looked like they had not been climbed in quite some time; this was unfortunate because we would have gotten a great look at the lay of the campus from the top.Since it was New Year’s Eve, the campus was obviously deserted, with only the odd runner passing by. Because of this, we couldn’t actually get inside any of the buildings, but that was OK, since my brother had an actual campus tour booked for later in the school year and my mother had already fallen in love with the campus anyway.Even though we spent a fair amount of time wandering Trinity, we still had plenty of time to burn before we could check into our hotel. My father suggested taking a short drive up to Canyon Lake, where my parents are considering buying a retirement home, and since none of us could come up with anything else, we settled on that.It was at least a 50 mile drive into the Hill Country on US281 to Canyon Lake. We stopped on the way, at the exit for south Canyon Lake, for a quick bite at Sonic, before continuing to Spring Branch and the exit for Highway 306. This took us around to the north of Canyon Lake, which, when we finally saw it, was a sparkling, bright blue oasis in the parched hills. We didn’t find it until we drove into Mystic Shores, a new community from which my dad had received an advertisement in the mail. This community had plenty of houses that looked way too expensive, since they sat on hills overlooking the sprawling lake. I mainly looked around at scenery and at the lake I wished I could get closer to, while my parents stopped at every house and debated their pros and cons. My parents were clearly enjoying themselves, though, and it was nice to be out in the country and “away from it all.”After looking at nearly every house in the neighborhood (except those that were gated), we got back on Highway 306, beside which the Guadalupe River snaked for some miles. It took us all the way around the lake to New Braunfels, where we got on I-35 South and headed into downtown San Antonio to prepare for our New Year celebrations.Close
Written by Roving Alan on 07 Apr, 2006
Just back from the Lone Star State. A friend of ours had gone to San Antonio last year on a conference and had raved about what a cool place it was. My wife had a vacation from work and enough airline miles for free…Read More
Just back from the Lone Star State. A friend of ours had gone to San Antonio last year on a conference and had raved about what a cool place it was. My wife had a vacation from work and enough airline miles for free flights, so we decided to see a new place and go to Texas. It was pretty horrible for the most part. We spent a lot of time cursing and muttering, especially me, darkly affirming my life-long prejudice against that godforsaken state. The good thing, it hardly cost anything. We had free flights, cheap (and bleak) lodgings, and we spent very little on transportation. Took the city bus to and from the SA airport to downtown ($.80) and once there, bought daily bus passes for $3.00, which really worked out well. It was very hot and humid, although the natives ("Where y'all from?") were amused when we said so, replying: " oh, this is cold, it gets hot in the summer."The big attraction is the Riverwalk, which is the San Antonio River winding through a man-made canyon of luxury hotels, restaurants, bars, and stores in the heart of the city. It is a spectacular piece of urban engineering and very lovely from an architectural point of view. The buildings, bridges, gardens, terraces, water-features, etc. are marvelously executed and very unique... sort of a corporate, post-modern Venice dedicated purely to consumerism. The downside is that the tourist-fleecing agenda is front and center at every turn, and one feels like quite a patsy in a hoard of ugly gluttons and drunks flowing through the enterprises, being served by countless young workers wearing corporate uniforms and patently insincere smiles ("Where y'all from?"). This whole orgy is playing out below street level, in this "pleasure gulch", from whence one can climb back up to the city. We used our bus passes to ride all around the city (and to escape the heat), and for miles in every direction from the city center, we saw nothing but dry, barren wastelands of dead shopping malls and defunct industries, poor neighborhoods, sun-bleached riverbeds... and everywhere: poor, broken people. We often saw the same homeless characters riding the buses back and forth, presumably for a cool place to pass the day (like we were doing). I imagine the servers in the Pleasure Gulch issuing forth from these bleak environs every day, to serve steaks the size of brake drums and watered-down margaritas to obese conventioneers, and then return to heat-blasted apartments and run-down houses.The Alamo was quite interesting, particularly the constant idolization of the Heroes, the Al-Quaeda-esque vocabulary ("blood of heroes," "martyrs for the cause of liberty" etc.) and the exhortation at the entrance that " this is a Shrine. Gentlemen remove your hats." Meanwhile, at the tourist trap across the street, next door to the moving Tyrannosaurus head, a life-sized cartoon sculpture of Davy Crockett is regaling passers-by with his recorded utterances. Gentlemen, remove your hats.We visited the McNay Mansion and Art museum, which was a very nice experience. Mrs. McNay, of inadvertent petro-wealth, had bequeathed her lovely mansion to the public as a free resource, and that it is, with a world-class modern art collection encompassing Impressionists, Cubists, and modern painters, as well as sculptures, and fabulous architectural ironwork, gorgeous gardens, tile work, etc. etc. Although this gem could be reached by bus, one could not walk from the bus stop to the entrance on a paved sidewalk, but had to make way over medians, broken pavement, bits of lawn, etc. The bus stop to return to the city from there consisted of a sign stuck in a bucket, with no shelter from the sun or place to sit. Presumably, those who ride buses in San Antonio are not expected to visit art museums, and vice versa.We also took buses to the San Jose Mission at the south end of town, and there, at least, there was a proper bus stop, as there was at the Japanese Gardens. The Gardens themselves, however, were closed for construction. Oh, well.All in all, it was quite educational, but I do not think I will be going back of my own volition.
Written by kimmmbers on 04 Jul, 2005
Even though I recommend arriving at a theme park 30 minutes early to buy tickets and secure a locker, sometimes children can throw off the schedule. We arrived right at opening time and had to wait in line for a short while to obtain…Read More
Even though I recommend arriving at a theme park 30 minutes early to buy tickets and secure a locker, sometimes children can throw off the schedule. We arrived right at opening time and had to wait in line for a short while to obtain tickets.
Since I live in San Antonio, I had the good fortune of receiving a coupon via mail---buy one, get one free for up to six adult admissions. I also had a coupon for a free admission for Pentax camera owners---I have to thank SixFlags.com for that one. My sister was using the Pentax coupon, so she had to go to the Guest Relations window to pick up her ticket. After all was said and done, we gained admittance for five people for the price of two adults---not too shabby.
Since we had studied the park map online prior to arrival, we decided that the lockers in the front of the park were the most centrally located for our purposes. We were planning to enjoy the rides during the first part of the day, and then hit the water park the latter part of the day. Since the water park did not open until 11am, we did not want to wait around to secure a locker inside the water park.
After selecting the largest locker and using the awesome automated locker self-help kiosk (the largest locker rented for $10, and the kiosk accepted cash, credit, or debit), we stored a few belongings and started out for the rides. We started with the left side of the park---heading straight for Scream, a freefall ride.
Since it was a Thursday, we had no lines to contend with, and we were able to ride Scream four times back-to-back.
Then we were on to Scooby Doo Ghostblasters. This is a great ride to beat the heat because both the line and the ride are indoors and air-conditioned. It is not a strenuous ride; it is really more of a video game on wheels. Every rider has a ghostblaster gun and an LCD display to record their score. The kids loved the ride, so we rode on it a number of times.
After that, we took a short walk to the SS Overboard, a swinging ship of fun---for those who like to lose their stomachs, but not for those apt to lose their breakfast.
We moved on to the center of the park, where more children's rides are located. First stop was the mini roller coaster. It’s not real exciting for adults, but little ones will love it. Then we found the log ride---another great way to beat the heat. Not only do you get a little wet, but you get to wait indoors in air-conditioning. Not that we had to wait at all. Like I said before, Thursdays are apparently slow days at Fiesta Texas, so all we had to do was wind our way through the queue and hop onto a log.
After riding the log ride three times and hitting a few more of the kiddie rides, we traveled to the right side of the park. This is where the wooden coasters reside---the aptly named Rattler and the smaller Road Runner. After riding the Road Runner once, I had had enough, and I am a coaster enthusiast. That little thing shook too much to be enjoyable. If I thought that thing was bad, I had no business going on the Rattler, but ride it, I did. My 12-year-old niece and I endured that ride with only thoughts of "when will it end!" That coaster is a lawsuit waiting to happen. I thought my head was going to shake right off my head. Fiesta Texas could take a lesson from SeaWorld in how to design an enjoyable, smooth roller coaster.
Anyway, after that we were ready for lunch. We didn't have far to walk to find it at Bubba's River Cafe. I guess I must amend my previous statement about the lines, because this is where everyone seemed to be---in line for lunch. So it took a good 15 minutes to acquire some burgers, fries, and sodas. The burger and fries combo was $5.99. Since we had been to Fiesta Texas previously, we had a couple of Fiesta Texas drink bottles, which we had refilled for $1.25. Of course, frugal people that we are, we had plastic cups in our backpack and made those two drink bottles serve five people. There was a nice indoor air-conditioned dining area that we had all to ourselves---everyone seemed to be dining outdoors.
After lunch, we headed back to the front of the park and our locker to change out our tennis shoes for swim shoes and shed any extra clothing to reveal swimsuits. Then it was just a short walk to the water park, which is included free with Six Flags admission. Since it was already late afternoon, all the water slide rides had long lines. Even on the slowest day of the week, the water park is busy in the afternoons. So if you want to experience the water rides, go to the water park as soon as it opens. Since we just wanted to cool off, we were okay with just hitting the lazy river and other pools. Six Flags Fiesta Texas does have an extensive water park, but if you want to experience the more adventurous rides in it, you have to arrive early or wait in line.
We ended up leaving the park after 5pm. We had left our towels in the car to save locker space, and just exited the park in our bathing suits.
We barely scratched the surface of everything available to experience at the park, and we really had no lines holding us up for the most part. So, for any first-timers, I would suggest getting a 2-day ticket and plan on spending the entire day, from opening to closing, in the park. That way you can catch the shows---another way to beat the heat---and experience all the rides wet and dry.
Written by micintexp on 29 Mar, 2005
Be Careful!! Mathis, TX is NOT a great area to be in.
Let me start from the beginning. We (my aunt and uncle, my husband and his nephew) drove from New Jersey to Texas. It was for the most part a peaceful drive--we would stop…Read More
Be Careful!! Mathis, TX is NOT a great area to be in.
Let me start from the beginning. We (my aunt and uncle, my husband and his nephew) drove from New Jersey to Texas. It was for the most part a peaceful drive--we would stop every 1-2 hours so my aunt and husband could take a break. Both suffer from health problems. After driving for 10+ hours a day, we would stop at a hotel along the way to spend the night. I do NOT recommend staying at ANY Days Inn hotels in ANY state. We stayed at three Days Inns in different states, and all of them were horrible.
On day 4, we arrived in Texas. Since we were a day early, we decided to visit Corpus Christie so my aunt could see the ocean (Gulf of Mexico). From there, we headed north. We were to drop the men off at George West, TX, for a hunting trip, and we ladies were going to explore Texas for the next five days with no particular destination. Since we arrived a day early, we contacted the hunting ranch, and they told us to stay at a local motel just 20 minutes south of George West in Mathis, TX.
We went to sleep and the next morning got up to discover that we had been robbed. The trailer attached to our vehicle was broken into. How they did it without making any noise or waking us up is beyond me. They must have been professionals. Well, needless to say, once we dropped the men off in George West, we didn’t look back. We drove 90 minutes north and spent the rest of our time in beautiful San Antonio. For the return trip home, we avoided Mathis like the plague.