Overview: This downtown walking tour features some of the city's best-known attractions, and throws in a few lesser known, but interesting stops... more »
This downtown walking tour features some of the city's best-known attractions, and throws in a few lesser known, but interesting stops... more ». First there's Paris Hatters, where many celebrities and famous people go for custom-made hats — in particular, cowboy hats. Next you'll head to breakfast in the Menger Hotel, the oldest continuously running hotel west of the Mississippi.
You'll then stop by St. Joseph Catholic Church — the little church that could. When a developer wanted to buy the property and use it in a completely different capacity, the parishioners voted to keep the church intact.
Then take a walk around HemisFair Park for a look at the lush landscaping and a view of the city from the observation deck in the Tower of the Americas — a sky scraper that is 750 feet tall. How about some shopping/window shopping in La Villita? It's San Antonio's first neighborhood. These are historic homes that were converted into shops. less «
What to wear: Since you'll do a good amount of walking and visit a nice restaurant, it would be a good idea to dress comfortably, but ... more »nicely. Jackets are not required at the restaurant.
Light layers are a great way to handle San Antonio's sometimes unpredictable weather. It can be chilly in the morning, warm a good deal during the midday and cool quickly at night, so bring a cardigan or other sweater to help keep you warm when it cools. Underneath, you could wear a shell or other light-fabric top and casual, comfortable slacks, walking shorts, or a breezy skirt. Tennis shoes may be the most comfortable, but you may want to pick something a little more dressy, such as boat shoes, flats or sandals.
Of course, it also depends on the time of the year. If it's winter, closed-toe shoes may be best and each layer may need to be a bit thicker. less «
Ever wondered where to find a cowboy hat? Paris Hatters — it's where celebrities and famous people go for custom-fitted and custom-shaped hats for anyone who wants a hat of any style.
People who have gotten a hat from Paris Hatters:
Pope John Paul II
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top
... More Chris Isaak
Sammy Davis Jr.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain
President Harry Truman
President George Bush
The family-owned and run business first opened in 1917 and even boasts that much of the interior hasn't changed over the years. The 1930s cash register is still hand cranked and used every day. This is the oldest surviving retail business in downtown San Antonio and the owners pride themselves on their dedication to the old ways. The hat blocks are antiques and the old steaming equipment is still used. This means that the hats will fit perfectly and remain ageless in style.
The prices range from $20 to $7,000, so just about everyone could afford a hat from the world-famous store, which sells more than 9,000 hats each year.
Monday to Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
119 Broadway Street
San Antonio, TX 78205
Twenty-three years after the fall of the Alamo, a German immigrant expanded his successful boarding house business. He broke ground for the Menger Hotel in 1858 next to his brewery (the first brewery in Texas).
The Menger Hotel is now the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi. The hotel has been expanded and developed... More several times over the years but it's still possible to see the original beauty of the hotel's architectural details. As a member of the Historic Hotels of America, there are many original details such as the columns rising from the floors and antique Victorian furnishings and light fixtures in the hotel lobby. Guest rooms in the older part of the building include lofted ceilings and views of the garden.
Many of the antiques and paintings came from Menger's personal collection. He used his travels in New York and Europe as an opportunity to collect antiques and art.
Over the years a number of famous people have stayed there — including baseball legend Babe Ruth and U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant. Pictures of them line the walls in the hotel's lobby. Plus the hotel is mentioned in O. Henry's writings (William Sydney Porter's pen name). Not only did famous people stay at the hotel, but it is boasted to be the most haunted hotel in Texas by more than 30 different ghosts. One lesser known ghost is Sallie White, a Menger maid who was killed by her husband.
Coincidentally, John Warne Gates held the first barbed wire demonstration in the Military Plaza (just in front of the Menger Hotel) in 1876. He then went into the hotel to take orders for the new wire design.
The hotel's restaurant — Colonial Room Restaurant — is well-known for good fare and very good brunches (particularly on holidays such as Mother's and Father's Day). Some personal favorites are the Menger breakfast sandwich with applewood smoked bacon, scrambled eggs and Swiss cheese, served on grilled flatbread with strawberry preserves and the blueberry buttermilk pancakes.
Breakfast: 6:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday to Thursday 5 to 10 p.m.
Friday to Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.
204 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, TX 78205
Wanting a place to celebrate and worship in their native language, a group of German Catholic immigrants laid the cornerstone for Saint Joseph Church in 1868. The Gothic-style church underwent many improvements, including four bells with matching tones. Each was named in honor of the person who donated it — Joseph, Mary, Henry and Joseph. Then in ... More1898, the spire was added to complete the structure. Parishioners paid $3,000 in 1902 (approximately $79,000 in 2012) for stained glass windows from the Emil Frei Art Glass Factory in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
In 1945, Joske's Department Store wanted to buy the church, rectory, and grounds to develop the land commercially, but parishioners unanimously voted to keep the church as a symbol, "of their faith in the midst of a secularized, historic and cultural environment," according to the church's website.
Some call St. Joseph the, "jewel in the heart of San Antonio," in part because it is surrounded on three sides by RiverCenter Mall. The church still celebrates its German roots through the San Antonio Liederkranz on the fourth Sunday of each month. The first was held in 1892. This 11 a.m. service includes liturgical song with a variety of hymns sung in Latin, German, and English. The 9:30 a.m. service held every Sunday includes hymns sung in Spanish and a Mariachi ensemble plays on the second Sunday of each month.
Church office: Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.
Closed on federal holidays and holy days of obligation.
Monday to Saturday: Noon
Saturday: Noon and 5 p.m.
Sunday: 8 a.m., 9:30 p.m. (Spanish), 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m.
Holy Days of Obligation
Noon, 5 p.m. Holy Day Vigil
Sacrament of Reconciliation
Monday to Saturday: 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
623 East Commerce St.
San Antonio, Texas 78205-2693
O'Neil Ford, an American architect, developed the revitalization plan for La Villita, San Antonio's first neighborhood.
Now it is a thriving arts community and the houses have been transformed into shops for artisans. According to the organization's website:
"After a flood in 1819, brick, stone and adobe houses replaced the earlier... More structures. In 1836, La Villita was the site of General Santa Ana's cannon line in the Battle of the Alamo and a map from early that year showed the village to be of considerable size.
"Late in the 19th century European immigrants from Germany and France moved into the area. These pioneers became San Antonio's business leaders, bankers, educators, and craftsmen. The cultural mix that occurred at this time is best illustrated by the variety of architectural styles reflected in La Villita's buildings. The architecture portrays the evolution of buildings from palisado to Victorian Houses.
"The first part of the 20th century saw La Villita decline into a slum area. In 1939, as ground broke on the San Antonio River Walk development, city fathers led by Mayor Maury Maverick acted to preserve this colorful part of San Antonio's history."
The Little Church is also a popular spot for weddings.
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; call for Sunday hours
Located between the Hilton Palacio del Rio and the Fairmont Hotel
HemisFair Park was originally developed for the 1968 World's Fair, the first to be held in the southwest part of the United States. The fair coincided with the 250th anniversary of the city's founding in 1718.
The city developed about 96 acres and it now owns about 50 acres, which includes 30 acres for the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.... More About 15 acres were redeveloped with waterfalls, fountains, playgrounds and landscaping, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1968 World's Fair.
Thirty nations hosted pavilions during the fair, which included: The Tower of the Americas (the theme structure for HemisFair 1968), Texas Pavilion, Mexico Pavilion (now the Instituto Cultural de México), and U.S. Pavilion (now the John H. Wood, Jr. United States District Court for the Western District of Texas).
O'Neil Ford, an American architect, designed The Tower of the Americas. It is one of the tallest structures in the city at 750 feet and provides the best views. There is also a restaurant in the revolving tower and an observation deck.
The Texas Pavilion was the largest pavilion during the World's Fair and is now The Institute of Texan Cultures, a campus for the University of Texas at San Antonio and a member of the Smithsonian Affiliates program. Essentially, the institute is a museum and library. It houses a number of interactive exhibits to educate about Texas' multicultural diversity. Plus it has hosted the Texas Folklife Festival annually since 1972.
It's a new era for the park and lands. In 2009, The City of San Antonio formed the HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation to revitalize the park and create new events and activities on the property.
Never closed, though buildings such as the Tower of the Americas may not be open in the middle of the night.
600 Hemisfair Plaza Way Building 277
Private Corridor 208
San Antonio, Texas 78205
After touring through the day, head back to your hotel to freshen up for dinner on the Riverwalk. Try Biga on the Banks, a new American cuisine restaurant from chef and owner Bruce Auden, who has been nominated six times by the James Beard Award for Best Chef | Southwest.
The menu boasts apple-smoked salmon nachos, bibb and radicchio game packets... More, 11-spiced Texas axis venison and grilled Texas quail, and close-to-Bouillabaisse.
Sunday to Thursday: 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Friday to Saturday 5:30 to 11 p.m.
203 S. St. Mary's at Market
San Antonio, Texas 78205