FX Excursions

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Set Your Sights on San Antonio’s Art, Culture and Green Spaces

by Eugenia Lazaris

Mar 4, 2021

PHOTO: © SEAN PAVONE | DREAMSTIME.COM

January/February 2021

San Antonio celebrated 300 years of progress in May 2018. With a clear vision following that anniversary year, the Texan city set its sights firmly on 300 more. While commemorating this milestone, the city underwent a major overhaul to prepare for the next phase in its history.

Travelers arriving at San Antonio International Airport see some of the latest improvements immediately upon arrival. The newer, 1.8 million-square-foot Consolidated Rental Car Facility, located just steps from the terminals, offers convenient car rental service from 11 companies in one location. The CONRAC welcomes visitors with an expansive mural by local artists Suzy Gonzales and Michael Menchaca depicting the details of the aviation history of San Antonio.

The Henry B. González Convention Center experienced a $325 million overhaul. With an eco-friendly and energy-efficient design, state-of-the-art technology, 70 meeting spaces and one of the biggest ballrooms in the country (54,000 square feet), the HBGCC is ready to host conferences and events of all sizes when that business returns to the city post-pandemic and is prepared to meet the needs of generations to come.

In addition to the artwork on display at the CONRAC and HBGCC, public art flourishes all over the city. A visit to the Witte Museum on the banks of the San Antonio River proves a great way to unwind and enjoy some of the local culture, thanks to a $100 million renovation and expansion project that included numerous artistic, historical and health-related exhibitions.

The San Pedro Creek area is developing into a first-rate park. Here visitors and locals will also be able to enjoy public art. With the first half-mile of the revitalization complete, art complements the landscape. The Rain from the Heavens art installation depicts the night of the city’s founding in 1718. Murals throughout the park highlight the rich culture of San Antonio. Public art installations and murals additionally line the World Heritage Trail in the Mission Reach neighborhood.

Hemisfair, the site of the 1968 World’s Fair, is currently in its second of three phases to become the city’s Central Park. An installation, Alas de México (Wings of Mexico) commemorates the tricentennial. A popular spot for Instagram photos, the area also proves family-friendly, with its Yanaguana Garden boasting a water jet section and children’s games with ropes and slides.

Nicknamed River City, San Antonio is ideally situated along the San Antonio River and home to River Walk, a winding path of hotels, businesses, shops and eateries along the beautifully landscaped riverbanks. With its centralized location, River Walk offers a convenient way for visitors to get to know the city’s personality by enjoying lunch at a riverside café or by partaking in the local nightlife. Explore the waterway while on the river with GO RIO. The narrated tours take place on a new fleet of eco-friendly, electrically powered boats.

Learn more about the importance of the San Antonio River at the newly opened Confluence Park, established to teach about the river’s vitality to the region. The park sits on the pathway connecting San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage site and functions almost as an outdoor classroom for the region, offering education, ecology, recreation and entertainment.

With more than 31 million visitors to San Antonio each year, quality hotel accommodations abound. In May 2020 the River Walk area welcomed Canopy by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk.

Hotel Valencia, also along the picturesque River Walk, debuted a $10 million renovation that pays homage to San Antonio’s Spanish Colonial heritage.

Find one of the city’s top culinary and cultural destinations north of downtown at Pearl, a mixed- use space with retail, dining, green space, an amphitheater and the third Culinary Institute of America. A brewery from 1883–2001, Pearl combines culture and modernity, and with the CIA located there, it’s no wonder its culinary outposts shine. Aside from the year-round Pearl Farmers Market, restaurants include Hotel Emma’s Supper; CIA’s Savor; and The Bottling Department, San Antonio’s first food hall.

The city’s ongoing improvements embody the essence of San Antonio — a diverse population with a strong sense of history and culture that takes pride in its city. As the seventh-largest city in the nation, San Antonio is perfectly poised for an upsurge in business and tourism.

SCENIC DRIVES

To get out of the city for a while, head into Hill Country for breathtaking scenic drives. If you are short on time, drive about an hour and a half north on U.S. Highway 87 to Fredericksburg and take State Road 16 toward Willow City. There you’ll find the 13-mile Willow City Loop on Ranch Road 1323, a two-lane trail through rolling meadows of wildflowers, meandering creeks and rocky cliffs. The loop, open year-round, is best visited in spring or fall. Take this trip on a weekday, as it gets crowded with tourists on the weekends.

If you’ve got more time for exploring, head deeper into Hill Country to view the Texas Swiss Alps in Leakey. From Bandera, about 50 miles out of San Antonio on State Road 16, this beautiful drive through verdant mountains and several Hill Country towns can run anywhere from 80 to 130 miles, depending on your route. The best path heads south from Bandera to Hondo, then over to Concan before turning north to Leakey for some of the best vistas. From there turn back to Bandera along Highway 337, and be sure to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way.

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