The heart of the city's tourism business beats along the River Walk and in
the downtown area. Densely packed with hotels of varying price ranges,
attractions, restaurants and bars, a visitor could conceivably spend his
entire trip in one area of town. The area bustles with activity nearly
every night of the week almost all year long with locals and tourists
alike enjoying mouth-watering cuisine at Boudro's or Paesano's River Walk,
singing their hearts out at Howl at the Moon, dancing the night away at
Polly Esther's or knocking back a few brews at the Houston Street
Alehouse. Not your average tourist trap, many locals brave the crowds to
enjoy their own city.
If San Antonio gets funky, this is where it happens. Once primarily
residential and neglected, the area has seen a resurgence of interest and
an infusion of capital. Urban professionals are snatching up historical
homes and refurbishing them, entrepreneurs are launching hip new
businesses, and the locals are taking notice. Wander just a few blocks
from downtown and discover Espuma Tea & Coffee Emporium, the City
Market, and Rosario's. If you can, check out the area during a First
Friday celebration. Aptly named, the community-wide celebration held the
first Friday of each month draws crowds from all over the city for art
openings, theater productions, dining and shopping.
One of the original suburbs of San Antonio, the original developers nearly
went bankrupt trying to develop the then remote area. Now, Alamo Heights
is its own city with its own school district and zip code. '09,' as the
area is referred to stemming from the zip code 78209, harbors some of the
city's finest dining establishments and upscale shopping opportunities.
And with good reason as a huge portion of the city's wealth resides in
this neighborhood. For dinner, locals flock to Paloma Blanca or Cappy's.
Beer and pool preside at the Broadway 50/50 and one of the city's best
wine lists calls Niles Wine Bar home. For a gift for that special someone,
you can't go wrong at Sloan-Hall, Timbuktu, or Sunset Ridge Home and
Hardware. At Twin Sisters, pull up a chair and get your daily dose of
neighborhood gossip over breakfast or lunch.
Monte Vista/Olmos Park
An area neighboring Alamo Heights, it vacillates between very well-to-do
and woe-is-me. Home to some of the most exquisite mansions in the city, at
the very least it's worth driving through just to gawk. But then turn the
corner and find a once-elegant home standing in disrepair. Improvement is
creeping through the area, but slowly. Regardless, you'll find some
wonderful neighborhood secrets such as the thick chocolate shakes at Olmos
Pharmacy, the city's best breakfast tacos at Panchito's, superb deli
take-out at WD Deli, and goofy gifts at On Main.
North East/North Central
'Go north young married, professional couple with 2.5 kids and a dog
seeking a mammoth-sized mortgage!' The growth in this direction has been
so overwhelming, you'd think someone must have screamed that command.
Shopping centers, housing developments and highways are popping up all
over North East and North Central San Antonio as many new residents move
in, both from out of town and from within the city's more central
neighborhoods. This kind of rapid growth seems to require predictability
as is evidenced in the plethora of restaurant and shopping chains. If you
want to shop at Old Navy, use the phone book. Otherwise, be a rebel and
shop at Sticks and Stones, Too Good to Be Threw, or James Avery Craftsman.
Likewise with dining, enjoy Mama's Café, Maggie's, Casey's BBQ, or Alamo
The medical industry is big business in San Antonio; therefore this area
continues to grow at a steady pace. Sort of a hodgepodge of strip shopping
centers, restaurants, residences and office complexes, the atmosphere of
the neighborhood seems a bit disjointed. Still, you can find great dining
at Fratelli's, Casa Real, Carraba's and Hui's Chinese. Shopping is
somewhat limited to chain stores, with the delightful exception of
Elements gifts. For a fun night out in this part of town, you can't beat
Jewels or Joe's Volcano.
When big money folks are tired of paying city taxes, they flee outside the
city limits. In the 80s and 90s, they fled to the Dominion and Fair Oaks
Ranch housing developments, and beyond to the towns of Leon Springs,
Boerne, and Comfort. Locals that feel the need to escape the city head out
this way to dine at Macaroni Grill or Rudy's BBQ and then dance the night
away at Leon Springs Dance Hall. The next day, they may shop all the
antique stores in Boerne or spend the day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas or Sea