Budget Getaway: San Antonio for Families

Enjoy San Antonio's ruch history, cultural energy, amazing eats, and endless possibilities for fun. Our weekend trip for a family of four less cost than $500.
Paula Disbrowe

Our family needed a break without breaking the bank. So we set our sights on San Antonio. The city only an hour or so drive from our home in Austin is rich in history, cultural energy, amazing eats, and endless possibilities for fun.

Saturday
We arrived early at the newly restored Pearl brewery complex. A landmark of the San Antonio skyline since 1883, the brewery building now anchors 22 acres of restaurants, retail shops, residences, and a farmers’ market (open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday) filled with foodstuffs such as Mexican pan dulces, lemonade, and fresh goat cheese.

Leaving the farmers’ market, we walked over to some of the shops in the complex. We ducked into Melissa Guerra’s Tienda de Cocina, an eclectic store stocked with kitchen tools, funky artisan home accents, and jewelry. I couldn’t resist a Loteria necklace made by a local artist ($50). Just before noon we joined the line at La Gloria Ice House, a restaurant devoted to the authentic street foods of Mexico. For around $44, we feasted on Tortas de carnitas, cheese quesadillas, and crispy chicken tacos. After lunch we were ready to “walk our sins away,” as they say in South Texas. So we headed to the Museum Reach, a section of the River Walk that opened last spring.

If you are an intrepid walker (and not hauling kids), the trip is lovely. Parts of it feel undiscovered, a lush refuge in the city. But next time we’ll be smarter and take a Rio San Antonio Cruise barge ($10 per person). Needless to say, by the time we reached the Hotel Contessa, where we were staying, everybody was ready for a rest ($149-$199 per night). Shoes were kicked off and naps ensued. We awoke just in time to eat again.

A friend had suggested The Friendly Spot Ice House in the King William district. The aptly named spot even had a play area where the kids could swing and scamper between sips of Mexican Cokes and bites of guacamole. For around $30 we all swilled, snacked, and simply enjoyed being together.

Our late afternoon snacks were so satisfying that we weren’t really up for a big dinner. So we ambled back to the hotel. The night ended sweetly, literally, with cartoons and a room service plate of six warm chocolate chip cookies and milk for the kids ($30).

Sunday
The day started on toddler time (in other words, way too early), so we spent an hour or so playing in the hotel’s rooftop pool. The morning light was lovely, and I enjoyed seeing the city from a grackle’s perspective. We checked out and headed to the colorful Mi Tierra restaurant in Market Square for breakfast. As we polished off cups of café con leche, fiery huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos, and fresh fruit for the kids ($45), the restaurant’s mariachi band was hitting high notes—and we hit the road for home.

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