Cool off with a welcome escape, and fall in love with a city that was made for walking.

Salsa Through San Antonio
A stroll to the treasures of downtown San Antonio feels as nice as a walk in a garden.
| Credit: Art Meripol

A breeze rustles through the lush garden of the River Walk and cools you like a flamenco dancer's fan. Mariachis break into song in front of a sidewalk restaurant, and two women walking past start to dance. Not many cities inspire pedestrians to sway to the music on the spur of the moment, but this is San Antonio. Here's our guide for a weekend that'll make you want to kick up your heels.

Stay Awhile
If it's just the two of you and you want to start your visit with a performance at the Majestic Theatre, check in to the historic Sheraton Gunter Hotel. Rates start at $169; or (210) 227-3241. Just stroll across the street for a show; or (210) 226-3333.

Good choices for families include the new Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio Riverwalk. Rates for a two-room suite with breakfast start at $159; or (210) 270-7799. The stylish Hotel Contessa also offers family-size spaces. Rates from $199; or 1-866-435-0900. For a splurge, book a room overlooking the river at the Watermark Hotel & Spa, with 99 rooms and the city's most luxurious spa. Rates start at $399; or 1-866-605-1212.

Toast a beautiful getaway with a prickly pear margarita at Zuni Grill or Boudro's, or try a flight of aged tequilas at Pesca on the River. Slip away from the crowd at Zinc Champagne, Wine, & Spirits, a quaint wine bar with a romantic courtyard, or drop by The Westin Riverwalk Hotel for "Tapas and Tequila" served 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Walk This Way
Get up early to experience the beauty of the River Walk at its best, before it gets crowded. Have coffee and a warm pastry from the bakery at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel or stroll down to Schilo's for a filling German deli breakfast of eggs, bratwurst, biscuits, and coffee ($6.25).

Out on the river, beneath towering cypress trees, families of mallards cruise. Sunlight paints mellowed limestone walls and bridges in golden hues. To get oriented, hop aboard a boat for a narrated tour with Rio San Antonio Cruises. Tickets cost $7.75 adults, $2 ages 1-5; or 1-800-417-4139.

After the ride, step inside Aztec On The River to see a dazzling sound and light show that spotlights the movie palace built in the style of a Mayan temple; or 1-877-432-9832. Beneath the theater, you'll find a treasure trove of shops. It's a Glow sells handcrafted wine racks, candleholders, and sculptures made from honeycomb calcite. Oro de Monte Alban specializes in jewelry reproduced from finds at Monte Alban and other pre-Columbian ruins in Mexico. Prices range from $5 to $1,800.

Salsa next door to the splashy Iron Cactus Mexican Grill & Bar to have a spicy chile relleno ($10.95) and vegetable-loaded tortilla soup ($4.95). Don't miss the fresh guacamole made at your table; or (210) 224-9835.

In early afternoon, head to La Villita. Shops and galleries fill the vintage buildings, where glassblowers and other artisans work. You might see a wedding party waiting at the elegant Little Church of La Villita, built in 1879. Outfit yourself with a stylish Texas wardrobe, including handmade leather handbags, silver and turquoise jewelry, and other accessories at Angelita, owned by Jean Pace, from the family that originated the famed Pace Picante Sauce.

Catch one of the best sunsets in Texas from the 750-foot-high Tower of the Americas, and then enjoy a memorable dinner at the new Eyes Over Texas restaurant. Visitors often skip the tower even though it's the city's tallest landmark. Give it a try--you'll be pleasantly surprised. The restaurant is all spruced up by new owner Landry's and a chef who loads the menu with fresh Texas specialties. Don't miss the tasty appetizers, spicy maple-glazed Wharton County quail ($16.50) and Gulf Coast jumbo lump crab cake ($14); (210) 223-3101.

Sunny Sunday
Savor a relaxing Sunday morning with a stroll along the River Walk to the King William Historic District. Limestone-and-gingerbread mansions built by early German merchants grace quiet, tree-shaded streets. Have a leisurely breakfast with fluffy biscuits and other fresh-baked treats at The Guenther House; (210) 227-1061. In San Antonio, walking isn't just good exercise. It's a whole lot of fun.

San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau: or 1-800-252-6609.

Need a lift?
Take a break for a couple of delicious local specialties.

  • Have a cup of The Historic Menger Hotel's famous mango ice cream. The hotel next to The Alamo first served the dessert more than 100 years ago when mango trees were planted in its garden; or 1-800-345-9285.
  • Order an ice-cold frosted mug filled with homemade root beer from a tap at Schilo's deli; (210) 223-6692.

San Antonio Top 10 Hot Spots List

1. Majestic Theatre
2. Sheraton Gunter Hotel
3. Drury Plaza Hotel San Antonio Riverwalk
4. Aztec on the River
5. Watermark Hotel & Spa
6. Pesca on the River
7. Zuni Grill
8. The Historic Menger Hotel
9. Tower of the Americas / Eyes Over Texas
10. Schilo's
10. Hotel Contessa

"Salsa Through San Antonio" is from the October 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.