By Britney Grover
Texas has a history all its own. Before Texas was Texas and even before the United States was the United States, there was Mission San Antonio de Valero — better known as the Alamo. Situated in San Antonio, Texas, the Alamo will soon celebrate its 300th birthday, and has a rich history including inspiring liberty from Mexico. While the Alamo is perhaps San Antonio’s most famous site, the city offers a long list of unique and enticing attractions — including for equestrians.
Kelly Lowry has been involved with horses since she was 6 years old. If her name sounds familiar, it might be because she keeps up with a busy schedule as horse show secretary for many major shows all around Texas. Her competition-secretary career keeps her busy most of the year, but she still enjoys her horses at home whenever she can. Not only can Kelly point you in the right direction at a horse show, but she’s certainly qualified to point visitors around San Antonio, where she has lived all her life.
A trip to San Antonio begins with a place to stay and for that, Kelly recommends Hotel Emma. Like so much of San Antonio, Hotel Emma is steeped in history. The hotel itself was once Pearl’s Brewhouse, and stands as the crowning jewel of the district now known as Pearl. The brewery was the only one in San Antonio to survive prohibition, thanks to the leadership of Emma Koehler, and is now a unique 146-room hotel with seven top-floor suites.
From Hotel Emma, one doesn’t have to look far for shopping, entertainment or food. Pearl is home to several boutiques and shops selling goods that range from bicycles and books to fashion and furnishings. No matter what time of year, quality entertainment can be found, whether it’s the free Summer Dance Hall Series of South Texas music curated by Doc Watkins, or the Tamales! Holiday Festival, held each December, complete with live music and performances, kids’ activities and, of course, tamales.
Kelly’s favorite lunch location in San Antonio also resides at Pearl: Chef Johnny Hernandez’s La Gloria. La Gloria was created to celebrate the rich street foods from Mexico, like tacos al pastor (marinated pork) from Mexico City, tlayudas (Mexican pizza) from Oaxaca, and queso fundido (cheese fondue) from Veracruz. Since La Gloria means “the heavens” in Spanish, this tasty restaurant’s tagline, “No hace falta morir para llegar a La Gloria!” aptly describes their food: You don’t have to die to go to heaven.
Adjacent to La Gloria is the San Antonio River Walk, which makes access to San Antonio’s cultural and historical hotspots from Pearl not only easy but scenic and unique. The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a 30-mile loop of paved paths lined with cypress trees, arched stone bridges and breathtaking landscapes. Pearl is on the north side of the loop; heading south will take one through downtown San Antonio and then on to the missions.
The River Walk itself is one of Kelly’s must-see attractions. Colorful umbrellas shade dining tables along much of the Riverwalk, and dining choices are more than a few. Take a river barge for a sightseeing tour or even dining on the water. Ride on two wheels with a bike from over 50 bicycle share stations throughout downtown. The more adventurous can even kayak sections of the river. Take a waterside seat for a floating parade during one of San Antonio’s many festivals.
South of downtown, don’t miss the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. In addition to the Alamo, the park includes four Spanish colonial missions: Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan and Espada. The park has a visitor’s center in Mission San Jose, where a film shown every 30 minutes depicts the story of life in the missions during the 1700s, in addition to a museum and gift shop.
If Pearl district and the River Walk shops haven’t satisfied your shopping needs, San Antonio has plenty of other stores for any taste. Kelly’s favorites? Julian Gold for fashion from shoes to bridal gowns, and Hanley Wood, where sundry gifts and anything for the home await the discerning shopper.
Dining out after a long day? Treat yourself with fine dining and welcoming service at Cappy’s Restaurant a short drive from downtown. A family-owned and -operated restaurant, Cappy’s features Southern fare and seafood alongside area favorites. Kelly recommends the Allen Bros. Beef Tenderloin, with a potato and caramelized onion cake, peas, asparagus and a demi-glace, or the Allen Bros. Ribeye with delectable bone marrow butter, roasted cauliflower and Israeli couscous. It’s worth coming back again and again, and each time you’ll experience the art of a different local artist or photographer.
If you’re looking for something a little more casual, round up the whole family for dinner at Los Barrios for some fantastic Mexican cuisine. Kelly’s picks include the El Mofofo Grill, which is a specialty for two or more hungry diners including a combination of marinated beef and pork, served on a flaming grill and accompanied by Spanish rice, beans, pico de gallo and diced avocado salad. If you’re in need of a good drink, head to Lüke, the New Orleans-style restaurant featuring an extensive selection of beers, wines and cocktails.
No matter the occasion or time of year, a visit to San Antonio is sure to be a true treasure worth fighting for. To plan your trip, go to visitsanantonio.com.