San Antonio consistently ranks among the most popular tourist destinations in Texas, and fall is a great time to discover the city with fewer crowds and cooler, more comfortable weather. There’s also so much more to San Antonio than the Alamo and the River Walk, including autumn events and a vibrant culinary and arts scene.
This fall, San Antonio will be hosting a free, two-day Día de los Muertos festival October 23–24, complete with an altar contest, procession, live poetry, and music. The season will also be the last time to catch the Frida Kahlo Oasis exhibition at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, an exploration of the artist’s connection to nature and vegetation. Taking place now through November 2, the exhibit features a reproduction of Kahlo’s Casa Azul as well as artifacts from her Casa Azul garden. Admission for members is free; for nonmembers, entrance costs $15 for adults, $12 for children age 3–13, and $13 for students and military with ID.
For a unique art experience, visit Hopscotch in downtown San Antonio, a 20,000-square-foot art gallery that features a rotating roster of interactive installations. The space also houses a bar and lounge area, a gift shop, food trucks, and a patio with live music overlooking Travis Park.
If you want to do the tourist thing at the Alamo or on the River Walk, we won’t judge. While on the River Walk, fuel up at the more than 100-year-old Schilo’s Delicatessen for classic diner fare or head to Ocho for Latin cuisine served in a glass observatory overlooking the San Antonio River.
Further north up the river is the revived Pearl district, home to the former Pearl brewery that has been reimagined as an impressive collection of restaurants, shops, residences, a Saturday farmers’ market, and live music and shows at Jazz, TX. There’s no shortage of dining venues to choose from here, but two new restaurants worth checking out are Best Quality Daughter for its modern take on Asian cuisine (the menu includes mochi cheddar hush puppies and salt-n-pepper shrimp with miso remoulade), and the très chic Brasserie Mon Chou Chou for your escargots, steak-frites, and duck confit fix.
Where to stay
At the heart of Pearl is the 146-room Hotel Emma, a boutique property housed in the original Pearl’s Brewhouse that dates back to 1894. The reborn building pays thoughtful tribute to its rich history by preserving many of the original details while enhancing them with luxury furniture and features that were brought together by the well-known design team Roman and Williams. There are seven top-floor suites, a rooftop pool, a 3,700-volume library, and three dining and drinking venues—the sophisticated Supper for New American cuisine; Larder, a gourmet market; and Sternewirth Tavern for small bites and signature cocktails.
Stay at Hotel Emma: from $525 per night, expedia.com
If modern luxury is what you’re after, the newly opened Thompson San Antonio is where you will want to rest your head. The 162-room, 20-story hotel opened its doors in February in the Northern River Walk district and offers sweeping views of the city and of the Texas hill country beyond. The interiors marry antique-styled furnishings with modern touches (we love the sleek tubs in the rooms) and original artwork throughout—including Jeff Koons sculptures. You can eat and drink at the hotel’s modern steakhouse Landrace or at the Moon’s Daughters, a rooftop restaurant and bar with live music. Take a dip or grab a drink at the outdoor swimming pool and pool bar to the backdrop of amazing city views—both are also accessible to anyone who books a treatment at the Thompson Spa.
Stay at the Thompson San Antonio: from $279 per night, expedia.com
For another blast from the past, Hotel Havana is a revival property that exudes history—minus the overly fancy updates. Also located in the Northern River Walk area and home to the aforementioned Latin restaurant Ocho, Hotel Havana was opened in 1914 by a local grocer who wanted to recreate the allure of Cuba, a vision that can still be felt to this day. Rooms range from a sweet and petite 190-square-foot studio to a grand, bi-level penthouse. Don’t expect super-modern upgrades; rather, you will be transported to another place and time.
Stay at the Hotel Havana: from $212 per night, expedia.com
The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, a nonprofit that aims to cultivate a stronger appreciation of Black history in San Antonio, has launched Black history river cruises that take place twice a month.
You can also experience San Antonio’s vibrant Mexican heritage at the historic Market Square, an outdoor plaza filled with restaurants and shops that pay homage to Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine and culture.
A note on COVID in San Antonio: As of August 2021, San Antonio was in the midst of a third surge of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and at press time 55 percent of residents in Bexar County, home to San Antonio, were fully vaccinated. Bexar County is asking that face masks be worn indoors by everyone over 10 years of age.
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Michelle Baran Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.