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Profile

San Antonio, located in South-Central Texas, approximately 140 miles northwest of the Gulf of Mexico, is the eighth largest city in the United States. It's a city known for a sense of history and tradition, mixing culture and cosmopolitan progress. The Spaniards, French and Germans have all vied for and left their mark on the rivers and plains of San Antonio, making it the Southwestern city that best satisfies a nostalgia for the Old West. San Antonio's population stands at just over 1.1 million and plays host to nearly twenty million visitors a year.

The city was first discovered by Native Americans living along the San Antonio River before a band of Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived and renamed it "San Antonio" for the Feast Day of St. Anthony in 1691. The actual founding of the city came in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares when he established the first mission, San Antonio de Valero, which later became forever famous as the Alamo and the cornerstone of San Antonio's claim to fame. It stands around the bend from the popular River Walk, a stretch of the San Antonio River lined in cobblestone and arched bridges that runs through the high-rises of downtown San Antonio, where much of city's best dining, shopping and nightlife can be found.
San Antonio has more than 300 days of annual sunshine and an average temperature in the mid-70s. Summer months will include some very hot, dry days with maximum temperatures heading into the 90s, occasionally reaching 100, while winter is never too cool for outdoor sports such as golf, tennis or cycling. Late winter to early spring brings a few wet days, with normal annual rainfall reaching approximately 28 inches, with its heaviest occurring during May and September. But overall, this city demands sunscreen and sunglasses for much of the time.


Belly up to the bar at the Buckhorn Saloon & Museum (318 East Houston St., San Antonio; 210-247-4000; www.buckhornmuseum.com), a virtual recreation of nearly 125 years of history. Albert Friedrich first opened the Buckhorn Saloon in 1881 and used his own prize mounts for decoration. Patrons brought horns in exchange for drinks until there were more than 3,000 artifacts. The end result became the world's only wax museum of Texas history with exhibits including a two-headed calf, horn furniture, albino specimens, a 78-point buck, extinct species, and Mrs. Friedrich's unique rattlesnake art. Open Sunday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Mission Trails-San Antonio Missions National Historic Park (2202 Roosevelt Ave., San Antonio; 210-534-8833; www.nps.gov/saan) is home to a chain of missions established along the San Antonio River in the 18th century to represent both church and state as well as serving as vocational and educational centers and economic enterprises. The mission trail begins at the Alamo and winds southward along a nine-mile stretch of the river. Park hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the nearby visitors center, which features a theater and museum, provides more information about the history of the missions. Admission to the missions is free.

Among the most popular tourist attractions in the State of Texas, River Walk-Paseo Del Rio (454 Soledad, River Suite 2, San Antonio; 210-227-4262; www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com) is a historic three-mile long river located in the heart of downtown lined with lush foliage and cobblestone walkways where visitors travel along a horseshoe-shaped river bend outlying a mini-metropolis of restaurants, retail shops, nightclubs, and lodging intermingled with towering trees and flowery gardens. River taxis and cruises are also available in abundance.

Located directly across from the Alamo, The Guinness Book of World Records Museum and Ripley's Haunted Adventure (329 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio; 210-226-2828; www.hauntedadventure.com) provide visitors with state-of-the-art interactive experiences that bring both the famous book and your deepest fears to life. The first copy of the Guinness Book was first published in 1955 and for nearly 50 years thousands of people continue to perform great and unusual feats to try to make it in. Ripley's is a multi-million dollar haunted house where entrants ride among three stories through dark passages, bearing witness to the unexpected, unbelievable and shocking special effects. Ticket prices for both attractions for adults are $17.95, or $14.95 for one, and for children 12 and under, $10.95 and $7.95.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas (17000 I-H 10 West; San Antonio; 210-697-5050; www.sixflags.com/parks/fiestatexas) is a 200-acre theme and water park set in a limestone quarry surrounded by 100-foot high cliffs. Located within 15 minutes from downtown, the park includes a variety of Southwestern-themed areas that highlight Texas culture including an old-fashioned boardwalk, recreation of a Hispanic village and old Western town, and a number of thrill rides, skill games and live events.

Step into the history of South Texas at the Witte Museum (3801 Broadway, San Antonio; 210-357-1900; www.wittemuseum.org). Located in Brackenridge Park on the banks of the San Antonio River, the Witte offers permanent exhibits that focus on dinosaur skeletons, cave drawings and historically reconstructed homes, as well as a variety of temporary exhibits which include, "World of Water," "Landscapes and Peoples of the World's Dry Lands" and "Seymour Thomas: A Texas Genius Rediscovered" all running through early September 2005. Admission price for adults is $7, seniors is $6 and children ages 4 to 11 is $5. Free admission is available from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.

The Majestic and Empire Theatres (210-226-5700; www.majesticempire.com) are recognized as two of the most ornate facilities in the country with each having been faithfully restored to showcase their original elegance and historical luster that housed many future pioneers of the stage and screen.

Renowned in the archives of Texas theatrical and architectural history, the Majestic (224 East Houston St., San Antonio) was originally built in 1929 as the largest theater in Texas and was inspired by Spanish Mission, Baroque and Mediterranean architectural traditions, from floor to vaulted ceiling. The Majestic was once home to some of Vaudeville's biggest names, including Jack Benny, George Burns and Bob Hope. Today it is the modern day home for the San Antonio Symphony and a venue for Broadway touring attractions such as Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Cats, and Ragtime, and performing artists like Itzhak Pearlman, B.B. King, Tony Bennett, and Sting.

Charline McCombs Empire Theatre (226 North St. Mary's St., San Antonio), with origins dating back to the late 19th century, was restored and reopened in 1998 and resumed its place among San Antonio's grandest live entertainment and special events venues. Famous names from yesteryear such as Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers, along with contemporary artists like Don McLean, Shawn Colvin and David Crosby all share a common bond of commingling with the famous Empire copper eagle adorning the theater's entrance.

San Antonio is abundant for outdoor sporting. The rivers in the Texas Hill Country, which form an arc around the northern edge of San Antonio, provide venues for canoeing, tubing and white-water rafting. Area lakes attract fishermen, as well as water skiing and sailing enthusiasts. Working ranches throughout Central and South Texas are available as hunting leases for wild game, while dude ranches offer a taste of the Old West, complete with horseback riding. Numerous state parks offer opportunities for hiking in the rugged terrain of the Hill Country.

San Antonio also offers a number of diverse and challenging golf courses in and around the city. Its golf terrain is vast and the city's mild climate and more than 300 days of annual sunshine make for a relaxed day on the links.

The Westin La Cantera Resort (16641 La Cantera Pkwy., San Antonio; 210-558-6500; www.westinlacantera.com) offers breathtaking views of downtown and the Texas Hill Country. Golf Magazine's Gold Medal Resort Award winner for 2004-2005 features two 18-hole championship courses, one of which is featured on the PGA Tour for the Valero Texas Open at La Cantera, while the Palmer Course at La Cantera was designed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer. The resort also includes an on-site golfing academy.

Take a 40-minute historical tour along the River Walk with Rio San Antonio Cruises (315 E. Commerce Ste. 202, San Antonio; 210-244-5700; www.sarivercruise.com). Travel along its many twists and turns as it meanders past ancient cypress trees, local boutiques, hotels, cafes, and flower gardens. Daily tours provide detailed narratives about San Antonio's history. Ticket prices for adults are $6.50, seniors $4.50 and children ages one to five, $1.50. Group charters and private tours are also available, including dinner and cocktail cruises catered by a local River Walk restaurant.

San Antonio is the Southwestern city that captures the spirit of the Old West. You can stay anywhere in the city and still not escape its melting pot mystique. From sacred sites and historic inns to scenic river views, lush landscapes and luxurious retreats, the City of San Antonio offers a room with a view and a place for all tastes.

This "Crown Jewel of Texas" features ten large guestrooms, private baths, a library, formal dining room, and wrap-around front porch views. Terrell Castle Bed and Breakfast (950 East Grayson St., San Antonio; 210-271-9145; www.terrellcastle.net) is a luxury urban inn set atop a one-acre gardened site that offers guests a cozy, relaxed atmosphere, reasonable pricing and is convenient to area attractions. Standard room rates range from $85 to $240 per night and include free full breakfast, free local calls and parking.

The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa (9800 Hyatt Resort Dr., San Antonio; 210-647-1234; http://hillcountry.hyatt.com/property) is a AAA-rated 4-Diamond and Mobil 4-Star Award winning luxury resort set on 200 acres of the historical Rogers-Wiseman ranch located directly across from Sea World of Texas and nearby downtown San Antonio. The resort features 18 holes of Arthur Hills-designed championship golf, tennis, two swimming pools including the "ramblin'" man-made river, and a world-class spa. The Hyatt Regency can accommodate guests in 500 western-themed rooms including 58 suites with standard per night rates ranging from $175 to $435, or $295 to $795 for suites.

The Watermark Hotel and Spa (212 West Crockett St., San Antonio; 210-223-8500; www.watermarkhotel.com) lies in the heart of San Antonio's Cultural Arts District, around the corner from the acclaimed Majestic Theatre and within walking distance of the Alamo, Convention Center and Rivercenter Mall. San Antonio's only 5-Star River Walk destination, the Watermark conveys Old World charm and modern sophistication within the interior of the historic L. Frank Saddlery building, which houses 99 luxury guestrooms and suites notable for their high ceilings, marble baths, Jacuzzis, and leather-trimmed furnishings. The Watermark also features a European-style Spa set across 17,000 square feet of space that includes 20 treatment rooms, boutique and fitness center with free class offerings for guests. Room rates start from $300 per night.

San Antonio shopping is an international favorite that attracts visitors from throughout the world. Antiques shops and charming art galleries highlighting contemporary developments and Latin American heritage line little village-like streets and open-air centers.

Dating from 1840, Market Square (210-207-8600; www.tavernini.com/mercado) is a historically restored plaza comprised of two square blocks of new buildings centered by "El Mercado," a large indoor shopping area patterned after an authentic Mexican market. It features more than 33 specialty shops and is the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico. The plaza outside includes several Mexican restaurants, shops, an art gallery, and open-air patios frequented by strolling mariachis. Market Square also offers year-round activities and hosts major festivals.

Located on the River Walk in central San Antonio, La Villita - San Antonio's Little Village (418 Villita St., San Antonio; 210-207-8610) is a little town that dates back more than 200 years as one of the earliest settlements of the city. Nestled on the east bank of the San Antonio River, the village is part of a National Historic District inhabited by artists and craftsmen, and presents a number of native fashion boutiques, authentic Mexican restaurants, and local gathering places for theatergoers.

Blue Star Brewing Company (1414 South Alamo, Ste. 105, San Antonio; 210-212-5506; www.bluestarbrewing.com) was a former beer storage warehouse that has become San Antonio's first full scale brew pub offering a wide selection of hand-crafted beers, extensive dinner menu and wine list, and nightly entertainment.

Sunset Station (1174 E. Commerce St., San Antonio; 210-474-7640; www.sunset-station.com) was originally built in 1902 and is the renovated Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. Located in the historic St. Paul district of downtown San Antonio, Sunset Station combines culture, cuisine and concerts incorporated into a variety of entertainment venues including Sunset Depot, Lone Star Pavilion and St. Paul Square Courtyard. Known as the "Crown Jewel" of San Antonio with its gold leaf vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, the station stands among many of San Antonio's National Historic Landmarks and has since been restored to its original grandeur.

Visit www.sanantoniovisit.com/visitors/com_vistrguide.asp and request the San Antonio Visitor's Guide to help plan your next trip to San Antonio. Descriptive photographs and informative descriptions show the broad range of San Antonio's attractions along with several area maps to better navigate the city.

The VIA Streetcar is an open air, authentic reproduction of a rail streetcar that traveled the streets of San Antonio more than 50 years ago. There are four streetcar routes to downtown locations, including the Alamo, La Villita, Sunset Station, downtown shopping, and more. Access the streetcars from the station at Convention Plaza. A single fare costs 80 cents or visitors may purchase a one-day pass for $3 available at all VIA Information Centers. Call (210) 362-2020 for information on all VIA services or visit www.viainfo.net.

San Antonio is an easy city to navigate and has an excellent public transportation system, good highways and reasonable taxis. San Antonio International Airport to most downtown hotels takes approximately 15 minutes and costs $18. The reliable airport shuttle, SATRANS (210-281-9900; www.saairportshuttle.com) is $9 one-way, $16 roundtrip to the downtown district, with departures daily from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. every ten minutes.

San Antonio Texas Official Vacation and Visitor Information

Anaqua Grill

Instead of a river view, Anaqua Grill in the lavish San Antonio Plaza surveys the hotel's lush courtyard where peacocks stroll and flowers bloom. The American Bistro's extensive and expensive menu emphasizes local ingredients in adventurous appetizers which include seared "drunken" shrimp with plum sauce, crispy fried artichokes or grilled portobello timbales. Soups, chowders and salads are always good starters, before moving on to entrees which may be a mixed wild grill with house mashers; cider-glazed salmon with caramelized apple fennel broth; black current crusted venison loin; or grilled veal flank steak stuffed with an exotic mushroom medley with sweet potato gnocchi. Excellent pastries are prepared in the kitchen but repeat guests usually choose the exceptional creme brulee. The Sunday brunch buffet is sumptuous.

Anaqua Grill
555 South Alamo
(210) 229-1000


Boudro's on the River Walk

Although River Walk is bursting with restaurants, few compare to Boudro's, a favorite with locals and visitors alike. The handsome surroundings draw an equally handsome crowd who reserve ahead or have a long wait for this contemporary cutting-edge cuisine. Don't miss the Southwest specialties like the signature guacamole prepared tableside, but also order the crab quesadillas with papaya salsa as appetizers. Gulf fish, shrimp and scallops are prepared in a variety of light and creative sauces while the prime rib, steak or lamb is excellent either on the pecanwood grill or over mesquite. Definitely save room for dessert.

Boudro's on the River Walk
421 East Commerce St.
(210) 224-8484


Houston St. Bistro

Regional cooking takes on an Italian flair at the cozy Houston St. Bistro, opposite the historic Camberley Gunter Hotel. Portions are large and traditional entrees such as steaks and chops leave room for little else. Lighter entrees are the chicken choices or fish such as pistachio-crusted red snapper or grilled salmon in an herb Dijon mustard sauce. Great salads can serve as worthy alternatives to appetizers such as fried calamari, crab cakes or shrimp quesadillas. Finish with a tiramisu for dessert and a cappuccino or espresso to perk you up if you have theater tickets for the evening. Or try the prix fixe pre-theater menu to get you to your show in time for the curtain.

Houston St. Bistro
204 East Houston St.
(210) 476-8600


Las Canarias

Las Canarias in La Mansion del Rio Hotel offers a complete package: a River Walk setting; gracious, romantic dining areas; soft, live guitar music; and an ambitious and talented executive chef, Scott Cohen, producing the best in regional dishes. Starters include grilled Hill Country quail with pecan-studded cous cous and smoky pepper aioli; deviled Texas blue crab cake with corn relish; entrees may be anise-spiced barbecued duck breast with sun-dried cranberry sauce and flour tortillas; grilled buffalo filet mignon with juniper berry jalapeno mint jelly; and citrus marinated yellow fin tuna with avocado tortilla salad. Excellent desserts, a good wine list and attentive service make this a fine dining experience. When you call for a reservation, inquire about dining aboard a river barge, an option available on certain nights each month. It's a wonderful way to enjoy Las Canarias' food.

Las Canarias
112 College St.
(210) 518-1000
www.lamansion.com


La Margarita

At first glance, La Margarita is custom made for tourists - a large, outdoor terrace on the main crossroads of Market Square with colorful decorations, house specialty margaritas and strolling mariachi bands (who will charge patrons to play their requests). But look again and you'll see local families, two and three generations in tow, enjoying good food provided by the Cortez family. Renowned for great fajitas and parrillada with top quality, marinated and char-broiled meats, the extensive menu also features seafood as suggested by the large fresh oyster bar. Family platters are a good idea so you can sample a variety of traditional dishes.

La Margarita
120 Produce Row
(210) 227-7140
www.lamargarita.com


Liberty Bar

Few dining spots are as surprising as the Liberty Bar in the North St. Mary's neighborhood, a ten-minute cab ride from River Walk. This lopsided, ramshackle frame building hides two warm and inviting dining rooms and a menu that mixes Old South with Latin flavor with everything from pot roast to mesquite-grilled chicken breast with either achiote or hoja santa. The mesquite grilled lamb, rib eye, tenderloin, and lamb or pork sausage are delicious. Among the starters are whole roast garlic head with homemade Parmesan bread, serrano chiles pickled with carrots and ginger and chick pea or eggplant puree. Homemade desserts may be Virginia Green's chocolate cake, geranium cream pie with blackberry sauce, bread pudding with bourbon sauce, or pomegranate ice cream. The large beverage list is as reasonable as the menu with a good selection of wines by the bottle or glass and some very good beers. This is a favorite haunt of chic locals who convey a casual attitude to match the surroundings.

Liberty Bar
328 East Josephine St.
(210) 227-1187
www.liberty-bar.com


Little Rhein Steak House

A steak house that screams out "San Antonio" is Little Rhein Steak House, built in 1847 at a spot where La Villita Historic District and River Walk meet. The oldest two-story structure in San Antonio, it is a reminder of the early German immigrants to the city. Antique memorabilia decorates the indoor dining room with a miniature train running overhead. The outdoor patio overlooks the river. The variety of steaks, aged in Little Rhein's own plant, includes a terrific 22-ounce porterhouse. Non-steak entrees like lamb chops, lobster tails and salmon are excellent and portions are ample. The dessert of choice is homemade apple pie a la mode. Reservations are usually necessary.

Little Rhein Steak House
231 South Alamo
(210) 225-2111

www.littlerheinsteakhouse.com


Morton's The Steakhouse

What more likely place to find really good beef (as well as other red meat) than in Texas? Rivercenter Mall is home to Morton's, an upscale steak house where prime aged steaks are de rigueur. The menu here is classic steak house, a recipe that has brought Morton's success all around the country. Appetizers include bluepoint oysters, lump crabmeat, jumbo shrimp, and broiled sea scallops. Meat entrees such as lamb chops, various steaks and veal chops are augmented by chicken, fish and seafood choices. Five preparations of potatoes vie with fresh vegetables as side dishes. Most desserts fill the requirement of being high in calories and high in chocolate content. Morton's is a favorite spot for attendees at Alamodome sporting events nearby.

Morton's The Steakhouse
300 East Crockett St.
(210) 228-0700

www.mortons.com


Polo's Restaurant & Bar

A River Walk address is not necessary for excellence: Polo's Restaurant & Bar in the Fairmount Hotel is proof. The warm glow of flowers and candlelight reflected in abundant etched glass is matched by top-notch service and one of the city's most sophisticated wine lists. Start with Gulf coast oysters, perhaps in a jalapeno and bacon butter, or mesquite grilled quail breast over a warm potato salad. Entrees usually include preparations of beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, and fresh fish, with vegetarian entrees always included. Desserts are sublime, if you have any room left after the Texas-sized portions. Advance reservations are suggested.

Polo's Restaurant & Bar
401 South Alamo
(210) 224-8800
www.thefairmounthotel-sanantonio.com


Rosario's

Rosario's attracts knowledgeable locals and tourists alike, in part for its cool atmosphere and lively crowd. Starters could be grilled, marinated shrimp or some excellent guacamole. This is the place to order a well-made tortilla soup if you haven't had this traditional favorite already. Any entree that comes with one of Rosario's sauces will be a treat, especially pork tips in a mild chile sauce or the chicken and corn-filled enchiladas with a super tomatillo sauce. The reasonable prices are offset by the possible long wait for tables, so try to go there early or for lunch. It's high quality Tex-Mex amidst neon accents.

Rosario's
910 South Alamo
(210) 223-1806
www.rosariossa.com


The Tower Restaurant

The extensive menu at The Tower Restaurant high atop the Tower of the Americas goes hand-in-hand with a leisurely meal, friendly service and spectacular 360 degree views. Appetizers include old favorites like crab cakes, smoked salmon and shrimp cocktail while salads may be Caesar, garden or beefsteak tomatoes. There are plenty of fish, seafood and chicken choices, but prime steaks including porterhouse, New York strip and filet steal the bill. Desserts are aimed at the entire family with such favorites as hot fudge Oreo brownie sundae, cheesecakes and Hill Country apple cobbler a la mode.

The Tower Restaurant
600 Hemisfair Park
(210) 223-3101
www.ToweroftheAmericas.com




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