By Mark Glass
Mark Glass is a journalist trapped in a lawyer's body, balancing his
writing and broadcasting on travel, entertainment and professional sports.
of my favorite urban attractions in the U.S. is San Antonio's delightful
Riverwalk. Nowhere I've been competes with the look and feel of this
cornucopia of restaurants, shops and hotels, that so thoroughly satisfy
both locals and visitors.
a devastating flood in 1921, rivaling the tornado that allowed us to
create Gaslight Square, political and business leaders planned to pave
over the waterway snaking through downtown to avoid future disasters.
The river would have become a sewer.
a group of socially prominent women launched a campaign, eventually
creating a WPA project to convert the river into a veritable urban
parkland, below street level, with walkways and crossover bridges. The
group these forward-thinking women founded exists today as the San Antonio
Conservation Society, continuing its vigil against commerce at the expense
Walk was primarily a park for many years, even deve-loping a somewhat
dubious reputation. But in
preparation for the 1968 HemisFair, commercial development and
beautification kicked into high gear, spawning the panoply of delights
surrounding its banks.
river's downtown diversion is shaped like a wine goblet.
At opposite ends of the base are the Henry B. Gonzales Convention
Center and the multi-level Rivercenter Mall.
Up the stem and along the bowl of the "goblet" are a
splendid assortment of shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels. Nearby
are the Alamo, muse-ums, art galleries and theaters.
Everything is within comfortable walking distance in this compact
Walk is a pedestrian paradise. Scattered
among the dining and nightlife sections are quiet green spaces, including
a small island which is popular for weddings; there's only room there for
the wedding party, while guests watch from the bank.
tour boats start from several spots along the river, pro-viding a complete
narrated circuit in about forty minutes.
Some vessels serve catered breakfasts, lunches or dinners; still
others function as taxis. The
water depth ranges from 2-4 feet, so those who celebrate to excess are
hardly in danger if they plop into the drink.
About 2,000 party animals and/or klutzes per year take an
unintended plunge. [At least
I assume those dunkings are accidental, since there's a $200 fine for
river remains amazingly clean for the number of patrons plying its
walkways. That's because they
drain it every January. As
only true Texans would, San Antonians turn the occasion into an excuse for
a party, wallowing in the bed for a few days of a mucked-up Mardi
Gras-style cleanup celebration.
Walk is far enough below street level that one almost forgets there's a
regular city up there. Office
workers and tourists wander at a leisurely pace, among the steady flow of
conventioneers, distinguished mainly by their nametags.
The relaxed friendliness of the locals is contagious; one receives
more smiles and hellos per linear foot of progress than most places I've
at street level, trolley
tours cover a slightly wider area, embracing more of the city's historic
and cultural highlights. The King William District, just southwest of
downtown, resembles New Orleans' Garden District, with lovingly preserved,
stately homes (some open for tours, but most still residential).
worthwhile sections to explore are Market Square and La Villita.
The former, also called El Mercado, is a produce row with colorful
stores, open food stalls, restaurants and street per-formers.
Patterned after a Mexican marketplace, there are over 100 import
shops, and myriad festivals throughout the year.
Villita ("little town") is an arts and crafts community, with
twenty-six shops and three restaurants in one square block of the oldest
buildings in the city - the original San Antonio settlement.
the southeast, buildings erected for the 1968 World's Fair include the
750-foot Tower of the Americas, The Institute of Texan Cultures (with
exhibits honoring 28 different ethnic groups which contributed to the
founding of the city), the Mexican Cultural In-stitute, and a large
circular building converted into the most ar-chitecturally unique U.S.
House I've seen. Adjacent to
that area is the 65,000 seat Alamodome, home of the NBA Spurs.
the heart and soul of the city is the Alamo, it is but one of five
missions that are still part of the city's link with its past. The other four remain as active parish churches.
Each has a specific interpretive theme; none charge admission. The
city's Mission Parkway Trail starts at the Alamo and winds south along a
nine-mile stretch of the San Antonio River.
in San Antonio is a surprisingly diverse pleasure. I expected superb Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisine, but also
restaurants of all varieties - many right along River Walk.
against stereotypes, San Antonio's museums include a full range of
antiquities and world art from all eras.
The McNay features a large Impressionist collection; the San
Antonio Museum of Art boasts a gardenlike gallery of Greek and Roman
sculptures, and an expanding Asian section.
Other specialized facilities include the Hertzberg Circus Museum.
free information about San Antonio, including schedules of festivals and
other special events, as well as hotels, restaurants and attractions, call
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Glass)
Mark Glass is a
Mark Glass is a freelance writer and broadcaster, based in St. Louis, covering travel, entertainment and professional sports for his readers
and listeners. Mark was travel editor for "St. Louis Connoisseur", and
now have that role for "Life in the Midwest", based in Indianapolis.
For the last fifteen years, he's written and broadcast features on
travel, entertainment and sports, while maintaining his law practice in the St. Louis
area. (More about this writer.)