San Antonio, Texas, is home to rodeos, the Alamo, margaritas, tex-mex, friendly Spanglish-speaking people and the San Antonio Spurs.
With its Riverwalk, La Villita Historic Art Village, Pearl Brewery, Southtown, Market Square and King William Historic District just for starters, the Deuce Dime wants you to visit – maybe even stay forever.
Skies are sunny, and entrepreneurial and artisanal spirits thrive. Savings here and there may even let you splurge a little.
Here's our guide to good times in San Antonio:
We shopped for midweek round-trip flights about 6 weeks in advance, comparing cities.
From New York, Delta, JetBlue and American had $229 nonstop red-eyes to Austin–Bergstrom International.
Landing in San Antonio International increased fares to $314; American departed LaGuardia at 5:10 a.m. but stopped in Chicago, taking nearly 8 hours each way.
United had an early-evening nonstop flight into San Antonio for $339.
From Washington, D.C., including nearby airports yielded 4 different takeoff and landing points. American, however, had an early-evening, 1-stop 7-hour flight using Dulles and Austin-Bergstrom for $285.
To use the same departing and returning Washington airport and San Antonio, American's noon flight out of Baltimore's BWI was $327; a Charlotte stop made it nearly 6 hours going. Using Dulles and San Antonio, nonstop fares jumped to $466, with airtime under 4 hours each way.
Flying from Los Angeles' LAX was easier. American, United and Delta all had nonstop flights into San Antonio for $237.
From Seattle, you could fly Delta to Austin for $182, but layovers in LAX made flights approach 10 hours.
Delta had a late-afternoon flight with 1 stop for $202 and around 6 hours' flight time. Alaska Airlines flew nonstop from Seattle into Austin for $277 or San Antonio for $327.
To mix it up, we checked Vegas, finding a nonstop deal on Frontier for $149 out of McCarran International to Austin.
To fly nonstop from Las Vegas to San Antonio, Southwest had the market cornered at $140 going but $170 returning to avoid stops or plane changes; travel times were under 3 hours but totaled $310. If you're going to be renting a car anyway, do it in Austin.
If you pay for you booking by credit card, check in advance if your credit card offers travel insurance to avoid wasting money on unnecessary insurance. Checking for free checked baggage credit card benefits is also a good idea.
Cheap Hotels And Accommodation
Looking downtown, we found a double-queen room at the 4-star Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk for $117 a night ($954 with tax for the week) with fitness center, pool and Wi-Fi but no breakfast.
Home2 Suites by Hilton San Antonio Riverwalk had king studio suites for $119 a night or, for $10 more, 2-queen studios. Rooms came with all the freebies, including hot breakfast, sofa bed and kitchenette, and ran about $1,000 for the week with tax.
Southwest of the tourist area, Hampton Inn & Suites and La Quinta Inn & Suites sat across from each other on Caesar Chavez Boulevard and had $106 deals. Both provided free amenities like fitness centers, Wi-Fi and hot-cold breakfast, but beds differed.
La Quinta provided either a king plus sofa bed or (again, for $10 more) 2 full beds. At Hampton, however, that $106 a night got you 2 queen beds. The Holiday Inn Downtown Market Square had a 2-bed standard room for $59. However, the hotel's Riverwalk shuttle stops at 9 p.m., and breakfast had a surcharge.
If you've never checked out Airbnb, you might want to. For $60 a night ($474 for the week) we could have stayed in a beautiful first-floor queen bedroom with en suite bath, private entries and kitchen access in a 1910 3-story with curving wraparound porches across from historic San Pedro Springs Park; with 127 reviews giving this pad a 5-star rating, risk is minimal.
We found several similar bargains within easy walking distance to downtown attractions for as little as $47 to $80 a night.
Where To Eat
TV foodies can channel Guy Fieri for breakfast at the Magnolia Pancake Haus, Man v. Food's Adam Richman for lunch at LuLu's Bakery and Café or Chunky's Burgers & More, or Bobby Flay for puffy tacos at Los Barrios Mexican Restaurant. Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has also gold-listed The Cove, Bun-N-Barrel and Dough Pizzeria Napoletana.
Tip Top Café, Texas Pride Barbeque and Beto's Alt-Mex earned silver.
For more San Antonio bargains, try Candy's Old Fashion, with burgers, catfish, "blackened chicky Caesar salads" and floats. Schilo's Delicatessen delivers German cuisine for under $10. The Station Café on King William has every hot or cold sandwich configuration known to man for about $6.
Fratello's Italian Market & Deli averages closer to $10, but everything is quality, fresh or fresh-baked, with a market for take-home, too.
Adding beverages to affordable, the Friendly Spot Ice House can fix a bacon-wrapped bratwurst or lamb sliders as easily as a Portobello-adobo taco or one of its 250 bottled or 76 draft brews.
If coffee is life, Rosella Coffee on East Jones Avenue also has beer, wine, 7 kinds of toast, eggs, waffles, chicken salad, baked fontina and affogato (ice cream with 2 shots of espresso). Starting with handmade flour tortillas, Alamo Café offers Tex-Mex favorites, including brisket quesadillas, for under $10 and serves a killer margarita, too.
San Antonio has a bronze listing from the League of American Bicyclists, and the Visit Antonio website even maps 5 routes to show you the sights. The website is also walker and runner friendly, supplying an equal number of short-loop and long-loop options.
For bikes, bring your own, use BCycle for unlimited 30-minute trips per day, rent from a shop, or try SpinLister.com. Regular people list certified bikes to rent; our pick was a blue Raleigh road cruiser with a "fat seat" for $40 a week.
DowntownSanAntonio.org supplies parking maps as well as the city's Downtown Wayfinding System, which breaks downtown into 10 color-coded areas with recognizable landmarks. You can use Google Maps to locate public transportation routes.
San Antonio provides its E trolley as a "free downtown circulator," and the Wayfinding System highlights access areas. River taxi and pedicabs are also options.
If you're looking for the San Antonio & Beyond or Broadway Reach package-attraction programs, San Antonio discontinued them in 2015. However, the San Antonio Area Tourism Council offers a website full of coupons.
Discounts range from unlimited-visit Fun Cards or meal deals for SeaWorld and Aquatica to $25-for-2 Grayline winetasting Hill Country tours or 15 percent off Natural Bridge Caverns admission. Check it out, but print coupon vouchers in advance, as attractions require paper copy!
Enjoying For Free
You can spend a day visiting San Antonio's 5 missions. On the Riverwalk, The Alamo Shrine, Museum and Gardens are all free. The first Saturday of each month includes living-history demonstrations, reenactments and activities to re-create the 1830s.
San Antonio Mission National Historical Park is actually 4 more mission sites. A bike-hike-or-paddle path follows the river from The Alamo to Concepción Park and Mission Concepción, "the oldest unrestored stone church in America."
Stop at Mission Park Pavilions to take in Mission San José, "Queen of the Missions." Across from the Espada Aqueduct is Mission San Juan, now a "Spanish colonial demonstration farm." Last and farthest south, Mission Espada waits with its triple-bell facade. Alamo to end is a good 10 miles; SanAntonioRiver.org has a PDF map detailing routes and amenities.
For culture, the renowned McNay Art Museum regularly charges $20 per adult, but 4 p.m. to 9 on Thursdays and 12 p.m. to 5 on the first Sunday of the month are free.
Young people 19 are younger are always free, and presenting a Merrill Lynch or Bank of America credit card or debit card with ID provides 1 free admission on the "first full weekend of every month" through Bank of America's Museums on Us® program. Other museums in this program include Witte Museum, San Antonio Museum of Art, and the DoSeum (a great museum for kids).
The San Antonio Museum of Art offers free admission 4 p.m. to 9 Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to noon on Sundays and participates in the credit card program.
Image by Brownings at en.wikipedia
For public parks, the Japanese Tea Garden is one of San Antonio's public treasures, with shaded walkways, arched stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall and lily ponds of koi. Brackenridge Park's associated 343 acres are also free and include recreation and historical landmarks; while the zoo, botanical gardens and Witte Museum are also here, they charge admission.
Comanche Lookout Park is also worth a stop to check out the remaining 4-story, medieval-style stone tower and miles of walking trails in a natural Texas setting.
Only you can determine whether the triple-threat Ripley's Haunted Adventure, Tomb Ride 3D and Guinness World Records Museum will enhance your Alamo City experience. "The Amazing Mirror Maze & The Vault Laser Challenge" will tap a similar vein.
While history and outdoor recreation are vibrant, so are shopping venues, entertainment, and food and drink.
Not all Tex-Mex is authentic Tex-Mex, so if you're not sure whether something will be a win or a fail, Yelp it. If an attraction's price seems high, Google or Groupon it, but be sure to find free Wi-Fi access (and a printer) first.