By Joey Amato
My recent visit to San Antonio began with not knowing if I was even going to be able to go. It was at that time in the path of Hurricane Harvey, which ultimately took a turn toward Houston as we all now know, and I was debating whether or not I should attempt to visit the city. If I did go, would I be able to visit all of the attractions I wanted to see? Would it be raining and miserable? Would the city be flooded as predicted? I decided to roll the dice and flew into San Antonio a day early before the storm hit. It would be my first time visiting the city, so I didn’t want to lose this opportunity.
My home for the next few days was the beautiful Westin Riverwalk, located along one of the city’s most stunning features. Riverwalk stretches for miles, dotted by hotels, shops, museums and cafes. Walking along the trail is one of the most beautiful ways to see the city. My room at the Westin Riverwalk was spacious and luxurious, but still felt like home. A separate sitting area boasted a sofa and arm chair in addition to a large desk situated beneath a flat screen television. The views from the balcony were breathtaking and the bathroom was large enough to have a cocktail party.
The first day in San Antonio was a bit rainy, so I chose to visit The Shops of La Cantera, a beautiful outdoor shopping center about 25 minutes north of the city. At the time, they were exhibiting the works of iconic pop artist, Peter Max. This month they are welcoming renowned Miami-based artist, Romero Britto. The indoor-outdoor experience was the perfect way to spend the day and escape the sporadic outer bands of Hurricane Harvey as they travelled through the region.
The following afternoon, I decided to check out the much talked about Sunday drag brunch at Paramour Bar. Paramour offers stellar views of downtown San Antonio. I decided to go all out and order a bottle of Prosecco along with a few items off their small but tasty menu curated by local chef, Jason Dady. Drag brunch at Paramour takes place the last Sunday of every month. The theme of that afternoon was Broadway Babes, and the babes brought it. It was really a fun experience.
Without a doubt, one of the city’s most popular sites is The Alamo. Most people know the story of The Alamo, but what is interesting is that British rocker Phil Collins amassed one of the largest privately-owned collections of Alamo artifacts. In the summer of 2014, Collins generously donated his collection to the Texas General Land Office, guardian of the Alamo on behalf of the people of Texas. Collins built the collection over several decades, purchasing some items and even discovering some others just steps away from the Alamo itself. Collins fell in love with the Alamo’s inspiring story as a 5-year-old boy, when he saw the Disney production of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. When other children were out playing cops and robbers or other childhood games, Collins says that he was re-enacting the Battle of the Alamo.
Not too far away is the city’s tallest attraction, the Tower of the Americas. Located in Hemisfair Park, the 750-foot structure was built for the 1968 World’s Fair and offers panoramic views of the city. One floor below the observation deck is a great restaurant which offers one of the best happy hours in town.
For dinner, I walked to Market Square, a three-block outdoor plaza and currently the largest Mexican market in the United States. There was no shortage of restaurants to choose from. I actually visited Market Square two nights in a row for dinner, opting to try Mi Tierra on the first night and then Viva Villa Taqueria the second night, where I had one of the best tacos I’ve ever had in my entire life. On the way to Market Square, be sure to stop by San Fernando Cathedral.
Gay nightlife in San Antonio is abundant. One of my favorite spots was Pegasus, a friendly neighborhood bar, or should I say complex of bars, all under one roof. There really is something for everyone here and after a few shots, I built up enough liquid courage to jump on stage for some karaoke. Luckily, to my knowledge there is no video recording of me rocking Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.”
On my final day in San Antonio I visited The Pearl District, a historic brewery that’s been transformed into a mixed-use complex filled with chef-owned restaurants and independent retail stores. Pearl has a rich history dating back to 1883 and is one of the coolest neighborhoods I visited during this trip. My lunch guest and I decided to stop by Cured, a beautiful restaurant featuring the widest selection of cured meats I’ve ever seen. We began our meal with a selection of three meats, my favorite being the Smoked Duck Ham. For my entree, I opted for something a bit lighter, the Crabmeat Ravigote with avocado, tomato, citrus and beets. The sweet crab paired very well with the creaminess of the avocado and firmness of the beets to make for a healthy, but filling dish.
Finally, I had time for one last stop before my journey home. I heard that the Witte Museum had a cool dinosaur exhibit, so of course I had to visit. While there, I got a chance to see the skeleton of Acrocanthosaurus, Deinosuchus (giant crocodile), and a full-size Tyrannosaurus Rex.
San Antonio really does have a little bit of something for everyone. It’s great for budget conscious travelers and the people are extremely warm and friendly. My friends told me about a cave system which I didn’t have time to explore this time around, so I guess it warrants another visit. Time to plan my next visit back to San Antonio, Texas!
Pride Journeys is an LGBT travel website dedicated to sharing travel reviews and news of interest to the LGBT community. For more info, visit www.PrideJourneys.com
Photo: Julian P. Ledezma