Historical and Cultural
Good: McNay Art Museum
This 24-room Spanish colonial-revival house turned art museum is really an artwork in itself. Wander around the maze of paintings, drawings, sculptures and more to escape the Texas heat on any given day. Then, explore the beautiful grounds and take pics of the extravagantly tiled courtyard when the frigid Texas air conditioning gets to be too much.
On a normal day, the King Williams Historic District, just south of downtown, is a truly breathtaking array of large and colorful historic homes and buildings. On First Fridays, or actually almost any weekend, this neighborhood becomes filled to the brim with people seeking out the sights, sounds and flavors of the district. While it’s fun for awhile, it quickly becomes a exercise in dodging elderly couples and large families who walk extremely slow on packed sidewalks in order to look at overpriced and possibly handmade goods. If you avoid the food, drink and retail mess of South Alamo, you can stick to the residential area right near the river and bask in the radiance of the beautifully restored homes that most people could never dream of affording.
Ugly: Downtown (i.e. the Alamo and the Riverwalk)
Controversial, we know. There are a lot of obvious historical reasons to visit downtown, and there are numerous highlights like La Villita and the Historic Market Square. However, the actual experience of visiting the Alamo and the immediate stretch of the Riverwalk is never anything but disappointing. Unlike Southtown, which seems to have some off times in terms of traffic, the area around the Alamo is in perennial tourist season.
Food and Drink
Good: La Panaderia
La Panaderia is a dream. Pick up a tray and select your favorite doughy treats for later, but make sure you have time to sit down and inhale a breakfast sandwich on a croissant filled with perfectly cooked eggs, cheese and refried black beans — adding avocado is extra, but worth it. A lot of their business is takeout, so there’s plenty of seating in this staple San Antonio restaurant. Also, their playlists are always eclectic in the best ways, like when they play 2010-era Taylor Swift midday on a Saturday.
Bad: St. Mary’s Strip
Near and dear to the hearts of many Trinity students, both figuratively and literally in distance, this strip of bars, clubs and late-night food is the true chaotic good of the San Antonio experience. Go on the right night — Thursgays anyone? — and the drinks are cheap, the music is great and the tacos from El Regio are well worth the wait. However, come Friday morning, don’t be surprised to go to class with a headache, cilantro breath and “New Rules” by Dua Lipa stuck in your head.
Ugly: Bird “Armie Hammer” Bakery
Mediocre cobblers and overpriced twee cupcakes aren’t the real reason Bird Bakery fit into this category. Really, this is just a ploy to get Armie Hammer, the husband of Bird Bakery’s owner Elizabeth Chambers and Oscar-nominated “Call Me By Your Name” star, to notice us. Yeah, we think the frosting to cupcake ratio could be improved, but we mostly want more appearances of Armie, preferably in one of his distinctive tracksuits.
Retail and Entertainment
Good: Antiquing on Hildebrand and Blanco
If you like nosing through a bunch of interesting old crap to find absolute treasures — plenty of rare pyrex and costume jewelry galore — then San Antonio has plenty in store for you. Our favorites stops are Karolina’s and the Junction on Blanco for clothes, homeware and miscellaneous trinkets, but there’s a quite an assortment of antique furniture and home decor spots on Hildebrand west of San Pedro.
Bad: The Pearl
On first glance, this redone historic brewery is charming in its own right. But, upon closer inspection, this overly gentrified multipurpose public space is almost too perfect. Wandering around, you’ll most likely walk through multiple engagement photoshoots and unintentionally spend $50 on artisan soap. You’ll empty your bank accounts trying to eat a meal at any of the fine dining options available, and though the Bottling Department, a communal food hall, offers cheaper — emphasis on the ‘er’ — fare, it’s almost always too crowded to be able to find a table or enjoy conversation.
Ugly: The Shops at La Cantera
Who thought that an outdoor shopping mall 30 minutes away from the city center was a good idea? This is a glorified outdoor mall in the middle of Texas, where the heat is unbearable 90 percent of the time. Aren’t malls supposed to be an indoor haven where you don’t have to consider the outdoors? Now pair that image with that of a jam-packed Forever 21 on a Saturday afternoon. Nowhere is safe.