A Lively Oasis in this Multicultural Town
Way back when, Mark Twain and Will Rogers both rated San Antonio as one of America’s most outstanding cities – sharing the bill only with San Francisco, Boston, and New Orleans. Today Twain would recognize the city’s historic showpiece, the Alamo, but not its second most visited attraction, the River Walk (or Paseo del Rio), a lively and delightfully scenic flagstone esplanade bordering both banks of the lazy, narrow San Antonio River.
Wending for 3 miles beneath giant cypress and palm trees, tropical foliage, and flowering bushes one level below the busy streets of downtown San Antonio, River Walk originated as a functional WPA project completed in 1941, was rejuvenated just a decade ago, and is now lined with cafes, restaurants, shops, and hotels.
At the oldest and nicest horseshoe bend is the Mansión del Rio Hotel, the crown jewel of the River Walk. Occupying a Spanish-influenced 19th-century boys’ school and college, it was reborn as an elegant respite of cool courtyard fountains and old-world ambience, with most rooms overlooking the river.
Its las Canarias Restaurant, named after the city’s original colonists from Spain’s Canary Islands, is River Walk’s most distinguished. For more casual fare, enjoy a prickly-pear margarita and smoked shrimp enchiladas or guacamole made fresh at your table at Boudro’s, always popular with both visitors and locals.
River Walk is a special pleasure at night and on weekends, but two periods are particularly wonderful: the Christmas season, when 80,000 twinkling lights illuminate its vintage facades and bridges and light the way for traveling barges of carolers; and late April, when the whole city stops for the Fiesta San Antonio, ten days of events, fireworks, and entertainment highlighted by three parades – the Battle of Flowers Parade and two barge parades on the river.