Thursday, March 17, 2011

San Antonio, TX

With our weekends in Texas winding down, we spent a beautiful March weekend in San Antonio, TX. On Friday evening, we made the uneventful drive down to San Antonio. The plan was to stop in Austin for dinner but with SXSW going on traffic was terrible and Austin was packed so we grabbed some food on the go and pushed all the way to San Antonio. We booked the trip to San Antonio a bit late and ended up finding a hotel room in the downtown area - we were walking distance from the San Antonio River Walk. If I had it to do again I would book a hotel right on the river walk, which would have made it more convenient for most of the activities. The walk back and forth between the hotel and the riverwalk area got old quickly. Friday night we decided to go down to the riverwalk area just to check it out. We should have hopped on a boat tour right then because there was hardly anyone there. (Later in the weekend it was so packed that we ended up forgoing the boat tour for other activities.) Instead we found a table at The Landing for some jazz, a cocktail and great people watching. (I had a drink called The Interlude that was fabulous.) Jeff had a Napa pinot noir. The big plan for the weekend was to bike between the San Antonio missions. San Antonio has the most missions in one central area - they are each only about 3 miles apart from each other. They are all part of the National Park system but also have operating Catholic Churches. Saturday morning we headed over to James bicycle shop to rent bikes for the day. The bike shop looks a little sketchy but they are super nice, have great rates and will pick you up if you get a flat - it doesn't get better than that! We called ahead to make reservations but that wasn't necessary. You can join the path near the bike shop but we decided to throw the bikes in the back of the car and drive to Mission Concepcion. Make sure you stop into the visitor's center so the ranger can explain the bike path - parts of it are under construction and you're going to need some directions. (We strayed from the path a few times by accident.) You cannot ride your bikes on the Mission property so lock them up at the bike racks and explore the mission by foot. (Jame's bike rental gives you a lock and helmets with your rental. About $30 per bike for a full day.) When you're ready, hop on your bike and start down the road toward Mission San Jose. There is a bike path on the left away from the road until the golf course and then you'll need to ride in the bike lane on the road. The road dead ends into Mission San Jose - so cross the road and follow the bike path to the right until you reach the visitor's center. Mission San Jose has the most to offer - there is a video in the visitors center and a 45 min ranger led tour that are both worth your time. Check with the ranger before you head out because the construction on the bike path is happening and the route changes. We followed the new path down by the river until we literally ran into the construction... then unfortunately we had to backtrack down a very busy road. Once we got on Mission Road it was back to light traffic all the way to Mission San Juan. Mission San Juan is pretty sparse compared to what you have already seen, but there are also much fewer people making it quiet and relaxing. We found a nice shady tree and enjoyed a picnic lunch. The bike trail to Mission Espada is now open so its an easy ride down the river. There is a nice visitor's center here as well, so stop in and see what is going on. We took a different path back to our car so that we could go by the oldest aqueduct in the US - which is also part of the reasons the missions are where they are. The only downside to this path is we ended back up on that busy road for about a mile this time - we rode on the sidewalks to keep out of the way of traffic but it was a bit harrowing. With the bikes returned and the car back at the hotel we walked into downtown to see the Alamo. Instead of waiting in the long line to get into the main building we went around back and just went into the museum building (also the gift shop) and the gardens. There is an audio tour you can purchase. The Alamo was a bit anticlimactic but it's a must do. There are a million restaurants on the river walk to grab drinks, dinner or desert. We took advantage of the specials we found on twitter and foursquare - including a buy one get one deal for ice cream at Ben & Jerrys! Sunday, we booked a walking tour with San Antonio Walks - we were the only ones on the tour but I can't figure out why! The tour was phenomenal and will give you the full historical significance of San Antonio not only in Texas history but in US history. The tour covers 10-15 blocks in the riverwalk area at a leisurely pace and starts just in front of The Alamo and ends at one of the riverwalk entrances so that you can grab lunch when it ends at noon. All in all it was a perfect weekend in San Antonio - I'm glad it was part of our Texas Adventure!

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