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San antonio riverwalk
Beautiful landscaping and murals about at the San Antonio Riverwalk

Amazing Overnight in San Antonio

As the oldest municipality in Texas, San Antonio was named in 1691 and officially founded as a Spanish outpost in 1718. Having been part of Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and then the United States, it feels like there is a story on every corner. We would liked to have spent more time in this beautiful city, but we only allotted an overnight during our 1,300 mile return trip from Spring Break. Here’s how we spent it…

The Alamo
The Alamo, which is adjacent to the Riverwalk, was so fabulous it has its own post:)

What is the Riverwalk?

The San Antonio Riverwalk almost never was. After decades of flooding destroyed buildings and killed hundreds of people, the city decided to build a dam, bypass the iconic riverbend and pave it over with a sewer. In the 1920s, a Conservation Society led by architect Robert H. H. Hugman proposed a system of floodgates be installed to control water flow and create a beautiful canal with walking paths, bridges, shops and restaurants to draw people to the city.

Riverwalk oozes character with paths, bridges, landscaping and murals.

Many businesses accessed at modern street level are built upon older foundations that are visible from the river walk. Ornate staircases and bridges allow for one of the most enjoyable pedestrian experiences we’ve had.

Hampton Inn seen in top right corner built on older foundations at river level.

A hotel on the river walk seemed like a must for our one night in town and the Hampton Inn & Suites San Antonio Riverwalk was just the ticket, affording us a fabulous view of the river from our patio and easy access to stroll the city. Being welcomed by Max the lobby longhorn decked out in St. Patrick’s Day flair and the Texas shaped waffles in the complimentary continental breakfast definitely enhanced our San Antonio experience.

I’m not sure if every hotel lobby in Texas has a themed longhorn, but we’re glad ours did!

Riverwalk by Night

After decades working in special events, we typically try to avoid touristy spots on holidays, but couldn’t resist a stroll on the river walk even though it was St. Patty’s Day. Wait times at the restaurants were quite long, but since there are two sides to the river and the downtown area is almost 5 miles, the walk was full of life, but not uncomfortably crowded.

Flat, wide pathways make strolling along the river a breeze.

For Disney fans, the night experience felt like being in the Pirate’s of the Caribbean ride, minus the pirates;) GO RIO river cruise tickets are available for purchase online (and often Groupon) so you don’t have to wait in that long ticket line once you get there.

go rio san antonio boat cruise
GO RIO boat cruising along the riverwalk by night.

While grabbing a drink at the Little Rhein Prost House we were pleasantly surprised to learn we were dining at the oldest two-story building in San Antonio! A German ale house might seem out of place in Texas, but there is actually an exceptional amount of German influence in the area due a large immigration push in the mid 1800s.

san antonio little rhein prost house
Interior of the oldest two-story building in San Antonio (Little Rhein Prost House, 2022).

Keep an eye out for plaques outlining historical significance and don’t forget to wander around at street level to see even more beautifully lit gems like the San Fernando Cathedral (once occupied by Santa Ana and site of Jim Bowies wedding) and the stunning county courthouse.

San fernando cathedral at night in san antonio
The San Fernando Cathedral was so stunning at night, we will have to go inside next time we’re in town!

Riverwalk by Day

In the morning, the river walk feels like strolling through a European village. With beautiful landscaping and intricate architectural detailing that gets lost in the crowds at night. There are several places to stop and have a bite, but since we had free continental breakfast and were on a mission to get to Carlsbad by nightfall, we didn’t indulge.

st patricks day decor on san antonio riverwalk bridge
St. Patty’s decor on bridge.

We wandered from the hotel to the Alamo Plaza and were stunned by the different details visible in the daylight sprinkled with little hints of St. Patty’s Day flair. In 1981, the Hyatt Regency included a connection between the Alamo Plaza and the River Walk, providing tourists with an architecturally stunning adventure from street level to the river.

mural in san antonio
Intricate mural in the Hyatt Regency pass through.

We also got to see how hard the facilities work to keep the lights working and sidewalks and water clean for everyone to enjoy. We stood on our balcony for a couple of minutes marveling at the little trash boat cleaning the waterway in the morning.

san antonio riverwalk trash boat
Trash boat skimming the water on the San Antonio Riverwalk in the morning.

Don’t miss BBQ at Pinkertons

When traveling in the south, we are always on the hunt for some great BBQ, so we decided to try this amazing spot just down the street from our hotel. The line was out the door, but we knew right away that cafeteria style joints like this move fast. The kids were able to burn off some energy on the large, well-lit lawn while we grabbed a drink and analyzed the plates coming out of the door.

pinkertons san antonio
Bite of brisket in front of Pinkertons.

Several of their meats were gone by the time we got to order, but luckily for us, our favorites were still available. My husband judges each BBQ joints based on their ribs, but for me, the proof is in the brisket and they both melted right into our mouths. Our favorite sides were the jalapeno cheese rice and beans, but the slaw and potato salad were flawless too.

night view pinkertons san antonio
Night view of lawn outside Pinkertons San Antonio.

Missed Connections

Spending less than 24 hours in one of the oldest and largest cities in the US is going to leave one with a long list worth returning to, but here are our top locations for next time:

  1. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park boasts several stunning church structures and the kids love getting their Junior Ranger badges.
  2. The Hemisfair park contains a really cool play structure and the view from the Tower of the Americas looks fabulous so we’ll definitely pop this into our next trip.
  3. After seeing the San Fernando Cathedral beautifully lit at night, I’m sure the inside is worth a peek.
  4. A day in New Braunfels will also be a must so we can tube down the Comal river, visit the Schlitterbahn Waterpark and retrace country legend footsteps at Gruene Hall, the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas.

We tend to focus on things that are unique experiences that cannot be replicated anywhere else, but any of these sites could be the highlight of a family’s visit:

What else did we miss? Share your thoughts in the comment section!


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