On Thursday night, the Sulphur Springs Wildcat boys basketball team will compete in the state tournament in San Antonio. If the team wins on Thursday (as we all anticipate they will), they will play in the championship game on Saturday. Many fans will make the trip down to the Alamo city in support of the Wildcats and the schedule will allow plenty of time for exploring one of Texas’ most wonderful cities. As an alumnus of Sulphur Springs High School and now a three-year resident of San Antonio, I’ve made a list of some fun activities that are sure to help complete an exciting basketball-filled weekend getaway.
- The Historic Pearl District– Easily my #1 choice for the weekend the historic brewery is a delight for visitors of all ages. The Pearl boasts exceptional restaurants, a wide array of shops and museums, live music, green spaces, and authentic equipment from the original brewery. The highlight of the Pearl is Hotel Emma which was recently named the best hotel in Texas by S. News & World Report. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to check out the incredible lobby, restaurant, and bar which feature old brewery equipment repurposed in amazing and beautiful ways. The streets are closed to through traffic making the entire area stroller and pet friendly. There is free parking in the surface lots and parking garages on site. My recommendation is to go on Saturday morning during the famer’s market.
With highs in the low 70s and low chances of rain, it looks like pleasant weather for all of the outdoor activities on this list.
- The Japanese Tea Garden – Unlike any tea garden you may have visited before, San Antonio’s Japanese tea garden was created from an abandoned limestone quarry which provided stone for many of the state’s beautiful and now historic limestone buildings. Despite some recent cold weather many flowers have begun to bloom making the Tea Garden the most picturesque spot in all of San Antonio. Entering the garden is free as is parking in the area. An on-site tea house sells a variety of teas, snacks, and souvenirs. The garden is located directly next to the San Antonio Zoo and Brackenridge Park which also provide many wonderful activities.
- The light show at San Fernando Cathedral – This 24 minute night time show is projected on to the side of the gorgeous San Fernando Cathedral and tells the history of San Antonio (and Texas) like never before. Located right on the Riverwalk there are plenty of shops and restaurants around San Antonio’s Main Plaza. Show times are at 9:00 p.m., 9:30 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It’s the one thing you’ll tell friends and family about when you return home. The show is free, but you’ll likely have to pay to park.
- First Fridays – Visitors are particularly lucky this weekend because it is the first Friday in March and San Antonio has a monthly festival that takes over Southtown the first Friday of each month. The festival features live music, delicious food, and art between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Art lovers will enjoy exploring the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum and architecture lovers will be enthralled by the French homes in the King William Historic District. For adults, be sure to visit Halcyon coffee shop in the Blue Star Art Complex which serves alcoholic and non-acholic drinks. You can also order s’mores that you make at your table in a fun little flaming cauldron. If you can’t make it on Friday evening then I highly recommend visiting the Guenther House (restaurant, museum, and store) for delicious food open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- Market Square – Downtown’s Market Square features fabulous dining, shopping, and entertainment all year long. You can take in all of the sights, sounds, and flavors of Old Mexico at El Mercado, an indoor mall described as “the largest Mexican Market outside Mexico”. If you’re looking for some delicious Mexican cuisine, Market Square is your place. I recommend Mi Tierra which has an authentic restaurant and bakery open 24 hours a day. The market itself is free but you’ll likely have to pay to park.
- Shopping at La Cantera and the Rim – Northwest San Antonio features some of the best shops and dining in the city. It also has great entertainment including bowling, top golf, indoor skydiving and Fiesta Texas. If you’re planning on doing much shopping or any of these activities there are many great hotels and lodging options in this area located at the intersection of 1604 and I-10 right next to the lovely UTSA Campus.
- The DoSeum(with kids) – If you have young kids with you then make sure to visit San Antonio’s Museum for Kids the DoSeum. As the name implies, this museum isn’t just for looking and listening. The DoSeum is filled with activities where children learn by playing, exploring, and creating. Admission is $14 for children over 1 year old.
- Lantana Spa at the J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort (without kids) – This luxurious resort is home to lovely sleeping accommodations, an incredible water park (though it may still be a bit too cold for that) and top-notch golf courses featured in the PGA tour’s Valero Open tournament. If you’re traveling solo or a couple that could use some quality time, Lantana Spa on the premises of the J.W. Marriott is just the place. Lantana Spa offers a variety of massages, skin and nail care services, and body treatments.On a tight budget, but could really use a day of pampering? Well here’s the secret: The Spa has a sauna, aroma therapy room, steam room, indoor and outdoor hot tub, and outdoor pool. Even the least expensive treatment (a $45 manicure) gets you access to the all of the spa’s amenities (including the restaurant) for the entire day! You can even leave and come back any time before 8:00 p.m.
- The San Antonio Missions – Many people are surprised to learn that San Antonio is home to five different historic missions. While the Alamo is the most famous and always worthy of a visit, it’s the other four missions that comprise San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Mission San Jose is the largest mission, Mission Espada is the oldest, and Mission Conception boasts the oldest unrestored stone church in America. The Park also contains the Espada Aqueduct which provided water to early mission inhabitants. Visitors can drive, take a bus, or rent bicycles to travel between the missions. While the missions are each only about two and a half (2.5) miles apart, I quickly tired out while using a rented bike. The rentals don’t offer many gears, making the adjustments to the various inclines and declines difficult. Additionally, each of the missions offers free parking.
- Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch and Natural Bridge Caverns – The Natural Bridge Wildlife ranch is a drive through “African-style” safari where you can feed animals from your car. The Natural Bridge Caverns feature a half-mile tour of a beautiful cavern 180 feet below ground. Full disclosure: I have never done any of the Natural Bridge activities, so I’ll just direct you to the websites.
*Bonus* –If you don’t mind adding a few pounds during your visit and/or you’re traveling with a larger group, check out Big Lou’s Pizza with their 42-inch pizzas or Lulu’s Bakery and Café with its 3lb cinnamon rolls!
Of course, there are many other great things to do in and around San Antonio including the Riverwalk, Alamo, SeaWorld, and lots of city tours (including a ghost tour), but you don’t need a local to tell you about those things. I hope you enjoy the diverse culture and incredible hospitality of America’s seventh largest city as you cheer on the SSHS boys basketball team this weekend. Safe travels and good luck, Wildcats!
John Litzler directs the Church Law division of Christian Unity Ministries in San Antonio. He is a graduate of the University of Texas and Baylor Law school. He is a member of the SSHS class of 2004.