Being a Tourist in Your Own Backyard

San Antonio, Texas is only about an hour and a half from our house in Austin. But I planned a big event a few years ago and racked up a ton of hotel points so every now and then Brian and I drive down for a mini vacay with free accommodations.

February in Texas – almost makes the summers worth it!

The Riverwalk

San Antonio, Texas

There’s really only one place a tourist should stay in San Antonio: the Riverwalk!

Park your car and go by foot – pretty paths wind along the canals

There, you leave behind the sprawling highways peppered with look-alike shopping centers and can park your car and leave it for the remainder of your stay. This little condensed area of downtown San Antonio is full of bars, restaurants, quaint shops, and oh yeah, the Alamo!

Originally a Spanish Mission, The Alamo is probably most famous for its use as a military garrison during the Texas Revolution.
No dogs allowed in the Alamo so this is all we got to see. But it’s definitely worth it to go in if you can.

Meander around pretty little sidewalks bordering a network of canals, sip a craft cocktail at the oldest bar in Texas, or just a good old fashioned margarita, and of course, eat at one of the myriad restaurants that line the banks.

San Antonio is not as universally dog friendly as Austin so if you have a pooch with you, you might be limited to where you can eat or drink, even if it’s outside. A lot of the places we saw allowed service dogs only and one place said it was “city ordinance” that dogs aren’t allowed. Don’t be fooled!! There are still places on the Riverwalk that allow dogs in their outside area. It’s up to the business, not city ordinance.

Did you know the Lion King was filmed in San Antonio?
Check out the two mariachis on the left!

We stayed at the Drury Inn and Suites which is not the fanciest hotel on the Riverwalk. But it is actually ON the riverwalk, clean, friendly, and they give you free drinks during happy hour! Plus, it was free for us, and they let Barkley stay too, which pretty much makes up for anything.

So glad I got to come too!


Iron Cactus & The Esquire

The Friday that we arrived happened to be National Margarita Day so naturally, we had to celebrate.

There is a huge menu of margaritas at the Iron Cactus and tables right on the river. (Sadly, no dogs allowed here.) Brian had a Mexican martini which is a margarita served in a martini shaker and you pour it yourself at the table. I think these are popular because you can pretend you got one drink but really, it’s three.

I got a delicious margarita made with jalapeno, cucumber, and cilantro. Both were amazing, but unfortunately, a tad weak.

Stone cold sober at the Iron Cactus

Our best cocktails were at The Esquire Tavern – the oldest bar in San Antonio. It was the first one to open immediately after prohibition. We oughta know since we sat on the balcony overlooking the river and heard the spiel from every riverboat tour that went by.

Drinks on the balcony of the Esquire, including a fancy version of a Topo Chico!

Sipping our boozy craft cocktails, we waved at the tour boats, feeling sort of like celebrities because they were waving back and taking photos. 😀

If this is your first time to the Riverwalk, jumping on a tour boat can be a fun way to take in the sites and learn a bit about San Antonio’s history. The tours pick up and drop off from several spots along the Riverwalk every 15 to 20 minutes so they’re easy to find and get on. You can buy tickets from Go Rio cruises online too.



We ate dinner at Ostra which is in the Mokara Hotel and right along the river. I’m not linking to it because I don’t recommend it. The food was okay, the riverboat parade made for fun entertainment and everyone from the maitre d’ to the bus person gave us phenomenal service – except for our waiter who just couldn’t care less. I asked him if he would take a photo of us and he said NO! Whaa….?

The maitre d’ heard and came over to take one for us. 🙂

It was fun watching the floats go by in a river parade while we ate dinner.
There was a series of Chinese New Year (we think) themed floats.

For the record, this restaurant’s mediocre food is the reason I don’t recommend it, not because of one bad waiter.

We had kale and walnut salad, king crab legs, and patatas bravas and it was all passable but nothing super special. And oh yeah, oysters – one of which was fishy and old tasting. Brian accidentally ate it and we spent the rest of the weekend crossing our fingers that he didn’t get sick. (He didn’t, btw – phew!)

We came here for a light lunch on Saturday and shared a mushroom, spinach, and sodium pizza. Despite the saltiness, we really did enjoy it.

They allow dogs on their outside balcony too, and our waiter was so nice. Would go again!

Salty but still delicious pizza.


Lulu’s Bakery and Cafe

Lulu’s is a greasy spoon that is actually a five minute drive from the Riverwalk so we stopped by on our way back to Austin. They’re known for their 3 pound cinnamon rolls and while we didn’t partake (they’re also known for failing their health inspection) we did pick one up for my brother who is sort of a novelty food aficionado.

It’s bigger than my niece’s head!
Maintain your figure with a steady diet of 3 pound cinnamon rolls.
You know we drove back here on Tuesday…

There are always events going on, live music, and plenty of fun nightlife. Last time we were there we caught a brilliant art light show being projected onto one of the old church buildings.

Music playing with a backdrop of moving images against an old church made for a cool after dinner art show
Historic church as projection screen!

San Antonio may not be considered a hot tourist destination but if you find yourself heading here you can make a really nice weekend out of staying on the Riverwalk. Dogs welcome too!

Dad? Is that you?

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2 Replies to “Being a Tourist in Your Own Backyard”

  1. Exploring nearby is so fun, especially if you have all those points for free stuff! The projection light show looks so cool, I’ve never seen anything like that before 😍

    1. I agree! It’s great to appreciate what you have in your own backyard – you don’t always have to fly far away to get an adventure. 😀

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