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San Antonio

Updated: Feb 7, 2012 04:36 PM EST
The Alamo at dusk. (©San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau/Richard Nowitz) The Alamo at dusk. (©San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau/Richard Nowitz)
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By David Baird 

San Antonio wouldn't be what it is without the combined cultures of historic Texas ranchers and Mexican settlers. The two collided at the city's most famous attraction, The Alamo, but the confluence of cultures has been much more auspicious elsewhere: the cultural displays in HemisFair Park, the vivid paintings at the San Antonio Museum of Art and the lively galleries and clubs in Southtown. Southwestern flavors also meld at restaurants throughout the city and along the meandering River Walk -- and nowhere does the term "Tex-Mex" take on more meaning.

Things to Do

Stroll around San Antonio's downtown to get a flavor of the city's storied Western past, especially through the plazas, one of which was the scene of a running battle with a Comanche raiding party. Learn about Texas' most important battle at the city's dearest Spanish mission, The Alamo. The show-down between Mexican General Santa Anna and some 200 Texas settlers set the stage for San Antonio's bold, independent spirit. Four additional missions, rich with 18th-century wall paintings, the scent of burning incense and the occasional Mariachi Mass, lie in a chain leading south, part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

Shopping

Turquoise beads, heavy silver bangles and colorful wool blankets fill the stalls of traditional Southwestern vendors at La Villita, San Antonio's oldest neighborhood, and Market Square. But it's trendy Alamo Heights that draws shoppers looking for upscale goods. Designer labels fill storefronts in this San Antonio neighborhood, but you'll also find custom-made Western wear like ornate cowboy boots and hand-tooled leather belts.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Graceful live oaks lean over San Antonio's River Walk, embracing the twisting, watery heart of San Antonio. Narrated tours carry visitors past noisy Mexican restaurants, elegant wine bars and riverfront pubs, all popular in the evening. The River Walk's open-air Arneson River Theatre is the place to catch Latin music and dance performances afternoons and evenings. The sounds of acoustic guitars and the soaring notes of trumpets fill the air at the theater, while traditional dancers swirl in multicolored skirts.

Restaurants and Dining

San Antonio's River Walk is the city's most popular dining spot. For a winning combination of spicy, meaty and crispy, all on one plate, served with icy margaritas, opt for Tex-Mex. Seafood restaurants serve up succulent oysters and savory ceviche fresh from the gulf coast. And, remember, you're in Texas: Sit down to at least one thick, juicy steak in an atmospheric riverside steak house. For a taste of San Antonio's German heritage, head to Schilo's near the Alamo for mouth-watering bratwurst and Sunday evening oompah bands.

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