San Antonio: Where Food, Culture and the Great Outdoors Meet

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San Antonio
Downtown San Antonio.

With approximately 66 people moving to San Antonio, Texas every day according to Visit San Antonio, the city is not only the seventh largest in the U.S., but is also one of the fastest growing cities in the country. But it’s not just new residents that are making their way to San Antonio. Each year, increasing numbers of visitors are flocking to the Texan city, and according to Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio, this popularity is due to several reasons.

“Our city’s rich history and diverse cultural mix of Spanish, Mexican, and German heritage make it a fun and unique destination,” says Matej. “With year-round events and one-of-a-kind celebrations…along with our many historic attractions and growing arts and culinary scenes, San Antonio has quite a lot to offer travelers.”

Matej also adds that recent years have brought an “exciting evolution” to the Alamo City with new attractions, restaurants, hotels and experiences opening up to complement the city’s vibrant heritage and contribute to its overall growth and popularity.

Ruby City San Antonio
Rendering of the Ruby City contemporary art museum opening this year.

New Attractions
This year, in particular, will bring a wide variety of new attractions and activities for visitors in San Antonio. Opening in early 2019, families will find two new attractions just for them: the SEA LIFE Aquarium with its immersive displays of diverse marine life and the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, which will be an indoor playground withLEGO-themed play areas, creative workshops and more. Meanwhile, thrill-seeking travelers can treat themselves to new rides at some of the city’s popular theme parks, including the new Joker Wild Card pendulum ride at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, which will go as fast as 75 miles per hour and reach heights of up to 17 stories. Artsy visitors can also expect a new option to get their fill of San Antonio’s thriving arts scene when the contemporary art museum Ruby City opens this fall. Designed by award-winning architect Sir David Adjaye, the museum will house the late Linda Pace’s personal collection of more than 800 paintings, sculptures, installations, and video works.

Open Air Exploring
If exploring the great outdoors is more your client’s speed, San Antonio offers a wide variety of activities that will get travelers exploring the city while still enjoying some fresh air. While kayaking has been available along the San Antonio River for just over a year, travelers looking to explore the Alamo City from the water can also now do so via stand-up paddleboards as they float along the river passing by historic mansions, natural scenery, and the King William District. Lessons and professional guided tours are available, and for an extra challenge, guests can opt for paddleboard yoga.

San Antonio Go Rio
A Go Rio barge floating down the San Antonio River.

Those who prefer not to take the risk of falling in the water can hop on a Go Rio tour to explore the iconic River Walk area. Go Rio offers colorful, new, open air barges that take guests along the San Antonio River through downtown while drivers provide narrated tours and point out unique San Antonio landmarks. Go Rio shuttles are also available for those simply looking for transportation from one attraction to the next. Also new in outdoor explorations is the transformation of San Pedro Creek into a linear park. The first phase of the revitalization was completed in May 2018 and is now open to visitors with 3,905 ft. of ADA-accessible walkways, interpretive signage telling the history of the creek, public art installations, free events and more. When all four phases are completed, San Pedro Creek Cultural Park will span 2.2 miles.

Foodie’s Delight
As one of only two UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy in the U.S., it’s no wonder that the foodie scene in San Antonio is booming and serving as a big draw for potential visitors. For example, there’s Taco Fest in April, Culinaria in September, the San Antonio Beer Festival in October, and several other events throughout the year that celebrate the city’s love of food, beer, and cocktails. But if your client’s visit doesn’t coincide with these dates, there will still be plenty of foodie fun for them to explore, including several new bars and restaurants opening this year.

Culinaria San Antonio
Culinaria is one of San Antonio’s biggest food festivals.

While it’s almost impossible to name all of the new food and beverage outlets coming to San Antonio in 2019, one particularly noteworthy venue is SAVOR, a student-run concept by The Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus, which is set to debut in spring 2019. Located in the city’s popular Pearl district adjacent to the campus, the restaurant will serve up modern American cuisine featuring local ingredients from Texan farmers and ranchers, plus a full bar and curated wine and beer lists. Under the guidance of the college’s chefs and hospitality instructors, students will prepare and serve dinner to guests as part of their degree studies.

Advice for Travel Advisors
When asked what advice she has for travel advisors booking their client’s first visit to San Antonio, Matej says, to plan for clients to stay an extra day or two than originally anticipated in order to fully experience the city.

“Whether a family with children, a young couple, foodies, arts and history buffs, budget travelers, or luxury travelers, there is plenty to experience on all fronts,” she says. “We encourage travel advisors to find those specific interests and visit our website and explore what our city has to offer with attractions, culinary hotspots, affordable hotels, and more.”

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