San Antonio is open (keep your distance)

August 31, 2020 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

San Antonio, socially distant, yet pretty close to home

Photos and story by Laurette Veres

It’s the perfect time for a road trip. The most popular destination in Texas has always been San Antonio and the people in the Alamo City are rolling out Texas-sized safety measures to put you at ease. San Antonio is open and ready to safely greet you and your family.

Where to stay

A suite at The Westin Riverwalk

The River Walk is the second most popular attraction in San Antonio. (The Alamo is number one). When selecting a hotel, proximity to the River Walk is always a consideration. The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio www.westinriverwalksanantonio.com meets all the criteria of a river front property. It’s located on the quite side of the river, which allows for tranquility on your patio, yet you are steps from the bustling restaurant and bar scene. At the hotel, masks are mandatory in all public areas and only two people can be on an elevator. Despite these restrictions, the lobby was bustling and two brides were on property taking portraits. Several balconies on the second floor overlook the River walk, a serene setting highlighted by brightly lit tour boats. Just to the left, as you head to the action, you’ll pass the infamous Marriage Island.  Expect to see weddings here every day of the week. When you enter your room, look for the sticker taped to the door and doorjamb “cleaned and sealed for your protection”. This is your assurance the room is ready for you. The plush accommodations feature pillowtop mattresses on the Heavenly Bed and marble bathrooms in the Heavenly Bath. Brown and gold tones create a relaxing vibe and spending time on your balcony looking out over the River Walk is the best part. Beat the summer heat at the Westin’s pool where there is always a party, reservations required to ensure social distancing.

San Antonio Botanical Garden

Outdoor Exploration
The San Antonio Botanical Garden www.sabot.org is a welcome respite from the Covid-19 pandemic. You can easily spend half a day at this treasure trove of local flora and fauna. In the welcome center, plan your day. Don’t miss the vegetable and herb garden, home to the chef program for healthy eating. Brightly colored peppers remind you of the holidays. Today cooking classes have been converted to on-line, but when they can be held on property again, amateur cooks are welcome to collect herbs right from the garden.  

The family adventure garden is the perfect place to keep your distance while the children run and play. Kids love the teepees, rolling hills, and the splash pad. Not your ordinary splash pad, it looks like a real Texas river replete with boulders and waterfalls. There is a Botanical garden representative monitoring the splash pad limiting capacity to twenty people. This leaves plenty of time to explore the rest of the establishment.

The most notable feature here are the five glass conservatory buildings. Each is a tribute to local plants; the fern grotto looks like a plant scene from Jurassic Park. Another explains life in the desert. Photographers flock to this area for some of the best photo ops in town. Keep walking and you’ll see San Antonio’s first water reservoir from 1877, now an amphitheater. Take a short jog up a hill to one of the highest points inside the loop to take in great skyline views.

To get a true picture of Texas’ past, the native Texas area has pioneer homes on property highlighting three areas: South Texas, the Hill Country and the Piney Woods. The setting is remarkable and the landscapes change to mimic the locations. The temperature really does go down as you stroll the Piney Woods. Over 300 species of birds have been sited at South Texas’ birding area. The limestone in the hill country depicts the importance of aquifers to the residents. The Auld home is an 1800 homesite where 7 children were raised. Today, it can be used to host weddings and corporate receptions.

To learn more about the types of landscaping that grows well in San Antonio, the cottage gardening area features Spanish Courtyards and more. Walk through the Wisteria Arbor, or take a seat on a bench and enjoy the shade as you make your way to the great big lawn and the Japanese Garden. Here you’ll discover serenity. The large lawn plays host to children’s story time, with social distancing, of course.

Mask up with the Witte Museum in San Antonio

Indoor Learning
San Antonio’s oldest museum, The Witte Museum, www.wittemuseum.org focuses on the history of San Antonio, from the dinosaurs all the way up to the beautiful gowns of the Fiesta celebration. Before you enter, be sure to notice the dinosaur wears a dinosaur-sized mask. You’ll be greeted with an explanation of the slight changes the museum has made as they welcome the new normal. Typically, an interactive museum, today each guest receives a stylist to press the buttons on the exhibits to learn about the Comanche Hunters, ranchers, and oilmen from Texas’ past. Did you know Texas is the only state in the Union to have Farm to Market roads? They are the result of a 1949 bill guaranteeing funding for the roads that help farmers bring their crops to town. Step into the distant past as you explore the Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery, the first permanent dinosaur gallery in the 90-year history of the Witte. You will explore the animals that lived here more than 110 million years ago.

Merry Go Round at Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Six Flags Fiesta Texas
You’ll feel great visiting this amusement park where every activity is outdoors. Large entry tents now contain walk through thermometers and everyone is asked to wash hands frequently and masks are mandatory throughout the park. When is the last time you remember your kids being the only kids on the merry go round? In many cases, you’ll be the only family on a ride. Rides close often for sterilizing. Six Flags is committed to the following six axioms: 1. Wear your mask 2. Wash your hands 3. Cover your cough 4. Keep your space 5. Sanitize often 6. Have fun. And, no, your mask does not come off while riding a roller coaster!

Get ready for the water at Sea World

SeaWorld and Aquatica
My first visit to SeaWorld www.seaworld.com was the inaugural year, 1988. At that time we saw a show or two and enjoyed a few exhibits. This brand has grown and changed so much since the early days. Most notably they’ve got some great roller coasters now! Educational shows in the Ocean Discovery area teach about dolphins and beluga whales. As SeaWorld fans across the world will attest, the stars of the park are the killer whales who put on a spectacular show and get most of the audience wet. Speaking of the audience, SeaWorld does a great job distancing groups and dismisses by section to keep social distancing practices.

German fare at the Taste of the Seven Seas food event.

As luck would have it, A Taste of Seven Seas food event was taking place during my SeaWorld trip. Culinary adventures from France, Germany, Greece and Italy popped up around the park. We enjoyed crepes while in France, braised beef in Germany, shrimp flatbread in Italy and a lamb burger in Greece. Chefs were on hand to prepare some of the best amusement park fare I’ve ever tasted. A ticket to SeaWorld also includes their water park Aquatica so plan accordingly. There are cabanas, a wave beach, lazy river and some seriously fierce water slides. The Tonga Twister has four slides, two are open air and two are enclosed. The enclosed rides are a thrill for your senses as flowers float by, music blasts through the speakers and colors change rapidly.

Drive Through Zoo
The San Antonio Zoo www.sazoo.org offers Drive Thru Zoo, a one-of-a- kind experience where families can see the zoo while in the comfort, safety, and security of their own vehicle. The experience includes a guided educational audio tour. In fact, guests have not been able to tour the zoo on four wheels since there were carts led by donkeys then later trams.


Tequila-Almond Croissant from La Panderia

Where to eat
History and taste converge on E. Houston street just minutes from the Westin at La Panaderia. www.lapanaderia.com   The historic building is home to the freshest and most popular pastries in town, created by Mexico City-raised owners. Trip Advisor calls this the number one bakery out of over 50 and we can see why. The most popular lunch item is the Mexican Cubana torta bursting with cilantro mayo, chipotle mustard, ham, bacon, swiss cheese, kiolbassa sausage and pickles. The pride and joy, the Tequila-Almond Croissant, was featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Perfectly flaky, with an almond filling and toasted almonds on top, it reminds you of everything great. Think flaky croissant, meets stuffed donut, meets delicious fruit pastry.

For dinner, head over to the Food Hall at the Pearl. As a former brewery operating from 1883 to 2001, Pearl is now a hotel, living and recreational area just outside of downtown. The food hall is all to-go service and offers plenty of seating on the lawn. Mi Roti serves bowls and wraps of authentic Caribbean cuisine. For this build your own concept, we selected the Jerk chicken, coconut rice, and a choice of 12 toppings. The bowl was messy, but deliciously bursting with flavor. The Pearl is located on the Riparian portion of the River Walk, just a casual and beautiful stroll from home sweet home: The Westin, Riverwalk San Antonio.

Book this trip now:

  • “You Deserve It” – whether it was a missed milestone or months of self-isolation, everyone deserves some time away at San Antonio’s ultimate downtown destination. Offer starts at $159 per night and includes two celebratory welcome drinks and a $15 food credit to be used towards “Distance Dining”
  • “Real World Heroes” – for first responders and teachers, The Westin Riverwalk wants to thank you for all you are doing by offering up to 20 percent off upcoming stays with rates as low as $119 per night, including free internet access. Guests must provide ID confirmation at check-in.

www.westinriverwalksanantonio.com

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