Tuesday, May 10, 2016

San Antonio On a Shoestring

San Antonio serves up fun for even its most budget-conscious fans. There's something for everyone from architecture aficionados, fitness fanatics, savvy shoppers to the most lofty highbrow.  Luckily for us, Tim and I had time to try a little of everything in the four and half days of our stay. 

Several of the city's museums offer free admission Tuesday afternoons.  Perfect timing for our arrival in San Antonio last Tuesday!  

We stayed at the KOA campground which was shady and spacious.

I left Tim to deal with all the chores that must be done to tether the Dawntreader to its campsite while I explored a couple of them. 

The Witte Museum

Because its free admission began the earliest (3 p.m.), I chose to visit the Witte Museum first.  This natural history museum has kid-friendly interactive science displays.  However, I enjoyed its South Texas Heritage Center with the accounts of Tejano freighters, vaqueros, Indians and even chili queens.  Don't ask!  Just be sure to visit this little gem!

San Antonio Museum of Art
Upper right, Blue Bonnets at Late Afternoon by Robert Julian Onderdonk;
Lower right, Mission San José by Jean Louis Theodore Gentile;
Lower left, San Antonio River by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk

I'd hoped to see bluebonnet wildflowers along the highway as we traveled through Texas, but the closest I could come was the painting, Blue Bonnets at Late Afternoon, at the San Antonio Museum of Art.  I'm a new fan of San Antonio artists, Robert Jenkins Onderdonk and his son Robert Julian Onderdonk.  There was a beautiful series of paintings by Jean Louis Theodore Gentile about San Antonio's missions as well.  This small but impressive collection of Greek and Roman sculpture, Asian, Spanish Colonial, European, American and Contemporary art has free admission on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.  

The Briscoe Western Art Museum
Upper left, Santa Anna's sword,
Upper right, Pancho Villa's saddle
Bottom right, Wells Fargo stagecoach
Bottom left, spurs collection

After a quick bite to eat, Tim and I headed downtown to The Briscoe Western Art Museum, again free from 4 to 9 p.m., which is located on the banks of San Antonio's famed River Walk.  There we found paintings, sculptures and photography of the West as well as artwork that defies categorization like the display of cowboy spurs (bottom left above).  If you want to see Santa Anna's sword, a saddle that belonged to Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, or a replica of an old Wells Fargo stagecoach, this is the place to visit.  Even Tim who admits to an adversion to art museums enjoyed this one. 

Coming Home to the Briscoe sculpture outside the Briscoe Museum depicts a bronze vaquero directing longhorn cattle on a cattle drive.

Lured by the bright lights that lined the San Antonio River, we climbed down the steps to join the revelers on the River Walk.  Perhaps revelers is not the right word to call them. After all, the River Walk, even at 8:30 p.m. is a family-friendly place. We strolled along with the rest and, when we happened upon a Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream store, we couldn't resist cones of Cherry Garcia (for me) and Cookie Dough (for Tim).

Biking along the River Walk extension

Daytime is the best time to explore the River Walk in its entirety. A 2013 expansion project lengthened the Walk to extend 30 miles from the museums around Brackenridge Park to the southernmost San Antonio mission, Mission Espada.  We only logged 20 miles round-trip on our bikes, but avid cyclists bike the whole distance and even take the spurs that lead to Mission Concepcion, Mission San José and Mission San Juan.  The concrete trail is wide enough to accommodate hikers, bikers and joggers, with ample shady benches and parking at trailheads.  There are also plenty of drinking fountains, (a necessity!) along the way. 

El Mercado

Located downtown on Commerce Street, El Mercado is allegeably the largest Mexican market in the United States. Restaurants, specialty shops, street vendors, artists and musicians offer authentic treats and wares to those with money to spend. I found folk art and crafts that, had I a little more space in the RV, I would have given them a good home.

Park's bandstand and two of the homes

Friday evening we grabbed a walking tour brochure at the entrance to the King William District, a preservationist neighborhood with a wide variety of architectural styles.  Definitely not your cookie-cutter subdivision!

Fried Oreos

A street fair was in progress.  People in the South fry everything according to my 'Bama alumna daughter.  We couldn't pass up the chance to taste a Fried Oreo.  Oh, my!  Was it ever good!  

The Friendly Spot Ice House

We also happened upon The Friendly Spot, a neighborhood pub in an old icehouse.  Before refrigeration, icehouses were ice-cooled neighborhood cold-storage centers.  Perishables were stored there, and beer, too.  When technology made them irrelevant, the beer and the name were kept and the icehouses evolved to become local bars.

Bus stop outside the KOA campground

One final tip:  Catching rides on the Via public transport buses saved us the $10 fee to park downtown. There was a bus stop right in front of the KOA Campground where we stayed. We'd choose to stay there again, if we ever return to San Antonio.

And believe me--we want to!


  1. Nice review - I'll have to put it on our list. Sounds like our kind of place.

  2. We've heard great things about San Antonio. One day we will visit. It's good hearing from you.