Phil Collins Loves This Texas City, and You Will Too

Deep in the historical city of San Antonio, new developments are brewing.

San Antonio, Texas cityscape at the Riverwalk.

San Antonio’s unique role in U.S. history has made it a city known for cultural richness.

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

San Antonio has had a long record of attracting history buffs since its pivotal role in the formation of the Texas Republic. (Remember the Alamo?) Nowadays, this city is also embracing the new. A preservation and expansion project at the Alamo, which is adding a new exhibit hall and collections building featuring weapons, relics, and original documents, makes it a great time visit or revisit the culturally rich southern Texas city. But that’s not all—San Antonio has also been upping its culinary game of late, with the recently revitalized Pearl District north of downtown serving as home to several newer eateries and trendy bars.

This fall also brings the first four-day Tasting Texas, Food and Wine Festival in October, in partnership with the James Beard Foundation. Visit now and take in San Antonio’s history, culture, and plenty of craft cocktails.

Thompson Hotel Room

The Thompson Hotel manages to be a place of both blissful isolation and bustling activity.

Courtesy of Thompson Hotel

Where to stay in San Antonio

Thompson San Antonio

Book now: Thompson San Antonio

In a glass-clad high-rise tower, the 162-room Thompson San Antonio, which opened last February, is a short walk to downtown attractions like the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts but also pleasantly secluded from them, making it its own oasis. Rooms feel intimate and moody with dark wood furnishings, slate blue walls, leather chaises, and marble baths. The pool and spa (opt for the River Rock massage or Quartz Firming facial) are major bonuses. And don’t miss the chic rooftop bar, the Moon’s Daughters, where the drinking is easy thanks to cocktails like the Yarrows Rosa, made with grapefruit rose vodka and elderflower liqueur, rimmed with nectarberry salt.

Canopy by Hilton

Book now: Canopy by Hilton

Right along the Riverwalk, the sleek and year-old Canopy by Hilton is the place to see and be seen. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the 195 rooms feature a muted palette of whites and grays along with colorful art, textiles, and tilework to pay homage to San Antonio’s culture and history. The onsite restaurant, Domingo, is beside the Riverwalk, with the party continuing upstairs at the swanky, open-air Otro Bar.

Roadmap Brewing Co.

Stop by Roadmap Brewing Co. for some award-winning drinks, like its English Pub Ale.

Courtesy of Roadmap Brewing Co.

Where to eat and drink in San Antonio

Pharm Table

Though it may bill itself as an apothecary kitchen offering super green shots and a ginger-turmeric amuse-bouche, Pharm Table in south downtown near the charming King William Historic District, is a culinary highlight not to miss. The worldly menu from chef-owner Elizabeth Johnson includes Peruvian ceviche, mushroom tacos, and a tamarind and mango powder–laced curry bowl. Sit on the sunny patio and pair it with a Za’atar Sidecar.

Botika

Dig into crispy steamed buns, dragon rolls, and spicy eggplant noodles at Asian Peruvian–inflected Botika, in the Pearl District. At the restaurant’s helm is chef Geronimo Lopez, who previously served as the executive chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America’s third campus in San Antonio.

Sternewirth Tavern and Club Room

In the former Pearl Brewery warehouse, 146-room Hotel Emma’s Sternewirth Tavern and Club Room is equal parts industrial and cozy, thanks to high ceilings, fireplaces, leather couches, and plenty of candles. The 13-page cocktail, wine, spirits, and beer menu includes the signature Three Emmas, made with beer and rose cordial, Botanist gin and grapefruit, and Blanton’s Single Barrel bourbon.

Mi Roti

For a quick bite, head to the Pearl Food Hall, and seek out Mi Roti, which serves up roti wraps stuffed with jerk chicken or curried chickpeas and coconut spinach. Grab one on the way to the airport; you’ll thank yourself later.

Roadmap Brewing Co.

In a few years since its 2018 opening, Roadmap Brewing’s beers have already won some major awards, including a bronze for its English Pub Ale at the 2021 U.S. Beer Open. Don’t miss the Electric Skateboard Session IPA and Freudian Slip N’ Slide Vienna Lager either.

The Alamo at sunrise with the Texas Flag.

With a preservation and expansion project underway at the Alamo, this monument will certainly be memorable.

Photo by charlzalan/Shutterstock

What to do in San Antonio

Jazz TX

Visit: Ticket prices vary, tickets.jazztx.com

Tucked away in the basement of the historic Pearl Brewery, Jazz TX is a live music venue with a rotating calendar of nightly jazz, blues, and Texas Swing shows. Get a front row seat, order a few rounds of whiskey or bourbon cocktails, and stay a while.

The McNay Art Museum

Visit: Tickets are $20 for adults, mcnayart.org/visit

Although it will require a taxi or Uber, it’s absolutely worth making your way to the 22,000-piece collection at the McNay Art Museum, which is housed in two wings, one a Spanish colonial revival style home owned by heiress and avid art collector Marion Koogler McNay, and the other a modern steel and glass pavilion added in 2008. From Renaissance art to works by Monet, Picasso, and Calder to Southwestern art, the breadth of the collection is impressive. For a quick respite, step into the old house’s lovely courtyard, undoubtedly a favorite San Antonio venue for weddings and events.

The Alamo

Visit: Tickets are free but require a reservation, www.thealamo.org/visit

Take the self-guided audio tour of the Alamo to understand its 300-year layered history from Spanish mission to garrison and symbol of the Texas Republic. First established in 1718 by Spanish missionaries, the Alamo, originally known as Mission San Antonio de Valero, was built to convert Indigenous groups to Catholicism and serve as a workspace and home for them. (There are also four other Spanish colonial missions that can be visited along with the Alamo.)

At one point, the Alamo complex comprised 30 adobe buildings. The main chapel and barracks are what still stand today, while the rest of the buildings were destroyed or lost over time as San Antonio grew. The Battle of the Alamo was an 1836 siege by Mexican soldiers who stormed the Alamo, killing hundreds of people, including Davy Crockett, but eventually set the stage for Mexico’s defeat and the emergence of the Texas Republic.

The first piece of a larger Alamo preservation project, a $15 million exhibition hall and collections building to showcase musician Phil Collins’s collection of Alamo artifacts (who knew?), debuts this fall. This new addition to the complex will add 10,000 square feet of exhibit space.

More From AFAR