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Riverwalk, San Antonio Texas

Article by Ted Gresham
Photography by George Hosek

Spanish charm and old world romance merge along San Antonio’s foremost attraction, Paseo Del Rio, the River Walk. Discover Texas with a twist of lime, the scent of sizzling fajitas and the strum of a Spanish guitar. What better place to discover the best of Texas’ multi-cultural heritage than in the shadow of the Alamo?

Paseo Del Rio is a year-round destination. Summers are a bit warm but winters are mild and inviting. The calendar is packed with events which draw visitors from around the world.

Of course there’s plenty of  ¡Tejano Extravaganza! Mexican holidays Cinco de Mayo in May and El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) in November are book-ends for a summer and fall packed with fun in a rainbow of flavors.

San Antonians love to celebrate and celebrate they do below the noisy streets of the city along the banks of the river. Few times of the year are more exhilarating to visit San Antonio than the Christmas season when Piñatas, angels and a hundred twenty-two thousand lights ignite the holiday season.

 

A stroll along the sidewalks at lunch or dinnertime presents a massive challenge. All kinds of wonderful restaurants tempt the palate with incredible aromas. Visitors can meander through various outdoor patios to catch glimpses of all the incredible cuisine just waiting to be feasted upon. Do try to keep your fingers back, though!

Don’t think there’s only Tex-Mex, either. There is plenty of that, of course, and Barbque, and even burgers, but don’t stop there. German, Greek, Lebanese, Seafood or Pasta, what’s your pleasure?

Many of the restaurants offer not only excellent service but exquisite views of the river and ambiance unmatched anywhere in the Lone Star State. Some of the best places include Michelino’s Italian, Mi Tierra Café and Bakery, Ibiza Mediterranean Patio and, of course, The Republic of Texas.

Tempting the palate is only one of many pleasures up and down the River Walk, Along the walk besides dining visitors always find plenty of shopping and sight-seeing. Quaint footbridges cross the river, excellent places to pause, look, and fill up a camera’s flash disk with photos.

 
 
A whole lot of doin’s are found right at river level, not the least of which is the magnificent Aztec, part theater, part restaurant, total experience! Up steps in most directions there’s a week’s worth of escapades within walking distance. Of course there’s the Alamo, shrine to Texas Independence. Take the steps next to the Hyatt and cross the street.

Across from the Alamo there’s the Plaza Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Not far from the Alamo to the East there’s the Imax theater where the film “Alamo – The Price of Freedom” tells the story of Texas Independence in a very Texas sized way. River Center Mall is nearby and just south of there is the Convention Center and Tower of the Americas, the best bird’s eye view in town.

 
As the sun settles west, evening comes quickly along the River Walk. The tempo changes but the city doesn’t lose a beat. The sound of children’s giggles and mom’s rustling shopping bags fade.

In their place comes the quiet shuffle of couples taking an evening stroll, strands of Jazz or Latino rhythms, and laughter from tables along the river. Stars may be shining overhead but the night has just begun. Locals, hotel guests and lingering tourists mingle in more than a dozen night-time haunts along the Paseo.

Young revelers hip, hop or Jazz their way long the soft-lit walkways to places like Club Rive, Coyote Ugly. Jim Cullum’s Landing and Howl at the Moon are two Jazz joints that keep the night alive.

 
 
Make all the rounds or simply order up a cool draft, sit by the river, enjoy the evening and watching the dining boats drift by.The River Walk is the hub of a great wheel. The city turns on the circuitous flow of the San Antonio river and reaches out across the flatlands of Texas like spokes on a Mexican cart wheel. Dozens of hotels of all types from the ultra-modern to the classic and historic rise above the river or within walking distance of De Paseo.

For history charm try the Crockett Hotel or the Incredible Emily Morgan. The best known names in lodging also have locations on the river, including the Hyatt, the Westin, Sheraton, and the Marriott River Center. Family budgets might prefer the Holiday Inn or the Drury. These hotels are right on the river. Dozens more lodging options are within walking distance.

Speaking of walking, you won’t need your car when you visit Down Town San Antonio. The best place to stroll, of course, is along the River itself, tucked away below street level. The River Walk is fully accessible, too, check with a travel guide or hotel to locate the access points from above.

 
If Paseo Del Rio seems too much to take in on foot, grab a tour boat. Boat landings are located all along the river. For half an hour you’ll be entertained by the boat operator’s lively dialog while you pick and choose the best spots to visit once you’re back on land.

Up at street level the San Antonio’s Vía transit system trolleys help take a load off too as they provide easy access to Market Square, hotels or other downtown attractions.

It’s all there at the River Walk, the centerpiece of magnificent San Antonio, one of the best places anywhere to experience the best Texas has to offer. Pack comfortable shoes, casual clothing and set aside plenty of time to enjoy days of fun and adventure along the Paseo Del Rio!

 
The Official Website of the San Antonio River Walk

The Paseo del Rio Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1968 to promote and support the San Antonio River Walk, the number one tourist attraction in Texas.

The association accomplishes this through the production of special events along the River Walk throughout the year and through the publication of Rio Magazine, a monthly visitor magazine distributed to 35,000 each month.

On another level, the Association serves as an advocate, facilitator, and moderator among the business, civic, and governmental communities on matters concerning the River Walk.

 
Riverwalk Attractions

Aztec On The River, 201 E. Commerce Suite 300, 210-227-3930 - The Aztec On The River is San Antonio's newest, most exciting attraction for kids of all ages. This historic movie palace has been meticulously restored to its former grandeur, a giant iWERKS Extreme Screen, plus state-of-the-art sound systems. On the River Walk level, enjoy unique shopping and dining, or purchase tickets for a leisurely river cruise.

Howl at the Moon, 111 W. Crockett #201, 210-212-4770 - a singing, clapping, stomping, dance-on-the-piano, rock N roll dueling piano show! It’s part concert, part piano bar & all centered around audience interaction & 2 baby grand pianos.

Rainforest Cafe, 110 E. Crockett, 210-277-6300 - No other dining experience is quite as wild as Rainforest Cafe. With state-of-the-art decor and animatronics, it's a real jungle in here!

Rio San Antonio Cruises, Inc., 315 E. Commerce, 800-417-4139 - Committed to providing visitors to the San Antonio Riverwalk a cruise ride they will love on beautiful, safe, fully accessible, environmentally sound cruise vessels.

Rivercenter Mall, 849 E. Commerce, 210-225-0689 - Located on the River Walk. Rivercenter Mall houses many shops and restaurants. With a large list ranging from Foley's, Dillards, Sun Glass Hut, Victoria Secrets, Bath and Body Works, Gap, Tony Romas, IMAX Theater, Rivercenter Comedy Club, Hooter's, and so much more.

 
Riverwalk Hotels & Motels

Crockett Hotel, 320 Bonham St, 210-225-6500

Crowne Plaza San Antonio River Walk, 111 Pecan St., 210-775-6869

Drury Hotel, 201 N. St. Mary's Street, 210-212-5200

Emily Morgan, 705 E Houston St, 210-225-5100

El Tropicano Hotel - Holiday Inn, 110 Lexington Ave., 210-223-9461

Fairmount Hotel, 401 S. Alamo, 210-224-8800

Hotel Valencia, 150 E. Houston, 210-227-9700

Hotel Contessa, 306 W. Market St., 210-229-9222

Homewood Suites-Riverwalk, 432 Market, 210-222-1515

Holiday Inn River Walk, 217 N. St. Mary's, 210-224-2500

Hilton Palacio Del Rio, 200 S. Alamo, 210-222-1400

Hyatt Regency San Antonio, 123 Losoya, 210-222-1234

La Mansion Del Rio, 112 College St, 210-518-1000

Marriott Rivercenter Hotel, 101 Bowie, 1-800-642-4462

Marriott  Riverwalk Hotel, 889 East Market Street, 210-224-2754

Menger Hotel, 204 Alamo Plaza, 210-223-4361

Riverwalk Plaza Hotel, 100 Villita Street, 210-225-1234

Watermark Hotel and Spa, 212 W. Crockett, 866-605-1212

Westin River Walk Hotel, 420 W. Market St., 210-224-6500

Wyndham Vacation Resorts, 224 Dwyer suite 204, 210-228-2900

 
Riverwalk Restaurants

Acenar, 146 E. Houston, 210-222-2362

Boudro's, 421 E. Commerce, 210-224-8484

Casa Rio Restaurant, 430 E. Commerce, 210-225-6718

County Line Bar-B-Q, 111 W. Crockett #104, 210-229-1941

Drink Coffee and Wine, Inc., 200 Navarro, 210-858-5949

Dick's Last Resort, 406 Navarro, 210-224-0026

Flemings Steakhouse, 255 E. Basse Rd. Suite 200, 210-824-9463

Hard Rock Cafe, 111 West Crockett Street, 210-224-7625

Hyatt/Chaps, 123 Losoya, 210-222-1234

Hooters River Walk, 849 E. Commerce, 210-229-9464

Iron Cactus, 200 River Walk, 210-224-9835

Joe's Crab Shack / River Walk, 517 N. Presa, 210-229-1010

Jim Cullum's Landing123 Loyosa Street210-736-5109

Little Rhein Steak House, 231 S. Alamo, 210-225-2111

Landry's Seafood House, 517 N. Presa St., 210-229-1010

Mexican Manhattan, 110 Soledad, 210-223-3913

Mad Dogs, 123 Losoya, 210-222-0220

Original Mexican Restaurant, 102 W. Crockett #800, 210-224-9951

Omni La Mansion /Las Canarias112 College St. 210-518-1000

Paloma's River Walk, 215 Losoya,  210-212-0566

 
Riverwalk Restaurants

Paloma Blanca Mexican Cuisine, 5800 Broadway #300, 210-822-6151

Paesanos River Walk111 W. Crocket #100210-227-2782

Rio Rio Cantina421 E. Commerce210-226-8462

Schilo's, 424 E. Commerce, 210-223-6692

Saltgrass Steak House, 502 River Walk, 210-222-9092

The Republic of Texas Restaurant & Nightclub, 526 River Walk, 210-226-6256

Texas Land & Cattle, 201 N. St. Marys, 210-222-2263

 

 

HISTORY OF THE RIVERWALK
Article by Merrill Baum, Photography by George Hosek

1. Visiting the River Walk in San Antonio is to witness history. It is the development of decades of planning and the cooperation of many diverse industries. Engineers, city planners, development companies, architects, landscapers, and fundraisers corroborated to produce a masterpiece of flood control.

Because of the substantial growth of the city, by the late 1800’s, flooding became a serious problem and engineers determined a major problem to San Antonio. A series of ditches were created to avert the water by the San Antonio Office of the Ditch Commission.

On September 9, 1921 rain inundated Houston Street with nine feet of water and floods caused the death of many people. The commission was replaced with the Office of Street Cleaning and Sanitation. The major plan that started what is now the River Walk began in the 1920’s.

Initially the San Antonio river was to be drained, but Emily Edwards, the wife of one of the city planners organized a protest and stopped the drainage plan and the San Antonio Conservation Society was founded.

2. A channel was built on the site of the old City Market House and plans to drain the river bend for a storm sewer was stopped by the Society. They put on several events including rides on the river to show the commissioners the value of the river.

 
3. The city of San Antonio then bought the surrounding land, which is now the downtown area, the Alamo Plaza, and the Olmos Dam was completed in 1927. Shops where proposed by Robert H.H. Hugman, but further development was prevented due to the Depression.

The WPA was put on the project to continue development during this crisis. Once economic stability returned, so the plans resumed to create Paseo Del Rio, The River Walk. Jack White, a hotel owner, proposed the beautification project for the river and the Mexican Businessmen’s Association held the first event on the river, “A Venetian Night” in 1936.

A special election was held to approve the bonds to fund the already existing budget of the WPA. 1941 presented the second event a river carnival and a parade after dark. The walkways and stone stairs that access to the street level were built and the walk was extended to the planned site of the Tropicano Hotel, by 1945. A year later, San Antonio felt a minimal effect from what could have been a major flood prevented by the Olmos Dam and the bypass channel. The decade of the 1950’s brought the tourists.

4. Congress upheld the proposed San Antonio Channel Improvement Project, which included thirty-one miles of river and it four tributaries. The landscaping along the river was begun by Robert Frazer, director of Parks and Recreation, which included banana palms, exotic plants and native vegetation. That year, Casa Rio Restaurant opened setting the trend for the future.

 
5. Park rangers were established to secure the River Walk and the Tourist Attraction Committee was set-up by David Straus as a department of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. The Marco Engineering Company of California, a key designer of Walt Disney’s Disneyland, was hired by the city and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to develop a theme and bring the River Walk to a major national attraction.

The River Walk District was established in 1962 governed by the River Walk Advisory Commission. Landscaping renovation was completed with more than 17,000 plants, trees, vines, and assorted vegetation. La Sirena opened at 107 West Commerce, which include a river level veranda. The Three Wives Antique Shop also opened in what is now the Hilton Hotel. A year later the Landing opened and future expansion and development of the Paseo del Rio is proposed, supported by a bond election.

With the extension of the San Juan Dam, the further development of the flood control plan is in place. The Venice Restaurant opened at 231 S. Broadway under the Billboard Theater. La Paloma del Rio opened a year later at 215 South Broadway.

6. 1968 was a major development year, the Hilton Palacio Del Rio opened along with the Hotel La Posada and the construction of the convention center complex on the extension of the River Walk.By 1969, the first Paseo del Rio Association’s Great Country River Festival is held and the Stockman Restaurant is opened at 409 E. Commerce.

The new decade brought in the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the river flood control development. The landscaping development wins the Army Corps of Engineering’s Award of Merit. Plans and cooperation continue the river development and at the end of the decade brings the fall of the San Juan Dam, the opening of the Marriott Hotel, the Riverside Hotel, and rental apartments become available in the renovated Losoya Building.

The 1980’s brought the Hyatt Hotel and the completion of the Paseo del Alamo linking the River Walk and the Alamo Plaza. The pedestrian bridge is opened at Johnson Street. Late in the decade the Holiday Inn River Walk is opened and the Nueva Street Dam and Marina are finished and the San Antonio tunnel projects began. At the close of the decade, the Mall, Dillards, and the Marriott Rivercenter are completed. The Original Mexican Restaurant reopened at 528 River Walk.
 

 
7. The last decade of the Century brought the first Carnival del Rio, the Southbank project lured Country Line, Fat Tuesday, the Hard Rock Café’, Pesano’s, Starbuck’s, and Howl at the Moon. Closing the decade and the Century, the Havana River Walk Inn on Navarro, the International Center on South St. Mary, Drury Lane on North St. Mary, and the Adams Mark Hotel in the National Bank of Texas Building on the river are opened, Mexican Manhattan on Soledad , and the tunnel project is completed.

The new Century promises more events, restaurants, and shops with continuing improvements to the River Walk. The Westin Hotel opened on South St. Mary, the Civic Center Plaza at Main and Commerce was dedicated, Landry’s opened a restaurant in the Riverside Building, the Hotel Valencia opened at St Mary and River, the Water Mark Hotel and Spa opened across from the La Mansion Del Rio, and the Rive Walk was extended and dedicated from Presidio Plaza to North St.

Mary on the Crockett Street side of the river, from Convent to Lexington, and from Houston to Convent. The decade of events featured the first PDRA Mardi Gras Night Parade giving the River Walk a future of excitement and enjoyment for tourists and residents.

   

 

 

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