Food, friends, fun await in San Antonio

Jessica Lee

An escape from the routine certainly seems attractive. A mere 83 miles from Austin lies San Antonio. The historic Alamo city offers plenty to do and serves as a reminder that a vacation doesn’t have to be a plane ride away.

Friday
Take Interstate Highway 35 South straight to San Antonio. No doubt you will hit traffic when leaving Austin, but once you get through that, it’s a straight shot to your weekend vacation.

The easiest way to get that stress-filled week behind you is a relaxing visit to San Antonio’s Japanese Tea Gardens. Originally opened in 1919 in an abandoned quarry, the garden began to fall apart after years of neglect. In 2007, the garden underwent a massive renovation costing over a million dollars. Admission is free, and the very Zen experience is sure to ease your nerves.

After a few hours of watching koi fish and exploring the hidden trails, a beer is definitely in order. A 10-minute drive down I-35 leads to Blue Star Brewery. Every first Friday of the month you can listen to live music on the deck from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. while enjoying an ice-cold pint of locally brewed craft beer.

If you are staying on a budget, eating dinner at Blue Star is the way to go, but if you are looking for really good food and willing to pay a little bit more, head just a little ways up South Alamo Road to Feast. The restaurant opened last year and is praised for its American cuisine fused with Mediterranean elements. Need a suggestion? Try the barbacoa lettuce wraps.

Saturday
San Antonio is known for its authentic Mexican cuisine, and the best way to find it is by asking the locals where they eat. Journalism senior Stephanie De Luna suggests Tommy’s restaurant located off of Interstate 10 in the heart of San Antonio.

“It’s not just a place where you simply go to eat, then leave,” De Luna said. “It’s a great place to sit and enjoy long conversations over coffee and a tasty meal. It’s a genuine place.”

After chowing down on breakfast tacos, it’s time to visit the San Antonio Museum of Art. The museum is located in a historic building once home to the Lone Star brewery company. Student admission is $5. Don’t be surprised if what you thought would be a quick one-hour look at the museum’s exhibits ranging from European to Oceanic art turns into an all afternoon affair.

If you are still in the mood for Mexican food after breakfast (and you still aren’t full from breakfast), Rosario’s Mexican Café y Cantina is the perfect place to grab some enchiladas and a margarita.

Now if you haven’t ventured to San Antonio before, it would be a sin not to visit the Alamo. It’s small and filled with tourists, but admission is free. Plus, the Alamo renders the perfect opportunity to bust out your “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” jokes.

Then because you are already being touristy, a quick jaunt down to the River Walk is definitely in order. Sure, it is lined with not-so-original restaurants such as the Rainforest Café and Hooters, but the concept behind it all is fun (even if the river is smelly), and visitors can purchase inexpensive souvenirs.

The real fun is happening at the Ultimate Mirror Maze directly across from the Alamo. Yes, admission is a bit steep ($11 for a mirror maze?), but running around a room covered in mirrors is surprisingly a lot of fun and, in some cases, terrifying. The only downside is the silly looking plastic gloves you have to wear in order to avoid getting fingerprints all over the mirrors. But you are running around a mirror maze, so your embarrassment level should be pretty low.

By this time, you will be thinking that drinks and cheap (but tasty) eats are a necessity. Rather than spending way too much at a restaurant on the River Walk, drive on over to the Friendly Spot. Much akin to Austin’s Spider House, the Friendly Spot has outdoor seating, a variety of beers and food prices that won’t break the bank. All in all, it’s a relaxing and fun way to end the night.

Sunday
Sadly, the weekend has come to an end. The trek home must be made soon in order to finish forgotten homework assignments and study for tests that will come around all too quickly.

But what’s Sunday without brunch?

Guenther House Restaurant is not to be missed. The plates put “Texas-size” portions to shame, so though you may have to wait for a table, you surely will not leave unsatisfied. And here are two words that surely represent the perfect end to a weekend long vacation: bacon bread.