As a native Texan, I've visited San Antonio quite a few times. As a kid, I use to cruise the Riverwalk, compete in tournaments around town, and tour the Alamo, as any a middle-school Texan dutifully does. Frankly, I thought I had the city figured out. It had it’s interesting moments and unique history, but I didn’t consider it the most exciting travel destination and it's been a few years since I’ve visited. But after my recent trip to San Antonio with The Luxury Collection at the newly-restored St. Anthony Hotel, I realize just how wrong I was. Not only does San Antonio have some of Texas’ most interesting historical sites, the food and cocktail scene is exploding, and perhaps even rivals the notoriously delicious culinary offerings of Austin, Houston, and Dallas.
Upon arriving at the St. Anthony, I was immediately struck by the old-world grandeur of the hotel. Located in the heart of downtown San Antonio, a block from the Riverwalk, the hotel is truly a gem of Texas. The lobby is ornamented with impressive chandeliers, some original and some repurposed or custom-made from original lamps and lights around the hotel. In fact, the St. Anthony is one of the few properties designated by the U.S. Government as a historical landmark, which meant the hotel’s restoration had to be meticulously true to the original design of the hotel. Original brass doors welcome visitors and massive tapestries line the walls of rooms in the hotel. And with over 100 years of history, each room has its own unique character and story to tell. My personal favorite story? The tale of the Grand Steinway that sits in the lobby, originally built at the turn of the previous century for the Czar of Russia.
The first night of my stay began with cocktails at The St. Anthony Club, which just so happened to be the spot Southwest Airlines began as a rudimentary drawing on a napkin. After cocktails, we made our way to Biga on the Banks where I enjoyed cuisine true to the state of Texas: venison and quail from local Texas farms. The following day we received private tours of both The St. Anthony Hotel and the Alamo, both intertwined with the history of San Antonio. And if those tours weren’t enough, we even received a tour of a San Antonio favorite, Mi Tierra, a 24-hour Tex-Mex joint decked out in Christmas ornaments and fiesta fare year-round. Yes, you read all of that correctly. And it was amazing. That night, I was lucky enough to attend the grand re-opening celebration of the hotel, which consisted of full string orchestras, vintage Bentleys, and even a plastic globe dancer floating atop the rooftop pool. It was truly an amazing event, and such an honor to witness generations of Texans rediscover the St. Anthony all over again.
The rest of the weekend consisted of more amazing events, most of which I can’t do justice to in a blog post, but here's my best shot: A fantastic presentation from The Order of the Alamo. A private demo from the head instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. A riverwalk cruise. And finally, a five-course meal at Rebelle, the newest offering from restauranteur Andrew Goodman and head chef Stefan Bowers, who personally cooked our meal. It was an incredible dining experience, and Andrew couldn’t have been a more welcoming host. (He even introduced me to a few of his signature cocktails from Haunt, the super-chic new cocktail spot located inside the hotel).
All-in-all, my stay at The St. Anthony Hotel was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one I won’t soon forget. The hotel staff, including hotel general Manager Kevin Thorstenson, were as hospitable as they come and I can’t wait to return to the historic and reinvigorated San Antonio.