Viva San Antonio! by Fred Grasso

For those of you planning to attend the upcoming ATA conference in San Antonio, following is a local’s take on things to do and see in downtown San Antonio during your stay, including the Slavic Languages Division banquet, of course.

Slavic Languages Division Banquet: The SLD banquet will be held at Acenar (http://acenar.com/mexican/) from 7:00–9:00 pm on Thursday, November 7. Details are provided below, and an announcement can be found in the summer edition of the SlavFile. Seating is limited, so make your reservation by purchasing tickets as soon as possible.  Acenar is located on the banks of the River Walk within walking distance (.7 mi.) of the conference hotel, so come early and/or stay late to enjoy the riverside ambiance and camaraderie.

Greater San Antonio: More detailed information is available through the ATA conference website http://www.atanet.org/conf/2013/city.htm and will also be available at ATA's hospitality table at the conference. In the meantime, you can check the San Antonio Visitors and Convention Bureau website (http://visitsanantonio.com/english/Browse-Book/Shopping/San-Antonio-s-Official-Visitor-Information-Center) for more information. Specific information on sites of interest, etc., can be found at http://visitsanantonio.com/english/Explore-San-Antonio.

The central business district is relatively compact compared to those of most large cities. The conference hotel is conveniently located on the east side of downtown proper and directly connects to the Rivercenter Mall (http://www.shoprivercenter.com/).

Downtown: The area’s original cultural influence (including Native American of course) is colonial Spanish and can be seen today in a rich Mexican and Hispanic culture reflected in the city’s architecture, language, and cuisine. There are a number of restaurants (including Mexican and Tex-Mex) in the downtown area and along the River Walk (http://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/).

In the early to mid-nineteenth century, central Texas experienced a large influx of settlers from central Europe, mainly of Czech, Slovak, Polish, and German origin. You can experience some of that Germanic influence at Schilo’s (http://schilos.com/). If hearty German fare and authentic root beer is what you crave, then Schilo’s (est. 1917) is the place to go for lunch or early dinner (it closes at 8:30 pm).

The Germanic influence is also evident in the King William Historic District south of downtown. Named after Prussia’s Kaiser Wilhelm, the King William Historic District is where the well-to-do German merchants built their homes. One of the first to build in the area in 1859 was Pioneer Flour Mills founder Carl Hilmar Guenther. The flour mill is still in business, but the former family home situated on the banks of the San Antonio River is now the Guenther House (http://www.guentherhouse.com/), a combination museum, gift store, and restaurant (breakfast and lunch only). Time permitting, it’s a 1.3mile (27-min.) stroll from the conference hotel or the downtown VIA trolley service (http://www.viainfo.net/BusService/Streetcar.aspx) can get you close; otherwise, cab service is available.

No visit to San Antonio is complete without a trip to the Alamo (http://www.thealamo.org/visitors/overview.php). Afterwards, step next door to the living history museum, which is the Menger Hotel (http://mengerhotel-px.trvlclick.com/ ). Established in 1859, the hotel includes the Menger Bar built in 1887, which is an exact replica of London’s House of Lord’s Pub. One of the hotel’s most famous guests played a pivotal role in settling an international conflict involving tsarist Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century.

A 0.3-mile walk east from the conference hotel along Commerce Street takes you away from the central business district at the Alamo to the St. Paul Square Historic District (http://www.sanantonio.gov/historic/Districts/St_Paul_Square.aspx). The name is derived from the Old St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church, which was constructed between 1870 and 1880. Also located in this district is Sunset Station. The structure, built in 1902, then served as a passenger depot for Southern Pacific passenger service between New Orleans and San Francisco.  The building is now a restaurant and entertainment complex.

River Walk: For those who are interested, a leisurely stroll along the San Antonio River is a journey through history. In addition to its restaurants, hotels, and architectural features, there are a number of sites along the River Walk that are of interest. For those who would prefer a boat ride, easy access is also provided by river taxi service from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm daily. Check the daily or 3-day pass options (http://riosanantonio.com/rio-taxi/) if you plan to do a lot of exploring.

The San Antonio Museum of Art (http://www.samuseum.org/) and the Pearl Brewery complex are on the Museum Reach section of the river north of downtown. The Pearl Brewery complex is at the northern terminus of the San Antonio River’s Museum Reach. It was founded in 1881 as the J.B. Behloradsky Brewery and operated under several different names until 2001. The property is currently being redeveloped as a retail, hotel, business, and residential complex (http://atpearl.com/; http://atpearl.com/food/restaurants). The brewery building itself is a Victorian-style architectural gem.

The San Antonio Museum of Art (http://www.samuseum.org/) is also located on the river between the Southwest School of Art and the Pearl Brewery. The Southwest School of Art (https://www.swschool.org/) is housed in the former Ursuline Academy (http://www.sanantonio.gov/historic/Districts/Ursuline_Academy.aspx), which was established in 1851. The arts complex includes a chapel from 1868, a rectory dating from the 1880s, and an academy building constructed in 1910.

For those with some extra time and a rental car, the travel destinations are endless, from the state capitol in Austin (about 90 mi. northeast) and the surrounding Texas hill country to Corpus Christi and the Texas Gulf coast (approx. 160 mi. south).

In addition to the conference, you’ll find San Antonio interesting and enjoyable. The weather in early November is somewhat unpredictable: it can be very pleasant shirt-sleeve weather, or sometimes chilly and/or rainy. However, you can leave the parka at home. The average first freeze date for San Antonio is late November.

See you in San Antonio!