Romance on the River
Location: San Antonio
What You’ll Need: Significant Other
My husband and I have an annual tradition of going to San Antonio for the weekend—away from errands, our toddler, and everything else that keeps us too busy when we’re at home. It’s easy and inexpensive enough that even a short visit to the Alamo City feels like a mini-honeymoon. The perfect hotel for our getaway is the Havana Riverwalk Inn, which is situated on a secluded stretch of the River Walk. We love the four-poster canopy beds, vintage furniture, and eccentric twenties colonial theme. Tucked away in the basement is Club Cohiba, which serves up mojitos, tapas, and plenty of Nina Simone.
If we manage to get up early enough to explore the city, we like to start the day by walking the grounds of the recently restored Japanese Tea Garden, with footbridges, koi ponds, and a sixty-foot waterfall. Then we’re off to the McNay Art Museum, in nearby Alamo Heights, where we survey the private collection of Old World and contemporary art and watch brides-to-be have their portraits taken on its serene grounds. If the wait isn’t too long, we enjoy brunch at elegant but casual Paloma Blanca, where the chilaquiles and other interior Mexican dishes are first-rate. Sometimes we make our way to the other side of town to see Mission San José’s ornate Rose Window (according to legend, a carpenter carved the window for his fiancée, Rose, who died at sea on her way to meet him in New Spain). But more often, we skip the long and decidedly unromantic drive to the Mission Trail and spend the afternoon roaming the River Walk.
If we feel like splurging on dinner, there is the pitch-perfect $100 five-course tasting menu at Le Rêve, which is within walking distance of the hotel. But we also adore the charming—and much less expensive—Liberty Bar, an off-kilter (literally) former brothel whose sloping wood floors are a quirky backdrop for New American cuisine made from fresh, often locally grown ingredients (don’t miss the homemade buttermilk pie). I’m a terrible dancer, so I’ve never worked up the nerve to go to the vibrant Azuca Nuevo Latino, where live merengue music and salsa dancing rule, but one day I will. Instead, we usually stroll past the Alamo, which seems even grander when it’s illuminated after dark. Next door is the Menger Bar, whose cherrywood booths are perfect for canoodling.
The morning always begins with huevos rancheros at pretty El Mirador, which is packed with locals and a boisterous after-church crowd. Just a few blocks away is the King William District, where you can pick up a brochure at the Edward Steves Homestead for the self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood’s dreamy Victorian mansions. After admiring the architecture and peeking into the funky local shops, we stop by colorful Rosario’s for icy micheladas. And then—sigh—it’s time to return home to sippy cups, diaper changes, and the (mostly charming) routine of a threesome.
San Antonio Directory
Azuca Nuevo Latino 713 S. Alamo, 210-225-5550 or azuca.net. Live music Fri & Sat at 9:30 p.m.
Edward Steves Homestead 509 King William, 210-225-5924.
El Mirador 722 S. St. Mary’s, 210-225-9444 or elmiradorrestaurant.com.
Havana Riverwalk Inn and Club Cohiba 1015 Navarro, 210-222-2008 or havanariverwalkinn.com. Rates start at $129 a night.
Japanese Tea Garden 3853 N. St. Mary’s, 210-734-0816.
Le Réve 152 E. Pecan, 210-212-2221 or restaurantlereve.com. Closed Sun. Reservations and jacket required.
Liberty Bar 328 E. Josephine, 210-227-1187 or liberty-bar.com.
McNay Art Museum 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave., 210-824-5368 or mcnayart.org.
Menger Bar 204 Alamo Plaza (inside the Menger Hotel), 210-223-4361 or mengerhotel.com.
Mission San José 6701 San José Dr., 210-932-1001.
Paloma Blanca 5800 Broadway, 210-822-6151 or palomablanca.net.
Rosario’s 910 S. Alamo, 210-223-1806 or rosariossa.com.