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The Alamo City is ready to party again. You can see this post-pandemic revival on the River Walk, San Antonio’s beating heart, which is once again bustling with boat tours, twinkling lights, and patios full of locals and tourists sipping on beers and margaritas while music spills out of its restaurants.
Starting this week, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather along the banks of the River Walk for the return of the seventy-sixth annual Texas Cavaliers River Parade, part of the city’s annual Fiesta celebration, which, because of the coronavirus, was canceled in 2020 and postponed until June this year. With a few noticeable absences in the lineup (there won’t be the Oyster Bake or the Fiesta Flambeau Parade), the scaled-down version of the festival will feature events from June 17–27, including the River Parade from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 21. All events will be at full capacity; vaccinated attendees don’t need to wear masks, officials say.
Even if you grew up in the city and have seen this procession dozens of times, the heat and the chaos of the crowds aren’t enough to take away from the excitement of watching fifty colorful, elaborately decorated floats wind their way down the green waters of the river.
As with all things Fiesta, there are plenty of options when it comes to enjoying the parade. Anyone with a lawn chair and a good attitude can scope out standing-room spots along the three-mile route or snag a perch on one of the river’s many bridges. And if you want to go the official route, the Texas Cavaliers sell 18,000 seats each year to benefit their charitable foundation.
Another option? Check out—or revisit—some favorite spots along the River Walk and watch the festivities while enjoying a cold beer and snacking on botanas (or luxuriating on your own private balcony). Here are six favorite River Walk destinations any time of year, all with great river views.
This popular hotel is the dark, sophisticated jewel of the River Walk. With a striking mix of Spanish and Mediterranean decor, the Valencia offers river-view suites. Its terrace, as well as its Argentinian-inspired restaurant, Dorrego, boast similar views.
The Esquire Tavern
With its claims to fame as the oldest bar on the River Walk and the place with the longest wooden bar top in Texas, the Esquire is a staple of the area. The tavern’s downstairs bar is just steps away from the water, and the establishment’s long history (dating back to the end of Prohibition in 1933) informs the moody speakeasy decor as well as the selection of rare spirits.
Mokara Hotel and Spa and La Mansión del Rio
Situated across from each other on the River Walk, these sister properties offer hard-to-beat views of the river and the Cavaliers parade. La Mansión leans into San Antonio’s history with Spanish architecture, exposed brick walls, and French doors that lead out onto private balconies.
Just a hundred feet away, Mokara feels like La Mansión’s more modern cousin. Its simple, elegant decor and 17,000-square-foot signature spa (also accessible to guests of La Mansión) give the boutique hotel an upscale feel. A meal at the on-site restaurant, Ostra, is another great way to take in the parade while indulging in fresh oysters and ceviche.
Canopy by Hilton
The latest hotel to open on the River Walk, Canopy acts as a bridge between old and new San Antonio. Located in the former Civil War–era Alamo Fish Market building, the hotel was designed to maintain some of the structure’s historic features, including the limestone walls that blend smoothly into the surrounding River Walk, while also adding modern touches such as the terrace’s Otro Bar, which offers panoramic views of the city. Nestled underneath the River Walk’s bald cypress trees, Canopy’s restaurant, Domingo, offers a blend of South Texas and Mexican-inspired cuisine just a few feet away from the waterfront.
It’s impossible to talk about the River Walk without mentioning one of its most iconic restaurants. Founded in 1946, Casa Rio was the first restaurant to open on the river, becoming a River Walk mainstay in the decades since. Each year, the restaurant’s spacious, colorful patio and its drink and food specials make it a popular destination for river parade attendees.