Road Trips

Historic Hotels in San Antonio

Those pursuing an authentic Texas experience may find it in historic San Antonio, an extraordinary blend of Spanish, Mexican, German and American influences. Its attractions include the Alamo, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and the Spanish Governor’s Palace. The museums, such as the San Antonio Museum of Art, have appealing collections, some of which focus on art in Texas History. The downtown has many stunning examples of Art Deco architecture as well as Romanesque revival, Spanish Colonial revival and other historic styles. The King William district is also interesting particularly if you enjoy Victorian Architecture. Many of its grand homes were built in the late 19th century. SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas are fun venues for all ages. One of San Antonio’s highlights is the River Walk, a 3-mile-long path along the San Antonio River, which is full of great sites, hotels and restaurants. Historic Market Square also has some appealing restaurants and shopping opportunities.

I absolutely love the historic hotels here and have stayed there many times over the years. My two favorites are The Menger and The Emily Morgan hotels. Both are only steps from the Alamo.

The Menger Hotel was built on the site of Menger’s brewery. It was the firsthotel of its kind in Texas and in its heyday was considered the one of the finest hotels west of the Mississippi. Teddy Roosevelt recruited his rough riders for the Spanish American War in the Menger Bar. Its tally of famous guests includes Sam Houston, Generals Lee and Grant, and Presidents McKinley, Taft, and Eisenhower. I especially enjoy the beautifully restored 19th century wing with Victorian-style guestrooms and suites, and vintage public areas loaded with unique antique furniture and art. The Menger Bar is a must even if you are not staying here. It is the oldest continuously running bar in Texas. Some of the rooms and suites offer balconies with views of the Alamo or the exquisite courtyard garden.

Over one Christmas, we stayed in the Babe Ruth suite, which has a lovely view of the courtyard. During the off-season, Ruth and some fellow Yankees barnstormed through Texas. Photos of his visit hang in the room. Over another Christmas, we stayed in a suite with a balcony overlooking Alamo Plaza. Both suites are in the Victorian wing.

We have also stayed in newer parts of the hotel. These rooms offer views of the Alamo, which are particularly striking at night. Alamo Park and mission complex are fully lit up.

The Gothic-Revival style Emily Morgan Hotel was built in 1924 as the Medical Arts Building on the Alamo Plaza. An array of gargoyles, each depicting a medical ailment, line the carved stone exterior. It reopened as a hotel in 1984. The public spaces are a mix of contemporary and historic style. We really enjoyed the Oro Restaurant and Bar. The Bistro has a contemporary feel with soaring ceilings and spacious tables with ample seating. We stayed in a suite just below the tower with great views of the city as well as The Alamo.

Two other historic hotels on our agenda in the near future are The Crockett Hotel and The Havana Riverwalk Inn. The Crockett was built in 1909 near where Davy Crockett and the vastly outnumbered band of Texas settlers made their last stand in the Alamo, and held off Santa Ana’s army for 13 days. The rooms have great views and are spacious many with unique floorplans and architectural features.

The Alamo is the most famous, and perhaps best preserved mission in the area, and the only one in the city’s downtown, but many missions can be visited in a drive through San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

The River Walk in the center of the city is always bustling. The Havana Riverwalk Inn is located in a more peaceful section, about a 10-minute walk from the main River Walk entertainment district. This is a great spot where you can walk out of your hotel, head to the River Walk, and not feel crowded by the throngs of visitors. The Havana’s 27 spacious rooms have a historic sensibility with handsome antique beds and armoires. On the walls are vintage photographs of old San Antonio.

We have also stayed in vacation rentals in the King William district and thoroughly enjoy the area and the part of the river which drifts through that part of town. In the early morning the canal is serene with chirping birds and ducks drifting by. South Saint Mary’s Street and South Presa Street border the district, and boast unique shopping and dining choices. There plenty of historic residences to choose from on VRBO and Airbnb if you want a more individual experience in a quiet and charming neighborhood a short distance from the crush of downtown.


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