The city of San Antonio literally sprang from the banks of its river and everything spreads outward from there in all directions—north, south, east, and west. (Neighborhoods are often broken down into more specific regions such as “uptown central.”) Visitors to the city typically stick to the downtown/north and north central areas, where much of the history and culture of the city is on display, or they gravitate toward the northwest side of town - the direction in which the city is expanding—where SeaWorld, Fiesta Texas, La Cantera Resort, and other family attractions are located. While older homes and beautiful examples of early architecture can be seen in other parts of the city, they have not experienced the same kind of development as the northwest, and are probably not going to be on your list of things to see. For a virtual tour of three of San Antonio’s neighborhoods—Downtown/ River North, Eastside, and Westside—click on www.saculturaltours.com
This is the heart of the city and its entertainment district, although you will find some residential properties in the form of lofts and high-rise apartments. Historical and cultural attractions—the River Walk, the Alamo, the Spanish missions—as well as restaurants, hotels, and nightlife make downtown a required stop on any visit to San Antonio. Many visitors tend to stay here as well at some of the hotels on or near the River Walk.
Alamo Heights/Terrell Hills/Olmos Park
The older neighborhoods of these three incorporated cities in the north central part of San Antonio are still considered some of the most desirable real estate in town. The area offers culture—The McNay Art Museum, The Witte Museum—shopping—North Star Mall and The Alamo Quarry Market, as well as upscale specialty boutiques—and family attractions, like the San Antonio Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Garden, and the San Antonio Zoo. At the end of the day, drive by these stately old neighborhoods and see why, like 90210, these are coveted zip codes.
King William Historic District/Southtown
Although you will find older homes of historical significance in King William, it’s also one of the hippest neighborhoods in the city and home to members of San Antonio’s literati, like author Sandra Cisneros, poet Naomi Shihab Nye and her photog husband Michael Nye. King William is close to downtown, but far enough to feel set apart. You can feel the creative vibe in the nearby Southtown art community. If you happen to be around, don’t miss First Friday, a monthly street party showcasing local artists and crafts people.
When most cities talk about “revitalization,” they’re usually referring to the downtown area which has fallen into neglect and disrepair. That is certainly not the case for San Antonio, where careful planning and foresight have ensured the success of downtown. Here, the past half dozen years have seen the revitalization of the Deco District north of downtown, where public and private entities are working to restore it to its former glory days. Take a drive through the neighborhood and see the eclectic art deco buildings. It’s absolutely worthwhile to catch a performance at the district’s showpiece, the Woodlawn Theatre, where in 1960 the Duke himself, John Wayne, made a personal appearance for the premier of The Alamo. Still not one of the best neighborhoods in town, it’s not a good idea to hang around after dark.
One of the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Antonio, The Dominion was established in the early ‘80s as the city began its northwesterly expansion. (Several local celebrities live in The Dominion, where the more expensive homes sell in the millions.) A short drive on I-10 passed Fiesta Texas will take you to this gated community and country club, which hosts the annual PGA Senior gold events, although you won’t actually be able to drive through the neighborhood without an invitation. Gaze at the wide, tree-lined boulevards (these are not ordinary streets), and keep going until you reach some of the nearby attractions—Scenic Loop Café, Fiesta Texas, The Shops at La Cantera or The Rim open-air mall.