Best option for a day trip from Austin to San Antonio?
January 5, 2012 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Best option for a day trip from Austin to San Antonio - without driving?

My wife and I are heading to Austin TX in February as our escape from the harsh Canadian winter. We went last year and loved it, and this year are thinking about making a day trip to San Antonio. The only catch is, we don't drive, so we'd need some form of public transportation (or reasonably priced private transport) to get between the downtowns of the two cities.

The options I've found are:
1) Amtrak - doesn't look feasible due to the once-a-day departure times, and 3.5 hour transit time.
2) Greyhound - 1.5 hour travel time, $30 fare, convenient downtown San Antonio location, but the Austin terminal is a 15 min taxi/45 minute bus ride north of downtown.
3) The Bobcat Tram - I found a post on Flickr, of all places, describing how to take this from Austin to San Antonio. Sounds cheaper but more complicated than the Greyhound, and operates via a transfer in San Marcos, not direct between the two cities. Pickups are more convenient to downtown Austin but 30 minute bus ride away from downtown SA. Runs weekdays only which is not a problem.

So far Greyhound sounds like the best option, but I've had bad experiences with Greyhound in the past, especially in the US. Any recommendations for the best way to travel between the two cities? Things to watch out for (e.g. do the busses fill up and leave people behind on busy days?). Any travel options I've missed - cost is not a huge factor, so I'm open to reasonably priced private transport as well.

(Bonus Q: For San Antonio, we're mostly interested in seeing the Alamo, the Mercado, and the Riverwalk - is this reasonable for a day trip? Is there anything we'd be missing by not spending the night?)
posted by Gortuk to Travel & Transportation around Texas (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Howdy from Austin.

Short of renting a car, your best bet to get to San Antonio is taking the Greyhound Bus (aka the DirtyDog). It's not very glamorous, but it'll get you there. The main bus station in Austin is near Highland Mall (of course it's not downtown, because that would be convenient). The station in San Antonio is pretty convenient to things a tourist would be interested in there. If you want to take the bus, you'll have to get to the bus station in Austin first, and that might be a $25 cab ride, or a (city) bus from downtown.

When you get to San Antonio, the Alamo is very close to the Riverwalk (across the street) and you can take a shuttle from the Alamo/Riverwalk to the Mercado for something like $1.00 per person (each way). The Mercado is awesome. It's one of my favorite places in SA.

Have fun and message me if you need any more help.
posted by ATX Peanut at 11:35 AM on January 5, 2012

I would stay an extra night if I were you. Do the Alamo, Mercado and Riverwalk the first day. The second day you should stroll the recently renovated northern stretch of the Riverwalk known as the Museum Reach. Along the way you can visit the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Pearl Brewery. Save some time to visit the King William historic district and the adjacent Southtown arts district. All of these places are within walking/cycling distance of downtown (and there are B-cycle rental stations all over the area). Stay at the Havana or Hotel Indigo (both nicely situated between the older Riverwalk and the Museum Reach, and the Havana has a great bar called Ocho). Eat at the Monterey on South Saint Mary's (that is really a must whether you stay one day or two) and at any restaurant in the Pearl Brewery. Drink at the Esquire Bar on Commerce. Have a root beer float at Schilo's Delicatessen. The bar at the top of the Tower of the America's is a great place to have a drink too; you don't have to pay the entrance fee if you are going to the bar/restaurant at the top. Have fun, San Antonio is a great city.
posted by smokingloon at 12:47 PM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you do go greyhound, be aware that the station in San Antonio is in a sketchy part of downtown. If you arrive in the evening, make sure you're getting a cab.
posted by Gilbert at 4:10 PM on January 5, 2012

What about the Texas Flyer?
posted by Addlepated at 4:45 PM on January 6, 2012

Sorry, the Texas Eagle. But still - passenger train!
posted by Addlepated at 4:46 PM on January 6, 2012

Response by poster: Addlepated - I mentioned that in my question. According to the online schedule Amtrak only runs once a day, leaving Austin at 7:30 PM and San Antonio at 7 AM. That's really terrible timing for a day trip in my direction, since it would mean two nights in SA. Not to mention Amtrak apparently takes 3.5 hours for what would be a 1.5 hour bus trip. I love the idea of a train but it doesn't look like that's a valid option right now. Sounds like maybe there will be commuter rail in the future which would be wonderful.

Gilbert - how sketchy is "sketchy"? SF Tenderloin/Vancouver East End sketchy, or standard downtown-by-the-bus-terminal sketchy? If I'm understanding the SA Greyhound terminal location correctly (Martin & N St Mary's) that seems to be right downtown, in a fairly well developed area.
posted by Gortuk at 9:04 AM on January 7, 2012

Wups, sorry - I didn't realize you were talking about the same thing. There are also some flights from AUS to SAT. I imagine these days they're around $200 per, so probably not very reasonable.

Your San Antonio itinerary sounds very reasonable. You can eat at Mi Tierra, which is right next to El Mercado. It's not the absolute best Tex-Mex or Mex-Mex you can get in town, but the atmosphere is lively, it's open 24 hours, there are often mariachis playing, and you can grab a goodie bag of stuff from their panaderia on the way out.
posted by Addlepated at 4:51 PM on January 9, 2012

Oh and forgot to mention, you can get some outrageous bargains at El Mercado. Pueblo style dresses (which are back in vogue, the 80s return) are $70+ in boutiques. You can get the same dresses for $20 there. And guayaberas are cheap, too. Not as cheap as going to Mexico, but that's a dicey proposition these days.
posted by Addlepated at 4:53 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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