Christmas in San Antonio, with snowflakes
November 27, 2016 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I'll be visiting San Antonio for the 1st time, from 12/21-26, to attend my son's Air Force BMT graduation, with (adult) family, and would like some suggestions for vegan-friendly restaurants, in general, and possibly for Christmas, plus other activities.

We're renting an Airbnb about 30 minutes NE of Lackland AFB, so that's our general area, especially since we'll have to return my son to the base every evening. Also, is the Riverwalk worth the hype? Time will be limited on 12/22 and 12/23 due to graduation, but looking for restaurants and any other recommended things to do, especially on Christmas eve - I've heard there's a market near the Riverwalk, anything else? Interests include unique shopping, music, galleries, books, animals (not Sea World or zoos). I read this post from a few years ago that is helpful, but looking for something more family/vegan/Christmas oriented (not religious but we do love Christmas...). Thanks in advance!
posted by j810c to Travel & Transportation around San Antonio, TX (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Riverwalk is kind of a bust, to be honest. It's like San Antonio has convinced the rest of the country that it's a tourist attraction and therefore it's a tourist attraction, but it's kind of mind-boggling that anyone fell for it. That said, Casa Rio is not bad and reasonably priced if you find yourself at the Riverwalk. They have a vegetarian menu on the website (which is all expensive, multi-component meals for some reason) that gives a rundown of animal products (their refried beans are safe). It's hard to tell if there's a vegan option aside from salads. (Maybe the chile relleno, depending on what the batter is and whether there's cheese they're not mentioning.)

The Spanish Governor's Palace is worth the five dollars or so admission, mostly to marvel at how people have projected what they want history to be onto the building. (It was "restored" in the 1930s, but it becomes apparent that they just restored it to their idea of a "palace", rather than anything reflecting reality.) Going to one or more of the missions is worth it. At least one (and I think two) is a functioning parish, if going to mass would be of interest.

I've been to the Alamo three times. Twice there was no line and once there was a massive line to get into the "shrine" (i.e. the building) itself (given the number of airmen with their parents, it might have been a graduation weekend, but isn't every weekend a graduation? I've only been on the weekend, but one time was a rainy late afternoon). You can bypass the line and just wander around the grounds. The grounds are mildly interesting (and the whole thing is free). The building and gift shop are fascinating, again more for how people create and interact with history than for anything there actually is to see (a few guns and bullet holes, if I recall correctly).

There are at least two art museums that look promising, but I've not been to them.

Do keep in mind that many Texans are not very good at driving at the best of times (there will be someone driving 10-15 below the speed limit on the interstate for no apparent reason) and it all goes to hell the minute there's rain or ice, which there may be at Christmas. (On the other hand, it never froze here in Austin last winter, at least in town.)
posted by hoyland at 7:11 PM on November 27, 2016

Best answer: For vegan restaurants, two in particular I can recommend are Green Vegetarian Cuisine (which has two locations but I've only been to the one at Pearl Brewery) and The Cove (which is more of a lunch spot IMO). It seems like a number of highly-rated vegan and raw food restaurants have opened since I left, according to Happy Cow. Green may have a special holiday menu but it is too soon to know. Thai and Indian food are in particular abundance if those can work for you. If I wanted to eat Vegan on the Riverwalk I would trust Acenar. Most Mexican restaurants still made their tortillas with lard as of 2014. Chuy's is a tex-mex chain with good food and is vegan-friendly.

It's difficult to tell where you are staying, but you may be close to the Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's. There is really only one chain supermarket in San Antonio, HEB, but their Central Market location has a wide selection of specialty and organic foods. Another option for organic foods is Sprouts.

For unique shopping, I liked La Villita which is just off the Riverwalk. It is a set of shops which sell local or Mexican-import crafts like pottery, textiles, glasswork, paintings, etc. Along the same lines is El Mercado which IMO is more tourist-trap, but the atmosphere is charming.

If you like boutique shopping, galleries, and local bookstores, I think you should definitely look into the Pearl Brewery and the Blue Star Complex. There is also the King William Art District and the Lone Star Art District aka South Flores. These areas are also where there will be local live music. These are all at various points South of Downtown, and would be good to pair up with visiting some of the Missions.

Museums: the McNay Art Museum is interesting because of the setting, the grounds, and how the art is displayed and how they contrast works across time or across genre. They also host very interesting exhibits. I really like the San Antonio Museum of Art which focuses on American, Latin American, Mediterranean, and Contemporary art and always has an interesting exhibition with local impact.

The Riverwalk will be done up with Christmas lights and is good for people-watching. The Riverwalk Museum Reach extension is a nice walk to SAMA and city parks.

It will almost certainly not be icy. If there is a storm, do check the local news and heed travel advisories, but bad weather is uncommon at Christmas time.
posted by muddgirl at 6:34 AM on November 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

The McNay is a lovely museum and has a nice sculpture garden as well. I really enjoyed spending a day there.
posted by PussKillian at 6:55 AM on November 28, 2016

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