San Antonio, TX
I’m in a city that is one of the top tourist destinations in the United States. Well known for its richly preserved heritage and a river that everyone loves. But this river, more than a unique attraction, is what brought people here thousands of years ago and to this day remains a constant source of inspiration which you can experience through history told, art and music can join, and of course, the food. It’s where people have always been on a mission to protect the city they love. I’m in San Antonio, Texas.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Located in the Southside of San Antonio, Carnitas Lonja is a no-frills taqueria that serves only one thing – carnitas. This authentically Mexican dish involves cooking pulled pork for three hours before letting it rest for two more. And you can bet that in a state known more for TexMex and barbacoa, Chef Alejandro Paredes has made sure the only item on his menu is the best around. And just how much has he perfected the art of carnitas? Well, in 2020 he was named a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Texas. You’ve got to see just how soft and delicious these carnitas are.
While strolling along the pathways that stretch along the San Antonio River is the most popular method of enjoying the River Walk, there’s now a new way thanks to Sarah Neal, the owner of Mission Kayak. After a car accident forced this air force veteran into early retirement, she found that kayaking helped not just her physical health but her mental health as well. And with living in a city known for its river, it only made sense to bring that love to visitors and locals alike. Listen as Neal tells Samantha the history of the River Walk and how a few prominent women stopped the city from turning it into a paved-over road!
Kayaking was originally banned from the River Walk in the 1970s. Because of the ongoing pandemic and the downtick in tourism, San Antonio wanted to find ways to encourage locals to come back. When Neal first opened up reservations for Mission Kayak, they sold out within 5 hours.
100 Auditorium Cir
San Antonio, TX 78205
San Antonio Mission Reach
If you had visited Mission Reach a decade or so ago, this 8-mile stretch of river would’ve looked a lot different than what you see today. Once a giant drainage ditch, it is now a public green space with a riparian woodland ecosystem, thanks to the ongoing Mission Reach Program, which handles one of the country’s largest Urban Ecosystem Restoration projects. Today there are over 16 miles of biking and hiking trails for both locals and visitors to enjoy.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Mission Reach Program has replanted over 300 native species of trees, grasses, and wildflowers to help return this section of the river back to its natural state.
San Antonio Mission Reach
8510 Mission Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78214
Mission San Jose
The reason San Antonio named the newest section of the River Walk “Mission Reach” is that it connects four of the five missions that make up the San Antonio Missions. The most famous, The Alamo, is Downtown but the rest are spread along this stretch of river. One of those is the 300-year-old Mission San Jose, which at one time housed over 300 inhabitants and was nicknamed the Queen of Missions. Today you can meet with and hear stories from the very descendants of this community, like couple Epifanio and Gloria Hernandez, whose ancestors took part in building the mission itself.
From about March to October, drive forty minutes from San Antonio, and you’ll find yourself looking down an ancient sinkhole at the 100-foot crescent-shaped entrance to what seems like an unassuming cave. Don’t go in. Instead, wait until 7:30 PM and watch for the air begin to move. Soon you’ll see what and who makes this cave so special.
WHEN YOU GO
We mean it when we say don’t go inside Bracken Cave. The ammonium alone will kill you!
Bracken Cave Preserve
San Antonio, TX 78266
There’s a reason San Antonio native Chef Elizabeth Johnson has been called a “Food as Medicine Guru” by the James Beard Foundation. Her mindful approach to Pharm Table not only focuses on using food as medicine, it extends to being conscious of keeping things local and sustainable. Her aim is to support small businesses and keep the economy that her restaurant is a part of circular. The result? Plant-forward dishes that help heal the body and support the local businesses of San Antonio.
Space C7 Art Gallery
Space C7 is a Texas contemporary art gallery headed by artist and curator Jeff Wheeler. What makes it unique is that it’s located within the Southside Living + Maker Spaces, which offers 65 apartments where artists can live and work. One of Wheeler’s finds? The perfect outdoor venue space is just down the hill under Echo Bridge where you can enjoy an art show and then a music show. Any guesses on which Grammy-nominated musician we managed to catch on our visit? Hint: he’s also been awarded the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities by President Barack Obama.
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