San Antonio is not a flashy city. There are not any overpowering neon lights drawing attention away from the beauty of the city. San Antonio is a city where historic 200-plus-year-old buildings blend in with modern architecture. The city is clean and pleasant. The brown, tan and off-white colors have a soothing appeal. Even the most famous landmark in San Antonio, the Alamo, functions more as the heart of the city, as opposed to an old relic that has served its purpose.
I visited San Antonio in January of 2011 to attend the SolidWorks conference held at the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center. It was my first trip to San Antonio, or the state of Texas for that matter. I packed my bags, dusted off my old cowboy hat, and boarded the plane grinning like a mule eating briars. If you have ever seen a mule in a briar patch, then you know what I mean.
I flew into San Antonio on Delta airlines and had reservations to stay at the Holiday Inn Express, Riverwalk. The hotel was originally built in 1878 as the county jail. There were bars on the outside windows to provide a historic appeal. The Holiday Inn Express, Riverwalk hotel is located near the heart of San Antonio. The room was comfortable and rented for around one hundred dollars a night. The hotel provided a free buffet breakfast.
After checking into the hotel, I registered for the SolidWorks conference at the convention center. Dinner that evening was provided at a corporate event. After a long day, I was ready for a good night’s rest. The refrigerator in the hotel room was loud. Since I had no plans to use it, I simply unplugged it.
The next day was filled with training sessions. That evening I had dinner at the Charter House restaurant located near the top of the 750 foot high Tower of Americas. After taking an elevator ride up to the restaurant, the dining experience included a spectacular view of San Antonio from a rotating platform. The prime rib was very good, the mashed potatoes just average, and no sweet iced tea. Expect to spend thirty to forty dollars per person.
Dinner included a ride up the elevator to the Tower of Americas observation deck. The tower was originally built for the 1968 World’s Fair. The observation deck provides an exhilarating view of downtown San Antonio, even after dark. The Tower of Americas is located next to the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center.
After the training sessions were over the following day, it was off to explore River Walk. The city of San Antonio has masterfully crafted an entertainment and dining experience along the banks of the river that flows through the heart of the city. A paver sidewalk follows along both sides of the river with access to hotels, restaurants and shopping venues. There are attractive water fountains along the way. Guided boat tours and river taxis are available, even in January. While River Walk is in the heart of San Antonio, it is on a tier all to itself below the street level.
Dinner that evening was at Boudros. I chose the Texas filet of sirloin with fries, if I am in Texas I must have a steak. The food was good, still no sweet iced tea. The after-dinner entertainment stop was at an Irish Pub called Durty Nelly’s. The piano player kept the crowd amused. I was the designated driver so I got to drive the rental car back to the hotel. It was my first time driving a hybrid vehicle. It was odd sitting at a stoplight and not hearing the engine.
The early morning on the last day was spent visiting the Alamo. Admission is free, donations are welcomed. The missionary building and barracks building still remain. While the legend is gigantic, the buildings are quite small. The atmosphere inside is nostalgic. The stonework was obviously very old and visitors were not allowed to touch the walls (I figured to help preserve the mortar). Original and donated artifacts are on display along with placards and posters providing historical details. Tourists were restricted from visiting a few areas and no photography was allowed inside the buildings.
There were not as many training sessions scheduled for the last day of the conference. US Airways provided the trip back home to western North Carolina. Was the conference over already?
I was quite impressed with the city of San Antonio. Granted, I only experienced the tourist attractions, such as a nice hotel, nice restaurants, River Walk, and San Antonio’s most famous landmark, the Alamo. The weather was superb during my visit, low to mid 60’s during the day and just cool enough at night to be comfortable when wearing a jacket. San Antonio is a great city to host a convention.