Vacation's All I Ever Wanted
And just like that, summer is over. Kidding, kidding — we have months of 90-degree temperatures left. Still, school is back in session and with September's arrival, it’s time to start booking those fall vacations.
This year, with airlines flailing and the economy doing whatever it is the economy does, perhaps it’s time to consider a getaway to San Antonio. A change of scenery can boost mental health while taking a sustained break from work has proven to increase physical health. Plus, there's zero percent chance of lost baggage or flight delays.
This fall, as the heat begins to break, but before the holidays hit, consider these choose-your-own-adventure vacations.
Take the whole family to the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
The magic of the JW Marriott is its combination of water park and resort, making it an ideal destination for families. Situated in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country, this sprawling retreat offers nearly every amenity possible: golf courses, pickle ball and tennis courts, winding trails, luxury spa, onsite restaurants, Top Golf, and the list goes on. Adding to the fun, family-oriented atmosphere are special events like nightly s’mores by the fire and petting zoos.
Where the JW Marriott really shines is the water park, a massive complex of pools, sand beaches, towering water slides, and 1,100-foot lazy river encircling the entire thing. The slides range from kiddie-size flumes to the Canyon Oak Twister and Hill Country Plunge body slides, both of which start 60 feet in the air and hit speeds of up to 20 mph. (Just remember to keep your arms and legs crossed, something this author learned from experience is not just a suggestion.)
If you need a place to shake off the adrenaline high, consider renting one of the resort’s poolside cabanas. Though it’s an added expense, the attentive staff makes sure everyone has fresh towels, snacks, and cocktails while a personal fridge comes loaded with bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks. Cabanas also offer a personal mini-deck inside the larger pool with lounge chairs so the kids can splash while you relax.
Book a romantic downtown getaway
San Antonio has no shortage of fabulous downtown hotels, but there’s something magical about the Hotel Havana. The 113-year-old building has almost always been a hotel, beginning at the turn of the century when it was used to house out-of-town merchants who traveled into San Antonio to sell their wares. Today, the boutique hotel offers an industrial-meets-gothic vibe complete with creaky floorboards and crimson carpet leading up the grand staircase.
Though there’s no pool at this Bunkhouse Hotel (if a pool is a must, The Thompson is another favorite situated just a few blocks away), it does offer Ocho, an onsite restaurant with a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling wall of windows, and a subterranean bar.
Make the Havana home base as you explore the River Walk, Southtown, and King William. If you find yourself forced to take an e-scooter by your significant other, as I was during a stay at the Havana last fall, use it to play tourist. Take it for a drive by the Alamo (do note that scooters are programmed to automatically slow to a crawl around the famed attraction) and on through Hemisfair on your way to appetizers and early evening cocktails at Little Em’s Oyster Bar or the new-ish Up Scale, two Southtown hot spots owned by Houston and Emily Carpenter.
For dinner, book a late table at Shiro and take a Lyft (or a scooter if someone forces you to) to the north end of the River Walk for sushi and other Japanese fare. After dinner, take a leisurely stroll back along the river to the hotel for a night cap. (Pro tip: Use the restroom before leaving Shiro or you may end up speed walking the last half of the River Walk and your romantic walk will be ruined.)
Live out your Eloise fantasies at the Hotel Emma
Looking for a solo staycation? San Antonio has the perfect spot for that, too: Hotel Emma. At this point, the Emma needs no introduction; the hotel has won countless awards and topped best-of lists for the past seven years. And the August 25 news that chef Jorge Hernandez is taking over the culinary program will only heighten its acclaim. All of this is to say is the Hotel Emma is nice. Very, very nice. And there is no better place to spend a little time (and a lot of money) than soaking in a giant tub in a four-star hotel with a professionally made cocktail delivered directly to your room.
Hotel Emma is located in the heart of the Pearl, a tourist destination in its own right, but when we’re traveling alone, we want to explore as much as possible. Head to Alamo Heights to fuel up with an early morning nosh at Bird Bakery before heading to the McNay Art Museum. On your way back to the Pearl, take a detour down the St. Mary’s Strip for lunch at Singh’s (shrimp bún with a side of chili oil and a Topo) and poke around the nearby vintage shops.
Recharge that afternoon with an in-room massage at Hotel Emma by Hiatus Spa + Retreat and the aforementioned soak ‘n’ cocktail. For dinner, take yourself on a date to Scorpion, an impeccably designed cafe and natural wine bar on the East Side. Once back at the Emma, cozy up in a plush robe and an episode of reality TV. You deserve it.