Greetings Internet Stranger! Of course, 24 hours in San Antonio with the King William District is not nearly enough time. San Antonio is the seventh biggest city in the United States and the second biggest city in Texas. As I always say, if it’s big enough for Texas, it’s big enough for you. San Antonio is famous for many things. It was one of the largest settlements in the Spanish colonies.
Later, it was the location of a major battle between Texas and Mexico. Of course, in my household, San Antonio is most famous for being Pee Wee Herman’s destination when a dastard stole his bicycle and a fraudulent psychic told Pee Wee it was in the basement of the Alamo. (It’s a very weird movie. Also the Alamo doesn’t have a basement.)
However, whether or not you be a proud Texan/Spaniard/Mexican/Tim Burton fan, San Antonio is sure to have something to surprise and delight you. Join me for a jam-packed 24 hours in San Antonio, and we’ll definitely mess with Texas!
24 Hours in San Antonio
Where to Stay?
San Antonio, as I mentioned, is huge. So there’s no shortage of places to stay here. But I chose to spend my 24 hours in San Antonio at the Crockett Hotel. What better name for a hotel in San Antonio? The location was conveniently near The Alamo, and there was breakfast included every morning. Plus, the staff was extremely helpful when I needed to catch an early morning train to Austin. (Long story.) So I recommend it wholeheartedly!
24 Hours in San Antonio
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. It’s very frequently hot in San Antonio, though not always, so it’s smart to wear sandals. I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Also, don’t forget the sunscreen! The sun can get scorching! My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. You don’t want to sling a heavy bag all around the Alamo. That’s a good way to make a Texas suspicious. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in San Antonio
Morning: King William Historic District
The King William Historic District is a neighborhood just south of Downtown San Antonio that contains some of the most beautiful houses in the United States. It is a perfect place to start your 24 hours in San Antonio wandering around and taking photos of gorgeous architectural features and weird cats who don’t respect property boundaries.
Don’t mess with Texan cats.If you’d rather have a little more direction than just a random photo of someone’s pet, I am happy to provide…
APPROXIMATELY TOP 5: KING WILLIAM HISTORIC DISTRICT
1) Torres Taco Haven
Torres Taco Haven is not in the King William Historic District, but you can go there for breakfast on your way. A Texas breakfast taco is an essential American breakfast, right up there with the New York bagel and lox and the New Orleans beignet. You have to start your 24 hours in San Antonio like this.
Get to Torres Taco Haven nice and early and order up a couple of Torres Tacos. These come with cheese, beans, and bacon on top. They’ll set you back about 2.75 each. You can get your tacos accompanied by some seriously strong coffee for less than 2 dollars. That’s including the free refills that gave me plenty of energy to face a big day in Texas.
The interior is nothing fancy, but I got a kick out of the homey, no-frills decor of this place. If I lived in San Antonio, I could see myself becoming a regular here.
2) King William association building
You should start your morning at the King William Association building because they will give you a free map for a self-guided walking tour of the nabe.
3) photograph the gingerbread houses
The King William District was first settled by German immigrants to San Antonio in the 1860s. It was these German expats whom we have to thank for the gemutlich Victorian gingerbreaded homes. Apparently a lot of Germans did really well for themselves in San Antonio.
But if the District was named by Germans, shouldn’t it be known as the Kaiser Wilhelm District then? Am I missing something here? Oh well, if it had been called the Kaiser Wilhelm District, it just would have been renamed during WWI, I am sure.
4) Steves Homestead Museum
Though the German immigrants who settled this neighborhood were very successful in the United States, they still hung on to their German heritage. For evidence of this, be sure to visit the Steves Homestead Museum, clearly labeled on your walking tour from the King William Association. It is open only from 10-3:30 and costs 7.50. You need to bring cash because they don’t take cards.
But once inside, you’ll be able to give yourself an informative self-guided tour of both floors of this house. You’ll see lots of examples of the Steves family’s German pride, like this German language napkin hook.
If there are any German-speaking readers of this blog, please email me a translation of these napkin hooks at [email protected]
5) The Guenther House
The Guenther family was another German clan who settled in the neighborhood, and they made their money in flowers. No, that can’t be right; they made their money in flour. That makes sense, since everyone eats flour.
Today you are lucky because you can tour the Guenther House for free or enjoy tasty baked goods made with wholesome flour at the Guenther House restaurant. I would have liked to stop there, but there was a huge crowd and I didn’t want to wait online. Apparently Guenther flour really packs them in!
24 Hour Treasure
I loved visiting San Antonio around Christmas time because the historical homes look so beautiful decorated for Christmas.
They even had a cute gingerbread house in the Guenther House store. It looks just like one of the houses in the King William District! But it’s better because you can eat it.
6) Lunch at Madhatters Tea House and Cafe
Madhatters, as you could probably expect from the name, is an adorably quirky tearoom. Just look at that teapot shaped to look like a sieve! Quirk ahoy! It is not actually in the King William Historic District, but you can easily get there from it.
I had a BLT with a side of potato salad in honor of all the German houses I had spent the morning exploring. The bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes were fresh and crispy, just how I like my men. The meal was all washed perfectly down with some slightly spicy ginger mint tea. Since I couldn’t spend the afternoon eating Guenther flour, this was the next best choice.
As a side note, why is the place called Madhatters and not Mad Hatter’s? How delightfully mad of them to smush two words together to make one word! We’re all mad here!
24 Hours in San Antonio
Afternoon: Explore San Antonio!
I made you stick to one neighborhood all morning because I am a cruel taskmistress. Now I shall allow you to wander free! We will see many of San Antonio’s attractions, from the big and famous to the little and obscure. Here is my…
Approximately top 5: 24 hours in san antonio edition
1) La Villita
La Villita, like the King William, is a historic district. It was originally populated by the Spanish soldiers who were stationed in San Antonio in a little place called…THE ALAMO! Unlike King William, it is a historic arts district, which apparently means that even though it looks like an authentically preserved Spanish colonial village, it is largely populated with stores and art galleries.
I recommend just strolling around with the help of this handy-dandy map and perusing anything that strikes your fancy. You can find everything here from Pop Surreal Art to Scentchips. These are wax chip blends you can put in a special warmer and use to smelly up your home in a unique way. I got Grandpa’s Pipe, which smells like cherry and smoke. They say it’s a “Masculine Scent”. I say I am a free spirit who can’t be bound by gender norms.
2) Shop at B&C Leather Designs and Unique Finds
I am singling this out because it was my favorite shop in La Villita. They have a leatherworking atelier in the back where you can see them make fine leather goods right on the premises. I bought a pair of beautiful handmade leather and metal earrings that look very Texas to me. At least, I think they’re a little more authentic than a magnet shaped like a boot with “Don’t Mess With Texas” written on it.
3) The Little Church of La Villita
Even though the church is, shall we say, not big, it is apparently still a popular place to rent out for weddings for people with either a lot of attachment to the history of San Antonio or not a lot of friends. Just keep in mind that even though it looks like a movie set, it is an active church with a thriving ministry to the poor in San Antonio. Behave with decorum when you enter.
4) The Alami? The Alamoo? I Simply Can’t Remember…
Finally we are going to get you into downtown San Antonio, which is less than a 15 minute walk from La Villita. I was a much bigger fan of the historic neighborhoods than the big shiny city, but there is one spot in downtown SA that you simply cannot pass up on your 24 hours in San Antonio. It’s…the Maine! No, it’s the 5th of November! Or perhaps it is…the Alamo!
That’s it. There’s a reason the Alamo, which was the garrison of the Mexican army in San Antonio, is the pride of Texas. It was the site of one of the most important battles in the Texas Revolution against Mexico. Remember, Texas once belonged to Mexico, and Mexico had once belonged to Spain. However, Mexico separated from the mother country during the Mexican Revolution. About 14 years later, Texas decided to follow suit and separate from Mexico
At the time of the Texas Revolution, the leader of Mexico was one General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He’s usually called Santa Anna for short. When Texan rebels attacked and took the city of San Antonio, Santa Anna and his troops responded by unleashing hell upon the gents at the Alamo.
To make a long story short, the Texans at the Alamo lost and were almost all killed very dead. But later, when Santa Anna fought other Texan troops under Sam Houston, it was the Texans who were triumphant. “Remember the Alamo” was their rallying cry as they won their independence. Now you know why the Alamo has historically been such an important place for the Texan patriot.
24 Hour Treasure
I adored the ranger tour of the Battleground surrounding the Alamo. I think it’s the best way to understand why the battle at the Alamo took on such significance for Texans. If you want to take this tour, the last one leaves at 3 and costs 15 dollars. You can reserve your spot in advance online! Definitely worth it! To persuade you to take the tour, I share…
THREE FUN FACTS ABOUT THE ALAMO
1) Who died at the alamo?
The most popular Texan to die at the Alamo was one David Crockett. He was a native of Tennessee (greenest state in the land of the free). He served as a member of Congress under Jackson but lost his seat because he refused to support Jackson’s odious Indian Removal Act. Crockett’s response was to get up in front of Congress and tell them, “You may all go to Hell. I will go to Texas.”
I bought a bumper sticker with this saying on it at the Alamo Gift Shop even though I do not own a car. If you don’t love Davy Crockett after hearing that story, there may be no hope for you.
2) Who else died at the alamo?
Not all the Texans who fought at the Alamo were as lovable as Crockett. For an example, take James Bowie. (Please.) He was a slaveowner, he was a drunkard, he was an accomplice of Jean Lafitte the pirate, and he once disemboweled a sheriff during the course of a duel. DISEMBOWELED HIM WITH A KNIFE. That’s why the Bowie knife is named after him. And to think I used to believe the knife was named after David Bowie.
3) Did anyone live after the Alamo?
Many of the Texans at the Alamo were slaveowners, not just Bowie. In fact, one of the few survivors of the Battle of the Alamo was Joe, one of the slaves of William Travis. Travis was one of the officers fighting for Texas at the Alamo. It’s thanks to Joe’s first hand account of the battle that we have some information of Santa Anna’s treatment of the Texans during and after the conflict.
Once you are done with your ranger tour, take your self-guided audio tour of the inside of the Alamo. It is small and you’re not allowed to take pictures, but it is fascinating to step inside such an important place for American history. I especially liked the display of flags showing the states and countries where the men who died fighting at the Alamo came from.
24 Hour Tip
If someone tells you that your stolen bicycle is in the basement of the Alamo, do not believe them. The Alamo does not have a basement.
5) The Riverwalk
Do I like rivers? Do I like walks? I’ve got two legs and a heart, don’t I? And after a long day of learning about Texas history, eating Texas food, and shopping for Texas objects, nothing will be more relaxing than watching the sun set over the San Antonio Riverwalk.
But what is the San Antonio Riverwalk, you ask, Internet Stranger? I kind of feel like you should be able to figure it out on your own. It is a lengthy walkway set up around the gorgeous, winding San Antonio River.
The Riverwalk is lengthy, serpentine, and constantly expanding. You could spend a full day exploring it, but I don’t recommend doing that because I think walking along the San Antonio River at 2AM doesn’t sound very safe.
If you follow this itinerary, you’ll only have about an hour to ramble along, so I suggest sticking to the downtown portion of the Riverwalk. If you’re feeling especially lazy, you can take a water taxi. I won’t judge! The rides cost 10 dollars one way and last until 9 PM.
24 Hours in San Antonio: King William District
Evening: Dinner at Biga on the Banks
Biga on the Banks is often rated one of the top fine dining restaurants in San Antonio, and it is conveniently located right on the Riverwalk. The food is New American. I suppose this means that the ingredients are mostly local and seasonal, but inspiration is taken from various world cuisines. It’s a real classy joint, so leave your Texas tuxedos at home!
My appetizer was a light and refreshing Texas grapefruit salad. I had never even heard of Texas grapefruit before! It is wonderfully sweet and red, just like the blood of Davy Crockett! I wish I could find this salad more easily back home in New York.
The main course, which sadly did not photograph very well, was the Hill Country venison and grilled quail. This is like a play on surf n’ turf except with quail instead of seafood. Bird n’ turf? Wing n’ hoof? Meat n’ clawed feet? I feel like I can do better than this. The local venison was my favorite part. It was rich and flavorful without being gamey.
24 hour treat: sticky toffee pudding
The specialty of the house at Biga on the Banks is the decadent sticky toffee pudding served with a creme anglaise. I love how beautifully shaped the toffee pudding is. It looks like something you could serve to the Queen.
And despite the rich food I ate that day, the dessert was not too heavy for me to enjoy comfortably. Mexico for breakfast, England for dessert, I always say! It’s the only way to end your 24 hours in San Antonio.
Further Reading: 24 Hours in San Antonio
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in San Antonio? Then allow me to give you some further reading for your 24 hours in San Antonio. My favorite travel guide to San Antonio is by Moon Travel. In fact they make my favorite US travel guides because they are so detailed.
If you’re looking for historical fiction about The Alamo, I recommend the novel The Gates of the Alamo. It will bring the history of this tragic event alive for you in the most vivid way.
And if you’d rather give some beautiful Texan poetry a try, I suggest Sonnets and Salsa by Carmen Tafolla. I guarantee you haven’t read anything like her unique poems.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in San Antonio. If you want to add 24 hours in the Texas Hill Country, click here. And if you’d like to add a couple of itineraries for nearby Austin, I’ve got you covered here.