25 Reasons We Love San Antonio
Everything is bigger in Texas: In Alamo City, that means the world's largest cowboy boots and 'ritas by the liter.
Market Square, three blocks of stores and pedestrian-only streets just west of downtown, is the best place to go for fun Mexican kitsch like piñatas and sombreros. (The border is only 150 miles away.)
20. Walking on water
Despite the more than 40 miles of hiking and biking trails in the Government Canyon State Natural Area, the park's main purpose isn't recreational. Instead, it was created to protect and replenish the city's primary water supply, the Edwards Aquifer, which is located directly below the wooded canyon. 12861 Galm Rd., 210/688-9055, tpwd.state.tx.us, $6.
21. It's not the wine
The Liberty Bar restaurant has a bit of a fun-house quality to it: Floors, ceilings, and window frames have sloped in different directions ever since the building's foundation shifted during a 1921 flood. But, as a neon sign outside advertises (it reads SERIOUS FOOD), the menu is no laughing matter. Chef Oscar Trejo is considered one of the city's finest. Bread is baked daily on the premises, and specials may include mesquite-grilled duck breast. On Monday nights, bottles of wine over $50 are half-off with dinner. 328 E. Josephine St., 210/227-1187, entrées from $6.
22. Toilet humor
The world's only toilet-seat museum is in Alamo Heights, a 10-minute drive north of downtown. Barney Smith, the charming 85-year-old owner, uses a dentist's drill to carve designs in wooden toilet seat covers. "I'm a master plumber," he likes to say. "When I retired, I figured I should stay in the business." Smith greets visitors in his driveway and then gives them a tour of his one-car garage, which holds examples of his work. 239 Abiso Ave., 210/824-7791, by appointment, free.
23. Chihuly next to Chaucer
The Central Library doubles as a museum for public art. Neon installations by Stephen Antonakos diffuse blue light in the entryway; a nightscape of San Antonio in the '40s by local painter Jesse Treviño covers a lobby wall; and a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly graces the second floor. 600 Soledad St., 210/207-2500.
24. Getting on base
San Antonio is known as Military City because there are four military bases within a 20-mile radius of downtown. Randolph Air Force Base and the Army's Fort Sam Houston are national historic landmarks and open to the public. The best view of Randolph's sprawling grounds is from the top of an ornate, white-turreted water tower called the Taj Mahal. Jets often scream overhead in formation. Fort Sam, meanwhile, is home to the Army Medical Department Museum, with exhibits on the evolution of military medicine from 1775 onward. Randolph AFB, 210/652-4410, randolph.af.mil, by appointment, free. Fort Sam Houston, 210/221-6358, ameddmuseumfoundation.org, free.
25. Old yellers
When musicians play on the Mariachi Stage in Market Square on weekends, singers are guaranteed to throw a few gritos. Somewhere between a yodel, a cry, and a laugh, the grito is an integral part of conjunto, a common type of music in Texas that mixes Mexican ranch songs with the oompa-oompa accordion of polka. 514 W. Commerce St., 210/207-8600, free.