Hotel We Love: Aloft Boston Seaport District, Boston
Today it seems that every city has one: a once decaying industrial neighborhood that's blossomed into a destination for shops, restaurants, breweries, museums, and all things creative. In Boston, that neighborhood is the Seaport District. The area is home to the sleek Boston Convention Center, which opened in 2004 and set off a hotel-development boom in the surrounds that continues to this day. The Aloft Boston Seaport District, which opened in February 2016, is just one of the neighborhood's many accommodation options, but it stands out for various reasons: its stylish decor, its live music performances, and its futuristic amenities.
The Aloft is a growing Marriott brand known for its tech-centric sensibility, lively vibe, and hip design. With its many technology startups and youthful population, Boston is a perfect fit as the global chain extends its national footprint. In fact, this location is an incubator where they often test some of their high-tech amenities
The 330 rooms have five sizes ranging from one king-size bed to two queen-size. The brightly colored accents, from the the throw pillows to the images on the walls, are designed to look like pixelated cartoon images, giving the otherwise neutral room a jolt of energy. All rooms have Netflix streaming capabilities, a mini fridge, and Bliss bath products. Vast windows offer sweeping views; rooms that face the city fetch a higher rate, as do the ten high-tech rooms with voice-activated features. Select floors have dog-friendly rooms for pets under 60 pounds. They're each equipped with toys, food and water bowls, and more.
The Seaport District is best explained as a wide peninsula between downtown Boston and South Boston’s ever-evolving residential area. Less than 15 years ago, it was a stark patchwork of piers lined with seafood storehouses, rundown brick warehouses, and beat-up roads. The main reason for coming here was the federal courthouse. But in 2006, the Institute of Contemporary Art opened a stunning, futuristic location that cantilevers over the water, setting off a frenzy of development. Restaurants, some of which are Las Vegas–caliber in size, line the streets today. There are chophouses, Mexican cantinas, Italian eateries—from familiar names to smaller independent operations. Many offer outdoor seating in the warmer months, giving the entire neighborhood a unified pavilion-like feel. That’s good news for the countless employees who work in the startup and biotech companies that have their offices here. The hotel sits across from the Lawn on D, a lively green space that draws crowds for its food trucks, movie screenings, live music, bocce, ping pong, and various activities, like cornhole tournaments. The Seaport is about a ten-minute drive to the airport (on a good day) and a 15-minute walk to South Station, the train and bus terminal.
The eating and drinking options perhaps best capture the hotel's fun, creative vibe. The spacious, art-adorned, sunlit lobby features WXYZ bar, which serves cocktails, beer, wine, and elevated bar bites and sandwiches. There’s no formal room service, but you can bring your food and your nightcap to your quarters. Re:fuel is a grab’n’go offering hot breakfast in the morning and artisanal snacks, pastries, juices, and espresso drinks throughout the day and night. For a sit-down meal, hit the elegant yet laid-back Social Register, an adjoining eatery specializing in New American fare that’s heavy on the seafood.
ALL THE REST
It isn’t often that a hotel lobby is a local hangout, but this one draws them in droves. Aloft has made itself a destination by offering a variety of activities, from paint nights to classes like flower arranging. There's also live music each Thursday, so you can drop by for a taste of the local talent while you indulge in a cocktail from WXYZ.
Aloft’s green initiative is no joke. They offer 250 Starwood points or a $5 voucher for WXYZ bar and Re:Fuel for each day you skip housekeeping.
RATES & DEETS
Starting at $199.
Aloft Boston Seaport Distrtict
401-403 D Street
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 530-1600 / aloftbostonseaportdistrict.com
5 Pride Events That Prove Virginia is for All Lovers
(Courtesy Joey Wharton) Travelling to Virginia this year? If you’re anything like us, you’ll be trying to fill your itinerary with the best festivals in the region. Since Virginia hosts an extraordinary array of events year-round, we decided to narrow our search down to what we all know to be the best party of the year: Pride. Whether you’re looking for low-key community vibes and scenic escapes or dance parties, drag shows, and urban raucousness, these five events have got you covered. Just be sure to snap a selfie with one of the many LOVE photo ops scattered throughout the state while you’re there. 1. HAMPTON ROADS PRIDE WEEK (Courtesy Wirt Confroy) Dates: June 21-30, 2018 Location: Town Point Park, Norfolk Travelling during Pride month? Check out Hampton Roads PrideFest, which is celebrating 30 years of Pride this June. This festival is prefaced by an entire week of events covering everything from a Drag Brunch, to a beach concert, to a Pride Block Party on Friday night. And of course, it all culminates with PrideFest on Saturday. At PrideFest, partygoers gather for the country’s only Pride Boat Parade—a fitting event considering Norfolk’s 300-year maritime history. Watch the parade from shore or party on board the American Rover three-masted sailing schooner. Aside from Pride, visiting Hampton Roads in the summer also guarantees a glimpse at Virginia’s coastal culture. Whether you want to bask in the sun and white sands of Virginia Beach or discover nearby Colonial Williamsburg, festival season offers the perfect opportunity to explore. 2. SHENANDOAH VALLEY PRIDE FESTIVAL Date: July 21, 2018 Location: Court Square, Harrisonburg Next up is Shenandoah Valley Pride Festival, located in picturesque Harrisonburg. This event is smaller than the Hampton Roads PrideFest, taking place on one Saturday afternoon, but don’t let its size fool you: this festival showcases local music and vendors, attracts more than 3,000 visitors each year, and has a positive community vibe—not surprising, given Harrisonburg’s charming reputation. Once you’ve gotten your festival fix, head to Harrisonburg’s vibrant downtown district, which is home to the commonwealth’s first Arts and Culture and Culinary Districts. There’s no shortage of adorable boutiques and locally sourced meals in the area, so whether you’re craving a mouth-watering cheesesteak or creative cocktails, this city’s got you covered. While in the region, take a trip to Shenandoah National Park. A VA bucket-list must, this park is home to 300 square miles of stunning valley views and woodland trails, including the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive. If you’re staying overnight, there’s a ton of camping throughout the park; for a more upscale experience, book a room at the rustic Big Meadows Lodge. 3. 7th ANNUAL CHARLOTTESVILLE PRIDE FESTIVAL (Courtesy Jacob RG Canon) Dates: Sept. 8-15, 2018 Location: Charlottesville Just south of Harrisonburg you’ll find the city of Charlottesville, which provides an escape into the land of golf and wine. A small city (the kind where everyone knows your name), Charlottesville is known for its gay-friendly reputation, offering a wide range of resources, events, and support for the LGBTQ community. Last year, Charlottesville drew over 8,000 partygoers to its week-long celebration of sex positivity. This year, Cville Pride Festival will include a variety of events such as the Miss Gay Charlottesville pageant, film screenings, and drag and musical performances. In terms of where to stay, look no further than Montfair Resort Farm. Located 15 miles outside of Charlottesville, this sprawling property includes nine quaint, eco-friendly cottages (such as Holly Cottage) that offer a romantic vacation experience for every couple. 4. PETERSBURG PRIDE AND PROUD FESTIVAL Date: Sept. 16, 2018 Location: DJ’s Rajun Cajun, Petersburg The Petersburg Pride and Proud Festival is all about grassroots community, so if you’re jonesing for an intimate, community-driven Pride party, this is the one for you. Launched in 2017 by David “DJ” Payne, owner of DJ’s Rajun Cajun, this festival celebrates the strength and support of Petersburg’s LGBTQ community. The festival will be followed by the Out & Proud After Party at Benny’s Tavern. While in Petersburg, book a day to explore the art, architecture, and boutiques of Old Towne, a neighborhood well-loved by film makers for its cobblestone streets and historical sites. Stay at the Omni Richmond Hotel for an elegant Southern experience in a modern setting. 5. VA PRIDEFEST (Courtesy Joey Wharton) Date: Sept. 22, 2018 Location: Brown’s Island, Richmond Last but certainly not least, VA PrideFest is the largest annual celebration of the LGBTQ community in the commonwealth. Organized by Virginia Pride, the 39th annual VA PrideFest expects over 30,000 attendees this year. This festival always attracts a ton of outstanding local vendors and musicians to entertain the masses, making the event an epic party not to be missed. To add to its status as a top LGBTQ travel destination, Richmond will also play host to the state’s first Black Pride festival this year from July 20-22. If you do happen to visit during VA PrideFest, check out the Quirk Hotel’s Pride weekend packages. When you’re making your way through the country’s Pride events this year, be sure to include Virginia on your list of stops. This naturally beautiful state will be throwing 13 of the liveliest and most welcoming Pride events around this year (nearly double last year’s number!), which serve as the perfect jumping off point for exploring Virginia’s charming, historic cities. For more information on other events and LGBTQ-friendly places to stay, check out Virginia Tourism’s website. ____ This article is sponsored content paid for by Virginia is for Lovers. Love is one voice that speaks to us all. And love is here — just waiting for you to find it.
6 Things to Do On and Around Sanibel Island, Florida
Famous for vast wildlife preserves, leafy mangroves, world-class tarpon fishing, stellar seashells, and a laid-back way of life, Sanibel Island and its surrounding cays attract an array of vacationers, from regular beach-loving folks to high-profile visitors such as former FBI director Robert Mueller and the rapper Pitbull. The non-human residents are pretty spectacular, too: schools of dolphins leap above the shimmering waters, and friendly manatees have been known to brush up against moving kayaks out of playful curiosity. (Jamie Beckman) Sanibel is also a plum post-retirement destination for what locals call “PIPs” — previously important people (think: ex-CEOs) looking to pump the brakes after pressure-cooker careers. The area’s conservation-first mindset has a pleasant side effect for those who yearn to detox from technology and the daily grind: There are no stoplights on Sanibel Island, cell phone service isn’t exactly a guarantee, and no structure can be built higher than a palm tree. Sound enticing? This exclusive island paradise is accessible at any budget, especially if you’re a road tripper willing to toss bicycles into a hatchback and strap kayaks to the roof. Here's our guide to the best the area has to offer. 1. Check In South Seas Island Resort pool complex on Captiva Island. (Courtesy South Seas Island Resort) Make your home base a standard villa with a full kitchen at a beach resort that has a slew of amenities, including golf courses, spas, restaurants, and marinas. Preparing your own meals and taking advantage of the free and cheap perks (more on that in a minute) are keys to planning a wallet-friendly trip. Pro grocery tips: To save big, hit the Publix Super Market at Sanibel Beach Place in Fort Myers before crossing the Sanibel Causeway Bridge onto Sanibel Island ($6 toll, free return trip). Or buy local at Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel Island, where you can shop in person or pick up an advance online order. Either way, you’ll save cash and not miss out on the area’s seafood, like seasonal stone crabs and mussels from Bailey’s and local pink shrimp, flounder, and grouper sold at Publix. For an upscale, family-friendly, large-resort feel, splurge on a stay at the sprawling South Seas Island Resort (from $200 per night) on Captiva Island. Its two and a half miles of private beaches, along with beach chair and umbrella rentals, three pools with two waterslides, 11 tennis courts, and island trolley, are free to use. Rooms have full kitchens, and gas grills and picnic tables are available by the pools and marina for your own personal barbecues. To quickly stock up on food and drinks midway through your stay, there’s a grocery store/deli on the property. On Sanibel Island proper, Sundial Beach Resort & Spa (from $219 per night) has beach-chic down pat, with bright-white furnishings, full kitchens, and island-themed decor. There are five heated swimming pools and lots of complimentary offerings, like kayaks, paddleboards, and bikes, as well as equipment for pickleball and volleyball. And there's no shortage of activities for kids. Locals have repeatedly voted Sundial “Best Staycation,” so you know it’s clutch. Back on Captiva, Tween Waters Inn (from $108 per night) offers guestrooms with mini fridges, modern studios with mini kitchens, and suites with full kitchens. If you're feeling flush, book an entire historic pastel-painted seaside cottage. Once you’re settled in, choose your poolside vibe: the Play Pool, the Serenity Pool, or two hot whirlpools. A quick trip across the street takes you to the inn’s private beach, replete with a volleyball court and complimentary kayaks. Beach chairs and umbrellas are an extra charge. 2. Explore an Animal Kingdom Bring your binoculars to J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, or ask for a free pair—you won’t want to miss the spectacle of ospreys, yellow-crowned night herons, and roseate spoonbills here in their natural state, especially at low tide, when the birds are most visible as they hunt for food. For bragging rights, try to spot the elusive mangrove cuckoo. It’s seen so rarely that if you do catch a glimpse, even the locals will be jealous. Hike or bike the refuge’s Indigo Trail boardwalks ($1 per person), or grab the gang and motor down the four-mile Wildlife Drive ($5 per vehicle, $1 per pedestrian or cyclist). The 100-acre Bailey Tract of interior wetland is free to enter and explore. Kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, and boating are allowed in some areas, as long as you follow the refuge’s rules. Searching for seashells on Sanibel Island. (Ian Fletcher/Dreamstime) 3. Eat Cheeseburgers in Paradise, in Paradise Locals report that Jimmy Buffett wrote “Cheeseburger in Paradise” after eating a particularly tasty one at Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant on Cabbage Key, in Pine Island Sound. Now’s your chance to do as Buffett did. Hop a water taxi with Island Girl Charters (from $29) to get there, then order a Cabbage Key Hamburger with cheese ($13.25) and a “cold draught beer,” even though the brews technically come in cans (from $4.69). 4. Go On A Shoreline Treasure Hunt Shells in dazzling colors wash ashore every day thanks to the islands’ unique geographic position, making the area a collector’s paradise. Prepare for the best seashell-collecting experience of your life by investing in Sanibel & Captiva Shells and Beach Life ($8), an in-depth, waterproof, illustrated guide to the area’s shells and where to find them. Then start combing: Turner Beach, on Captiva Island, and Blind Pass Beach, on Sanibel Island, are two of the best public spots for shelling. Experts recommend venturing out the hour before and the hour after low tide, when the odds of nabbing good and rare shells are highest. Or opt for an after-dark excursion, a secret the pros swear by. 5. Learn from Locals (Even the Feathered Ones) CROW wildlife rehabilitator Katie Mueller holds Lola the American Kestrel, one of the clinic's ambassador animals. Lola has an irreparable broken wing, so she lives at the clinic rather than in the wild. (Jamie Beckman) At Sanibel Island’s Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife ($7 for kids, $12 for adults), animal lovers can watch veterinarians and medical interns save creatures in dire straits, like owls who’ve been hit by cars, turtles with broken shells, or seabirds who’ve been accidentally hooked by a fishing line. Meanwhile, kids can hang out with the education center’s “animal ambassadors,” like Billy, a curious nine-banded armadillo who sometimes emerges to scamper freely indoors under the watchful eyes of his caretakers. You’ll need to register in advance to tour the hospital, so make sure you plan ahead. Need a break from the kids? Drop them off for a few hours at Sanibel Sea School (from $55 per child), where they’ll learn to surf in shallow waves and get a thorough ocean education while they're at it. Family programs, including stand-up paddle boarding excursions and shell walks, are also available. Wander through the ceiling-scraping stacks at Gene’s Books for best-sellers and obscure genre finds. The quaint, mystery-heavy indie store has beach reads galore at deep overstock discounts, many of the titles organized into ultra-specific categories like Scandinavian Mystery, Italian Mystery, and much more. 6. Soak Up the Setting Sun One activity that’s not optional here: admiring the technicolor sunsets. If you’re staying at South Seas Island Resort, take in the free, family-friendly daily “sunset ritual” on Sunset Beach, featuring acoustic guitar music by Livingston Taylor, brother of James, who’s toured with Jimmy Buffett and the Beach Boys. Or post up alfresco at Mucky Duck, a local favorite on Captiva Island, with a slice of icy homemade key lime pie ($7) and a CoronaRita (a margarita with a mini Corona bottle flipped upside down into it), and watch the big orange ball fade away. No matter where you’re doing the viewing, look for the “green flash” at sundown – it’s an optical effect that happens right when the sun sinks below the horizon. The Details Sanibel Island isn't necessarily known for its bargains – resort fees can be particularly high – so it's worth taking the time to hunt for good deals on accommodations. Keep an eye out for promotions, and consider booking and paying in advance for the best rates. Summer is the least expensive time to visit the area’s islands; just be aware that temps can creep high in those months.
Hotel We Love: Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA
At the top of the Sacramento Valley in the northernmost part of California, the small city of Redding (population 90,000, give or take) is just a short drive from Sacramento and San Francisco, but it might as well be a world away. Surrounded by no fewer than seven national forests, offering easy access to jaw-dropping lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and redwoods, Redding is the jumping-off point for adventures of all kinds, from kayaking and hiking to olive-oil tasting and winery-hopping. The downtown area has plenty to recommend it, but if you'll be heading north to Lake Shasta Caverns, west to take in the waterfall loop, or putting in time at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the new Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge is a good choice, offering comfort and convenience at a fair price. THE STORY In January 2018, after a decade of planning and construction, the smallest Sheraton property in the country officially opened for business. According to the Record Searchlight, the hotel acquired its parcel of land from Turtle Bay Exploration Park in an effort to help the non-profit generate enough revenue to remain afloat, and so far, the plan seems to be working. The hotel was bustling when I visited, with families, couples, and business travelers traversing the lobby, bellying up to the bar, and enjoying the amenities. THE QUARTERS The brand-new accommodations comprise 124 rooms and 6 suites, all of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows, warm wood paneling, and crisp white linens, not to mention walk-in showers or tubs, 48-inch flat-screen TVs, portable work spaces, in-room safes, and mini-fridges. Traditional rooms sleep four, with two queen beds or one king; the deluxe patio rooms are a step up and offer the same bed configurations, plus a private, topiary-screened outdoor sitting area. Book a club room for access to the lounge and its free breakfast, all-day snacks and beverages, and cocktail-hour wine and hors d’oeuvres, or go all out with one of the cushy suites. THE NEIGHBORHOOD From its perch on the northern edge of town, the Sheraton is a five-minute walk from the Sacramento River and, as the name implies, Santiago Calatrava’s stunning Sundial Bridge. With opaque blue glass under foot and a 217-foot cable-stayed pylon creating a de facto sundial overhead, this cantilevered contraption is one of only two Calatrava bridges in America, and it’s well worth a visit. The bridge connects Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s two campuses, which span 300 acres and boast playgrounds, botanical gardens, a forestry and wildlife center, and hands-on educational activities, like the opportunity to feed beplumed birds at the Parrot Playhouse or a North American beaver on a behind-the-scenes tour. By car, the hotel is just off state route 44 and a few minutes from the I-5 on-ramp, so it's easily accessible from the highway and a quick half-hour drive north to Lake Shasta Caverns. THE FOOD On the premises is Mosaic, a beautiful room that nods to the area's natural splendor, pairing the wood that lines floors, walls, and ceilings with luxe-industrial elements like a granite bar, exposed ductwork, a wood-fired pizza oven, and Edison bulbs galore. Have breakfast here before setting off for Turtle Bay or one of the area’s many state or national parks; try the berries and granola with vanilla yogurt for a light (albeit sweet) start, or an omelet with fennel sausage, caramelized onions, smoked Gouda, and potatoes for something a bit heartier. The pizzas also earn rave reviews. On the way back from Lake Shasta Caverns, stop off at Moseley Family Cellars, a small winery that puts the state’s grapes to good use, and treat yourself to a nice glass of red, then dial it back a notch with a casual dinner. Less than 10 minutes away by car, Guadalajara delivers solid Mexican fare in a kaleidoscopically colorful dining room, where the waitstaff is super-friendly and the portions are huge and reasonably priced. The mole enchiladas, filled with shredded beef and served with rice, refried beans, a smattering of iceberg, and a wedge of tomato alongside a basket of complimentary chips and salsa, taste great after a day on the road—and run just $14.50. ALL THE REST In addition to the usual perks—pool, 24-hour fitness center, free WiFi—the Sheraton Redding is dog-friendly, providing beds and other amenities for an extra $45 per night. Mosaic restaurant even offers a special menu for your canine companion, with entrées like The Charlie, a burger patty with rice and diced apple, and the Max, grilled chicken with kale and carrots, if you choose to eat outside on the patio. Parking is $10 a day if you’re handling it yourself and $12 a day to valet. Tours of Turtle Bay that include meet-and-greets with animal ambassadors are available for $75 per person, but if that’s not in the budget, you can chat with a Turtle Bay trainer and one of their creatures for free on Friday and Saturday mornings in the hotel lobby. For your little ones who can’t get enough of the camping thing, Sheraton staff will set up both tent and sleeping bags in the comfort of your own room. A s’mores package is available for purchase, with marshmallows and all the fixins for roasting by the on-site fire pits. You can also rent kids’ fishing poles at the front desk. RATES & DEETS Starting at $119. Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge820 Sundial Bridge DriveRedding, CA530.364.2800sheratonredding.com
Locals Know Best: San Antonio, Texas
Before the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there was San Antonio. Established in 1718 by the Spanish, it celebrates its 300th anniversary this year (2018). And this Texas city, which clocks in as the seventh largest (still true in 2021) in the United States, has a whole lot to celebrate. Institutions along Broadway Cultural Corridor, a two-mile stretch north of downtown, have invested over $500 million in refurbishments and upgrades over the past five years. Among them is the Witte Museum, which encompasses ten acres along the river and focuses equally on nature, science and culture, all with a Texas slant. A multi-million refurbishment that transformed a total of 174,000 square feet was completed in 2017. It’s all happened under the watch of Marise McDermott, the Witte’s president and CEO for 17 years. A culture journalist from New York turned culture executive in the Lone Star State—“Once you marry a Texan, you live in Texas,” she notes—she’s called San Antonio her home since 1986, with a six-year break in the middle. She appreciates its “slower pace” and cherishes the eleven oak trees in her yard. We checked in with her to get the lowdown on the changing landscape of one of America’s oldest cities. A CULTURAL AND CULINARY MELTING POT The McNay Art Museum (Florin Seitan/Dreamstime) So, about those museums. The Broadway Cultural Corridor is a two-mile stretch just north of downtown on that runs along the San Antonio River. It includes the McNay Art Museum, a modern art hub; San Antonio Botanical Gardens; the San Antonio Museum of Art, which focuses on classical art dating back to the ancients; a 50-acre zoo; and the DoSeum, a children’s museum. It's also home to the Witte, which is devoted to telling the state’s history, from prehistoric times to recent decades. Under Marise’s watch, the Witte, which has been around since 1926, has taken great strides in elevating San Antonio’s cultural status on the international stage, bringing exhibits that hit other big cities to its galleries. A 10,000 square foot gallery that was opened as part of the $100 million transformation in 2017 as part of the $100 renovation debuted with “Whales: Giants of the Deep,” a show from New Zealand that featured a 58-foot whale sperm whale skeleton. (As an interesting footnote, Marise notes that there are 21 whale species on the Gulf Coast.) Where museums go, restaurants follow. As the institutions invested money, a culinary renaissance flourished. Longstanding restaurants upped their game and new ones opened. Marise is no stranger to the rustic, casual Smoke Shack, not least because it’s located across from the Witte. Also, their barbecue holds its own in a culture that values its grilled meats. One of the city’s standouts is located a few miles away from the Corridor in the Pearl, a revitalized old brewery that’s now a destination for its creative independent businesses.La Gloria specializes in Oaxacan street food. Its fun décor—a garage door entrance, metal furniture, and other industrial-chic touches—signals its lighthearted vibe. There’s a dog-friendly porch where you might find Marise hanging out with her two greyhounds and indulging in the fish tacos, one of chef-owner Johnnie Hernandez’s signatures. But the highlight isn’t the fillings, it’s the fixings. “The sauces are the most important part. They give you all sorts of different ones and they’re all freshly done with herbs.” And one other important thing: “No matter what time of day it is, get the sangria.” For something a bit more formal, she recommends Bliss, which is about two miles south of downtown. They offer a dependably excellent branzino dish, Marise says, and expertly paired wines. You’ll need a reservation because there aren’t many tables. MISSIONS: ACCOMPLISHED Missions Espada in San Antonio (Amanda McCadams) Back when the Spanish arrived in the 1700s, Franciscan priests built complexes known as missions to establish their rule on the frontier and convert Native Americans. Each mission contained all the necessities of daily life, from chapels to farms and granaries to workshops and acequias, their water distribution system. Today, the missions stand as an example of how craftsmen blended European and local design elements. They’re such a bedrock of regional history that the Mission Reach, which embodies five missions on nearly eight riverside miles, was established as a World Heritage Sites in 2015. Now, as Marise says, “visitors are finally finding them.” A trip to Mission Reach, however, is hardly a stroll through time-tested ruins. Many are still living places with vibrant cultures. Taquerias that have been run by the same family for generations are dotted along the riverfront park, which has seen investments of about $300 million in the past five years for public art, plantings, and chutes for kayaks. The money has also gone to upkeep of the area’s wetland space, so expect to spot all kinds of wildlife. When her teenage grandsons come to town, Marise will rent bikes from Swell Cycle (now called San Antonio Bike Share), the local bike share company, and hit as many missions as they can in a day. Along the way, they stop at roadside vendors for raspa, flavor-infused ice served by the scoop in paper cups, and paletas, Mexican ice pops made with traditional flavors like hibiscus flower or tamarind. TAKE IT OUTSIDE Texas is sprawling, to be sure, but you don’t have to go far for a change of scenery. For a heavy dose of the outdoors, head ten miles outside San Antonio to Government Canyon State Natural Area, which encompasses rugged bike trails, about 40 miles of easier walking trails, and camping sites on 12,244 expansive acres. To Marise, being there “feels like you’re in Hill Country, in the middle of nowhere.” Marise likes to share the story of the time the Witte’s paleontologist uncovered prehistoric footprints of an Acrocanthosaurus there. Museum staff thought there might be 20 tracks, but this one scientist uncovered 300 footprints and molded some of them you can find on display at the museum. Today, when wandering Government Canyon, the only beast you have to look out for is coyotes. SHOP AROUND The Broadway Cultural Corridor is, to hear Marise tell it, a retail corridor as well. "I shop at all the museum stores," she says, noting that she's purchased most of her jewelry at art institutions' shops, especially the McNay, the modern art museum. The San Antonio Museum leans more toward ancient-themed item, and the stores at the Botanical Gardens offer a wide selection of books and gifts for kids as well as unique outdoorsy things like hemp-fiber picnic blankets, suitable for, well, an afternoon at the botanical gardens, or any laid-back sunny spot. But that's not to say you can't get distinctly San Antonio items elsewhere. There are fantastic boutiques in the Pearl District. She calls out Dos Carolinas, a shop known for bespoke guayaberas made with natural fibers. This Caribbean and South American style of men's summer shirts is distinct for its pleated tailoring. "Good ones are hard to come by," she says. Until, that is, you get to San Antonio.For more information on San Antonio visit their website.