Just a couple of weeks ago, I made my annual trip to my hometown of San Antonio, TX. Although my older sister, Annie- who also moved to Pittsburgh, goes home multiple times a year, I prefer to make the trek less frequently. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder… Plus, when I only go home once a year, it makes my parents feel more inclined to buy me stuff like pedicures and Texas flag running shorts (thanks, mom!) and all the food (lookin’ at you, dad!).
Even though I’ve been going back and forth between Pittsburgh and San Antonio for 6 years now, I only just started noticing just how different my two cities are. The people might as well be from opposite ends of the universe, and don’t even get me started on the differences of the trees in both places! Not complaining, obviously, just making observations. SERIOUSLY, HOW DID I NEVER NOTICE ALL OF THE CACTI?!
Unfortunately, on the third day of the trip we went to the beach and I got the worst sunburn of my life (from the bottom of my butt to the tops of my ankles). I’m not being dramatic, IT HURT TO SLEEP, WALK, SIT, AND MOVE IN GENERAL FOR THE REMAINING 3 DAYS I WAS THERE. That plus the sinus infection/cold I got from God knows what, meant that I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see, do everything I wanted to do, or even eat everything I wanted to eat. Woe is me, right?!
Nevertheless, I shall share my mental list of the BEST overlooked and underrated places to eat/shop/drink/do stuff in SA, some of which I got to go to this time around and some of which will have to wait ’til next time.
- Annie Gogglyn– located in the heart of the ’09 zip code, Annie G has been a San Antonio staple for 30+ years. My Aunt Robin worked there right after it was converted from a gas station to a bridal boutique. I worked at Annie in 2012 because I bought all of my clothes there anyway and employee discounts are the bomb (it was no longer a bridal boutique, duh, but a whimsical women’s boutique as well as a trendy children’s store ). A couple years ago, my friend Susi bought the place, but more on that later…
- Bless Your Heart– they sell Ban.do and Sunnylife Australia, so you know it’s cool. Plus, my friend Gretchen works there and she might be the nicest person I’ve ever met.
- Aquarius– It’s true, every time I enter this boutique I make a bee line for the sale rack, but just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there.
- Melissa Guerra– This is where Frida Kahlo would do her home shopping had she lived in San Antonio. My BFF got me the prettiest hand painted sugar skull key chain from here.
- HEB– had to give a quick shout out to the best grocery store that has ever existed. When we were kids, we used to always ask to pet the live lobsters in the tanks in the seafood department.
SIGHT SEEING/THINGS TO DO
- Mural Hunting– San Antonians know what to do with a blank wall. My hometown might be THE most colorful city in the U.S. of A, which is saying a lot. Do yourself a favor if you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, get in your car and drive all around downtown, The Pearl, the Northwest side, and the West side and let your eyes be amazed.
- The Alamo- don’t actually wait in that long ass line to go inside The Alamo, though. Definitely just take a picture in front of it and then cross the street to the woman selling $3 paper flower crowns and buy one. Then go get a popsicle and stop being such a dumb tourist.
- Snake Farm and Animal World– The Snake Farm is not only the place where my brothers and cousins used to have their birthday parties as kids, it’s also the place where I got to hold a baby Lemur and where Christina draped an Albino Python over her shoulders like she was Britney Bitch herself. Though it is now under new management and you probably can’t do as much as the cool/dangerous stuff I’ve done at this place and although, technically, it isn’t even in the San Antonio city limits, it’s still way better and less crowded than the zoo. You may have seen it on Dirty Jobs.
- The Japanese Tea Gardens– an absolutely picturesque way to spend an evening in SA.
- DTSA library– If you like books and cool buildings, go here. It’s the second best library I’ve ever been to (this is the first, of course)
- The Overtime Theatre– I grew up attending local plays on field trips and always loved it so much. The Overtime is the people’s theatre! The amazing array of artistry you’ll see here is insane. SPEAKING OF WHICH, my very first friend I ever made (her name’s Kat, we were 5 and played leap frog down my hallway and have been friends ever since) is performing in the upcoming show, Cthulhu Too: The Stranger In Yellow. NBD, I KNOW HER! So if you’d care to support local art, please click here to donate to this production!
This is a difficult part to narrow down, but here goes nothin’…
- Garcia’s– THE BEST BOWL OF CHILI OF YOUR LIFE. YOU’RE WELCOME.
- Patty’s– BEST PUFFY TACO PLATE and friendliest staff.
- Augie’s– BEST BBQ SANDWICHES
- Raspas– a Raspa is a kind of snow cone. Piccadilly is the best/weirdest/my favorite kind to get. Mangonada is good too. DON’T FORGET THE CHAMOY!
- Elote- just find any snack shack that sells this and get it then tell me all about it so I can live vicariously through you!
- Theory Coffee– damn good coffee
- La Popular Bakery– ALL. THE. TREATS.
Luckily for the whole city of San Antonio, I’ll be back at least twice next year. My brother and sister are getting married…. NOT TO EACH OTHER… and I guess our presence will be expected at both weddings. I suppose I shall just have to keep finding this city’s hidden gems and adding to the list every time I’m there. Tough job, huh?