Growing up in Napa, my family and I would walk along the Riverwalk downtown, and my mom would mention how many riverwalks were modeled after the one in San Antonio. As we pulled up at The Thompson San Antonio, I was excited to finally experience the Riverwalk my mom had mentioned.
The Thompson San Antonio-Riverwalk, one of a chain of three luxury hotels owned by Hyatt, opened in February 2021 and proved the perfect refuge during my stay. Its Dallas counterpart opened in The National downtown in November 2020, and an Austin location is soon to follow. A sliding door split the luxurious bed and bath from a kitchenette and entertainment space—all of which were enclosed on one side by full-length windows providing city views.
Day 1: The Art of Food, Florals, and Well, Art
Before heading to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, my travel partner and I explored the Riverwalk for a bit, taking in the passing gondolas, lunch spots, and tourists. The greenhouses featured bright and bold orchids, among many other beautiful and intriguing plant species, which were unexpected. Still, the garden’s Frida Kahlo Oasis Exhibit was definitely the star. The exhibit came to San Antonio after tours in cities around the world and occupied a 2,100 square-foot space, showcasing highlights from her renowned home, Casa Azul, and its garden, including the pyramid that displayed Diego Rivera’s pre-Colombian artifacts collection, a frog-themed fountain, and Kahlo’s desk and easel.
We made a quick stop at Commonwealth Coffee in Alamo Heights, a hidden gem with amazing afternoon caffeine boost options and a fun chicken coop in the back. A quick stop, or a day working remotely from their shop inside a redone 1920s home, is a must.
We continued on to the McNay Art Museum, where we enjoyed the lower level’s sculpture offerings, several touring exhibits—including my favorite from Yayoi Kusama entitled “All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins,” which showcased an abundance of glass, polka-dotted pumpkins in an immersive room of mirrors—and the rest of the museum’s permanent collection, which includes American, European, Modern, and Contemporary art amongst other styles. The room filled with French Art Glass was also a highlight.
We returned to the hotel for dinner at Landrace, a restaurant curated by James Beard Award semi-finalist Steve McHugh. We had the good fortune of sitting near the kitchen, so we could see all of our food being prepared and chat with Chef Taylor Martin-Funk, as he took us on an unforgettable journey through the menu that would turn out to be the high-point of our trip and some of the best food and service we’ve ever experienced.
We started with what the chef called a caviar bump, in which we were given a spoon full of caviar on our wrist to enjoy alongside a glass of Prosecco. We then worked our way through the Texas Rabbit Roulade, Red Snapper Crudo, and Grilled Caesar Salad, all of which were standouts, before diving into the 8 oz Wagyu Filet Mignon with shishito peppers and the Lamb T-Bone with Chimichurri Sauce for our mains. We washed it all down with a Hang Up Your Spurs signature cocktail featuring Knob Creek Rye, Bacardi Ocho, Carpano Antica vermouth, and sugar pineapple. We opted for the carrot cake with prickly pair icing for dessert—an atypical choice for us, but one that definitely was worth venturing from our norm. The Chef was kind enough to let us sample the unique Bay Laurel and Basil gelatos that made a memorable end to a flavorful night.
Day 2: Modern Art, French Food, and Texas History
We began our second day in Bexar County with a visit to Ruby City, a contemporary art center founded by late collector, philanthropist, and artist Linda Pace. Housed in a large red building only five minutes from the Thompson, the gallery’s collection and touring exhibits deserve a brief walk through.
We then enjoyed lunch at Mon Chou Chou, a French restaurant located in San Antonio’s buzzing Pearl District, which opened at 2020’s close. The Raclette Cheese with ham is a must for starters; its creamy melted cheese spread over a crisp baguette was a luxurious opener. Our server recommended the Loup de Mer Au Four (baked branzino) with butter cape sauce, fondant potatoes, and French green beans as our main course, and we did not go wrong by him.
An off-menu dessert worth trying? The chef’s take on a strawberry shortcake.
After lunch, we made our way to San Antonio’s historic missions, where we toured mission San Juan, the largest of the missions. We learned how the landmark communities, whose aim was to convert the indigenous people of the region to Catholicism, functioned—how they made grain, took care of their ill, and defended themselves from raids—and stepped inside the church, still decorated with remnants of the bright colors that once adorned it. We also toured Mission Concepcion’s smaller mission against surrounding brush, where a priest still lives.
Our guide directed us to an abandoned bathhouse on our way back to the hotel, a lesser-known blast from the past worth a quick stop. We returned to the Thompson for dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar, The Moon’s Daughters, where we enjoyed the Charred Grilled Octopus Skewers to Start and the Greek Lamb Burger for our main course. Watermelon fans will enjoy the Tripoli cocktail, a not-overly-sweet accompaniment to the meal.
Day 3: Relax and Return
Before heading back to Dallas, I made a trip to the spa for a Chill Revival Cryo and Thermal Facial—which alternated between warm and cool cryotherapy to firm and detox—with my esthetician, Dianne. I was lucky enough to get my treatment the day the spa opened in August, among the first to check out its steam room and various treatment spaces.
We made a brief stop at the Alamo on our way out of the city, a fitting end to a memorable trip.