If you want to put off dealing with the long lines at the Alamo, a good place to start is the San Antonio Conservation Society’s walking tour of forty homes in the King William Historic District (210224-6163). Make time for the magnificent Carl H. Guenther House and Pioneer Flour Mills (open Monday through Friday from 7:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. and Sundays from 8:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. ), which has a restaurant that serves German pancakes and also a museum (210-227-1061). Call 210-225-5924 for the Steves Homestead hours.
Many hotels on the River Walk should offer wonderful views of the luminarias . I stayed at the comfortable Mansion del Rio (210-225-2581). One notable off-river favorite is the 1859 Menger Hotel (210-223-4361), near Alamo Plaza. Robert E. Lee and William Jennings Bryan slept there, and Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders at the hotel’s bar.
I had a wonderful brunch of huevos con carne and tortillas at Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery (210-225-1262), which is open twenty-four hours a day, with good live music. A life-size painting (copied from a photograph) of a jogging President Clinton wearing the restaurant T-shirt hangs on the wall. A manager told me that Clinton got the shirt, which bears the stony image of the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, during a visit a few years ago, and the White House later called asking that the painting be taken down to avoid confusion and embarrassment: U.S. foreign policy at the time condemned the rebels in Chiapas, Mexico, for whom Zapata was a heroic symbol. Mi Tierra politely refused.
In San Antonio a wintertime visit usually means shorter waits. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is open from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. during standard time and from 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. daylight-saving time. Call 512-229-5701 for information on church services. The Alamo is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, from 9:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. on Monday through Saturday and from 10:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. on Sunday. Admission is free. Call 210-225-1391 for details.
Write or call the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau (P.O. Box 2277, San Antonio, TX 78298; 1-800-447-3372) for more information.