As a San Antonio native, Shelly Reynolds has been exploring the city all her life. Luckily, she doesn't miss out on a global perspective: While sharing her lifetime of knowledge through Historic Texas Tours, she and her staff get to meet and befriend travelers from all over the world. The company's tours focus as much on forming new friendships as discovering the local sights as they expose visitors and locals alike to area wineries, restaurants, and landmarks at the direction of friendly guides. Food tours unearth local eateries with a tour itinerary that varies often to reward visitors who go on repeat trips, and journeys into the Texas Hill Country offer complex tastes of locally made wines. Mission Trail tours explore edifices that date back to the 1700s, including the oldest unrestored stone church in the United States and a used-horse dealership.
The engine's howl steadily builds as the Robinson R44 helicopter's blades churn with increasing velocity. Passengers look out of bubble windows and see grass whipping beneath. In a moment, the turf disappears, fading from view as the chopper lifts higher into the sky. So begins an aerial adventure led by experienced pilots Steve Van Buren and John Holler, who venture into the airways above Austin, San Antonio, the hill country, and central Texas. The air-conditioned copters—equipped with four-way communication that allows guides to maintain contact with passengers—glide through the firmament, as pilots obey all stop-sign-shaped clouds on their way to eye-catching views of sites such as historic Gruene. Crews also bring helicopters to clients for party rentals and assist landowners with predator control and game surveys.
A buoyant fleet of inflatable rafts and tubes drifts lazily down two sprawling rivers populated with exciting rapids and falls. During 1.5- to 5-hour treks, guests can traverse the Comal or Guadalupe River in an inner tube, relax with a partner in a two-seater raft, or host a regulation poker game with friends inside a raft that holds up to six. Trip durations and age cutoffs may change on a daily basis depending on current river flow.
A crackling fire warms guests perched at white-draped tables in the candlelit wine cellar. Upstairs, diners marvel at the picturesque views of the vineyard and rose garden filling the glass-enclosed patio's windows or deeply inhale the aroma of wildflowers drifting onto the vine-covered porch. It's against these intimate backdrops that servers at The Vineyards Restaurant deliver steak, seafood, and other upscale dishes to tables, which come aglow with candlelight as dusk falls.
The chefs work hard to make each bite as special as the surroundings. They age beef-tenderloin fillets for 45 days before plating them atop garlic-and-mushroom sauce and slowly marinate chicken in a spicy chipotle-garlic oil before nestling it in a bed of pasta covered in cilantro cream sauce.
With such food in such a setting, a regular night out at The Vineyards is one to remember, but a special occasion there is truly magical. For marriage proposals, anniversaries, and the reunions of long-lost pairs of socks, staffers lead guests down a candle-strewn path to a private table set for dessert among the vineyard's rows of grapevines. The Vineyards has held more than 500 weddings in its open-air pavilion, and its on-staff wedding coordinator and floral designer help plan picture-perfect ceremonies.
When horror movies like the Paranormal Activity franchise need a supernatural adviser and The Atlantic Paranormal Society needs a recruiter, they turn to Robert. A former cast member on SyFy's Ghost Hunters International, he draws on his extensive paranormal know-how to lead 90-minute nighttime treks with Ghost Hunts of San Antonio Texas Tour.
Exploring the dusky streets of downtown San Antonio, the tour stops at more than 10 locations with verified ghost activity, including the Flannery House, the Crockett Hotel, and the Casino Club building, where apparitions can be spotted mulling over the same poker hand they've been holding for more than 100 years. Rob showcases modern ghost-hunting equipment while helping guests detect spirits by seeking out cold spots and snapping photographs. When he's not commanding the hunt, he regales visitors with factual accounts of the deaths of famous San Antonio spirits including Mae West, Davie Crockett, and Roy Rogers.
In 1910, Louis Bush led his first tour of Washington, DC, loading passengers into the refurbished chassis of a Mack truck that he had painted blue and gray. From this humble beginning, Louis expanded his Gray Line tours throughout the United States and abroad. The company currently hosts tours in more than 700 destinations across six continents and all three moons. However, Gray Line's expansive international scope isn't nearly as important as its commitment to a narrow, regional focus. Each tour aims to introduce visitors to some distinctive facet of the city's identity, from the ghosts of Savannah, Georgia’s, historic district to the towering redwoods of San Francisco’s Muir Woods. During the chauffeured sojourns, guides dole out intriguing tidbits of local knowledge, giving the groups some invaluable insight into the areas’ histories and cultures.