Ornate Hotel Played Host to Presidents and Celebs
Located just across the street from the Alamo, Menger Hotel in San Antonio doesn't draw anywhere near the number of visitors who pay their respects to its famous neighbor every year. But the 1859 hotel is a bona fide historical attraction in its own right. Among the many famous guests who've stayed here: Babe Ruth, Ulysses S. Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt, who reputedly recruited some of his Rough Riders at the bar.
With its fluted columns, ornate Victorian scrollwork, and Tiffany-glass skylight, the lobby certainly looks and feels historical. Maybe that's why, as hotel employee Patty Cuellar points out, "people just wander in and start snapping photos." Many of the building's antiques come from the personal collection of the original owner. You can spot grandfather clocks, curio cabinets, and a painting of cattle that was used in the James Dean movie Giant.
Upon arrival, step into Menger Bar for a pair of welcome drinks. The bar—whose wood-paneled interior is modeled on the House of Lords Pub in London—pours specialties such as margaritas made with Patron and bloody marys mixed with Grey Goose. Nearby, the Colonial Room Restaurant features neoclassical columns and recessed panels. The kitchen's mango ice cream was first introduced when mango trees still grew in the hotel's courtyard garden. More recently, the dessert was served at both of President Clinton's inaugurations.
Standard rooms are scattered throughout both the historical wing and newer additions. While booking, mention which you'd like to stay in and whether you prefer pool, garden, or Alamo views.
San Antonio: Historic Missions near Banks of Winding River
Thanks to the 1836 battle that made it a symbol of Texas independence, the Alamo has become the most-visited tourist site in the state. It's actually one of five historic Spanish missions clustered around the San Antonio River. The largest, Mission San José, lies 5 miles south of downtown. Its famed Rose Window is once again on display following an extensive renovation.
A few blocks west, the San Antonio River Walk has a vibe somewhere between that of a Venetian canal and a canyon gorge, with walls made of buildings rather than sandstone. Each twist of the River Walk path presents little surprises—picturesque restaurants, public art, and cardboard cutouts of Davy Crockett. A new extension connects the River Walk to the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.