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. Standard rooms are scattered throughout both the historical wing and newer additions.
Be sure to check out the onsite Menger Bar, whose wood-paneled interior is modeled on the House of Lords Pub in London. The pub specializes in upscale cocktails, including Patron margaritas and Grey Goose bloody marys. 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.
San Antonio, Texas: Historic Missions near Picturesque River Walk
In the late 1920s, architect Robert H. H. Hugman designed an urban park around the San Antonio River—a space he envisioned as an American version of Venice, where people could shop and dine along the waterfront. Completed in 1941, the 2.5-mile river walk still serves as a vital artery in the heart of San Antonio as it wends its way past cafés, hotels, bars, and shops.
Located one story below street level, the waterway is flanked on either side by stone pathways, quiet waterfalls, and towering cypress trees. The winding river-walk path reveals little surprises along the way, such as picturesque restaurants, public art installations, and cardboard cutouts of Davy Crockett. A new extension connects the river walk to the four-story San Antonio Museum of Art, where you'll find more than 25,000 sculptures and paintings that range from Roman antiquities to contemporary art.
Also neighboring the river walk is the Alamo. 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 just 5 miles south of downtown. Its famed rose window is once again on display following an extensive renovation.
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