I asked. Many of you answered. The question was “Is it just me, or do Austinites not go to San Antonio very often?”
As is too often the case, the answer to this one, based on prevailing reader feedback, is it’s just me. And, as you know, the readers (at least those who pay to read our for-profit product) never are wrong.
Kim Squier was nice enough to take the time to send detailed suggestions. She mentioned some of the obvious, including the Riverwalk, but also reminded me of something in San Antonio I’ve always wanted to do: tour the historic homes in the King William District. I’m putting it on my list.
“Please go visit San Antonio and approach it with fresh eyes, as if you were a first-time visitor,” Squier advised. “There is definitely a party element on the Riverwalk in the evenings, but you can choose to avoid that.”
Donna Wynn was among several readers who recommended San Antonio museums, including the Witte. Others recommended the zoo, Sea World and Fiesta Texas. OK, but those last three not my cup of tea.
Ed Sills, a former San Antonio newspaper reporter and now a Texas AFL-CIO official, got right to the point: “Ken,” he wrote, “it’s just you.”
He recommended the Riverwalk extension to the missions that makes for an interesting bike ride. He’s right. I’ve done it and look forward to doing it again.
Several folks mentioned the restored Pearl Brewery north of downtown. Been there. It’s mostly shopping.
The very interesting Hotel Emma is nice, but when you get past the fact that it used to be a brewery, it’s not really much more than a pleasant shoportunity that can be found elsewhere.
Jeffee L. Palmer said it’s not just me and said my column “dovetailed perfectly with a conversation I had quite recently with another Austinite about our lack of enthusiasm for San Antonio.”
“When I was about 18, I went with some friends to see Elvis at (San Antonio’s) city auditorium,” Palmer wrote. “I’ll never forget showing up in our bell-bottom jeans and seeing the local audience dressed to the nines. That’s when I realized that San Antonio was a different world from Austin.”
It still is, but with a different difference from back when King Elvis reigned.
Palmer acknowledged San Antonio’s popularity as a tourist destination, noting that while on international trips many folks would report they’d been to San Antonio. “It took great effort for me not to ask, ‘Why?’”
Long-time (33 years) Buda resident Carol Rogers likes a lot about San Antonio but doesn’t get there as much as she used to.
“In the last 10 years, maybe more, the traffic has gotten so bad that it’s easier to head west (Fredericksburg) or east (the coast), just not north or south from Austin. It used to be an hour from my door to the Alamo. Now it’s easily 1.5 hours or more,” Rogers wrote. “Sad.”
Hmm. Sounds like that old Yogi Berra thing: Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.
Dallas Webster told me, “I’ve always liked San Antonio a lot. I’m not sure why I haven’t gone there more often.”
He listed some of his favorite San Antonio things, including the Spurs. “Still, after over 35 years in Austin, I’ve been there perhaps a half-dozen times,” he said. “On reflection, I only seemed to go when there was some specific call and I haven’t been in quite a while.”
And brace yourself for a big ol’ ouch if you’re a fan of why the Alamo City is called the Alamo City: “When my first couple of visitors came to town, I took them to the Alamo. However, that has always disappointed everyone. After that I’ve talked visitors out of going to the Alamo or only invited people who had already been there.”
Let’s hope the current plan to update the Alamo experience gives us new reason for repeat visits to that important historic site.
Webster has an interesting theory about Austinites and San Antonio: “Perhaps San Antonio is too close. In most instances, when I did go there, I went down and back the same day, doing just one primary thing while there — because I could. But that wore me out, seeming like too much travel for too little reward. So maybe I need to amortize my time there over multiple days, objectives and ventures. Writing this convinces me that I need to give San Antonio a better chance, starting with more time and broader plans.”
Larry Chabira is not a fan: “I moved to Austin in 1984, then moved to San Antonio in 1986, moved back to Austin in 1989. Ok, let’s see, Austin: Young. Hip. Collegiate, New money, Liberal. Sixth street. Bars. Clubs. Music, High tech. Bats.
“San Antonio: Old family money. Conservative. Tex-Mex. Military. Catholic. Retirees. Military retirees. More Tex -Mex. Lots of tourists who are afraid to go to old Mexico so they go to El Mercado. Same Mexican trinkets, but you won’t be kidnapped by a cartel and you don’t have to change money. Downtown is really just Cincinnati with a Hispanic population. Nothing hip or interesting about the place. Don’t go past New Braunfels,” Chabira wrote.
Chuck McClenon has been in Austin since 1975 and, back then, San Antonio had much that Austin didn’t.
“Today,” McClenon said, “the question would be what does San Antonio have that we ain’t got? Why bother?”
We’ll let reader Rick Jensen of Dripping Springs have the final words on San Antonio: “Having lived in both, I also have wondered why the two cities are just completely different spheres so close to one another. Austin is Athens. San Antonio is Sparta.”
Thanks to all, and there were many of you, who offered feedback on this one. Much appreciated.