Vol. 23, No. 3/Spring 2001
The River Walk in San Anonio, Texas. Credit: SACVB/Al Rendon.
Bienvenidos a San Antonio
Welcome to San Antonio, News Division friends. Many of you remember San Antonio from the last SLA conference here in 1991. The city has experienced a healthy development during the past decade, but you will find it remains a big city with a small town feeling. For those of you that are coming to San Antonio for the first time - you are in for a treat!
San Antonio is one of America's most unique treasures - a city blessed with a rich historical, architectural, Epicurean and cultural heritage.
To experience the cultural diversity of Texas and San Antonio, plan to visit the Texas Folklife Festival that will be in full swing during the first weekend of the conference. Food, crafts, music and dancing are the focus of this festival that celebrates the 27 ethnic and cultural groups that have added their rich traditions to Texas culture. The festival is held at HemisFair Park (www.mysa.com/cityguide/visitors/hpark.shtml), the site of the 1968 World's Fair, adjacent to the Convention Center and just a few blocks from the River Walk.
One of the oldest cities in the US, San Antonio began its colonial history in 1691. Spanish missionaries founded a series of missions and a military garrison was established in 1718. Settlers from the Canary Islands established a civilian settlement in 1731.
San Antonio's top attraction is the Alamo (www.thealamo.org), conveniently located downstairs from the News Division Hospitality Suite. Known as the "Cradle of Texas Liberty" and an American icon of freedom, the Alamo was the first mission established in the area and the site of famous battle that occurred in 1836. Some 180 Texans, including volunteers from other southern states, Anglo Texas settlers and Hispanic Texans, died fighting General Santa Anna's 5000 Mexican Federal troops. The cry "Remember the Alamo" inspired Texans to continue their battle for independence, which was won six weeks later at the Battle of San Jacinto. San Antonio continued to play a key role in the rich history of Texas when Texas became a nation in 1836, joined the United States, seceded to become a Confederate state and finally an American state again. It was a frontier town with all the mythological characters: cowboys, Indians and lawmen.
History buffs will enjoy visiting La Villeta (lavillita.com), San Fernando Cathedral (www.sfcathedral.org), the Spanish Governor's Palace, and the Missions (www.nps.gov/saan/). Your hotel can provide maps and directions. Less educational are some of the hokey tourist traps in Alamo Plaza.
The River Walk and its miles of tree-lined pedestrian walkways with outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants provides dining options and a convenient route for getting around from your hotel to conference sessions and to the News Division suite. It will be hot in San Antonio in June - average temperature in the mid-90s. You will appreciate the shade and cool breezes of the River Walk.
Runners or walkers could enjoy an early morning route through the King William Historic District, which is a 25-block neighborhood near downtown, nestled along the river with lovely shade trees. Established by German settlers in the 1800s and named after Prussia's King Wilhelm I, the area contains numerous restored Victorian, Creole and Romanesque style homes.
Dining in San Antonio is bound to be one of your most memorable experiences. The best Tex-Mex food in the world can be found here. Mexican, steaks, American, Italian, Asian and German are just some of the cuisine available to discriminating news librarians. We will provide a list of good restaurants in the News Division suite and will try to give you some insider hints about what dishes to try. Cold beer and margaritas are staples for handling the hot weather.
Locals cope with the hot weather by wearing cool cotton clothes and sandals or other comfortable shoes. I recommend you follow suit. You might need a jacket to handle air-conditioned rooms, but don't bother with rain gear or panty hose.
Getting around is pretty convenient in San Antonio. The airport is only 8 miles from downtown and offers shuttles, reasonable taxis or rental cars. Once downtown you will be able to walk, find a taxi at hotels or hop on VIA trolleys that blanket the downtown area. Don't hesitate to ask for directions if you get lost. A team of city employees called Amigos who wear trademark aqua-colored shirts and khaki pants wander around the tourist areas of downtown to provide directions or other assistance.
Shopping opportunities during the conference are plentiful and varied. Between the Convention Center and the News Division suite there is the 3-level Rivercenter Mall. La Villita is a restored area along the river that preserves the charm of the past with its narrow streets lined with adobe houses. The area now hosts numerous small restaurants and shops. Market Square, just a short trolley ride away, carries imports from Mexico and has some interesting galleries and popular Mexican food restaurants.
Hotels and bed & breakfasts have blossomed in San Antonio during the last decade. There are many choices both on the SLA conference list and off. The News Division suite will be in the Lone Star Palace, which is a privately owned penthouse suite built above the stores that overlook Alamo Plaza. Within a couple of blocks are the Hyatt Regency, the Menger, the Emily Morgan, two Marriott hotels, the Crockett Hotel, the Hilton, Palacio del Rio, the St. Anthony and dozens of other hotels.
Museum lovers may wish to visit the San Antonio Museum of Art (www.sa-museum.org) with its newly opened Rockefeller Latin America wing or the McNay Art Museum (www.mcnayart.org). Both are close to downtown by taxi.
The Awards Banquet and cocktail party will be held right across the street from the San Antonio Public Library (www.sat.lib.tx.us) - an architectural attraction in itself. Designed by renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, the six-story structure stands out strikingly with its bright 'enchilada red' color.
Sports fans - I'm sorry to report that the San Antonio Missions, our local AA Texas League Affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, will be on the road during the conference. At the time I am writing this article, our World Championship San Antonio Spurs are in the playoffs for the NBA Finals again. So there's always a chance we may get to experience a world-class party if the team continues on the road to another championship. If that happens - brace yourself. This town goes nuts when the Spurs are winning big.
I love this town - especially the warm and friendly people. Prestigious Conde Nast Traveler has named the Alamo City the number two U.S. destination and the number nine world destination. How could you consider missing such a great destination and such a great program?
I look forward to seeing you in June!
Kathy Foley is the Assistant Managing Editor for Online News, Research & Technology at the San Antonio Express-News. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.