The River Walk Imagine a Venetian waterway lazing through the heart of your town. San Antonians don't need to imagine—they have the River Walk (in Spanish, Paseo del Río). This system of paths bordering the San Antonio River runs 15 miles through downtown, extending as far north as Hildebrand Avenue and as far south as Mission Espada.
Years ago, the sight of gondolas floating through San Antone prompted journalist Ernie Pyle to call the new River Walk “The American Venice.” How did it come into being? For centuries, the San Antonio River provided water to the region's inhabitants. If a Franciscan missionary or a Spanish explorer or a Payaya Indian was thirsty, this stream offered a cool, clear drink. In the first half of the 20th century, as the city's population boomed, the tributary was not so giving. In September 1921, a sudden rainstorm blasted San Antonio, and the Olmos Basin spewed 9 feet of water into city streets. The flood killed 51 people and cost countless millions in property damage.
Following the disaster, outraged citizens called for a flood plan. In a long civic battle, both conservation and commerce prevailed, and so, during the Great Depression, the WPA (Works Project Administration) and local business leaders began the river's transformation. Over a few decades, the troublesome San Antonio River metamorphosed into the placid River Walk. Builders created dams, floodgates, cobblestone walkways, arched footbridges, thick retaining walls and staircases.
San Antonio isn't Venice, but does it matter? The River Walk has its own, uniquely Texan identity: dynamic and lovely and dripping with Spanish Colonial influences. It's also the city's “it” spot. Though this river section is no longer spring-fed, it still bestows plenty on the community before it glides away to the Gulf of Mexico.
Nowadays the city brings out the gondolas only for special occasions, but you can still ride the soft currents on a boat tour or water taxi. If you'd rather explore on foot, you can wander the walkways along the river to find small parks, restaurants and specialty shops.
San Antonio, TX
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Municipalities may impose additional rates of up to 2 percent on the statewide 6.25 percent sales tax. Sales tax in the city of San Antonio is 8.25 percent; rates vary in the suburbs. The hotel occupancy tax is 16.75 percent.
Baptist Medical Center, (210) 297-7000; Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, (210) 757-2200; Mission Trail Baptist Hospital, (210) 297-3000; Northeast Baptist Hospital, (210) 297-2000; University Hospital, (210) 358-4000.
317 Alamo Plaza San Antonio, TX 78205. Phone:(210)244-2000 or (800)447-3372
San Antonio International Airport
Hertz, (210) 841-8800 or (800) 654-3131, offers discounts to AAA members.
The Amtrak station is at 350 Hoefgen Ave.; for train schedule and ticket information phone (210) 223-3226 or (800) 872-7245.
The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 500 N. St. Mary's St.; phone (210) 270-5868 or (800) 231-2222.
San Antonio taxis are metered. The average fare is $2.50 when you enter the cab plus $2.60 for each mile. A $1 surcharge is added for trips between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Four passengers can ride for a single fare. The major company is Yellow Cab, (210) 222-2222. Boat taxis travel the river's downtown loop daily 9-9 (weather permitting). A one-way fare is $10, an all-day fare is $12, and a 3-day fare is $25. Phone (210) 244-5700 or (800) 417-4139.
VIA Metropolitan Transit provides public transportation consisting of buses and streetcars. Buses are routed through all sections of town; one bus even whisks shoppers from mall to mall on I-410. Express buses run daily from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Vintage streetcars travel three main city routes daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. or later, swinging by attractions, shopping areas and other key locations about every 10 minutes.