AAA Editor Notes
River Walk runs 15 miles through downtown, extending as far north as Hildebrand Avenue and as far south as Mission Espada. It's hard to believe today, but downtown's standout attraction came into being as the result of efforts to tame the flood-prone San Antonio River. After a particularly devastating flood in 1921 that killed 51 people and caused millions of dollars in damage, Robert Hugman—an architect and native San Antonian—drafted an ambitious plan that would not only control the river's flow through damming and the construction of flood gates, but allow its banks to be developed for both commercial and beautification purposes.
The result is the prettiest place in the city. A long stretch of meandering waterways lined with big hotels, lots of restaurants and a sprinkling of specialty shops, River Walk is a tad reminiscent of the canals of Venice (that was Hugman's intention). Picturesque stone bridges arch across the water. The subtropical landscaping is lush. Pigeons coo, mallards quack and leaves rustle in the breeze. You can shop, have lunch, admire public art installations, learn about the river's history on a boat ride, stroll along paved walking paths shaded by pecan trees and tall cypresses, or simply sit on a bench, relax and watch people go by.
River Walk is just below street level, and that small difference is enough to give it a distinctly different feel. A series of entrance steps off downtown thoroughfares provide easy access. The scene becomes particularly festive in the evenings, on weekends and during major events like Fiesta San Antonio; lights twinkle, bars and clubs bustle and diners pack the waterside tables at restaurants like Casa Rio, which opened in 1946. But it's early morning, long after the crowds have dispersed, that a solitary ramble along the paved walkways offers an opportunity to really appreciate the loveliness of the setting.
The northern section of the River Walk is the Museum Reach, which links several downtown historic, commercial and cultural institutions, including the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Witte Museum and the San Antonio Zoo; the southern portion is the Mission Reach with connection to four of the five UNESCO-recognized missions where ongoing restoration projects are reclaiming the river and its environs. The downtown portion of the River Walk features hotels, cafés, shopping and attractions.
Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash.
Pet friendly (call for restrictions/fees.). Food is available.