This may seem like an interesting choice for Thanksgiving. Big Sister city of Austin seems to be the biggest draw for outsiders to Texas. And for those who have been to San Antonio, majority were there for a conference and could not provide much input besides visit The Alamo and The Riverwalk. However the deal we got on Expedia, was unreal. It is why we picked San Antonio. I looked at packages and based on the price decided San Antonio was our destination. $1100 for airfare, hotel, and rental car for five days. What a deal! And for our first time we wanted to experience beyond the city and see the surrounding Hill Country. And so I got to work on my Google map (click to check out our sites) and doing my research of places to see and visit.
Our welcome to the Hill Country began with the most amazing Thanksgiving Brunch I have ever experienced. The best brunch ever – (my daughter who missed this trip was to quick to ask if it even surpassed the one we had for Easter at The Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral – and yes. It did.). And by the crowds and well organized seating for this event, this was truly indeed the place to be! Under-dressed and seriously disheveled from a 5:00 am flight surprisingly did not make lips upturn but instead brought even more smiles and welcome to Texas from the staff at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort. (I’d link to the menu but is already gone from their site)
So on that rainy Thanksgiving Eve after our huge meal (everything from waffles to shrimp to turkey to gnocchi!), a walk on the nature trails, time in the lawn playing games, and a nice swim in the pool (it would be the last sunny AND warm day on our trip) we decided to check out the famed Downtown San Antonio Riverwalk. We happened to stumble upon the Alamo just a block from where we parked. Although not opened, there was something beautiful about it all lit up in the rain without the crowds. We wandered and found our way down to the Downtwon Riverwalk. And indeed this is an amazing attraction truly like anything we had ever seen. Being Thanksgiving Eve we were not sure of what to expect, but it was still bustling with people We wandered down to see where we canceled reservations for dinner the next night (booked to see the Ford Holiday River Parade) and for a brief moment I regretted cancelling seeing just how close we would have been to the floats. (Luckily my husband showed me again the forecast and reminded me just how full we were .. good choice for the parade was cancelled but not until after we would have been seated for dinner.)
Over the next five days we would only return only once to the famed Downtown Riverwalk after a visit to the Alamo during open hours. Instead our journeys would take us up river to Museum Reach and down river to Mission Reach. We found these two areas far more beautiful and interesting and for all those who never extend past there downtown hotel they have no idea what they are missing. Check out this map to get a good understanding of how this all lays out. Museum Reach extends to the San Antonio Museum of Art (free the day after Thanksgiving!) and up to the historic Pearl Brewery Complex. We enjoyed lunch at Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery and beers at the The Granary ‘Cue & Brew with amazing group of bartenders. That is when the rain began to pour and so we sat out on the porch and just sipped our beer like we were on our own front porch.
Mission Reach is another amazing place to visit – although not the easiest to navigate to each Mission for the signs are not always clear (thank goodness the rain stopped us from doing the rental bikes to each one – although there clearly was a bike trail following the river navigating the portal (as they call it) to each Mission did not appear to be as easy) Each Mission is unique in its own way.. it was hard to pick a favorite. Mass with trumpets was going on at Mission San Jose when we visited. As usually the first one you visit because it is where the visitor center is, it will long be remembered. The quiet and stillness at Mission San Juan and the beautiful church made this a favorite for me. However the liveliness, active community, surrounding neighborhood and well cared for grounds of Mission Espada where life continues including not only a church but a daycare onsite still exists. Mission Concepcion is set apart and not much to see – most of it now gone however there were still volunteers cleaning up the yard around it. If you cannot make it to all three then this is the one I would skip. Be sure to visit the NPS website before your visit. I liked seeing this before visiting the Alamo for it was reminder that originally the Alamo was also a mission.
We also took two journeys up into the Hill Country where apparently few tourists venture. What a pity. We met so many nice folks all stunned that we were there on holiday – not visiting family and not there for business – just for fun. The rain dampened our hiking plans but we were still able to venture out to see the falls at Pedernales Falls State Park. Because of all the recent rain this was especially beautiful. Unfortunately the rain closed another State Park we had hoped to visit.
Of course we love to visit breweries wherever we go and this trip was no different especially with just it being my husband and I. A special mention to Pecan Street Brewing. Not because the beer blew us away (good but the selection was limited due to a previous event) but because of the nice people we met who now live in Johnson City and because of the most amazing true hill country Christmas celebration ever. It was the night of the parade and so we stayed and watched the small, but in every way perfect, tractors pull into town with Santa. And the lights.. unlike anything I have ever seen. Johnson City is saved on Zillow… waiting for a perfect little bungalow to pop up!
We ventured out into the Hill County a second time on a Monday to Fredericksburg to see another small town Christmas Display. Along the way we visited wineries and as seemed to be wherever we went, like at Sisters Creek Vineyards… we met someone from our hometown state. (Looking forward to cracking open that bottle of this New Years Eve!) A Monday night brought a few disappointments for most restaurants were closed but we still enjoyed the Christmas lights, the shops, and all the friendly folks we met. And because we headed back to our hotel early, we decided to make one last final stop...Random Beer Garden – read for a full write up of this amazing place!
A wonderful hotel is one that can deliver on all areas and the Hyatt Hill Country indeed did that (my full review on TripAdvisor). For me it ranked up there with Disney Resort. Yes. We will continue to laugh about the first morning when I awoke to what appeared to be through my blurry eyes a dog looking up at me (and indeed it was – he had come in through the balcony). And the rain and cold weather (it was colder in Texas then in Pennsylvania that week) put a damper on our swimming plans (although I did venture again into the pool). However the night sitting by the fire in our pjs with our beer&cheese ( HEM is the best grocery store with an amazing craft beer selection… and I believe the only one…) where the staff continued to stoke the fire for us the lone guests (and even asked if we needed a s’mores kit) just leaves the best lasting memories of a place. And that brunch. That unto itself is a reason to visit.
I’m not one to repeat a destination that requires a flight to reach… but there was just something so special about this place that I want to return… next Thanksgiving seems like a good time… although our Texas friends all suggest trying out another month… who knows.. maybe that bungalow will just pop up sometime soon…