San Antonio recently completed a $358 million face-lift of its famed River Walk, ecologically restoring the San Antonio River while expanding pathways along its banks.

Downtown remains a hive of restaurants, water taxis, and Texas history, but now visitors can also connect with locals along the river in less touristed areas.

Nature enthusiasts venture south down the newly completed Mission Reach, whose quiet trails lead to Spanish outposts built during the early 1700s. Here exploration requires foot, bike, or kayak, because those tourist barges that have become synonymous with the River Walk can’t navigate its lower end. That’s part of the appeal: The Mission Reach is a bastion of solitude, the yin to the yang of downtown’s buzz.

Meanwhile, epicureans retreat north, past the Museum Reach‘s cultural institutions, to historic Pearl Brewery. A local benefactor gave this defunct brewhouse a fresh lease in recent years, building a “culinary village” around an outpost of the Culinary Institute of America.

“The Pearl is becoming as popular as the Alamo,” says Jesse Perez, executive chef of Arcade Midtown Kitchen, one of Pearl’s newest tenants and listed among the country’s “most anticipated openings of 2013″ by national blog Eater.

  • Tip: Rent wheels from B-cycle (from $10 a day, with many docking stations) to enjoy 13 miles of riverfront trails.
  • Travel Trivia: In 1952, German brewmasters renamed the city’s brewery “Pearl” for the lustrous look of its lager bubbles.

This piece, written by Millie Kerr, first appeared in the April 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Comments

  1. Elissa
    April 27, 1:50 am

    It’s been many years since I visited. I enjoyed the Alamo, but my favorite place in San Antonio was the wonderfully eccentric Buckhorn Saloon/Museum.

    http://www.elissaexplores.com