By Kathie Farnell
A few miles north of San Antonio’s River Walk, The Westin La Cantera Resort is a luxurious world unto itself, complete with a mile-long nature trail designed to introduce the visitor to the natural wonders of the Texas Hill Country. Built on one of the highest points in San Antonio, La Cantera also offers grand views of downtown and the surrounding countryside.
The resort caters to the outdoorsy guest on a number of levels, from its Golf Academy and par-72 Resort Course (home of the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open) to its RunWestin program designed to make fitness easy through guided “discovery runs” through the Hill Country. For the younger set, the Westin Kids Club provides adventures along the nature trail and a chance to interact with wildlife—including a sloth—through its Zoomagination program.
If you prefer the great indoors, the Castle Rock Health Club is home to a state of the art spa and, if you insist, a 7600-square-foot cardio and weight training fitness center.
La Cantera’s connection with the natural world is reflected in the menus in its Brannon’s and Francesca’s at Sunset restaurants. The resort espouses a “farm to table” philosophy which emphasizes the use of Texas products—-including phenomenal Hill Country wines.
The resort makes off-property exploration easy with a free shuttle to nearby Six Flags Fiesta Texas and The Shops at La Cantera, some of the most luxurious shopping in San Antonio. Here, more than 1.2 million square feet of restaurants and shops, including mainstays Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, welcome browsers in a relaxed outdoor setting.
Just a few miles away, downtown San Antonio’s most-visited site is the Alamo, where knowledgeable guides like curator/historian Bruce Winders assist more than 3 million visitors a year to a better understanding of the site’s history. The 1836 battle in which 189 defenders lost their lives is the most well-known episode in the history of the former mission, which later fell onto hard times as a warehouse (and the next-door neighbor of the Alamo Saloon) before being rescued in 1905 by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
A short walk from the Alamo brings visitors to the River Walk, a shady haven of shops and restaurants along the scenic San Antonio River. A guided river cruise is an ideal way to spend an afternoon exploring the recently-opened 1.3 mile extension of the River Walk which takes boatloads of visitors to the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Witte Museum and the multi-use Pearl Brewery Building. Sights worth seeing here include everything from new public art installations to a bat colony living under a bridge.
The River Walk is famous for food, and Boudro’s, one of its most popular eateries, is a perennial favorite for guacamole (made tableside) and prickly-pear margaritas. The ultimate margarita-and-guacamole experience, however, may be found beyond the River Walk at Aldaco’s Mexican Cuisine, where the mind-boggling list of margaritas includes one made from avocados. Yes, I tried one and no, it didn’t taste like an avocado—more like a regular frozen lime margarita with an unusually creamy texture.
Thanks to its location at the gateway to the Texas Hill Country, the Westin La Cantera is an ideal departure point for a day trip to the little towns that make up the Texas Wine Trail. Texas wine is big business; Orbitz Travel voted the Hill Country the number two wine destination in the U.S., second only to Napa. Every weekend caravans of visitors descend on established wineries like Becker Vineyards, whose wines have been served at the White House, and up-and-comers like Torre de Pietra, for tours, tastings and live music. It’s possible to sip and snack your way through a dozen vineyards and be back at La Cantera for the sunset.
For more information on visiting The Westin La Cantera Resort, check the website or phone 210-558-2200. For more information on visiting San Antonio, check the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau website or phone 800-447-3372.