What do you do in San Antonio after you’ve seen the Alamo and tipped back a few margaritas on the River Walk? You shop, of course! The colorful Mexican handicrafts and folk art will begin to lure you in, so head to some of the best districts to shop and watch the plethora of local artists perfect their trade.
San Antonio is home to a unique culture of creative types that are beginning to make the city look a little more like Austin, with galleries, museums and boutiques representing an internationally recognized mix of styles and mediums.
Just south of the city center, Southtown the Arts District is a 25-block mecca of shops and galleries hosting some of the finest artists of the Southwest region. This funky pocket of town also offers a glimpse into the King William Historic District’s elegant 19th-century homes and architectural gems.
Brilliantly colored handblown glass creations are highlighted at San Antonio’s first glass studio, Garcia Art Glass. You’ll find one of the most comprehensive collections of folk art in the world at San Angel Folk Art. Exhibits include works in wood, metal and ceramics as well as spiritual symbols from celebrations such as Haitian Voodoo and Day of the Dead, as well as African collectibles.
The Jewelry Box is a treasure-trove of potential gifts to take home. The delightful owner stocks one-of-a-kind vintage jewelry and decorative items; note the funky operating hours, which are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m.
Allow plenty of time to check the 160,000-square-foot Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, open Thursday through Sunday. These former warehouses were redesigned to house art studios, galleries, restaurants and numerous specialty shops. Those who are in town on the first Friday of the month can take part in the decades-old gallery crawl aptly named the First Friday Walk, where works of art from all types of mediums are perused and purchased.
For an insider’s glimpse into the fabulous architecture of this district, stop at 401 King William Street. Villa Finale is a meticulously restored Italianate mansion with a collection of more than 12,000 objects of art. The former owner, Walter Mathis, was the preeminent preservationist of the home as well as the King William neighborhood.
Feel the vibe of old San Antonio in this beautifully restored historical district linked to the River Walk. Considered the first neighborhood in San Antonio, this area was the site of General Santa Anna’s cannon line in the famous Battle of the Alamo in 1836.
Grab a walking History Tour Map at La Villita History Exhibit, Building 15, to learn more about the area’s colorful history before it became the thriving art community it is today.
The village features art galleries, craft shops, jewelry shops full of Mexican silver, handcrafted leather, clothing stores, stained glass and a shop dedicated to all things copper, the Copper Gallery.
Often referred to as “the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico,” El Mercado is a vibrant outdoor venue that envelopes you in a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells. There are more than 100 specialty shops featuring colorful handcrafted items. Shops specializing in authentic Mexican clothing, like guayabera shirts, include Los Pueblitos, Marti’s and Penner’s.
Grab some fresh veggies and fruit at the Farmers Market, or delve into tantalizing local Mexican food at Mi Tierra, a 75-year-old tradition in San Antonio. It’s open 24/7, serving mouth-watering baked goods and TexMex food, always homemade and hot from the oven.
North of town and just minutes from the airport is the trendy Alley on Bitters, a collection of specialty stores displaying local artistry on the grounds of a 19th-century former dairy farm built by an Austrian adventurer.
Meandering through this thoughtfully landscaped plaza, you’ll feel like you are in a rustic treehouse. I Pic Nic is the place to go for handcrafted wooden furniture. Try Iva Style for customized interior designs and Texas Beach Boutique for easy, breezy women’s clothing, like their comfy palazzo pants.
After an afternoon of shopping, treat yourself to an oven-fired pizza and a nice glass of wine on the patio of Tre Enoteca, a cozy Northern Italian café on the premises.