Shopping, eating and amusement in and around San Antonio (36559)
Shopping, eating and amusement in and around San Antonio (36558)

Despite freely enjoying our hilltop paradise at the Westin La Cantera Resort, our group did venture away a few times to enjoy a little bit of San Antonio. We had several exciting options, a few just a stone’s throw away from resort.

Billed as San Antonio’s newest and most exclusive shopping experience, the Shops at La Cantera is home to San Antonio’s first Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom stores. The Shops offers 1.3 million square feet of upscale retail shops-150 in all-including Tommy Bahama, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lacoste, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Williams-Sonoma, Ann Taylor, Sephora, the Body Shop, White House Black Market and the Children’s Place, just to name a few. Entertainment facilities and restaurants are numerous as well. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Yard House, Brio Tuscan Grille and Kona Grill are among some of the most recognized spots.

For more gastronomic fun, a few sojourned to the Pearl. A true San Antonio culinary and cultural historic destination, the Pearl is home to the newest location of the Culinary Institute of America, and is highlighted by numerous merchants, cooking demonstrations and tastings from local chefs and a Saturday “producers only” farmer’s market.

AMUSEMENTS GALORE

La Cantera Resort is also close to two other popular San Antonio attractions: SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas (there is a complimentary shuttle from the resort to Six Flags).

Kids of all ages from all over the United States enjoy SeaWorld, the world’s largest marine life adventure park and family entertainment showplace. Here you will find fun and educational exhibits like Dolphin Cove, Rocky Point Preserve, Penguin Encounter, Alligator Alley and Lorikeet Feeding. Thrilling rides like the Steel Eel, Journey at Atlantis, Shamu Express, Great Whale, Quick Queue and Rio Loco are big hits as well.

Visitors can choose from more than 25 sensational shows like the Cannery Row Caper, One Ocean, A Beluga Story and Azul (the famous Orca splash zones are a must!). You can also participate in SeaWorld’s Animal Interaction Program, where guests not only learn about sea lions, sharks, dolphins, beluga whales and other marine creatures, but they actually get to enter the tanks and engage in interactive activities with the animals. It’s a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures and learn more about their presence and environmental impact around the globe.

Apparently it had been a while since some of us had been to an amusement park, because once inside the gates of Six Flags Fiesta Texas, our ages dropped to our shoe sizes! We ran around like children let loose in a candy store: “Ooooh, the Ferris wheel!” and “I call shotgun on the water plume!” (Who says once you turn “achoo!” you’re too old to be a kid?!)

From thrill rides like the twisting, spiraling Poltergeist to the Superman Krypton Coaster and the Rattler, a classic wooden roller coaster; a variety of less intense and children’s coasters; aqua adventures like the Lone Star Lagoon and Tornado; and time-honored amusement park attractions (bumper cars, carnival games, tea cups, flying swings, arts and crafts booths, theater shows and so forth), Six Flags is just plain fun!

The immense park also encompasses several themed areas including Los Festivals, a Hispanic village; the ’50s style Rockville; Crackaxle Canyon, an early Western town; and Fiesta Bay Boardwalk, among others.

A TOUCH OF EUROPE IN TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

By far my favorite side trip was to the quaint town of Boerne (pronounced “Bernie”).

Located just 30 minutes north of the La Cantera Resort off Interstate 10, Boerne was settled by German immigrants in the 1840s. Today this delightful small town still exudes turn-of-the-century European architecture with striking, verdant greenbelts and inviting picturesque gardens gracefully lining the Hauptstrausse (Main Street), which spans about six blocks through the center of town.

Boerne’s boutique size is one of the most enchanting aspects about it, allowing visitors and denizens alike to leisurely stroll anywhere they desire within a few minutes time. A delightful place for a day-long shopping trip or for a weekend getaway, Boerne’s charming historic district, with more than 140 historic structures, features a bevy of one-of-a-kind retail shops offering handmade quilts, home accessories, books, clothing, shoes, arts and crafts, jewelry, unique gifts and more. To whet your whistle, stop in at their brewhaus or wine bar. Want a little nosh?The local coffee shop and bakery can satisfy your every need and desire.

The crowning touch in Boerne is the warmth and gracious hospitality bestowed upon everyone in town, with the residents and proprietors treating you like family members who drop by daily, stay a while or visit now and again. Boerne is very popular with overnight guests, who lodge here in some of the Hill Country’s finest accommodations, including destination resorts, hotels and motels, B&B inns and conference centers.

“The perfect setting for relaxation of the body and restoration of the soul.” I couldn’t have said it any better than the denizens of Boerne who lovingly share their tiny treasure nestled in the magnificent setting of the Texas Hill Country.

DO YOU “LIVE TO EAT” OR “EAT TO LIVE?”

Those of you who follow my adventures pretty regularly know my answer to that question! And “live to eat” we did back at the La Cantera Resort. We’ll delve into that with knife and fork coming up in our last adventure in the Texas Hill Country.

RESOURCE LIST

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.