Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cruising the San Antonio River Part 3: Paseo del Rio

The third in my series of our San Antonio River tour covers the most popular part of the San Antonio River Walk and the area you've probably seen or heard about even if you've never visited.  You can read about our cruise through the Museum Reach north of the city in Part 1 and Part 2.

The Paseo del Rio is the 2.5 mile loop through downtown lined with hotels and restaurants serving our biggest industry--tourism.  We host 26 million visitors a year, that's a lot for a population of 2 million.

On this early November day we are heading under the flood gate which diverts flood water into the bypass channel during times of heavy rains.  The channel protects the businesses along the Paseo del Rio from flooding.  Annual pansies are in place for the cooler weather.

The river narrows at this point and we can almost touch the plants along the sides.  Barge traffic only goes one way around the loop.  Red shrimp plant is festive in this tropical setting.

Which came first, the fig tree or the wall?

The Esquire Tavern opened in 1933 to celebrate the end of prohibition.  The building looks much older.

Enjoying a cup of coffee on this chilly day.

The Aztec Theatre river entrance

Built in 1926, the recently restored meso-American styled interior with its two-ton chandelier is dramatic.

Approaching La Mansion del Rio hotel

Built in 1852 as a school for boys, it has been a college, a law school...

and now a luxury hotel in the Omni chain.  The Bauhinia orchid tree is pretty in bloom.

Spanish Colonial architecture and old world charm put it consistently on the list of top hotels in the country.

Just a glimpse of one of our iconic stone bridges in the background.

The Art Deco Nix Professional Building appears flat from this angle.  When it opened in 1931 it was the tallest hospital in the country at 23 floors and the first ever building to house a hosptial, doctor's offices, pharmacy, and a parking garage in one facility.  The 1920s encaustic tiles in the parking garage make it an impressive place to park.

Coming up on one of our pretty iron bridges.

Feels tropical down here even in the cold.

Cyclamen for the holidays fill this small garden space along with variegated flax lily.

A popular place to dine on the river, those table umbrellas are iconic symbols of the River Walk.

The Hugman building, Robert H.H. Hugman designed the River Walk concept after the area experienced a series of devastating floods.

Golden Rain tree pods add color in the fall

Old and new stone work provide contrasting textures.

Not exactly a "Chamber of Commerce day" but the bougainvillea continues to bloom away.

More Cyclamen for the holidays

The Tower of the Americas appears.

Bird of Paradise blooms with roses.  Wish mine would bloom, maybe if we get a mild winter.

Aloe and Foxtail Fern show off similar forms.

Violet Cordyline accents a small garden.

The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas mosaic by Juan O'Gorman spans the Lila Cockrell Theatre front facade.

Heading toward the Convention Center we continue to enjoy the tropical foliage so common here.

Near the Convention Center a large garden appears in the middle of the river.  Walkways and waterfalls make this a pleasant break from meeting activities.  The magenta berries are on the native American Beautyberry which birds will soon strip clean.

Cypress knees appear along this bend in the river.  The Bald Cypress is the signature tree along the River Walk.

We enter the lagoon cul-de-sac at the Rivercenter shopping mall which features Food Court seating along the river.

Back out onto the river

St. Anthony of Padua for whom our city is named.  The statue was a gift from Portugal on the 250th anniversary of our city.

La Antorcha de la Amistad or Torch of Friendship was a gift from Mexico in 2002.

One of my favorite places, the Arneson River Theater

The Briscoe Western Art Museum and its stone water feature invites visitors in.

Another iron bridge over Presa Street.

The Tower Life Building built in 1926.  The lower floors housed a Sears, Roebuck department store.

Fabulous Neo-gothic stonework details

The Bexar Country Courthouse clad in red sandstone markes the end of the Paseo del Rio section.

These three iron trellis' caught my eye as we turned to head back northward through the bypass channel.  I can't remember if I'd seen this before but it looks surprisingly similar to the three trellis' I recently added to the stone wall along my front walk.

Stylized details on a pedestrian bridge across the bypass channel evoke the history of the area.

The landing for Main Plaza and San Fernando Cathedral is where we'll end this post.

I'll post more on our return trip and a walking tour of the Paseo del Rio in future posts.  


  1. This tour is absolutely wonderful, Shirley! Your downtown area is truly beautiful. There's so much to admire but I was really impressed by the fig tree extending from the middle of the wall, the bridges, and the waterfall features.

    1. It is a special place and I didn't even get into all the details that are there.

  2. Thank you for this lovely River Walk and SA River series. He-Who-Mows is not allowed to say to me, "What if we had moved to San Antonio in 1991?" I even had a job offer from Methodist Hospital and he changed his mind about permanent work in SA. .

    1. I know you enjoy where you live too. We don't go down there that much.

  3. This is my favourite of the three instalments, with the nice mix of architecture, gardens, and other sites. And 26 million visitors a year, impressive!

    1. I think everyone finds this the best part, except if you're local and need to navigate all those tourists.

  4. Speaking as one of those tourists I loved this place, thanks for the memories.

  5. There's a reason people have always loved this part of San Antonio. 26 million visitors can't all be wrong! Shirley I especially appreciate that you are sharing not only plant names but some of the wonderful architectural history of the beautiful buildings that provide a backdrop for the river area. Why, you could hold your own river tours! I'd sure enough buy a ticket.

  6. I can't remember the last time I went on the River Walk- thanks for the tour- fun seeing it through your lens.

  7. You post such great images of this area that I want to be one of those 26 million tourists one year and see this myself. If you've answered this already, I apologize for my forgetfulness- It looks as though there are some places where one could walk from a barge/boat in the river onto the bank and into the businesses. Is that the case or are vessels not allowed to stop?

    1. It is a beautiful place to visit. You are not forgetful at all, I thought about addressing the question in my post and then left it out. There are two types of barges, tour barges and the Rio Taxi. Tour barges have a set route around the loop and do not stop. The Rio Taxi has a checkered flag and will stop at any landing. Rio Taxi also goes all the way to the Museum Reach so is a good deal at $15.00 for 24hrs of on and off rides.

  8. Such a joy for me to visit your blog today. I love the river there. Spent a couple of days along it some years back - nice to see it again - and bring back great memories. Great photos - thanks Jack


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