Places to Love: San Antonio, TX

Samantha Brown

I’m in a city that is one of the top tourist destinations in the United States. Well known for its richly preserved heritage and a river that everyone loves. But this river, more than a unique attraction, is what brought people here thousands of years ago and to this day remains a constant source of inspiration which you can experience through history told, art and music can join, and of course, the food. It’s where people have always been on a mission to protect the city they love. I’m in San Antonio, Texas. 

Carnitas Lonja 
Located in the Southside of San Antonio, Carnitas Lonja is a no-frills taqueria that serves only one thing – carnitas. This authentically Mexican dish involves cooking pulled pork for three hours before letting it rest for two more. And you can bet that in a state known more for TexMex and barbacoa, Chef Alejandro Paredes has made sure the only item on his menu is the best around. And just how much has he perfected the art of carnitas? Well, in 2020 he was named a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Texas. You’ve got to see just how soft and delicious these carnitas are. 

Mission Kayak 
While strolling along the pathways that stretch along the San Antonio River is the most popular method of enjoying the River Walk, there’s now a new way thanks to Sarah Neal, the owner of Mission Kayak. After a car accident forced this air force veteran into early retirement, she found that kayaking helped not just her physical health but her mental health as well. And with living in a city known for its river, it only made sense to bring that love to visitors and locals alike.  
San Antonio Mission Reach 
If you had visited Mission Reach a decade or so ago, this 8-mile stretch of river would’ve looked a lot different than what you see today. Once a giant drainage ditch, it is now a public green space with a riparian woodland ecosystem, thanks to the ongoing Mission Reach Program, which handles one of the country’s largest Urban Ecosystem Restoration projects. Today there are over 16 miles of biking and hiking trails for both locals and visitors to enjoy. 
Mission San Jose 
The reason San Antonio named the newest section of the River Walk “Mission Reach” is that it connects four of the five missions that make up the San Antonio Missions. The most famous, The Alamo, is Downtown but the rest are spread along this stretch of river. One of those is the 300-year-old Mission San Jose, which at one time housed over 300 inhabitants and was nicknamed the Queen of Missions. Today you can meet with and hear stories from the very descendants of this community, whose ancestors took part in building the mission itself. 
Bracken Cave 
From about March to October, drive forty minutes from San Antonio, and you’ll find yourself looking down an ancient sinkhole at the 100-foot crescent-shaped entrance to what seems like an unassuming cave. Don’t go in. Instead, wait until 7:30 PM and watch for the air begin to move. Soon you’ll see what and who makes this cave so special.