11 reasons (besides the NCAA Final Four) to visit San Antonio

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/27/2018, 3:09 p.m.
Deep in the heart of Texas is a place where hoops trump football as the leading local sport -- the ...
The old Pearl Brewery was transformed into a lively mixed-use neighborhood a decade ago./ Nick Simonite/Visit San Antonio

By Joe Yogerst, CNN

(CNN) -- Deep in the heart of Texas is a place where hoops trump football as the leading local sport -- the city of San Antonio -- home to the NBA Spurs and this year's Final Four of NCAA college basketball.

Not a lot of people outside of south Texas know it, but San Antonio is a destination that boasts some of the nation's best basketball traditions.

That includes "going honking" -- a celebration that unfolds right after Spurs playoff victories when hundreds of vehicles cruise Commerce Street in downtown San Antonio, flags waving, horns and music blaring. The ritual often lasts for three very noisy hours.

"Along with fresh tortillas, barbacoa with big red and conjunto music, honking after Spurs games is one of the traditions that we consider Puro San Anto -- Pure San Antonio," says Sarah Zenaida Gould, a curator at the city's Institute of Texan Cultures.

San Antonio has another huge reason to celebrate this year -- 2018 marks the 300th anniversary of the city's founding by Spanish padres.

Although the Alamo is renowned for the 1836 battle that featured larger-than-life figures such as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Gen. Santa Anna, it's also the city's oldest structure, erected in 1718 as the first of the Spanish colonial outposts in the San Antonio area.

In addition to the Final Four, all kinds of exhibitions, festivals and other events are marking the city's 300th birthday this year including a special edition of the annual Fiesta (April 19-29), an action-packed Tricentennial Commemorative Week (May 1-6) and a Spanish colonial-era show at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Even if you're not headed to San Antonio for college hoops or the 300th birthday, the sultry, sunny metropolis offers plenty to see and do no matter when you visit. Here are 11 of them:

1. Tour the Alamo

Although celebrated for the 1836 battle that spawned modern Texas, the famous Alamo traces its roots to 1718 when Franciscan padres founded a Spanish mission that was originally called San Antonio de Valero.

Living history encampments are often staged in the lush gardens in the back.

2. Stroll the River Walk

First conceived in the 1920s, this restaurant-and-bar-flanked route through downtown San Antonio is still the city's most popular attraction.

In recent years, River Walk has expanded a further 13 miles along the San Antonio River via the northerly Museum Reach and southbound Mission Reach -- portions where hiking, biking and kayaking are the main activities rather than eating and drinking.

3. Visit the Pearl

The project that kick-started the current San Antonio renaissance, Pearl underwent a metamorphosis a decade ago when the old brewery complex was transformed into an eclectic entertainment, dining, residential, hotel and retail destination.

The weekend Pearl Farmers Market attracts thousands, as do annual events such as the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival in October.

4. Roam around Southtown

San Antonio's other great urban renewal story, Southtown, has transformed from a derelict industrial area into a thriving arts, eating and historical district.