5 Things: A Local’s Guide to San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Travel guide, 5 things

In “5 Things,” we ask some of our favorite insiders in cities all over the world to share local travel tips: where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). We’re excited to feature picks from ER doctor, military veteran, and mother-of-two, Emily Fleming today. Emily is a natural at sharing beautiful truths on Instagram and we’re always inspired by her honesty when it comes to balancing hard work and family. She takes us behind the scenes in her hometown of San Antonio—a city of colorful zest and warm hospitality—and shares plenty to bookmark for your next trip to the Lone Star state.

We never expected to make San Antonio our home after I completed my military service, but eight years and two kids later, we’re still here. This town is full of color and culture, and is remarkably well-suited for young families. I am proud to share my favorite parts of it with you!

5 Things: San Antonio
by Emily Fleming

My husband and I were newlyweds when we moved to Texas for residency training. We’d come from opposite coasts when we first met during medical school in Chicago, and San Antonio happened to have a military Emergency Medicine training program for me, and a civilian Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation program for my husband.

We never expected to make San Antonio our home after I completed my military service, but eight years and two kids later, we’re still here. This town is full of color and culture, and is remarkably well-suited for young families.

I am proud to share my favorite parts of it with you!

We never expected to make San Antonio our home after I completed my military service, but eight years and two kids later, we’re still here. This town is full of color and culture, and is remarkably well-suited for young families. I am proud to share my favorite parts of it with you!


Like many others before me, I had associated Texas with barbecue and TexMex. But the foodie scene in San Antonio been blowing up as of late. While there are certainly plenty of options for scoring brisket or breakfast tacos, here are a few of my favorites for when I’m feeling other flavors:

I had one of my most unique dining experiences to date at Mixtli and, as a result, my definition of Mexican food will never be the same. Set in an actual boxcar, with an intimate 12-seat table where you dine family style with strangers, Mixtli delivers an incredible multi-course meal complete with wine and cocktail pairings. They rotate the menu every couple of months, with each iteration taking you on a journey through a new region of Mexico, highlighting its unique flavors. Plan ahead. Their tables are often booked up several weeks in advance.

For inventive sandwiches and incredible cupcakes, be sure to make a stop at Bird Bakery. Founded and owned by entrepreneur Elizabeth Chambers Hammer and her actor-husband, Armie [Call Me by Your Name], this local staple is so cute you can’t help but smile when you walk in. While their cakes and cupcakes steal the show, the California Turkey sandwich is not to be missed.

Across the street, you’ll find one of the six locations of Local Coffee. Local’s brewed coffee—by Merit Roasters—is a special weekend treat in our house, and their aesthetic makes it a perfectly inspiring place to work or study.

One thing San Antonio does REALLY well is family-friendly dining. There are tons of options for places with a gastropub-feel that cater to young kids with playgrounds and kids’ menus, while appealing to their parents with great food and craft beers on tap. Some of our favorites are The Pigpen, whose brisket nachos are not to be missed (and half-price on Mondays!), and The Cove, where their fish tacos are only outshone by their lamb burger, and the playground is conveniently located near the bar area (there are two!) that is dedicated exclusively to Texas-brewed beers.


One of my favorite places to shop for gifts and beautiful letterpress cards is at Belle & Union. I feel instantly inspired when I walk into this beautifully curated shop, and the owner, Meg, is so warm and welcoming. They host workshops in their letterpress space, if you’re looking to hone your hand lettering skills or propagate a few succulents.

hither and thither, san antonio travel guide

For beautifully embroidered Mexican dresses, handmade pottery and a fun mercado experience, head to Market Square.

If you’re in the Pearl Brewery area, pop into The Tiny Finch for truly unique jewelry, clothing, and gift items. Then, head across the street to The Vintage Bouquet Bar, a full-service florist shop where you can hand pick your own flowers and get some guidance on arranging them yourself.

hither & thither, san antonio travel guide


No trip to San Antonio is complete without a stop at The Pearl. In the 1800s, it was a brewery. Now it has been developed into an eat/play/stay/live/work space that has a modern day piazza feel. Best part is, there is a splash pad located in the center of it all. We find ourselves there several times a month, enjoying the green space and proximity to the Riverwalk.

hither and thither, san antonio travel guide

Hemisfair Park is located downtown, and is home to an incredible play space: Yanaguana Gardens. With a sand play area, a splashpad, tons of climbing structures and a space for yard games, Yanaguana is great for kids of all ages. Recently, a couple of our favorite restaurants have opened locations right in the park, making it easy to spend an entire day there. Dough Pizzeria is famous for their neapolitan pizza and insane burrata. Their Hemisfair location has patio seating that overlooks the sand play area at Yanaguana, so you can enjoy a glass of wine and try not to think about how much work it will be to get all that sand off your kids.

hither and thither, san antonio travel guide

The best way to cope with a San Antonio summer is to find a body of water and get in it. Hamilton Pool is natural pool, surrounded by a collapsed grotto and fed by a waterfall, located less than two hours outside of town. Reservations are mandatory—they cap how many people have access at any given time—but Hamilton Pool is a sight to behold if you manage to secure a spot.


Hotel Emma is hands-down, one of the most impressive establishments at which I have ever had the pleasure of staying. No detail was overlooked in its design, and it is very well situated in the Pearl area: close to the Riverwalk and to downtown. Rooms there do not disappoint, but they are pricy. However, you can’t beat the convenience. Hotel Emma is near several great restaurants and bars, including Supper and Sternewirth, which are located in the hotel itself. You are also walking distance to Jazz, TX; an incredibly fun and inventive jazz club that never fails to be highly entertaining.

For a more affordable option, look to Hotel Havana. Also located right on the Riverwalk, Hotel Havana’s rooms are modern and minimalist in decor, yet thoughtfully stocked with local pleasantries. Hotel Havana also boasts an incredible bar: Ocho is my very favorite place to take friends visiting from out of town. With plush velvet seating, an ornate chandelier and stunning turquoise accents, you don’t need a view, but Ocho delivers a great one of the river anyway. Try the Santiago Painkiller if you need to wash away a long day of travel.

hither and thither, san antonio travel guide


A good pair of huarache sandals will be weather-appropriate for a vast majority of the year, and are sure to perfectly complement any festive attire you might pick up while you’re here. On a practical note, given that—odds are—you’ll be traveling to San Antonio when it’s warm (quite warm), don’t leave home without an insulated cup. Ice melts fast in 100-degree temps, and these cups are the only thing keeping your drink cold long enough for you to actually drink it.

What a list! It’s obvious from Emily’s guide that San Antonio is a great place to be right now. If you’re a local or you’ve visited recently, would you add anything?

Since leaving the military, Emily splits her time between shifts in the ER, hunting for bugs with her kids, and barre classes. She loves being inspired to feel deeply. A good book, a particularly heroic glass of wine, and Beyonce’s Netflix documentary have all recently done the trick. You can find her micro-blogging via caption on Instagram: @emflem

P.S. In the mood for more Texas? Here’s our recent travel guide to Austin and all of our 5 Things Guides.

Thank you to Molly Coyne for her help with this series! 

[All photos courtesy of Emily with exception: Mixtli via The Local Palate; Bird Bakery photos via Dallas Magazine and The Daily Meal; Hamilton Pool Preserve; Hotel Emma]

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