Whether you brave I-35 (peace be with you) or take a short flight, San Antonio is well worth a visit this holiday season. Beyond the twinkling River Walk lights and muchos taquerias, here are a few extra-special reasons to go.
Shop The historic Pearl Brewery, which opened its doors in 1881, now houses an eclectic mix of stores; shop for guayaberas at Dos Carolinas, shoes at LeeLee (hello, Rachel Comey!) and fresh reading material at indie bookseller Twig. For a dose of culture, head north to Alamo Heights and visit the McNay art museum?s store, where you can nab artisanal jewelry, coffee-table books and colorful Czech glass art. (303 Pearl Parkway; 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave.)
Eat The two-year-old Southtown restaurant The Monterey has a decidedly quirky (and elevated) take on traditional diner food. The dishes are heavy--think Salisbury steak with fontina cheese and foie gras gravy--but worth the extra calories. (1127 S. St. Mary?s St.)
Stay Located along the River Walk, the contemporary Hotel Valencia features Dodd Mitchell-designed rooms with plantation shutters and handsome ebony furnishings. Rates start at $119 a night. (150 E. Houston St.)