Best of San Antonio: Around Town

Best Museum

1. Witte Museum

3801 Broadway, (210) 357-1900,

The Witte was founded 80 years ago as SA’s first museum. Today it contains dinosaurs and art, mummies and live piranhas — a mix as peculiar as San Anto itself. We take many institutions for granted now, but back in 1924 the mayor is reported to have asked, “What is a museum?” Some people still don’t know (for evidence of this, check the lousy support in the new state budget). The Witte’s forays into local history and regional ecology are a great opportunity to discover where it is we really live. It’s likely more interesting than you ever imagined.

2. McNay Art Museum

6000 N New Braunfels, (210) 824-5368,

3. San Antonio Museum of Art

200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100,




Best Alternative Art Space

1. Blue Star Arts Complex

1400 S Alamo

Anchored by the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and Blue Star Brewery, the six-acre complex is a success story of adaptive re-use. The warehouses of the old MKT Railroad have turned into shops, photography studios, restaurants, and housing. Art galleries like the Joan Grona Gallery, San Angel Folk Art, Cactus Bra Space, Three Walls, and the UTSA Satellite Space are kept company by nonprofit arts-education centers StoneMetal Press and Jump-Start Performance Co. Not everyone’s open for business everyday, but the place comes alive for First Friday.

2. Artpace

445 N Main, (210) 212-4900,

3. SAY Sí

1518 S Alamo, (210) 212-8666,




Best Art Gallery

1. The McNay Art Museum

6000 N New Braunfels, (210) 824-5368,

Being a museum, the McNay of course houses a number of galleries. Some contain the Museum’s permanent collections of Southwestern art, Medieval and Reniassance art, and the like, but our attention is usually grabbed by contemporary shows like New Image Sculpture, assembled by the McNay’s own René Paul Barilleaux, chief curator and curator of art after 1945. If you haven’t visited yet, get a move on — this new show closes May 8. But stay tuned, as there are always new shows in the works.

2. Blue Star Contemporary Art Center

116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960,

3. San Antonio Museum of Art

200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100,




Best Local Curator

1. David S. Rubin

San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100,

Museum curators come in several different breeds: The Administrator sets the house in order, rationalizing the collections; The Politician tempts corporate and private support with high-profile traveling shows; The Scholar is a master of art history, and a writer, too. Not often seen is The Artist, who logs his own studio time. David S. Rubin, The Brown Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art at SAMA, is a rare hybrid of all the above. Yet if the subtle nuances of all those Rubin-esque qualities are lost on many of us, locals know Rubin first and foremost as a tireless champion of San Antonio artists.

2. Alex Rubio

R Gallery, 110 E LaChapelle, (210) 300-3442




Best Art in Public

1. First Friday

The First Friday art walk is an institution that, in various permutations, is held monthly in many cities across the country. In SA we have two versions — Second Saturday in the Lone Star Arts District, and First Friday, the big monthly art event held all over town. The biggest crowds congregate around the Blue Star Arts Complex, but you can find art across the city on these magical evenings, including shop fronts on South Alamo all the way to St. Mary’s. We were a bit perplexed to see First Friday take a public art category, but we decided that you gentle readers may have been referring to social sculpture, not plop art, as the best and most typico art in public in our city. And we tend to agree with you.

2. Riverwalk - Museum Reach




Best Mural

1. The Spirit of Healing by Jesse Treviño

Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, 333 N Santa Rosa

Any day of the week you can see San Antonio artist Jesse Treviño’s works gracing the buildings of San Antonio. But Spirit of Healing, completed in 1997 on commission for Christus Santa Rosa, is the largest by far. At nine stories high you can’t miss spotting the three-year project, especially from I-35. But a close-up view from Milam Park downtown highlights the more than 150,00 pieces of hand-cut tile used — 100,000 tiles cut by Treviño himself. The artist modeled the broken-winged angel, seen watching over a young boy holding a dove, on his late sister Eva. The boy is modeled after Treviño’s son Jesse.

Though he lost his right hand in Vietnam (earning him a Purple Heart and citizenship), Treviño taught himself to paint with his left hand and used the GI Bill to study art at SAC and Our Lady of the Lake. He is one of the few Chicano artists whose work has been acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, and two of his paintings are on permanent display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Another prominent work is La Veladora of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a 40-foot veladora at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (1300 Guadalupe) honoring those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.




Best Local Theater Company

1. The Overtime Theater

1414 S Alamo, Ste. 103, (210) 557-7562,

The Overtime Theater has settled nicely into their new digs in the Blue Star Arts complex, and continues to work — OK, we’ll say it — overtime to bring original musicals, plays, and adaptations to San Antonio. With offerings that are consistently offbeat and low-priced, the Overtime is the closest thing that San Antonio has to a theater with a fringe sensibility. The current season features premieres by local educator-playwrights Sharon Argo and James Venhaus, as well as the prolific Scott McDowell. A funky, art-strewn lobby and fresh popcorn give you a taste of what the Overtime’s all about.

2. Woodlawn Theatre

1920 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 738-1117,

3. Jump-Start Performance Co. (Tie)

108 Blue Star, (210) 227-5867,

The Magik Theatre (Tie)

420 S Alamo, (210) 227-2751,




Best Movie Theater

1. Santikos Palladium IMAX

17703 IH-10 W, (210) 496-2221,

The Palladium is the one movie theater that’ll make us venture outside the warm, comforting safety blanket that is Loop 1604. But it’s more than just a typical movie theater — this two-time Best of SA winner boasts VIP auditoriums (18-and-up only means no toddlers were tortured in the screening of Black Swan), the well-stocked, well-serviced Agora Bar (to, um, take the edge off while watching Black Swan), and even a gelato stand in the lobby (to try and fill the gaping hole left inside misguided souls upon finishing Black Swan). But those are just trailers for the feature presentation: a state-of-the-art IMAX screen that plays first-run 2D and 3D films with a beautiful digital picture and superior sound. Just don’t forget where you parked — the Palladium’s lot is also IMAX-sized by necessity.

2. Alamo Drafthouse Park North

618 NW Loop 410 Frontage Rd, (210) 677-8500,

3. AMC Huebner Oaks 24 (Tie)

11075 IH-10 W, (888) 262-4386,

Regal Alamo Quarry Stadium 16 (Tie)

255 E Basse, (210) 930-6576




Best Special Event

1. Luminaria

March 12, 2011 in HemisFair Park, (210) 271-2842,

Not that it was ever a small undertaking, but the sheer size of this year’s Luminaria: Arts Come to Light was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Following a spreading trend of night-long festivals that celebrate the illuminating power of art, Luminaria gained major momentum in 2011 and delivered on its promise to highlight the city’s most exciting visual artists, musicians, and performers. Leading up to the 4th annual event, Mayor Julián Castro delivered a public service announcement from Taco Haven’s sidewalk — lying on his back next to a pressure-washed Luminaria logo. Other authoritative voices around town touted the festival as one that will inevitably become San Antonio’s version of South by Southwest. One can always dream.

2. First Friday

3. Fiesta




Best Fiesta Event


La Villita National Historic District,

A Night in Old San Antonio has been part of Fiesta since 1948. Its sponsor, the San Antonio Conservation Society, puts on a great party in downtown’s historic enclave of La Villita, with over 16,000 volunteers toiling (and partying) away to throw this fest for at least 80,000 visitors each year. Hundreds of food booths, mucho entertainment, parades, and barrels of drink let you party like it’s 1899. A local fave, NIOSA is also the biggest historic fest in the country.

2. Fiesta Oyster Bake

St. Mary’s University,

3. King William Fair & Parade




Best Live Music Festival

1. Jazz’SAlive

Travis Park, 300 E Travis,

Write it down now: on September 24 and 25, 2011, from noon to 11 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively, the 2011 edition of this annual two-day jazz event takes place. This is a free showcase of local, regional, and international jazz stars that, unlike most free fests, has the real goodies (previous years featured Dianne Reeves, Eddie Palmieri, and Chuck Mangione, among others). If you have money to spare, don’t miss the Starlight Salute to Jazz’SAlive Gala on Friday, September 23, and the Champagne Brunch on Sunday, September 25, both at the St. Anthony Hotel.

2. Fiesta Oyster Bake

St. Mary’s University,

3. Luminaria




Best Comedy Club

1. Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club

618 NW Loop 410, Ste. 312, (210) 541-8805,

Laugh Out Loud (or, as the kids these days call it, LOL) is the new kid on the comedy block, but it’s quickly become a hotspot for local comedians and touring funnypeople alike. The club features two stages — a more intimate room where local pro and aspiring comics test new material at Tuesday night open mics (the two-drink minimum helps here), and a larger showroom that has hosted regional and nationally renowned comics like Richard Lewis. With LOL’s help, San Antonio comedy is finally being taken seriously.

2. Rivercenter Comedy Club

849 E Commerce, (210) 229-1420,

3. The Rose Theatre Co.

11838 Wurzbach, (210) 360-0004,




Best Bowling

1. Bandera Super Bowl

6700 Huebner, (210) 523-1716,

Since Bandera Super Bowl went 24/7 last May, we wondered who was going on bowling binges in the wee hours of the morning. VIA drivers? Hospital workers? Gas station attendants? Perhaps all of the above. And why not? This alley caters to all types. There are specials for seniors, those 18 and younger (free on Sundays 9 a.m.-noon), and even college students ($9 unlimited games on Mondays). With more than 50 lanes, food, DJs, karaoke, and loads more, Bandera Bowl is a catch-all for bowling enthusiasts — even the closeted enthusiasts who haven’t come to terms with their 10-pin affections yet. Bowling at 3 a.m. is one (albeit extreme) way to keep that secret safe.

2. University Bowl

12332 IH-10 West at De Zavala, (210) 699-6235,

3. Brunswick Thousand Oaks Bowl

4330 Thousand Oaks, (210) 654-0031,




Best Library Branch

1. Central Library

600 Soledad, (210) 207-2500,

A recent facelift has made the controversially enchilada-red structure even more vibrant — and the contrast against a blue Texas sky is undeniably lovely. But most important is what’s inside, and we’re not talking about the slice of downtown’s transient population or the teenagers making out in the stacks. What impresses us is the excellent Teen Services program (book jackets off to Jennifer Velasquez, Teen Services Coordinator), the Book Cellar selling withdrawn books and more for super-cheap prices (a book-hoarders dream), and the remarkable Texana collection for local history buffs. Oh, and did we mention the artwork? Check out the newly installed Days in memory of Linda Pace, Fiesta Tower by Dale Chihuly, Caballo Tamaño Grande by Fernando Botero, and a mural by Jesse Treviño (artist of this year’s Best Mural). Just a reminder: reading is sexy. So read on, San Antonians, read on. It’s starting to show.

2. Hannah Landa Memorial Library

233 Bushnell, (210) 732-8369,

3. Great Northwest Library (Tie)

9050 Wellwood, (210) 684-5251,

Brook Hollow Library (Tie)

530 Heimer, (210) 496-6315,




Best City Park

1. Brackenridge Park

3700 N St. Mary’s, (210) 207-7275,

Boy, Brackenridge sure has a lot of ducks. And they look like happy and content little (er, mostly fat) things. And why wouldn’t they be? Green spaces, cool waters, food from picnickers … any duck’s dream. It’s great for humans, too. The park boasts paved, tree-lined paths suitable for bicycling and walking, rentable pavilions, the Japanese Tea Garden (also winner for Best Makeout Spot), the San Antonio Zoo, Sunken Garden Theatre, a playscape and train for the kiddos, Lambert Beach, and a ball field. The park has been a family destination for over 100 years, and is a lush, picturesque local spot to take the fam, enjoy a walk, or, um, makeout. Just keep your lusty mitts off the ducks, please.

2. McAllister Park

13102 Jones Maltsberger, (210) 207-7275,

3. San Pedro Springs Park

1315 San Pedro Ave, (210) 207-7275,




Best Public Swimming Pool

1. San Pedro Springs Park

1315 San Pedro, (210) 207-PARK (7275)

Near the headwaters of the San Antonio River, the swimming hole at San Pedro Springs Park (the second oldest city park in the U.S.) was restored to keep the feeling of a natural lake. It is finished out in dark plaster and surrounded by a broad limestone walkway, towering cypress, and unique historic markers detailing the ritual significance of this site to the earliest-known inhabitants. Although swim time is officially our scorching summer months, the pool is not closed off in any way, so locals may soak their feet anytime throughout the year. The openness of the pool’s location and design creates the inviting feeling that everyone is welcome. No wonder it was voted the best.

2. The Pool in Alamo Heights

250 Viesca, (210) 824-2595,




Best Dog Park

1. McAllister Park

13102 Jones Maltsberger, (210) 207-7275,

Tucked back in McAllister Park is a little bit of doggie heaven — an acre and a half of doggie heaven to be exact. While there’s no separate area for smaller dogs (as our second-placer has), that didn’t seem to be an issue the day we stopped by. Canines of all sizes were happily coexisting, even sharing the doggie water fountains. There’s a large area shaded by trees, and no shortage of canine “playground” equipment, either. Dog parents can enjoy a paved walking trail, picnic tables, and benches to relax on and bond with other dog parents. With the amount of social sniffin’ going on here, you might even land yourself a date — for the dog, of course.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

 13203 Blanco, (210) 207-7275,

3. Madison Square Park

400 Lexington, (210) 207-7275,




Best Pet Boarding

1. Pawderosa Ranch Doggie Play-and-Stay

923 Clydeville, (210) 404-9941,

While some of the dogs boarding at Pawderosa Ranch have muzzles only their peoples could love, there are no bad dogs here. In fact, to board your tail-wagger for a night — or weeks if need be — they must be non-aggressive. And the staff won’t take your word for it — your pooch will have to pass a temperament evaluation. Small dogs have their own run, while the larger dudes on the ranch enjoy a free-range area to frolic about as they please. Owners are even given a login to the “WagCAM” so they can check up on their brood, although a recent viewing of a runners-up webcam showed some “extracurricular” goings-on between two canine boarders. (Thank goodness for spay and neutering!) And if you just want your best friend to have some company during the day while you’re working, Pawderosa offers daycare at very reasonable prices.

2. Lucy’s Doggy Day Care & Spa

2250 Thousand Oaks, Ste. 200, (210) 495-3647,

3. Rob Carey Pet Resort

14824 Bulverde, (210) 494-7787,




Best Place to Adopt a Pet

1. San Antonio Humane Society

4804 Fredericksburg Rd, (210) 226-7461,

The San Antonio Humane Society is like the Taj Mahal of adoption centers: well-manicured grounds, a beautiful facility, and multiple buildings for potential adoptees to browse the recently abused, neglected, and abandoned dogs and cats. Staff and volunteers are super helpful with questions and obviously dedicated to caring for our city’s lost souls (minus the salvation literature). The Society even offers rehabilitation assistance for emotionally troubled animals that need extra attention to ready them for home life, plus reduced-cost spay and neuter services to help cut down on the overwhelming problem of strays on our streets. While we commend all of San Antonio’s no-kill shelters, we recommend potential adopters also consider the city’s Animal Care Services when considering a new pet. Those sad furry faces have an expiration date hanging over their heads.

2. Animal Defense League

11300 Nacogdoches, (210) 655-1481,


(210) 237-9400,




Best Makeout Spot

1. Japanese Tea Garden (aka Sunken Gardens)

3800 N St. Mary’s

Brides to be and hopeful fashion models strike poses in front of the waterfall. Footbridges connect trails snaking through verdant manicured gardens. A pagoda sits above it all, peering down on a wealth of secret hiding places and ponds filled with koi blowing underwater kisses. These are but a few things inspiring our readers to suck face in the Japanese Tea Garden, developed on land donated to the city by George W. Brackenridge in 1899. But Japanese artist Kimi Eizo Jingu is who you horndogs should thank. In 1919, Eizo, his wife Miyoshi (a nationally recognized tea expert), and their children moved into the onsite Jingu House and beautified the gardens until 1941, when anti-Japanese sentiment led to their eviction and a (temporary) name change to “Chinese Sunken Garden.”

2. My house

3. Your mom’s house




Best Impromptu Urinal

1. The Alamo

300 Alamo Plaza, (210) 225-1391,

Had the same tattooed, cowboy-hatted hunk of an Alamo Guard (who kindly told us with a smile, “The nearest public bathrooms are in the Menger Hotel and Rivercenter Mall”) been on duty that fateful night in 1982, when Ozzy Osbourne threw the tinkle tantrum that resulted in a decade-long ban from the River City, The Alamo probably wouldn’t have been voted Best Impromptu Urinal in our 2011 reader’s poll. We wiped with a wad of newsprint, shook said hunk’s hand gratefully, and staggered back to the Menger to pick a fight with a moose.

2. Downtown

3. The River Walk



2011 Best Of San Antonio: Your votes, your winners


Best of San Antonio: Food


Best of San Antonio: Drink


Best of San Antonio: Shopping


Best of San Antonio: Local Heroes