If you were to be a contestant on Family Feud and Richard Dawson gave you a big sloppy kiss and said, “Top ten answers on the board. What is the gayest city in America?” We bet San Antonio would never even enter your mind. (You’d still be wiping old-man slobber off your face.)
Well, not only is San Antonio a great city filled with abundant culture, amazing food and beautiful weather, it also boasts one of the most eclectic gay scenes around. So a few months ago when Southwest Airlines offered $25 one-way fares, San Antonio popped up as one of the destinations. So we decided for no other reason than the sheer novelty of being able to say we flew somewhere for $50 roundtrip to go to the Alamo City, a town that first got our attention as kids thanks to a good friend named Pee-wee.
So grab your cowboy hat, giant belt buckle and snake-skin boots (really, we PROMISE, that’s what everybody down there wears) and drive, fly or unicycle your way to San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas.
Where to Stay
A trip to SATX wouldn’t be complete without at least a couple days downtown. There, you’ll find the famous Riverwalk, a little place called the Alamo and the Marriott Residence Inn San Antonio/Downtown Alamo Plaza, a great hotel right in the thick of the tourist action. Views of the Alamo’s backyard (what a great swingset!) and a 15-second stumble walk to the city’s largest gay nightclub, The Bonham Exchange, it’s affordable and generously spacious. There’s even a nice big pool for soaking up the warm San Antonio sun.
Or perhaps you want to see more of the famous Texas Hill Country and spend your entire vacation in the lap of luxury with cucumbers on your eyes and strangers’ hands on your body. If that’s the case, we highly recommend the Westin La Cantera Resort. It used to be out in the middle of nowhere, but as San Antonio has expanded, it’s gotten a few neighbors here and there (including Six Flags Fiesta Texas), but the views are still exquisite. A full-service spa and an expansive lagoon-style pool will ensure you never want to leave. Ask to stay on the concierge level and enjoy complimentary evening happy hour and morning breakfast. The rooms are all stunning and the Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath really are what we hope life after death is all about.
What to Eat
For lunch, there’s no place more San Antonio than Mi Tierra. This sprawling Mexican food restaurant has charm to spare. Here, it’s Christmas every day with twinkle lights, garland and trees decorating the dining room. It’s kitschy greatness. But the food’s even better. If you enjoy a good fajita facial, make sure to order up a sizzling platter. But the carne guisada and cheese enchiladas are also a must. Plan to share, or return several times. (They are open 24 hours, perfect for a bite after the bars.) Save room for a treat from their expansive in-house bakery, too.
When you’re strolling along the Riverwalk, duck into Las Ramblas inside the Hotel Contessa. Patio seating right on the riverbank is absolutely stunning at night. Specializing in Spanish-style cuisine, Sangria is the perfect starter. Our favorite dish? Believe it or not, a gigantic, perfectly seasoned and cooked pork chop. It was recommended by our waiter, and we’re so glad he did. But if you’re not in the mood for one giant dish, order several tapas and leisurely eat and people-watch the night away.
Flour power! That’s our new battle cry after an amazing lunch at The Guenther House, the former home of the Pioneer Flour Milll’s founding family. It’s been restored and turned into a quaint little restaurant in the shadow of the giant grain silos of the still-operational mill (guess where McGriddles come from?). Anything made from flour is going to be amazing. We loved their biscuit-instead-of-English-muffin twist on Eggs Benedict. And the chicken salad is legendary. But it’s the famous Champagne Chicken Enchiladas, made with Pioneer’s homemade flour tortillas that you will dream of these for years to come. (Thankfully, you can pick up the ingredients and recipe in the gift shop.)
Where to Be Gay
San Antonio has a variety of gay and lesbian bars and here, they love their drag shows!
Check out The Saint for some of the craziest ones anywhere.
If size matters, then Bonham Exchange is an amazing space. Multiple bars, dance floors and male strippers are what draw in the mixed straight and gay crowd. This is most definitely a gay bar first and foremost, but don’t be shocked to find lots of under-21 boys and girls making out while you’re trying to get a better view of Mr. Big Bulge dancing on the stripper pole in the corner. But the people are friendly and there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Just beware, they only have plastic cups, even for martinis. So leave your attitude at the door.
Completely opposite in size, scale and just about everything else is a little roadhouse bar that you will probably not find in many guide books. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and far from fancy (we’re surprised they even have a web site). Meet The Boss. Beer is often only a buck and for hard liquor, it’s BYOB. How cool is that? The clientele is down-to-earth and perhaps the friendliest people we’ve met anywhere. And once again, leave your attitude at the door to this unique gay bar where everyone is proud to simply be themselves.
Pink Traveler Blog
For more detailed reviews from our San Antonio trip and many other destinations worldwide, sign up for our new blog, PinkTraveler.com or check back for the site launch on March 1. It’s devoted 100% to gay travel, with discount offers, restaurant and hotel recommendations, and much, much more.