I had never been to San Antonio before but every time I mentioned that I was going people said, “Oh! You have to go to the Riverwalk!” As it turned out, our hotel was right on the Riverwalk and having gotten to experience it, I understand why it leaves such an impression on people.
The San Antonio River flows right through downtown and the city has grown up around it. From street side it is a totally different world than down below where the river is.
The city has done a beautiful job along the river. It is a linear park that first started construction in 1921, though people had been living on the river since the early 1800′s when San Antonio was populated by Spanish colonists. (That sentence contains the entirety of the history I remember from the educational monuments along the river and might or might not be factually accurate.)
When you take the steps down from any of the bridges that span the river you enter a different world. There are shops and restaurants and hotels lining the river. It feels a bit like you’re in Venice, or someplace even more exotic—like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney.
I hate that I find myself comparing real-life places to Disney. But I know I’m not alone in that because when we visited the Natural Bridge Caverns outside San Antonio (more on that later) the lady walking in front of me turned around and said, “This doesn’t seem real. It seems like something in Disney”. Ugh.
Kudos to Disney for having such an impact on the American psyche that their contrived scenery/situations seem more real to us than actual reality. Quite a feat.