Back in Time

Travel back to the 1950s at these iconic San Antonio spots

Travel back to the 1950s at these iconic San Antonio spots

Houston Street San Antonio 1950s
Houston Street is bustling with shoppers and traffic in this photograph, dating back to the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Vintage San Antonio

What if you could go back in time and experience life in midcentury San Antonio? The Alamo City is the perfect place to relive the 1950s, with plenty of shops and attractions evoking the era. Here are just a few ideas to explore:

Eat at a classic diner
Try the Bun 'N' Barrel, located in a retro drive-in at 1150 Austin Highway, for barbecue, burgers, and shakes. Open since the '50s, it still offers curb service and was featured on the popular television show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Another option is the Olmos Pharmacy Diner at the corner of McCullough and Hildebrand avenues, which has been in business since 1938. The popular hangout features a '50s-era jukebox, soda fountain, and former pharmacy counter that's now a bar.

Schilo's Delicatessen at 424 E. Commerce St. offers hearty German food in a classic setting. Open since 1917, the restaurant moved to its present location in 1942 and continues to be a hot destination for tourists and locals to enjoy split pea soup, root beer, and other favorites.

Visit a park
For a trip that provides hidden clues to the past, visit scenic Brackenridge Park, home to the Botanical Garden, Japanese Tea Gardens, San Antonio Zoo, Miraflores, and the Sunken Garden. Enjoy an organic brewed tea at the Jingu House as you revisit the past through black-and-white photos of the Jingu family, who lived at the house before World War II.

Some locals recall a "lovers lane" — a secluded area between the Sunken Garden and the San Antonio Zoo — where young people once drove up the hill with their dates and parked for an intimate moment overlooking the garden.

Shop at a boutique
Check out Broadway Pinups at 3619 Broadway St. for vintage-inspired pin-up dresses, shoes, handbags, and more. Or stop by The Svelte Veldt, located just up the street at 5009 Broadway St. and shop 1950s-style women's apparel, jewelry, and home design wares.

While the Lucchese Boot Co. is no longer headquartered in San Antonio, shoppers can still find boots at the company store at the Alamo Quarry Market or visit the city's many other boot shops.

Take a river barge cruise
Casa Rio, the River Walk's first restaurant business, no longer offers gondola rides like it did in back in the 1950s, but river barge tours are still very popular among tourists and locals. Boat rides are available at more than 39 stops along the River Walk through Rio San Antonio Cruises and can be bought online or on board.

Bike through an old neighborhood
One of the best ways to explore San Antonio is on a bike, and history buffs will find a rewarding trip through Tobin Hill. The site of five major colleges and all of San Antonio's museums, this midtown neighborhood provides the perfect opportunity to explore a historic pocket of the city.

While San Antonians were living in suburbs decades before the 1950s, Tobin Hill was one of the city's first 'burb,s and the neighborhood, interspersed with bungalow-style houses as well as Victorian and neo-classical mansions, is a sightseer's dream.

Visit a historic theater
San Antonio has no shortage of theaters, and what better way to relive a part of history than by visiting one of them? The Woodlawn Theatre, just a hop and skip outside Tobin Hill in the Deco District, is where John Wayne hosted the world premiere of his movie The Alamo.

The Mission Drive-in Theater, which opened in 1948 at 3100 Roosevelt Ave. on the city's Southside, is now known as Mission Marquee Plaza, a walk-in theater where guests can enjoy movie showings offered by Slab Cinema and the City of San Antonio on the renovated screen. Upcoming showings include Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie on May 6 and The Outsiders on May 18.

Tour Houston Street
One of San Antonio's oldest and most frequented streets, Houston Street offers far more than a day's worth of old-fashioned fun. Home to such landmarks as Majestic Theatre and the former Maverick Hotel, and bordered by Alamo Plaza to the east and Market Square to the west, the street boasts easy access to the River Walk, as well as dozens of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.

Vestiges of the past are in clear sight, including a vintage Walgreens drugstore sign at the corner of St. Mary's Street. Just a few blocks southeast is Rivercenter Mall, the former site of Joske's department store at Alamo and Commerce streets.