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Photo courtesy of AC Hotel

A hotel boom is underway in the Alamo City. As of the second quarter of 2022, 46 projects featuring 5,116 guest rooms were in the planning or development stages in the San Antonio area, according to a new report published by hospitality data provider Lodging Econometrics.

San Antonio ranks 21st in the U.S. for hotel construction.

Dallas leads all U.S. regions, with 173 hotel projects with 20,707 guest rooms in the pipeline. Big D is followed by Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, and Nashville, the report says.

“While some might expect Miami or New York City to lead the U.S. in terms of the number of hotel projects underway, that distinction actually belongs to Dallas … ,” says The Points Guy travel blog, which points out that Dallas has led all U.S. locations in hotel development for four consecutive quarters.

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • Houston ties for seventh place, with 94 projects featuring 10,247 guest rooms
  • Austin ranks 10th, with 80 projects featuring 10,306 guest rooms
  • Fort Worth-Arlington ranks 15th, with 65 projects with 8,005 guest rooms

Brian Hughes, managing director of JLL Hotels & Hospitality, tells the travel blog that “a heavy trend of corporate and population migration to Texas” has lifted hotel performance in the state as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

Another plus, it says, is Texas’ business-friendly tax structure. This draws companies to the state, which then feeds demand for hotel rooms to accommodate business travelers.

“Encouraged by 2022’s upward trend in hotel performance, owners, management groups, developers, and investors are moving forward with development plans as evidenced by increasing counts at every stage of construction,” Lodging Econometrics says.

Rendering by John T. Campo, courtesy of AC by Marriott

Stunning River Walk property books opening date for first of 2 new hotels

River Walk Lodging

San Antonio is set to welcome a stunning new River Walk property this fall, and it's a two-for-one. In a press release on Monday, September 12, Winston Hotels LLC announced a slated opening date of October 6 for AC by Marriott and, later this year, Element by Westin.

Previously a mixed-use office space at 111 Soledad St., the property will become fully renovated, upscale home for the two hotels, as well as a new rooftop bar and lounge, 1 Watson. Overlooking the River Walk and across the street from Main Plaza and the San Fernando Cathedral, the hotels are walking distance to some of Alamo City's best downtown attractions.

While Element by Westin and 1 Watson are slated for later this year, AC by Marriott is set to open its doors within a matter of weeks. Featuring 181 rooms and occupying floors 13-20 of the building, the AC hotel will offer stunning views of the River Walk, downtown San Antonio, Hemisfair Park, and the Texas Hill Country.

“We are eager to open the doors of this modern, design driven hotel,” said Michael Dunbar, Marriott AC and Element by Westin General Manager, in the release. “Perfectly poised in downtown San Antonio, AC by Marriott will present business and leisure travelers with a new and enticing place of stay.”

A full-service bar in the first floor lobby will feature soaring, double-height ceilings; expansive wrap-around windows; and custom overhead lighting. Contemporary finishes and warm, wood tones pay homage to the region, playing with the light neutrals incorporated throughout the space.

The ultimate goal for the ongoing renovation is to preserve the original building's historical character while updating the property with modern design details for the contemporary traveler. Once both hotels are open, the property will employ approximately 150 individuals, encompassing nearly 300,000 square feet for a total project investment surpassing $100 million.

“AC by Marriott is a refreshing, revitalizing addition to downtown San Antonio, repurposing and adding value to existing infrastructure while providing an exciting point of interest to draw even more visitors to this pulsing, historic city,” said Dunbar.

The two hotels will share several amenities, including 4,000 square feet of meeting and event space; an 1,800-square foot fitness center; and the 14th-floor rooftop bar and lounge.

Rendering by Overland Partners Architects

San Antonio's Hemisfair Park unveils first look at highly anticipated hotel

Hemisfair hotel

The anticipation is growing for the next phase of redevelopment at downtown San Antonio's Hemisfair Park. A unanimous April amendment to the ongoing agreement between the City of San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC), Zachry Hospitality, and the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC), the next stage is set to deliver a hotel, park-facing activations, parking options, and more residential units to the original 2017 contract. And now, we get a glimpse of the hotel.

Proposed by Zachry Hospitality in a public/private partnership with HPARC, the conceptual design for the 200-room hotel has now been approved by the HDRC. Overland Partners Architects designed the full-service property, which will be owned and operated by Zachry Hospitality as a Curio Collection by Hilton.

Situated in the Hemisfair District on roughly 1.5 acres near the intersection of South Alamo and Market streets, the hotel is mere steps from key cultural assets in downtown San Antonio, including (of course) The Alamo, the River Walk, La Villita, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and Hemisfair’s Civic Park.

“I appreciate our partners for their unwavering perseverance and collaboration. Together with our community, we will create one of the premier resident and visitor destinations in the country. We extend congratulations to our city leaders as we continue this ambitious journey reimagining today’s Hemisfair,” said David Zachry, Zachry Corporation president and CEO.

The 17-story hotel will feature a terraced base with ground floor retail, multiple restaurants, a rooftop bar, and a garden with public art — all accessible to the public at ground level from Civic Park and South Alamo Street. Native stone, lush vegetation, and water features integrated throughout the project to showcase environmentally sustainable design elements and reflect the natural elements created by the region's Balcones Escarpment.

Oriented to provide guests with panoramic views of the park to the east and city views to the west and north, the iconic curved tower will overlook the River Walk and the distinctive public art piece Torch of Friendship at the juncture of Commerce, Market, and South Alamo streets. Enviable views of The Alamo grounds are waiting for hotel guests at the rooftop terrace.

“With the support of the City and HPARC, Overland Partners and Zachry Hospitality relish the opportunity to construct what will become a signature piece of architecture along San Antonio’s skyline, while embracing and celebrating the cultural history and verdant attributes of the park,” said Bob Shemwell, FAIA, Overland senior principal, and recognized leader in sustainable design.

Aiming to open its doors to guests in 2025 for the NCAA Men's Final Four tournament, construction of the 200-room hotel is expected to begin this fall.

“Each day Hemisfair is one step closer to creating one of the world’s great public places, and a hotel, especially one that is designed to connect with the rich history of San Antonio while celebrating the natural elements of Hemisfair, helps us reach our goal,” Hemsifair CEO Andres Andujar said in a release. “While a majority of the built area in the Hemisfair District will be mixed-income residential, a hotel delivers on the strategy that a mix of uses is vital to the long-term sustainability of the Hemisfair neighborhood.”

Photo courtesy of Legacy Hall

Start planning a drive-worthy weekend trip to Plano this fall

Let's Hit the Road

Like it or not, we're barreling toward fall and its close companion, the holiday season. The good news is that autumn and the ensuing holidays are also jam-packed with fun festivals, so you'll want to start planning a little getaway to Plano so you can enjoy them all.

Get your calendar ready for these can't-miss celebrations:

Plano Balloon Festival, September 22-25
There's more than simply a sky full of colorful hot-air balloons at this weekend festival, which also sports sky divers, live music, a kids' fun zone, and fireworks at Oak Point Park.

Oktoberfeast at Legacy Hall, September 24
The fifth annual feast includes beer, brats, and live polka music, along with a stein-hoisting competition. Oh, and it's free to attend, though you'll want to snag VIP tickets for an elevated experience.

Fall Plano Train Show, October 1-2
Brush up on your model-building skills or marvel at someone else's masterpiece when trains take over the Plano Event Center, courtesy of the North Texas Council of Railroad Clubs.

Plano International Festival, October 15
Food, music, dancing, and fun from around the world can be found at Haggard Park, site of the largest, longest-running multicultural festival in North Texas.

Beatles Night, October 15
Celebrate John Lennon’s birthday with A Hard Night’s Day at the Red Tail Pavilion located in Oak Point Park. Bring blankets, chairs, and coolers for a night of tunes under the stars.

Hollydays Market, October 21-23
Shop more than 100 merchants for new, unique, and one-of-a-kind gifts, all at the Plano Event Center.

Plano Food & Wine Festival, October 22
The 5th annual festival features over 100 award-winning wines, food from delicious local restaurants, culinary demos from local chefs, and lots of local boutiques and shops. Tickets have sold out the past few years, get yours while you still can.

Rest in Plano Fest & Apparition Expedition, October 22
It is spooky season, after all. Browse Halloween-themed food, art, and other curiosities in Downtown Plano during this devilishly good time.

Fall Harvest Festival & Outdoor Market at Shops at Legacy North, October 23
This brand-new event brings together 40-plus vendors selling everything from clothing to candles to flowers and more. Also enjoy fall-themed photo opportunities, live music, and specials from on-site restaurants.

Got the kiddos in tow? You'll find hours of entertaining fun at the Crayola Experience, Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park, and Southfork Ranch, which offers horseback rides.

Enjoy waterside dining and entertainment at The Boardwalk at Granite Park, then walk mere steps to your room at Hilton Dallas Plano Granite Park.

If you're hitting up The Shops at Legacy or Legacy West, then the Marriott at Legacy Town Center and Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West — with its modern Asian-Texas decor — are both excellent nearby choices.

For slightly funkier digs, check into the Sandman Signature Plano-Frisco Hotel or the NYLO Dallas-Plano Hotel. The former is a sister company to the Dallas Stars, while the latter offers a free shuttle to anywhere within five miles.

Side note: The hotels featured here are just a sampling and are not "preferred" hotels. See all your Plano accommodation options here.

Prost! Oktoberfeast happens September 24.

Photo courtesy of Legacy Hall
Prost! Oktoberfeast happens September 24.
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/jwmarriottsanantonio/photos/a.10150662365610854.422473.55807470853/10154264899865854/?type=1&theater]

3 choose-your-own-adventure San Antonio staycations to book this fall

Staycation's All I Ever Wanted

And just like that, summer is over. Kidding, kidding — we have months of 90-degree temperatures left. Still, school is back in session and with September's arrival, it’s time to start booking those fall vacations.

This year, with airlines flailing and the economy doing whatever it is the economy does, perhaps it’s time to consider splurging on a staycation. A change of scenery can boost mental health while taking a sustained break from work has proven to increase physical health. Plus, there's zero percent chance of lost baggage or flight delays.

It’s possible to live in San Antonio forever and not experience everything the city has to offer, which is just one of the attractions of living in a big city. This fall, as the heat begins to break, but before the holidays hit, consider being a tourist in your own backyard with one of these choose-your-own-adventure staycations.

Take the whole family to the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa
The magic of the JW Marriott is its combination of water park and resort, making it an ideal staycation destination for families. Situated in the foothills of the Texas Hill Country, this sprawling retreat offers nearly every amenity possible: golf courses, pickle ball and tennis courts, winding trails, luxury spa, onsite restaurants, Top Golf, and the list goes on. Adding to the fun, family-oriented atmosphere are special events like nightly s’mores by the fire and petting zoos.

Where the JW Marriott really shines is the water park, a massive complex of pools, sand beaches, towering water slides, and 1,100-foot lazy river encircling the entire thing. The slides range from kiddie-size flumes to the Canyon Oak Twister and Hill Country Plunge body slides, both of which start 60 feet in the air and hit speeds of up to 20 mph. (Just remember to keep your arms and legs crossed, something this author learned from experience is not just a suggestion.)

If you need a place to shake off the adrenaline high, consider renting one of the resort’s poolside cabanas. Though it’s an added expense, the attentive staff makes sure everyone has fresh towels, snacks, and cocktails while a personal fridge comes loaded with bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks. Cabanas also offer a personal mini-deck inside the larger pool with lounge chairs so the kids can splash while you relax.

Book your significant other a romantic downtown getaway
San Antonio has no shortage of fabulous downtown hotels, but there’s something magical about the Hotel Havana. The 113-year-old building has almost always been a hotel, beginning at the turn of the century when it was used to house out-of-town merchants who traveled into San Antonio to sell their wares. Today, the boutique hotel offers an industrial-meets-gothic vibe complete with creaky floorboards and crimson carpet leading up the grand staircase.

Though there’s no pool at this Bunkhouse Hotel (if a pool is a must, The Thompson is another favorite situated just a few blocks away), it does offer Ocho, an onsite restaurant with a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling wall of windows, and a subterranean bar.

Make the Havana home base as you explore the River Walk, Southtown, and King William. If you find yourself forced to take an e-scooter by your significant other, as I was during a stay at the Havana last fall, use it to play tourist. Take it for a drive by the Alamo (do note that scooters are programmed to automatically slow to a crawl around the famed attraction) and on through Hemisfair on your way to appetizers and early evening cocktails at Little Em’s Oyster Bar or the new-ish Up Scale, two Southtown hot spots owned by Houston and Emily Carpenter.

For dinner, book a late table at Shiro and take a Lyft (or a scooter if someone forces you to) to the north end of the River Walk for sushi and other Japanese fare. After dinner, take a leisurely stroll back along the river to the hotel for a night cap. (Pro tip: Use the restroom before leaving Shiro or you may end up speed walking the last half of the River Walk and your romantic walk will be ruined.)

Live out your Eloise fantasies at the Hotel Emma
Looking for a solo staycation? San Antonio has the perfect spot for that too: Hotel Emma. At this point, the Emma needs no introduction; the hotel has won countless awards and topped best-of lists for the past seven years. And the August 25 news that chef Jorge Hernandez is taking over the culinary program will only heighten its acclaim. All of this is to say is the Hotel Emma is nice. Very, very nice. And there is no better place to spend a little time (and a lot of money) than soaking in a giant tub in a four-star hotel with a professionally made cocktail delivered directly to your room.

Hotel Emma is located in the heart of the Pearl, a tourist destination in its own right, but when we’re traveling alone, we want to explore as much as possible. Head to Alamo Heights to fuel up with an early morning nosh at Bird Bakery before heading to the McNay Art Museum. On your way back to the Pearl, take a detour down the St. Mary’s Strip for lunch at Singh’s (shrimp bún with a side of chili oil and a Topo) and poke around the nearby vintage shops.

Recharge that afternoon with an in-room massage at Hotel Emma by Hiatus Spa + Retreat and the aforementioned soak ‘n’ cocktail. For dinner, take yourself on a date to Scorpion, an impeccably designed cafe and natural wine bar on the East Side. Once back at the Emma, cozy up in the plush robes and an episode of reality TV. You deserve it.

The otherwordly sunsets atop the JW Marriott willl have guests forgetting they're still in San Antonio.

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa/Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/jwmarriottsanantonio/photos/a.10150662365610854.422473.55807470853/10154264899865854/?type=1&theater]
The otherwordly sunsets atop the JW Marriott willl have guests forgetting they're still in San Antonio.
Photo courtesy of Sweetgreen

7 things to know in San Antonio food right now: Cult-favorite salad chain sprouts in the Quarry

News you can eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

Vibey Los Angeles-based salad chain Sweetgreen is digging into the Quarry. In late August, the fast-casual eatery filed its intention to spruce up the former Max’s Wine Dive space at 340 East Basse Rd., #101. Known for its tech prowess and collaborations with celebrity chefs like David Chang, Sweetgreen has rapidly broadened its footprint since 2007. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation project details say the spot will be ready for inspection in April 2023. Company reps did not return a request for comment.

San Antonio’s most lauded barbecue joint is firing up a new location. Another filing with TDLR reveals plans for a 2M Smokehouse at 1303 Lorenzo St. in Castroville. The restaurant, led by two-time James Beard-nominated pitmaster Esaul Ramos, will redevelop the former site of Dan’s Meat Market with a new kitchen addition, pit room, bakery, and outdoor seating. According to records, construction is expected to wrap up on June 30.

Move over, Baldwins. A less controversial quartet of siblings moved into the Omni La Mansión del Rio. Helmed by chef Andres Farias, Four Brothers began serving River Walk revelers on August 15. Replacing former onsite restaurant Las Canarias, the eatery finesses South Texas cuisine with Latin and French influences. Mains include a basil-crusted branzino, St. Louis-style ribs, and showy dry-aged tomahawk with confit potatoes and chimichurri.

Millennials looking to see the real-time financial impact of their latte habit can flock to San Antonio’s first Capital One Café as of August 18. The hustle culture hub, open to the general public, offers self-service banking, coworking space, and conference rooms. Capitol One credit and debit customers receive a half-off discount on drinks at the La Cantera shop.

Plant-based pizzeria Verve Pie is saying “thank you, next” to Cibolo. In an August 25 Instagram post, the restaurant explained it is looking to relocate to San Antonio. Staff shortages have made operations difficult for the last two months. Still, the restaurant wanted to hang on until existing employees could seek re-employment. A location within Alamo City limits will be closer to its customer base.

Other news and notes

Best Quality Daughter is taking a stand for reproductive rights. On September 11, the Pearl eatery will host a benefit dinner pairing chef Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin with Iron Chef personality Mason Hereford of New Orleans’ Turkey and the Wolf. Tickets for Good Trouble in Little China are $150 and will benefit Planned Parenthood South Texas and Lift Louisiana.

The Squeezebox is bringing a little sizzle to the St. Mary’s Strip with its inaugural Fajita Lounge Showdown on September 4. During the event, local chefs Kenny Loo of Golden Kirin Restaurant, Sergio Flores of La Tortuga Cocina Latina, Eddie Barrera of Sijang Korean Corn Dogs, Rory Torres of Crispy Bao Gang, and Steve Lopez will battle for a $500 prize. The $10 cover includes all-you-can-eat tacos and entertainment from The Texases.

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San Antonio Missions hit home run with new owners, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio's minor league baseball team scores new owners, including Texas sports legends. San Antonio's minor league baseball team is back to being locally owned — by some big names.

2. H-E-B unveils new line of merchandise for super fans, available exclusively at this store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise, in celebration of its 117th anniversary and in honor of its first store.

3. San Antonio market continues to see prices going up and sales going down. San Antonio home sales dropped 19 percent from October 2021.

4. San Antonio Rodeo wrangles even more musical acts for star-studded 2023. Turnpike Troubadours joined the already impressive lineup for the 2023 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

5. San Antonio children's theater adapts timeless children's book for the holidays. Magik Theatre celebrates The Velveteen Rabbit as a Christmas story, with inclusive special performances.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.