The Westside embodies the cultura y tradición of San Antonio's Mexican-American community. Dating back to middle of the 18th century, this community, centered within the original city boundaries, is rich in history, art and culture. This was where San Antonio’s famed Tex-Mex cuisine emerged, starting in simple boarding houses and spreading as popular chili stands established themselves. This cuisine is still represented in the myriad of modest restaurants that season this historically Hispanic community.
This area is full of interesting buildings and artwork (including many murals) that offer a unique glimpse into the city’s Mexican-American heritage. San Anto Cultural Arts conducts tours of Westside murals that include historical information about the neighborhoods.
Lackland Air Force Base is the Air Force's only site for enlisted basic military training for all non-prior service Airmen of the regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. St. Mary’s University, founded in 1852, was the first institution of higher learning in San Antonio. Our Lady of the Lake University is a small, private Catholic university with a deep connection to the history and community of San Antonio.
San Antonio’s Deco District is on Fredericksburg Road, which is part of the historic Old Spanish Trail, the first paved coast-to-coast U.S. highway. The Deco District is so named because many of the buildings constructed in the 1930s and 1940s feature elements of Art Deco architecture, a modern design style marked by geometric shapes and forms.
Monticello Park was one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Antonio when it was developed in the late 1920s on property that was formerly a dairy farm. Styles displayed here range from Art Moderne to Spanish Eclectic to Tudor Revival.
Key Area Highlights
The Original Donut Shop is a cash-only joint that serves fresh-made donuts and breakfast tacos. Be prepared to wait in separate lines for tacos and donuts, but the wait is totally worth it. Since 1938, DeWese’s Tip Top Café has been serving homestyle meals, with specialties such as chicken-fried steak, onion rings, fried shrimp and homemade pies.
El 7 Mares has been in business more than 20 years, providing popular items, including seafood chalupas, shrimp cocktail, fried fish and bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese.
The Malt House opened its doors in 1949 and pleases crowds with fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, Mexican food and burgers. One of its signature menu items is the Crispy Dog, a hot dog cut vertically, filled with cheese, wrapped in a red corn tortilla and deep fried.
Delicious Tamales is the leading manufacturer of tamales in San Antonio and sells more than 2.1 million annually. They produce 70 dozen tamales every two minutes. Visit the store, open daily, to buy fresh tamales. Pico de Gallo Restaurant is popular with locals and is known for its “parrilladas” (assorted charbroiled meats).
Ray's Drive Inn opened in 1956 serving hamburgers, fried chicken and ice-cold beer brought to the car by young ladies known as the Chicana Car Hops. Ray’s came to be the home of the Original Puffy Taco and now serves over 500 puffy tacos a day.
Visit Barrio Barista Coffeehouse near St. Mary’s University for coffee and other beverages, as well as a selection of homemade breakfast and lunch items. Brown Coffee Company’s Deco District location, known as Brown HQ, offers craft coffee purchased directly from coffee producers around the globe.
The Simi's India Cuisine serves curries, tandoor-oven dishes, freshly baked naan and many vegetarian options. Turquoise Grill is a Turkish restaurant serving a large variety of soups, salads, pastas, grilled meats and kebabs.
Woodlawn Lake Park offers canoeing and fishing, an
outdoor swimming pool open during the summer, picnic tables, a 1.3-mile jogging trail, a playscape and more. On the horizon of the lake, you will see gorgeous views of downtown and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. This active parish was constructed during the Great Depression and has often been called “the most beautiful church in San Antonio.”
The Woodlawn Theatre hosted the world premiere of John Wayne’s The Alamo in 1960. Today the community theatre puts on productions of popular shows, such as Mary Poppins, West Side Story, and Peter Pan.
Centro Cultural Aztlan is a community organization dedicated to preserving, developing and promoting Chicano/Latino art and culture. Group exhibits in the Galeria Expresión provide 350 visual artists annually with the opportunity to show their work. The mission of Bihl Haus Arts is to create community through the arts by nurturing and promoting the work of diverse visual and cultural artists in the city.
The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is located in the heart of San Antonio’s Westside and plays hosts to artists’ exhibits, dance performances, literary events, annual art and film festivals and the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival. The center consists of six buildings: the Progreso Drugstore; the Cesar Chavez Building; the Museo Guadalupe, containing exhibition space, educational facilities, dance studios and administrative office; the 376-seat, historic Guadalupe Theater; La Casita; and the historic Guadalupanita Cafe.
The Esperanza Peace & Justice Center promotes social justice through cultural arts programming and advocates on behalf of people of color, women, the LGBT community, the working class and the poor.
Fatso's Sports Garden is a family-friendly sports bar and restaurant with TVs, pool tables, outdoor patios and beach-style volleyball. Or if you want to watch sports in person, attend a Missions minor league baseball game at Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium. The team is a Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
Wonderland of the Americas Mall has nationally known stores, as well as unique shops and boutiques in the Little Shops at Wonderland. Special events, such as car shows, art shows and outdoor concerts, are frequently held at the mall, which is also home to the Bijou Cinema Bistro an art film venue.
Ingram Park Mall features distinct department stores and specialty stores, including Coach, The Disney Store, James Avery, Vans and P.S. From Aéropostale. Caliente Harley-Davidson not only sells and rents motorcycles, but also hosts special events on Saturdays, including fundraisers and concerts.
Offbeat, unique or quirky finds:
Are you ready for some retro fun? Cool Crest Miniature Golf opened in 1929, and today you can enjoy playing on two professionally designed, challenging miniature golf courses.
A two-story tall Virgin of Guadalupe mosaic covers the outside of a building at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center
. The 3-D mosaic depicts a replica of a veladora religiosa (religious candle). Sit on one of the benches in the flower-filled courtyard to admire the work of art, which is just one of dozens of murals found in Westside. Make sure to take time to visit these public masterpieces.