The Monte Vista Historic District is the largest historic district in the United States, and it’s also one of the oldest. The grand residences in this neighborhood were built in the prosperous decades from 1890 to 1930 and represent Georgian, Moorish, Antebellum, Victorian, Queen Anne, Spanish and Hollywood Bungalow styles. The Monte Vista Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the nearby Alta Vista neighborhood, which is bordered on the south by San Pedro Springs Park.
Olmos Park’s history dates to the mid 1920s, when prominent oilman and real estate mogul H.C. Thorman purchased property from an Austrian count and developed the exclusive suburb of magnificent manors. Prior to that, the site served as training grounds for U.S. Army balloonists and was known as Camp John Wise from 1917-1919.
The campus of Trinity University, founded in 1869, overlooks downtown and is located in the Monte Vista Historic District.
Key Area Highlights
At the north end of Olmos Park on McCullough Ave., look for The Yard Shopping Center, a collection of eclectic shops, offices and restaurants. Urth Juice Bar and Yaya’s Thai Restaurant are both casual places serving dishes made with the freshest ingredients. Mixtli is also here, serving progressive Mexican cuisine in 10 courses to 12 guests per dinner from a menu that changes every six weeks. Next door to Mixtli is Mezcalería Mixtli - a bar focused on mezcal and Mexican spirits. Olmos Perk Coffee Bar was voted best coffee bar four years in a row by readers of a local weekly newspaper.
On Olmos Drive you’ll find Tribeca, serving seafood, steak, pizza and pasta made with ingredients raised or grown in Texas. Folc serves contemporary American cuisine and unexpected items, including pork schnitzel and pea ricotta toasts with edible flowers. After dining at Folc, head next door to Park Social for a nightcap.
The acclaimed and unassuming Taco Taco Café, voted “Best Tacos in America” by Bon Appétit, is open for breakfast and lunch, serving a wide variety of tacos, enchiladas and Mexican plates. A former drugstore has become Olmos Pharmacy, a diner, soda fountain, pub and live music venue. For rustic wood-fired pizzas with creative toppings, check out Barbaro, which also has a great weekend brunch. Next door to Barbaro is Lily’s Cookies, a fun dessert place with options that include lavender shortbread, Mexican chocolate wedding cookies and pecan pie bars.
Just a few blocks over in a lovely hacienda-style setting, La Fonda on Main serves interior Mexican fare at brunch, lunch and dinner. Capparelli’s on Main dishes up rustic Italian cuisine on the block across the street.
In 1977, Chris Madrid's opened in an old gas station on Blanco Road, and word soon spread about the great burgers and nachos at this very casual, laid-back restaurant, which has grown tremendously in size and popularity. Los Barrios has a similar story, as what began as a small, family-run Mexican restaurant in 1979 now serves as a San Antonio tradition that has expanded greatly through the years.
The Landa Library is a San Antonio Public Library branch that features a beautiful playground and walking trails. Rest for a few minutes in the Valero Energy Pavilion created by Carlos Cortés, a third-generation artist who learned the “faux bois” (concrete that looks like wood) craft from his father, Maximo Cortés, who learned it from his uncle, renowned faux bois artist Dionicio Rodriguez.
San Pedro Springs Park is San Antonio’s oldest designated park and is located on land reserved for public use by the Spanish government in the 18th century. The only park in the U.S. that is older is Boston Common, dating to 1634. The springs in San Pedro Springs Park attracted Native Americans for thousands of years before being discovered by Spanish missionaries who started arrived in 1718. Today the park is home to a swimming pool, the McFarlin Tennis Center and The Playhouse theater
Shopping for vintage furniture and home accessories in the fascinating secondhand stores along Hildebrand Avenue is an adventure you’ll want to experience. Also, be sure to stop at Big Grass, a tranquil retail setting for outdoor and patio furniture, flower pots, accessories, fountains, statues and more.
Offbeat, unique or quirky finds:
Hogwild Records has been around for generations and is a great place to find old vinyl and cassettes, as well as new and used CDs and DVDs.
The Cove is a beer garden, restaurant, laundromat, car wash, dog wash and live music venue. The restaurant serves sustainable, organic and local food. The beer garden has more than 50 varieties of Texas beers on tap. They also have a playscape, ping-pong tables, a basketball backboard and a dog run.
At the Scobee Education Center and Challenger Learning Center, you can learn about stars, planets, black holes and distant galaxies at a state-of-the-art planetarium and explore Mission Control through an interactive computer simulator.