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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Stay at the Historic Queen of San Antonio, Texas at the Namesake Luxury Collection St. Anthony Hotel

The most beloved of San Antonio hotels, restored to the opulence that made her storied past, has maintained its high quality, chic and elegant status in the River City for over 100 years.  Located steps from the Alamo, this designated National Historic Landmark represents the chiseled resolve of defenders for the Liberty of Texas in 1836. You won't find a more meaningful location to immerse yourself in the history of a city than the St. Antony Hotel!


Texans are known for their toughness, grit, larger-than-life attitudes, and for their perseverance, heart and soul. This is evidenced by the men who founded Texas as a nation, like the men who fought Santa Anna at the Alamo.  From the time it was built, The St. Anthony Hotel displayed her own heart and soul as she took her place as a character in both Texas’ and San Antonio’s history. Like Texans, The St. Anthony has gone through historic greatness and times of despair. Both San Antonio’s and the hotel’s names go back to when the Spanish explorers arrived and named the area.  It was June 13, 1691, the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua.

While still glamorous, The St. Anthony strives to maintain its contemporary reputation as it was in 1909, when it started life as a hospitality treasure. Back then it was dubbed the “Waldorf of the Prairie,” because its grandeur rivaled that of the New York hotel that set the standard for the rest. Its roll-call of guests have included Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson on his honeymoon, humorist Will Rogers and more recently, Hollywood icons Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Chuck Norris, Luke Perry, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and Brett Michaels. 

1. Location

For visiting the San Antonio, there can't be a better location. Of course getting to Downtown San Antonio is a quick taxi or Uber from the Airport and will cost you about $20 during off-peak hours. The St. Anthony, A Luxury Collection Hotel, San Antonio is located only three blocks from the Alamo and the vibrant River Walk. Restaurants, museums, and attractions are all within walking distance from the hotel, so you won't need a car for your stay!

The River Walk allows you to visit farther locations via a peaceful walk. We love exploring by walking, cycling and running and The St. Anthony Hotel is perfect for that.  Some things to visit along the River Walk are The Briscoe Museum of Western Art nearby.  Farther out, attractions in the Museum Reach section of the River Walk, include the Witte Museum, the San Antonio Zoo, the DOSeum, San Antonio Museum of Art and Pearl Brewery. This river walk runs through Brackenridge Park, which is also home to a Golf Course and Japanese Tea Garden.

If you’d like to take in a show or performance whilst you’re on the San Antonio River Walk, you might want to head to the Arneson River Theater. What a unique experience! Designed as part of the original River Walk by architect Robert Hugman, the theater is split across the river, with the stage on the north side and the 800 person seating area on the south side. The outdoor theater hosts a variety of performances, from music to plays, dance recitals and opera.  If looking for a more traditionally designed theater, you can attend the Aztec Theater. Built in 1926, this actually predates the River Walk, but it is located right next to it.

In 2011, the San Antonio River Walk was extended again, this time to the south of the city where you will find the San Antonio’s Missions National Historical Park. So many visitors take the time to visit the Alamo, but few head south to the Mission reach stretch of the River Walk. This is a shame, since this stretch has a much more relaxed local vibe, with a more natural feel and the option for cycling and kayaking.

The four missions are worth visiting. All four are free to visit, and by doing so you will get a fuller picture of early life in this part of the world. Be aware that it is quite a long walk from the St. Anthony Hotel. Instead, we would suggest either cycling, jogging or taking an Uber.

2. Check-in

We were greeted as at the door immediately and our luggage was swept away to meet us in our room after check in.  Note that the entrance of the St. Antony hotel does not have ramps for you to take carry your things easily, so let the bellmen take your items. The front desk was compliant with COVID-19 policies, unlike other hotels we have stayed at since the pandemic started.  We were recognized as elite members and as booking through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts immediately.  The staff member instructed us about the amenities and upgrades we received and answered all of our questions about the immediate area for site seeing and dining.  It was warm in San Antonio and complimentary water was provided to us on arrival as well as anytime required during our stay. 

The old world charm of The St. Anthony Hotel is evident immediately upon arrival and deserves an entire section of this article (Read on)!

Rx Tip:

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3. Rooms

We were upgraded to a two-room suite. When arrive to your floor the old world charm continues!  How many times do you love the lobby of a hotel only to be disappointed when you step off of the elevator to your floor? At The St. Anthony, the hallway carpeting is edged with the original Venetian floor tiles and the walls are dotted with photographs of famous visitors to the hotel from times past.  Our suite entrance was outlined with mirrored tiles to set it apart from the average room.  The room was enormous with high ceilings and gorgeous moldings. In days past, the hotel was known for its mahogany furnishings and moldings, and recent renovations reflected this.  The room was a mix of old world and contemporary, bright and airy fabrics but with dark cabinetry with plenty of storage. Our view from each room was upon the famous Travis Park.  Limitations on first impression was that there were few decorative accessories in the room like flowers or books and we are unsure if this was due to the pandemic or just a minimalist approach.  Also the dark cabinetry unfortunately gets nicked with usage and could easily be touched up.  The wear even after a few years was obvious in some spots. Information about the hotel restaurants and in room dining was available by scanning a QR code on your phone (due to the pandemic). 

Sufficient amenities in the room are provided including:
  • Keurig Coffee maker was provided in minutes upon request (these were removed from rooms due to pandemic)
  • Complimentary shoe shine
  • Robes
  • Slippers
  • Bottled water
  • Turndown service (upon request during pandemic)
  • Large safe
The bed was extremely comfortable with crisp ironed sheets and down pillows.

4. Bathroom

The bathroom was lovely. Immediately noticeable is the large walk in shower, separate commode and double sink. Large sinks with more than enough amenities, such as loofah, combs, shaving and dental kits, etc are provided.  Products are by Byredo, a European luxury brand founded in Stockholm in 2006 by Ben Gorham, with an ambition to translate memories and emotions into products and experiences.  Twice daily housekeeping service assures that you will have whatever you need should you wish. Towels and robes were by Frette. Water pressure levels were perfect, something that we always enjoy when traveling for many reasons, the most common being that you can shower and bathe in a timely fashion when trying to get out and about!  There were some occasional fluctuations in water temperatures, but these were few and very short. 

5. Fitness

Unfortunately for the duration of our stay the fitness room was closed due to the pandemic but we were allowed special access to photograph it.  The appearance of the fitness room was sufficient for our needs with plenty of treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, weights, etc.  This was not the best fitness we have encountered but probably is good for most travelers. Of course the weather and the nearby location of the River Walk provides ample opportunity for fitness outdoors such as jogging, cycling and kayaking. The infinity pool on the roof is not a true olympic size swimming pool, but it's heated and most travelers would be able to swim laps for a good workout particularly on warmer days when jogging might be a little challenging. On the pool deck, the hotel offers complimentary yoga classes every Saturday and Sunday at 9am.  Guests also have access to a nearby Golds Gym for more fitness options and for spa access, the hotel has a relationship with the nearby highly-rated Mokara Spa which we didn't use because of COVID concerns. 

For the runners like us, many long runs can be done along the River Walk but away from the touristy area nearby.  It is easy to access the more residential area of the River Walk with a short .5 mile walk. 

6. Dining

The St. Anthony Hotel shines with its dining options even during the pandemic. Since we booked with American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, we were entitled to $30 per person breakfast credit which we could use through in room dining or at Gallery on the Park and a $100 property credit.  

Gallery on the Park is an atrium with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking historic Travis Park and offers American specialties infused with culinary creativity. The park was named for the commander of the Alamo, which is just three blocks away. Travis wrote the world-famous “Victory or Death” letter.  Gallery On the Park restaurant offers breakfast and lunch by Executive Chef John Zaner. The are pays homage to The St. Anthony Hotel’s collection of sculptures, paintings and tapestries with works of art within the restaurant, available through the Felder Gallery located nearby.  With our breakfast allowance, opted to eat at the Gallery and were pleased with the quality of food and service.

ReBell is where we chose to use our $100 property credit. This fine seafood restaurant was created by restaurateurs Andrew Goodman and Stefan Bowers in October 2015.  Shortly after opening, ReBelle was awarded Best New Restaurant by Pat Sharpe of Texas Monthly, Top 10 Best New Restaurants San Antonio Magazine, and Ranked #6 in the Express-News 100 Top Restaurants in San Antonio for 2016.  We opted to eat upstairs overlooking the bar for privacy with superb service.  The dishes we enjoyed were outstanding and we accompanied our meal with a lovely Rose champagne from Limoux. 

The St. Antony Club and Haunt There were two bars open in the hotel, the St. Anthony Club and Haunt, which weren't very crowded likely due it being mid week and that we stayed during the pandemic. The St. Anthony Club has an interesting history, which you can tell it is different when you peak inside! We were drawn to look at the club when beautiful piano music was wafting from the room!  By 1959 when liquor by the drink was still illegal after prohibition except in private clubs. The St. Anthony built its own club after its “hotel men” had figured out a way around the dilemma. The club’s popularity and stature remained intact even after Texas legalized liquor by the drink in 1971. 

RxTip: If you enjoy live music the St. Anthony Club has live jazz on Tuesday evenings. 

Of course, room service is available and we recommend considering your included FHR breakfast or hotel credit to be used in this way for special occasions.  Food delivery to the pool was available with a separate lunch menu for the cabana bar. 

We didn't partake in gluten free options, but when we discussed dining with the manager, we specifically asked about this concern of many travelers.  Gluten free options are always available upon request and the staff will always ask if you have any food allergies when serving.

7. History and Decor

With over 110 years of meaningful history, this is a great hotel for history buffs like us! We truly enjoyed wandering the halls to see the old-world furniture, decor, sculpture including wall art and statues and photos of famous guests!  These are located all over the hotel.  When it opened in 1909, the St. Anthony Hotel featured the finest furnishings and conveniences of the day, like illuminated closets and private bathrooms. It offered the epitome of gracious Texas hospitality for business and discerning travelers.

Times changed and entrepreneur Ralph Waldo Morrison rescued it from foreclosure during the Great Depression. He was an avid traveler and collector and furnished it with many of his treasures — museum-quality French Empire antique furniture, sculptures, oil paintings and tapestries.

And what a glorious place it was to see and be seen! An area of the lobby has been known as Peacock Alley since the 1930s. It was named for a walkway at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, which the New York Herald Tribune referred to as a place for the city’s “peacocks” to parade their finery. The eight magnificent chandeliers in the St. Anthony Hotel’s Peacock Alley were modeled after those on the Titanic to complement the palatial antique furniture.

Morrison paid $27,000, equivalent to about $500,000 dollars today, for the hotel’s handcrafted Steinway piano, a beauty made of rosewood veneer, tulip wood inlay and gilt bronze trim. It was later shipped to the San Francisco home of a hotel parent company’s owner. After being repurchased at auction for $220,000, it was repaired and returned to Peacock Alley where it sits today.

Stroll past the photographs of the rich and famous that line the hallways today and you see that the St. Anthony Hotel became the hotel of choice for the most important and prestigious local celebrations and for the rich and renowned in America — presidents and other politicians, musicians and sports figures, generals, A-list celebrities, writers, filmmakers, famous athletes, socialites, debutantes, cattlemen, oil barons and other business tycoons and royalty.

Filmmakers and 1920s silent film stars, like Clara Bow, Gary Cooper and “Buddy” Rogers of “Wings,” lived here during filming. In 1934, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Lady Bird and their wedding guests dined on the rooftop.

Dwight Eisenhower danced with Mamie on that rooftop when he was stationed at Fort Sam Houston. Eleanor Roosevelt stayed at the St. Anthony Hotel when lecturing at the nearby Municipal Auditorium.

John Wayne stayed at the hotel so many times that a suite is named after him. His most notable stay was during the premiere of the 1960s film “The Alamo.” It also brought stars like Richard Widmark, Chill Wills, Frankie Avalon, Kinda Cristal, Pat Wayne and Richard Boone to a 900-person cocktail party.

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco attended a party in their honor in the Anacacho Room during HemisFair ’68.

The 1990s movie “The Newton Boys,” with Texas-born Matthew McConaughey, was shot in and around the St. Anthony. The actual bank robbers, who netted more than Bonnie and Clyde, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and others combined, sometimes stayed here.

In the 1950s, a time when liquor by the drink could only be sold in private clubs, the glamorous Dorothy Draper was hired to design the private St. Anthony Club. She created a crested British-style bar with a separate dining room and dance floor and filled it with art from England, France, Holland and India.

Some of the cattlemen’s and oil barons’ biggest deals were made there. It’s where the founders of Southwest Airlines drew the original triangle route — San Antonio, Dallas, Houston — on a napkin.

The hotel’s Cavalier Room is designated for the Texas Cavaliers, which began as a small social group to promote and preserve the bravery, horsemanship and independence of the heroes of the Alamo. Now the hundreds of business, civic and community leaders of this all-male charitable organization host a lavish King’s Ball and programs like their Texas Cavaliers River Parade, that raise money for their foundation that assists local children.

8.  Our list of recommended restaurants while you stay that are located outside of the hotel but all within walking distance 

  • Rosarios -- Rosario's has been serving up some of San Antonio's best South of the border specialties since 1992 and is known for its award-winning salsa.  We suggest the chipotle chicken! 
  • Boudro's Texas Bistro -- embraces regional heritage with a distinctive slant on Texas and southwestern flavors. Get the table side guacamole, which is some of the best we've ever had and a pair it with a Texas Beefeaters martini!
  • Battalion -- Recently opened in a fire station in Southtown that was rehabbed from an historic Firehouse #7, it serves unique Italian cuisine.

Bottom Line:

The St. Anthony Hotel, the most beloved of San Antonio hotels, maintains the opulence that made her storied past as a Luxury Collection Hotel, part of the Marriott Bonvoy and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts programs.  It is conveniently located and within walking distance to the main things you will want to experience when visiting this large city in Texas. 

You will find meaning in the genuine history displayed at the landmark. The history of the hotel is amazing and is a true reflection of the spirit of Texas and the nearby Alamo, a historic destination for all ages. The service provided at the hotel was some of the best we have experienced in the US and the dining was outstanding even during the tough times of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We felt the policies of the hotel were compliant and thorough all while continuing to provide a luxury experience. 

Fitness in San Antonia isn't difficult when staying at The St. Anthony, and if you don't find enough healthy opportunities at the hotel or nearby River Walk, the concierge can address your needs through the relationships they have with local facilities. 

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