Spend a day exploring San Antonio’s Mexican heritage, dating back to 1821 when the area officially belonged to our southern neighbor. Less than three hours from the border, the city continues to be a cultural gateway between the two countries.
Rent a car for the day to facilitate exploring outside the city center, then make a pit stop for a Tex-Mex breakfast of chorizo and egg tacos at Tito’s Restaurant. Next, let the music move you–regardless of your religious beliefs–when the traditional mass incorporates the music of a Mexican mariachi choir at the historic 18th century Mission San José (Sundays at 12:30 p.m.). Afterward, make your way to Charro Ranch for a Charreada (usually once monthly at 3 p.m.), a Mexican rodeo featuring rope tricks, music, dance, and impressive synchronized horseback choreography by sidesaddle-riding women in traditional dress.
Head back downtown to peruse the shops of Market Square, the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico, for authentic souvenirs ranging from artisanal pottery and brightly-painted dolls to kitschy “lucha libre” masks and bedazzled sombreros. Steps away, feast on heaping plates of chicken enchiladas in móle sauce at the 24-hour Mi Tierra Café and Panaderia. Family-owned since 1941, Mi Tierra serves classic Mexican dishes with a wide selection of tequilas and margaritas. Finish your meal with a cinnamon-laced Mexican hot chocolate and the signature pan dulce (sweetbread) while listening to the sweet serenade of trovadorers. Stick around at the bar to tackle a jumbo margarita or two, then cab it over to Alamo Street Eat Bar, the city’s gourmet food truck park, serving beers and mobile eats till 2 am on Fridays and Saturday nights.
(A version of this article first appeared in New York Magazine)