Rodeo time, San Antonio!

It’s that time again–Stock Show and Rodeo time in San Antonio!  Every year, the first 3 weeks in February, the AT&T Center, the Freeman Coliseum, and the barns and grounds around them are full of activity, animals, people, and fun!  It’s time for the Stock Show and Rodeo!

Dust off your boots and western wear and git along over there, pardner!

Kickoff to the event was Friday’s Cowboy Breakfast.  Every year thousands of people and hundreds of volunteers brave the weather to come out early for a free breakfast.  Breakfast tacos, biscuits and gravy, gallons of coffee are all given out free to anyone who comes!  This breakfast is huge–it’s even made the Guinness Book of World Records!  It’s moved around town to different venues, the weather has been freezing, wet, miserable at times, but folks still come!  It’s a San Antonio tradition!

The Spurs play their last home game against the Rockets, then they take off for their annual 3-week Rodeo Road Trip!  They turn their home court over to cowboys and everyone has a great time!  Hope you’ll find some time to check it out!  Food, fun, loads of entertainment for the whole family!  Enjoy!

San Antonio’s Riverwalk is Holiday Magic!

I took a tour of the San Antonio River via river barge with a group of my Realtor friends last night.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the San Antonio Riverwalk is breathtaking during the holidays!  Pictures don’t do it justice!  Living here in San Antonio, I don’t really “do” the Riverwalk and I confess, it’s been years since I took the barge tour.  OMG!!  What a delight!  This was my first visit to the new Museum Reach extension of the Riverwalk, opened in the spring of 2009, and is it ever impressive!

I also learned (or was reminded) of some San Antonio tidbits, courtesy of “Captain D”, our river barge pilot and tour guide.  Did you know that San Antonio  is home to the second and third-oldest city parks in the United States?  #2 is San Pedro Park, near San Antonio College, a little north of the downtown area, and #3 is Milam Park in downtown San Antonio!  I didn’t know that!  (In case you’re interested, as I was, #1 is Boston Commons in Boston, MA!)

The San Antonio River is named after St. Anthony of Padua because when the Spaniards discovered it in 1613, it happened to be on the day of  the Feast of St. Anthony!  There’s a statue of our patron saint along the river bank.

San Fernando Cathedral, in Main Plaza downtown, is the oldest operating cathedral in the United States!

These are just some of the history tidbits we learned!  There were so many more!  And Captain D was full of information about the history not only of the river itself, but of the Riverwalk and how it’s grown and developed over the years.  Seeing all the historic buildings was exciting too–especially for a history buff like me!

The best part?  All the people on other barges, at restaurants, and just walking along the paths, enjoying the beauty and fun along the Riverwalk!  Everyone was happy and having a great time, including the group on the barge with me!   The weather was perfect and the holiday spirit was everywhere!

If you’re lucky enough to live in San Antonio, do yourself a favor.  Grab a friend, get your family and get down to the Riverwalk!  You’ll be so glad you did, and you’ll appreciate this beautiful city you call home!  If you don’t live here, come see us!  The Riverwalk is wonderful any time of year, but during the holidays, it’s really special!   If you can’t make it this year, make plans to come next year–I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Happy holidays!

Sue

Christmas Lights in San Antonio

Christmas lights always get me out of a Bah Humbug mood into a Jolly Holly one!  I love to drive around and see the lights during December and marvel at the lengths some people go to in decorating their homes for the holidays!

There are lots of homes in lots of neighborhoods that really dress up in holiday lights, but the quintessential neighborhood for Christmas lights has got to be Windcrest!  Windcrest is a small incorporated city in northeast San Antonio, near both Randolph AFB and Ft. Sam Houston.  It’s a favorite for both active duty and especially retired military families.  One of the city’s traditions for the past 30+ years is their annual Light Up!

Also in northeast San Antonio is the Olympia neighborhood, located in the several blocks behind the Forum shopping center at IH-35 and 1604.  Homeowners there are giving Windcrest  some serious competition!

One of my favorites is Shavano Park, another small incorporated city, located inside 1604 near NW Military.  It’s a little more spread out, so there are pockets of streets that are more decorated than others, but the ones that are, really are!  This is an area I personally love to visit and drive through!

Then, of course, we have the most spectacular Christmas lights of all–the Riverwalk!  It’s truly breathtaking to see all those lights hanging in trees and twinkling in the reflections on the water.  The Riverwalk is San Antonio’s most favorite and famous tourist attraction besides the Alamo, and during the holidays, there’s just nothing like it anywhere!  You’ve just got to see it–pictures are beautiful, but can’t capture the real beauty and feeling of being there.  Something new this year is lighting under water in the new museum reach!  Hop on a barge and take a tour–I’ll be doing just that this week with a group of my realtor friends!

Get your holiday spirit in full gear!  Take a drive and enjoy the lights!

Christmas in San Antonio!

Christmas is upon us!  Even though we’re not done with Thanksgiving yet, the holiday season is cranking up and the stores are in full holiday mode!   San Antonio kicks off our “official” holiday merriment Friday evening.  The Christmas season in San Antonio is not to be missed! Even if you celebrate a different holiday, you’ll want to enjoy all that San Antonio has to offer for Christmas.

It begins with the lighting of the Riverwalk and the Alamo Plaza Christmas tree.  The Riverwalk is truly a breathtaking sight during the holidays. If you’re lucky enough to live in San Antonio, take an evening and go downtown to see the river.  The lights are just spectacular and the reflection on the water is truly beautiful.

There are thousands of lights hung from all the trees that twinkle and glow.  For the Fiesta de los Luminarias, the Riverwalk is lined with hundreds of luminarias to light the way for Mary and Joseph as they seek shelter.

Hop on a river taxi and take a ride on the San Antonio river.  It’s a great way to see all the lights and all the decorations, including the new Museum Reach part of the River.  Enjoy dinner or a stroll along the Riverwalk and be serenaded by choirs from area schools, clubs, and churches.  Enjoy the holiday river parade that follows the official lighting of the Riverwalk and the Alamo Plaza Christmas tree.

If you don’t live in San Antonio, then come visit!  It’s such a fun time of year, and there’s so much to do and see.  Besides the holiday celebrations that continue all through December and into January, football fans have the Alamo Bowl game to look forward to in late December.  Teams haven’t been chosen yet, but it’s always a fun time and there are plenty of activities and team spirit all along the Riverwalk!   If you’re here for New Year’s Eve, the city throws a huge party downtown with food, bands, and fireworks at midnight shooting off the Tower of the Americas!  Best of all–it’s FREE!

The holidays are fun and exciting.  Being in San Antonio just makes it even more festive!  Hope yours are wonderful.

Sue

Happy Halloween!


Today is Halloween.  It’s fun to be scared, it’s okay to be a little crazy–in a fun sort of way!   When I was a kid, Halloween was a kids’ holiday.  We all went to our school’s Halloween carnival, played games, saw our teachers as real people (or maybe dressed up in a costume!), played games, went through the haunted house, then hit the neighborhood for trick-or-treating!  It was fun, it was safe, and I have a lot of fond memories.

As a parent, I stressed out a little more since the kids had to have the “right” costume!  They wore it to school–in the daytime–so it had to be just so, and accessorized  too!  Schools didn’t always have a Halloween carnival.  Sometimes they called it a “fall festival” and it wasn’t usually on Halloween evening.  But trick-or-treating was still fun, even though it was always the kids and me together–no more of this running around the neighborhood with your friends in a big group all by yourselves!  And no eating anything until you got home where you could see it first and mom or dad could inspect it!

Not sure when, but somewhere along the way, Halloween seems to have become much more of an adult party night.  Why should kids have all the fun?

Safety concerns are still the order of the day–or night.  Common sense says that excited kids running from house to house are not always mindful of cars, so drivers need to be extra vigilant and careful when driving through neighborhoods tonight.

Be safe, have fun, and enjoy!  Then, join me tomorrow in realizing–OMG, it’s November already!!

The Holidays! Already?

I did something yesterday I haven’t done for awhile–I went shopping!  In a real store, not online!  I had time and I was in the area so I decided to go into one of the department stores and look for a couple of things I’ve been needing (but not so badly that I’d make a special trip to get them!).    I won’t reveal the name of the store, to protect the guilty, although I have a sinking feeling it wouldn’t matter anyway–they’re probably all guilty!

Anyway, I walked into the store heading straight for the area I needed to visit, and it hit me right between the eyes–Christmas decorations!!   For crying out loud, it’s October 15!!  We haven’t even had Halloween!  In San Antonio, we’re still wearing short sleeves, shorts, and flip flops, and I’m seeing Christmas decorations????   I was not prepared for that!!

Since when did the holiday season consume the entire 4th quarter of the year??  I know times are tough for retailers and people are spending less and being more thoughtful about how they spend, but really!  Mid-October and the jingle bells are already jingling???

Yikes!  It’s going to be a long season!  What’s next?  Holiday music on the radio?  Please!  Not just yet!  Can we at least enjoy turkey and dressing before that starts?

Merry Merry, everyone!

San Antonio–getting that “urban” vibe!

It’s exciting to see San Antonio getting more urban!  Downtown has always had lots to offer.  The two things that “everybody” thinks of when they think of San Antonio are downtown–the Alamo and the Riverwalk!  We’re famous for both of them.  When I travel to real estate conferences and meetings and people find out I’m from San Antonio, I always hear, “Oh, I love San Antonio!  The Riverwalk is so fabulous!”  And it is.  But what’s really exciting now is that downtown and the areas immediately north and south are becoming more and more attractive places to live!

I know several people who have or are getting ready to make the move to live downtown.  Those that have are loving it!  Those who are getting ready to can’t wait to get there!  New condos are coming online, more are planned, and several historic buildings have been converted to create a vibrant residential area!  It’s exciting to see this happening!

There was a  news story from one of our local TV stations  just this week about this increased demand for downtown living.  At the present time, demand is greater than supply, but developers are working  to meet the demand.  We just heard recently that a project on Broadway, just on the north end of downtown,  that has been abandoned for several years and sitting like a huge eyesore has been purchased and financing has been secured to complete the project and develop a mixed-use project that will include residential.  Great news!

The old Pearl Brewery which has been completely transformed and become a vibrant new scene will be opening its residential units in the coming months.   Southtown, the area just south of downtown (duh!) has seen several old factories and other buildings transformed into residential units.  A brand new apartment complex has opened near the Christus Santa Rosa hospital complex.  This is great news for folks who want to live downtown, but are not ready to purchase a condo.

One of the most beautiful and historic residential areas in San Antonio is also in the downtown area–the King William district.  This area was home to several of San Antonio’s founding business leaders and currently includes many  residents as well as HEB’s corporate headquarters.   King William hosts its own Fiesta event and parade that has grown tremendously in popularity since it first began as a neighborhood get-together.  It also has several beautiful historic homes right on the San Antonio river and several popular restaurants are nearby.  It’s well worth a visit.

What’s driving this move to downtown?  Lots of things, of course, but getting out of the ‘burbs and traffic is one, for sure!  Being close to work and wanting to enjoy all that downtown has to offer is another.  And who’s moving downtown?  Boomers, empty nesters, professionals, military folks, Gen X & Y, people who want a second home.  Families?  Maybe not so much, but that may change as more options become available.

And what about those options?  Money to develop new projects is tight right now.  The Downtown Alliance is working to help secure some incentives from the city to encourage new projects, but with stricter loan requirements currently in place, it may take some time for more units, especially in more affordable price ranges, to become available.  However, I’m thrilled to see things moving ahead downtown and look forward to seeing what develops in the next few years.

If you’ve thought of moving closer to downtown or into downtown, now might be the right time to really get serious about it.  Get the “vibe” and pass it on!  And call me–I’d love to help you find the perfect “urban nest”!

Cheers!

Sue

The Big 5-0!

Recently, a friend of mine classified a group of us as Boomers-in-Denial!  A perfect label!!  I admit I’m finding a few (only a few!) advantages to getting older, but it’s hard adjusting to the reality!  And, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve discovered 3 things from my childhood that are turning 50 right about now!!  And since I remember them well, that makes it even harder to accept!!

One I just heard about on a news show  is The Flintstones!  Yabba Dabba Doo!!   I loved the show when it first came on, and I still think it’s fun.  I especially liked the way the writers took familiar things and characters and “retrofitted” them to fit in the Flintstones’ world!

Happy 50th Birthday, Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, Pebbles, Bam-Bam, and Dino!

The next thing I discovered reading a magazine was that John Wayne’s movie, The Alamo, is 50 years old!  Wow!  I remember seeing that movie and then trying to find all the rooms in the real Alamo!  My first clue that Hollywood does not always represent real life!  Still, it was a great movie about a San Antonio/Texas icon and I still like to watch it when it pops up on cable every once in awhile.  It’s always crazy to try to picture the Alamo as it was then when it’s sitting in the middle of downtown San Antonio!

Thanks for the memories, John Wayne!

The 3rd San Antonio icon turning 50 this year is North Star Mall!  Malls are so common now that it’s hard to remember what a new concept North Star was when it opened.   I didn’t grow up in San Antonio, so coming to see it was a very big deal.  And it was sooo far from downtown!  It’s grown and changed a lot in 50 years, but still a destination of choice for many shoppers!  And still boasts the world’s largest pair of cowboy boots!

Happy 50th, North Star!  I promise to come visit soon!
It’s hard to stay in denial when the evidence is around you is so strong!  And let’s not even think about the evidence that stares back at me in the mirror every day!!  That’s the real denial!!  Ahhh–to be 50 again!
Enjoy!

Sue

San Antonio Foodie Scene–Grocery Shopping

Congratulations and Happy 1st Birthday to Green Fields Market in the Stone Oak area of San Antonio!  Green Fields is a wonderful neighborhood grocery store that serves a growing and vibrant part of town.  I’ve shopped there several times and really like the mix of products they carry, mainly because it’s a grocery store, not a one-stop superstore!    Surviving and thriving in the San Antonio grocery market is no small feat, considering the list of other competitors who’ve tried and are no longer on the scene.

The San Antonio/South Texas grocery scene is dominated by locally owned HEB.  I love HEB!   I shop there at least twice a week, and have been an HEB shopper since I was a child.  But when I travel to other places to visit my adult kids, I enjoy the variety and choices they have that aren’t really available here.  Not that other chains haven’t tried!

Albertson’s came into the San Antonio market many years ago and built stores all over town very aggressively.  They went head to head with HEB in some areas and put some stores in neighborhoods where HEB did not have a presence.  Kroger did the same thing.  Neither chain is in San Antonio any more.  Many of their store spaces are now either vacant, repurposed, or occupied by an HEB!

The same thing happened over the years with a couple of local grocery stores who used to be part of the San Antonio scene.  I remember fondly the Handy Andy chain, another locally-owned grocery store.  They expanded into Houston in the 70’s and some other areas also, until they went out of business.

These days, at least in San Antonio, the only real competition for HEB is Super Wal-Mart, and, to a lesser degree, Super Target.   We also have a Whole Foods and Sun Harvest.  And HEB’s gourmet Foodie paradise, Central Market. But these smaller stores, including Green Fields, serve specific niche markets.  They’re not for everyone and don’t try to be.   I like them all and shop at all of them, for specific products. but for general grocery shopping, gotta be HEB!

What makes HEB so successful and has allowed them to dominate their market here in San Antonio?   I’m sure there are any number of reasons from a business point of view, but to me, from a consumer point of view, it comes down to something very basic–HEB knows their shoppers!    I’ve visited HEB stores in several parts of town and I am always interested to see how each store is “personalized” for the neighborhood it serves.  Certain items are found in each store that are popular with shoppers in the area the store serves.   “My” HEB is in the north central part of San Antonio, at 1604 and Blanco.  Over the last year or so, I’ve been noticing quite a number of items in some departments (the cookie aisle particularly) that are from Mexico.  Coincidentally, there’s a growing number of Mexican nationals who are buying homes and moving into the area.  How nice for them to see familiar products on the shelves!   Another store I visit often has the city’s largest selection of Kosher products.  Close by–the Jewish Community Center!  Coincidence?  Don’t think so!

So, Happy Birthday, Green Fields!  You’ve had a great first year, and here’s to many more!

P.S.  Trader Joe’s, we’d sure love to have you in San Antonio!!  I read an article that said your distribution center is too far away to make a store in Texas practical.  So build one here!!  C’mon down!!

Farmer’s Markets, part 2

OK, it’s  the middle of the week.  This is a good time to plan a trip to a farmer’s market or markets this coming weekend.  The last post gave you a website where you can find out more about my favorite one–Pearl Farmer’s Market at the repurposed former Pearl Brewery near downtown.  There are others around San Antonio as well, and days vary, so I encourage you to find one near you that’s open at a time that fits your schedule.

Oak Hill Farm at the Pearl Farmers Market, courtesy of PearlFarmersMarket.com

Oak Hill Farm at the Pearl Farmers Market, courtesy of PearlFarmersMarket.com

If you’re a “newbie” to farmer’s markets, there are a few “tricks of the trade” that will make your experience even more fun.  You’ll figure them out eventually, but why not save yourself some of that learning curve?  Here are some hints that I’ve found helpful!

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