Founded by the Spaniards in 1718 and embedded in memory thanks to the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, San Antonio justifiably earns its rep as an old, storied place. But as the city celebrates its tricentennial this year, planners will find a Texas-size list of new reasons it’s ideal for events and meetings. “Our tricentennial is showcasing our history, culture and unique atmosphere, which can build excitement and attendance,” says Visit San Antonio President and CEO Casandra Matej, CDME. “Plus, planners will benefit from the many recent renovations and expansions that have taken place in time for it.” Here are some of the highlights.
Reopened in 2016 after a dramatic, $325 million expansion, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center now sports 514,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, more than 70 meeting rooms and the largest ballroom in Texas, the 54,000-sq.-ft. Stars at Night Ballroom. The latter features a yeehaw-inducing ceiling with LED stars meant to replicate the state’s dramatic evening skies. It’s all a quick stroll from one of the city’s top attractions, the River Walk, with its restaurants, boats and bustle. “The River Walk is fondly known as the ‘World’s Largest Hotel Lobby’ because it encourages people to get outdoors and network with one another,” says Matej.
The Alamo City boasts more than 14,000 downtown hotel rooms. Among its newer or updated offerings: The St. Anthony, a 1909 neoclassical gem, which was restored and renewed in 2015. Now amid repolished marble, a gilded piano Billy Joel once played and a stellar rooftop pool, meeting-goers can relax between sessions or events in spaces like the Anacacho Ballroom with its neoclassical column or on the 10th-floor Sky Terrace with vistas of downtown.
In the hip, redeveloped Pearl district on the extended Museum Reach section of the River Walk, Hotel Emma elegantly occupies the 1894 former brewhouse of the onetime Pearl Brewery. On tap: 146 plush, retro-cool guest rooms and event spaces like the Elephant Cellar, where jumbo metal brew tanks and 19-foot ceilings set an impressive scene for up to 240 guests. The surrounding Pearl complex also includes venues in revived vintage buildings like the Pearl Stable, a circular structure where the brewery’s horses once grazed, which can now hold 300 to 400 attendees for meetings or parties.