Many of the city’s most established attractions have also been revved up or sized up in time for the 300th anniversary. “The Witte Museum recently underwent a dramatic renovation and expansion,” says Matej. “The natural and Texas history museum now offer dynamic new exhibits including the Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery as well as the Mays Family Center, with 10,000 square feet of meeting space with a panorama of the river.”
The San Antonio Botanical Garden, long popular for its natural plantings and futuristic conservatories, just added 8 acres to its green space, meaning planners can host events in spaces like the historic Auld House; a dramatic courtyard between the glass conservatories; or in the bright, open demonstration kitchen. The latter, surrounded by plots of herbs and veggies, can accommodate innovative events like a “cocktail scavenger hunt” where attendees pick the ingredients for drinks they learn to mix.
Rowboats, paddle crafts and barges have all plied the San Antonio River Walk since it was built in the early 20th century. Since last fall, Go Rio’s new electrically powered barges have traveled the waterway, flashing their brightly colored, pierced metal designs inspired by papel picado (those traditional Mexican decorate banners hanging all over town). They can be rented for dinners of up to 20 people. Local restaurants—including Mediterranean-meets-Southwestern Biga on the Banks and Texas bistro Boudro’s—do the catering, leaving attendees to wonder whether they are in Venice.
Most nights of the year, downtown’s Tobin Center for the Performing Arts dazzles with big-name comedy acts, symphony concerts or gigs by bands like Fleet Foxes. But the theater, built in 2014 and incorporating portions of the Spanish Revival 1926 Municipal Auditorium, also wins rave reviews as a meeting venue for up to 3,000 guests. Lobbies and an outdoor terrace on the River Walk appeal to a variety of groups, but the largest and most impressive spot is the main H-E-B Performance Hall, where an ingenious system allows rows of seats to fold down to create a flat floor for dinners or receptions.