Best Of 2014

Multiple locations,

We’re going to break our own rule here and nominate a non-local business as the best place to sneak into as a non-customer during Fiesta. For one, locally owned businesses downtown have it tough as it is without your cheap, stanky asses fouling up their joints. For two, Starbucks is known as the haven for weenie bladders worldwide, because the bigwigs realize that once one has relieved oneself, a venti iced sugar-free hazelnut latte suddenly sounds much more appealing. And for three, there’s plenty of Starbucks downtown alone: one by River Center Mall, one on St. Mary’s and Houston and one on McCullough and Quincy. Just remember, while it’s corporate policy to give furtive whizzers a pass, employees themselves may be less understanding. Since they’re the ones watching the Sbux thrones, make nice and be respectful if they ask you to take your pee-pee dance somewhere else.

San Antonio Food Bank
5200 W Old US Hwy 90, (210) 337-3663,

Hungry families have been additionally strained by recent cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, and the nonprofit SA Food Bank is feeling the hit as they try to feed the 58,000 residents a week that visit them for services. While the cafeteria hall is utilized as an emergency resource, after the cuts took place, the hall now sees regular use. As President Eric Cooper told the Current earlier this year, the SAFB is under unprecedented demand on their already limited supply. Hats off to our local food bank, working overtime to make up for the loss in food assistance.

RUNNER-UP: Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, 922 San Pedro,
(210) 228-0201,

San Antonio Museum of Art
200 W Jones, (210) 978-8100; (210) 212-9373,;

Rick and Angela Martinez’s Slab Cinema has been “building community through outdoor movie events” since its inception in 2004 (on its namesake concrete slab across from La Tuna) and continues to expand its scope by screening kid-friendly, nostalgic and grown-up films in a growing list of places. While we’re looking forward to seeing how their Movies by Moonlight series fares in the move from Hemisfair to Travis Park in June, we can’t get enough of their pop-ups on SAMA’s serene lawn. Initiated with the cleverly curated Family Flicks series, the Slab/SAMA collab recently branched out with a bar-equipped screening of Much Ado About Nothing—an adult-focused outing the museum plans to continue this summer in conjunction with the exhibition “Matisse: Life in Color.”

Morgan’s Wonderland
5223 David Edwards, (210) 495-5888,

Water, sand, swings and trains are as universal as it gets for child’s play. Billed as “the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park,” Morgan’s Wonderland was designed specifically for special needs children, but it easily appeals to all kids. Only a few years old, the 25-acre park is fresh, spacious, friendly and relaxed. While it features traditional rides like a colorful carousel and a locomotive train, what makes the park spectacular are the free-play areas for children with and without disabilities. The Butterfly Playground and Pirate Island Playground are surprisingly modern, safe and fun. They beat the pants off any playground in the city and broad canopies shade them, making for an outdoor experience that’s actually tolerable come summer vacation. There are seesaws, rolling-pipe slides and swings galore. Plus, everything is wheelchair-accessible, which means a soft, rubber surface and a lot of space. The Music Garden, water play area and Sensory Village feature playscapes with activities that rival the best children’s museums in Texas. Their take on the ever-popular pretend grocery store includes a bubbling toy lobster aquarium. There is a small lake with a fishing wharf, and the pièce de résistance: an enormous sand circle with mini-industrial diggers, buckets and toys. (A word to the wise: let the kids play in the sand first, so they can shake it out at the park and not in the car.) There is a concession stand with plenty of picnic areas and you can bring your own food. Admission is free for children with special needs and children under two years old. Otherwise, admission for children ages three to 10 years is $10; general admission is $15. All proceeds support the park and its programs for special needs children.

RUNNER-UP: Splashtown San Antonio
3600 N I-35, (210) 227-1400,

Vacant Building
Anywhere (but mainly Downtown)

We’ll level with you, this was a toughie because being high in public can be kind of a nightmare for some folks, present company included. But, it struck us that there’s a place where you’re unlikely to run into anyone else, yet which lacks the heavily policed vibe even the most expansive public parks or grimiest bars seem to boast. This is a secret druggies have been using FOR YEARS—the vacant building. Best part: They’re everywhere in San Antonio! If there’s not one in your ’hood, take your pipe downtown, since nearly a third of property there is uninhabited day and night. Second best part: You’ll actually be doing the City of San Antonio a favor. Currently, it’s much easier for the City to take care of these pockets of blight if they can be proved habitually dangerous. Say, if the wrong kind of element was caught repeatedly loitering in the vicinity getting high. While you’re toking, snorting, shooting or what have you, cast your glazed, red eyes around and take note of any potential structural dangers too; that can help strengthen the case against negligent property owners who are likely sitting on the bummer buildings waiting for SA’s seller’s market to get hot enough to unload the pile of crap for a pile of cash. Though the SAPD is unlikely to appreciate your civic service if they bust you, at least you’ll know you’re not a total drain on society.

San Pedro Springs Park
1415 San Pedro, (210) 207-7275

The nearly 50-acre historic San Pedro Springs Park has ample room to get lost in reverie, take a quick nap or just pass out among the verdant scenery. Let the sun rays wash over you while you lay out by the gigantic pool, get some shut eye during a picnic on the grass (FYI, no alcohol allowed) and snuggle up on the gazebo. Even if it’s a rainy day, you can still get your doze on—just step on over to the San Pedro Library, where you’re bound to find some peace and quiet on your Saytown scour for slumber.

San Antonio Botanical Gardens
555 Funston, (210) 207-3250,

Feeling exhibitionist? Too randy to make it home? Digs not suited for bangin’? If you’re caught, sex in public is a Class A misdemeanor, meaning a fine of up to $4,000 and up to a year in the big house. But if Uncle Sam’s discipline adds to the act’s kinkiness, appease that public lust at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Try the East Texas Pineywoods area for some backwoods lovin’, or the futuristic Palm and Cycad Pavilion for getting weird in a utopian, tropical setting. Whatever you’re looking for, SABOT offers several backdrops for bumpin’ uglies, from vaguely secluded to all-out on display. But please, check your plant allergies first and avoid the children’s vegetable garden.

Tejano Conjunto Festival
Rosedale Park, 340 Dartmouth, (210) 271-3151,

There’s no better place on Earth to catch conjunto than San Anto, the regional mother of the genre. Among the many, many festivals held throughout San Antonio each year, nothing elicits quite the grito that the Tejano Conjunto Festival does. For the past 33 years, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, aided by energetic coordinator (and real deal conjunto player in his own right) Juan Tejeda, has brought the world’s leading tejano and conjunto musical acts and their fans to the heart of the West Side. This year, the jam-packed, three-day festival features some 25 acts, including a first-ever TCF appearance by the re-formed Texas Tornadoes (RIP Doug Sahm), local master Max Baca and Dutch wunderkid Dwayne Verheyden. There’s also workshops, special commemorative presentations, a free seniors dance by conjunto queen Eva Ybarra and plenty of traditional food, drink and merch to check out. For us, the trimmings don’t matter as much as witnessing a true San Antonio stroll around the large dance floor and the octagenarians that seem to reanimate when they hear “Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio” or “Clementina.” The affordable ticket prices (generally less than $20 per day) make it an easy way to unite San Antonians rich and poor, young and old. Mark your calendars for May 14 (the seniors’ dance), and May 16-18 (the main festival). If you miss this event, you’re missing a huge part of our city’s considerable charm.

Lawrence Markey Gallery
311 6th, (210) 228-9966,

Next time your East Coast-loving relations turn up their snotty noses at San Antonio’s perceived lack of posh, take them to Lawrence Markey Gallery. Markey, a SA native, did in fact spend several years in NYC’s art world, operating his eponymous gallery there from 1990-2004, first in SoHo and then on the Upper East Side near the Whitney. Markey’s San Antonio space, which he opened in 2005, has the gritty urban reuse feel of SoHo (courtesy of an airy downtown warehouse renovated by Lake|Flato and modified by New York architect Andrew Berman) and the exclusivity of an UES gallery (note the subtle little door plaque in place of a business sign and the lack of front-facing windows). There’s also a lovely garden terrace open during receptions for pretending that we don’t actually live in the climate of Mordor. Then, of course, there’s the artists and exhibitions: Markey has displayed works by well-known international artists like Suzan Frecon, Fred Sandback, Lawrence Weiner, James Castle and Wayne Thiebaud. Though he primarily focuses on works on paper, his latest exhibition (which you can still catch if you hurry, it ends April 25) features some captivating paintings on canvas by John Zurier. You likely won’t see Markey’s next exhibit splashed on billboards and full-page ads, but you can get on the mailing list by contacting [email protected] or by visiting during regular gallery hours (how very New York!) from noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. For any serious art lover here, it’s worth it.

Pearsall Park
4700 Old Pearsall, (210) 207-7275

Watching the sunset can be so romantic … which is why you should do it at a former dump on the South Side. Seriously, Pearsall Park, formerly known as Mt. Trashmore when it was the site of a landfill from the 1960s to ’80s, now boasts the best unobstructed, 360-degree views in the city thanks to rolling, treeless hills. There’s also very little structural development there right now, but that should change when Parks and Rec begins spending the $7.5 million awarded to Pearsall in the 2012 bond cycle. While that’s sure to infuse the mainly vacant space with a lot of awesome activity, hit it now for a quiet, breezy overlook unlike anything else in city limits.