WINNER: McNay Art Museum
6000 N. New Braunfels Ave.• (210) 824-5368
Beyond the attractions one might expect from Texas' first modern art museum — including traveling exhibitions such as "Made in Germany: Contemporary Art from the Rubell Family Collection" and signature shows like "Dressed to Kill: Glam and Gore in Theatre" — the McNay draws all walks and ages with a variety of special programs and maintains an open-gate policy for picnicking on the picturesque grounds surrounding Marion Koogler McNay's former residence, a 24-room Spanish Colonial Revival mansion. Although it offers free admission every Thursday from 4-9 p.m., the McNay takes things to the next level during monthly Second Thursday celebrations combining gallery tours, live music, food trucks and cold brews in a super-relaxed atmosphere. And for the cinephiles, the museum hosts regular screenings that complement exhibitions, not to mention classic revivals, foreign flicks and art-house fare in conjunction with its excellent Get Reel Film Series.
2. The DoSeum
2800 Broadway • (210) 212-4453
3. Witte Museum
3801 Broadway • (210) 357-1900
WINNER: Woodlawn Theatre
1920 Fredericksburg Road • (210) 267-8388
> Designed by John Eberson (the architect behind the Majestic Theatre), the Woodlawn Theatre opened its doors in 1946, thrived as a cinema for decades and notably hosted the premiere of John Wayne's classic 1960 film The Alamo. Following periods of disrepair, closures and unsuccessful revivals, the venue found new life in 2012 with the creation of the nonprofit Woodlawn Theatre Inc. During a pivotal tenure that lasted three-and-a-half years, former artistic director Greg Hinojosa braved new territory by launching Mary Poppins into the sky with the help of ZFX Flying Illusions, stepping into the role of Zaza in the campy gay classic La Cage aux Folles and importing a bevy of RuPaul's Drag Race queens to star in irreverent incarnations of The Rocky Horror Show. Now under the direction of Christopher Rodriguez (who's been the Woodlawn Academy's youth program director for the past four years), the historic theater's latest chapter is taking shape in shows like Memphis (through May 8), The Little Mermaid (June 24-July 24) and Evita (August 12-September 11).
1203 Camden St. • (210) 557-7562
420 S. Alamo St. • (210) 227-2751
WINNER: FL!GHT Gallery
134 Blue Star • (210) 872-2586
> From its earliest days operating out of a Blue Star Art Silo to its long run as Second Saturday ringleader at 1906 S. Flores St. to its current incarnation back at Blue Star, Justin Parr and Ed Saavedra's FL!GHT Gallery has unsurprisingly won many a fan with its unpretentious vibe and alternative approach to contemporary art. Reflective of the wide-ranging array of artists who've shown there (from emerging talent to established artists), the crowd at opening receptions can run the gamut, with art fans hanging out, drinking beer and chatting long into the after hours. Sean Thomas Johnston's "High Contrast" (comprising 75 works of contemporary glass art), "Fotos y Artefactos" (a multimedia group show highlighting works by 10 artists from Houston and Los Angeles) and "Blow It Out Your Year" (a New Year's Eve gathering uniting "an improbable number of artists") stand out among the gallery's latest hits.
1420 S. Alamo St., Suite 147 • (210) 557-6073
316 N. Flores St. • (347) 348-5394
WINNER: Hays Street Bridge
> First erected in 1910, the Hays Street Bridge has watched modern-day SA grow into what it is today. The Countdown City has gradually spread out and grown taller in front of the bridge's East Side perch between Cherry and Austin Streets, so it makes sense that the span is the best view in the entire city.
Standing on the elevated expanse provides a full view of the central city. It gives us a sense of how San Antonio is arranged — from the Alamodome in the east, to the Tower of the Americas, then moving toward the Tower Life Building and the rest of Downtown. It's a complete view from a seldom-seen angle. From the bridge's vantage point, the buildings almost look like models or toys, a view that's reinforced by the vehicles whirring along US 281 in front of the panorama.
But the longer you remain on the bridge, and the farther along you walk, the more the city reveals itself to you. North of Downtown, you can see the Pearl and the tower at Trinity University. Temple Beth-El's orange dome looms over the trees in the distance. While you're up there, turn around and inspect each angle it has to offer. You can see how the space is changing, the clearest evidence of which is right underneath the bridge itself. It's all part of taking in the view and of thinking about what San Antonio is becoming.
WINNER: Brackenridge Park
3700 N. St. Mary's St.
727 S. Alamo St. • (210) 487-0371
WINNER: San Antonio Pets Alive
4804 Fredericksburg Road• (210) 226-7461
11300 Nacogdoches Road • (210) 655-148
606 W. Cypress St. • (210) 227-2683
> Applaud The Cove for making it difficult to not visit their patio. Beyond the great grub, the venerable burger, nacho and fish taco joint has eliminated any excuse to stay away. Got kids? Bring 'em; they'll love clambering all over the playground (which is probably why The Cove was also voted "Best Place to Take the Family"). Feel guilty about leaving your dog at home? The patio is pet-friendly and even has a little dog park. Don't want to miss the game?
It's not hard to position yourself in front of the TV. There's no shortage
of spots to sit, and the people watching is pretty solid. With plenty of craft beers on tap at the outdoor bar, it's a wonder anyone ever leaves The Cove's patio at all (maybe that's why they're closed Mondays — to clear all those lingerers out).
943 S. Alamo St.•(210) 224-2337
WINNER: San Antonio River
> There are few things more relaxing than floating down a lazy river, all of the worries of the world drifting away like leaves in a stream. And, if you're not one of the THC-anxiety afflicted, there are few more easy-going and safe places to take a little toke than kayaking on the San Antonio River. The calm, slow-moving pace of the stream makes it the perfect waterway for a leisurely drift. With numerous San Antonio River Authority-approved vendors offering equipment rentals, you can save a little of that kayak or canoe money and spend it on some sticky icky.
Of course, if you want to go in for your own kayak or canoe, there's nothing wrong with repeat trips blowing smoke signals. Letting the weight of the world melt off you with each pull from your favorite little pocket pipe is sure to be rewarding.
As the river has recently undergone restoration, particularly south of Downtown on the Mission Reach, which extends for a full eight miles from South Alamo Street past Mission Espada, there is plenty of open water to relax and enjoy a bowl or two without running into too much traffic, the park police or otherwise. And for those that are apprehensive about breaking the law, particularly with a substance that has a tendency to distinctly stink, just pop an edible and think about the rapidly approaching days of legal weed.
17619 La Cantera Pkwy., Suite 102 •(210) 920-1102
> Bowling a few frames isn't a stressful experience, but rarely is it as cushy as it is at Bowl & Barrel. To call the far North Side lanes a mere "bowling alley" doesn't do them justice. The food and drink — furnished by The General Public next door — trumps the plasti-cheese nachos and reheated pepperoni slices that most alleys offer. It's hard to feel too bad about rolling two gutter balls in a row when you have fried quail, charcuterie boards and an Old Fashioned back at the table. A couple things to keep in mind: The lanes become 18-and-up after 7 p.m., unless the kiddos have an adult with them. And it's not a bad idea to call ahead to reserve your lane in advance — especially on weekends when they get booked fast.
6700 Huebner Road • (210) 523-1716