Best Of 2017

OUR PICK: Ruiz-Healy Art, 201-A East Olmos Drive, (210) 804-2219,

It’s probably worth pointing out that there are several important destinations within the San Antonio art scene that don’t quite fall within the confines of a “gallery.” For instance, Artpace, Blue Star Contemporary and the Southwest School of Art all contain galleries but also don’t identify as museums (Blue Star did for a period but pointedly dropped the “m” word from its name last year). While we’re crazy about many of the DIY and artist-run galleries throughout Southtown and beyond, there’s something undeniably special about Ruiz-Healy Art. Opened in 2013 in the heart of Olmos Park, Patricia Ruiz-Healy’s gallery emphasizes “a Latin American, borderland, and Texas discourse” through impeccably presented exhibitions that have showcased both international icons like revered Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide and a thoughtful assortment of local and regional contemporary artists — including Jesse Amado, Ethel Shipton, Nate Cassie, Margarita Cabrera, Fernando Andrade and Julie Speed.

OUR PICK: Olmos Park Barber Shop, 207 E Hildebrand Ave, (210) 980-8544,

If you have a sweet spot for old school barber shops or want a fresh-as-hell fade, then you probably already know that Olmos Park Barber Shop is the best place to go. A step into the shop transports you to another time with antique decorations like barber collectibles, an old-fashioned barber pole and a gumball machine. Located at the E. Hildebrand and McCullough intersection, OPBS takes pride in providing a full barber service for the modern gentleman. To truly snazz up your look, have your shoes or boots shined in-house while you freshen up your hair and face. And don’t worry ladies, you can get an undercut specially designed for you.

Our Pick: Animal Defense League of Texas, 11300 Nacogdoches Road, (210) 655-1481,

Adopting a pet of any kind can be both a scary and hard decision, but lucky for us, there’s the Animal Defense League. The knowledgeable staff and group of volunteers at the ADL make bringing a furry pal into the family easy, leaving you with the the equipment, resources and confidence you need to take home your new four-legged friend. The ADL also offers dog training services and programs like Seniors for Seniors — a program that matches senior animals with senior citizens — low cost vaccinations and plenty of wellness advice. The defense league also hosts several monthly events, making it easy to bring people and adoptable pets together.

OUR PICK: Bowl and Barrel, The Rim, 17619 La Cantera Pkwy Ste 102, (210) 920-1102,

Bowling alleys are traditionally known for smelling like feet and cheap beer, but Bowl and Barrel raises the standards from booze and grub to service and aesthetic. One visit will make you realize that B&B is more than a bowling alley; it’s a restaurant, bar and, most importantly, a sophisticated place to hang out with friends, family and dates. Not only do the bartenders whip up delicious drinks, they also take the time to get to know you and make sure you have a good visit. The food, provided by The General Public and The Rustic, will have you licking your fingers, so eat up and kick back on the comfy couches in between strikes and spares. Oh yeah, the bowling is pretty fun too.

Our Pick: Brackenridge Park, 3910 N St Mary’s,

Here’s how much San Antonio loves Brackenridge: When city planners last year rolled out a plan that would radically change the nature of the park (namely, building parking garages and closing the streets that wind through the trees), the people revolted. Public pressure ultimately convinced the city to scrap the plan, meaning (for now, at least) Brackenridge will remain what it has been to generations of San Antonians: a place for working class families to cart their coolers, grills and kids for weekend and holiday barbecues underneath a canopy of trees. 

OUR PICK: Laugh Out Loud, Park North Shopping Center, 618 NW Loop 410 #312, (210) 541-8805,

We like to think San Antonio has a good sense of humor, and the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club is definitely proof of that. The venue brings in big names like Carlos Mencia and Ralphie May, yet also gives local talent and up-and-coming comedians their time on the stage. With regular open mic nights and special events like the South Texas Showcase and A Night in Pinche San Antonio, there are all kinds of jokes ringing through the club. Catch a show with your boo, another with your side piece, another with your family – and don’t forget about your squad. There are enough happenings at LOL to keep you in stitches and coming back for more.

Our Pick: The Playhouse, 800 W. Ashby Place, (210) 733-7258,

 With its 2016-17 season still underway and an impressive list of performances slated for the 2017-18 season, The Playhouse is knocking it out of the park when it comes to community theater in San Antonio. Under the artistic direction of George Green, The Playhouse has produced high quality performances of theater classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Glass Menagerie and The Secret Garden in recent months, earning them the name of Best Community Theater. Taking on titles like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Little Women and Mamma Mia! in their next season, The Playhouse is preparing for an overwhelming season of theater favorites, which we’re confident the theater will handle with a fresh spin and an original take on the plays we already love.

Our Pick: Phil Hardberger Park, 8400 NW Military Hwy., (210) 207-3284

For us, the off-leash dog parks at Phil Hardberger Park are just a tiny portion of what makes this sprawling 311-acre park special. But for the pooches, behind those double-entry gates lies paradise. Both fenced-off areas for small and large dogs include space for your pup to run (or sniff the perimeter, if that’s what your dog’s into) in a huge, wooded area. Plus there are platforms and props for your pup to play around on. Hardberger also offers those dog-friendly water fountains and plenty of shade to keep you cool during the summer scorchers. Don’t let Fido play too hard, though – you’ll still want to take a walk around the park’s 1.8-mile Savanna Loop Trail. 

Our Pick: Pawderosa Ranch, Two locations, (210) 404-9941,

We know that when you go on vacation, you expect to be spoiled — so why wouldn’t you expect the same for your pets? At Pawderosa Ranch, pets are given baths, massages and are pampered in the pet spa, fed homemade treats, housed in climate-controlled rooms and tucked into bed each night that they’re there. Think of it as a five-star hotel for your pet, minus the chocolates on the pillow. Your pet will get one-on-one attention while they’re at Pawderosa and will even receive training sessions suited to the pet-owner’s choosing. With two locations, this doggy daycare and lodging is easily the best in San Antonio and deserves two paws up.

OUR PICK: Cornyation

Thanks to Trinity University associate professor Amy Stone’s recently published book, San Antonians can easily dig into the colorful history of Cornyation — from its inception in the 1950s as a family-friendly satire of the notoriously elite Coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo to its current incarnation as a bawdy spoof of local politics and national goings-on. One of the hottest Fiesta tickets in town (as of this writing, all six of this year’s shows were on the brink of selling out), Cornyation extends far beyond costumed mockery to give back to the community via substantial donations to local HIV/AIDS charities (more than $2 million so far) and the Robert Rehm Scholarship (awarded to students pursuing theater arts). Currently reigning as King Anchovy LII, James Lawnmower Sales and Service proprietor Jeffrey James is set to preside over the Court of Insane Privilege for three nights of lampoonery at the Empire Theatre (April 25-27).