Lone Star adventures
Travelers: Steve and Sally McDonald, and kids Jenna (7) and Zack (5).
The Plan: This American family loves living in Beijing, but their hearts belong back home in San Antonio, Texas. Here’s a summer vacation trip to the McDonalds’ favorite spots in cowboy country.
The Itinerary: The family arrived in San Antonio, Texas after a month-long city-hopping journey that started in Beijing and made stops in London, Manchester, Dublin, Tokyo and Minneapolis.
How to Plan: Beijing travel agencies such as Beijing Westminster Air Services (8527 6936 or email@example.com) can help plan round-the-world trips. Tickets start from around RMB 26,000, with four to five stopovers allowed. Kids aged 2 to 11 usually pay 75 percent of the adult fare.
Where to Stay: Sally recommends the Omni La Mansión del Rio for authentic San Antonio flair, or anywhere located along the River Walk downtown. An online search yields plenty of hotels to suit every budget.
Getting Around: Rental cars are the easiest way to get around town. There is no subway, but public transportation aboveground is extensive and inexpensive; a one-day pass for unlimited travel on all buses and streetcars costs only USD 3.75. Tickets are also available online.
Caliente Cuisine: Mexican food is muy delicioso, and San Antonio’s famous fare will delight the whole family. Sally recommends La Fonda, Mamacita’s and Los Barrios for spicy meals with Mexican flavor. Be sure to try traditional fajitas, enchiladas and tacos, but Sally says chalupas and chimichangas shouldn’t be missed either. Cheese and bean tacos are the McDonald kids’ favorite, and adults may take a liking to the local margaritas. Visitors who don’t care for spicy food will enjoy the famous Texas BBQ. To find classic BBQ fare like pinto beans, brisket, creamed corn and spare ribs, head to Rudy’s.
What to Buy: Everyone will be happy at La Cantera, according to Sally. At this large outdoor shopping mall, stylish moms will love luxe department stores like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, while the kids can haunt the children’s play area or chow down at the food hall. Cool Texan mementos to take home include cowhides, leather boots and, of course, the ubiquitous cowboy hat.
Wet and Wild: SeaWorld is great fun for the whole family, with shows like Pirates 4-D and plenty of opportunities to get wet on rides like the Texas Splashdown and Journey to Atlantis. Hold on tight when you ride the Great White loop-the-loop rollercoaster. Texan summers are sweltering, so water parks are the perfect way to cool down. Schlitterbahn Waterpark in New Braunfels, 40 minutes north of San Antonio, is well worth a day trip, according to the McDonalds. There are loads of water activities including slides, tubing, surfing machines and water playgrounds. Six Flags Fiesta Texas also houses a water park with family rides, kiddie rides and “super” rides like the Superman Krypton Coaster, which should have everyone screaming. Don’t miss the nightly fireworks.
Ranches and River Walks: Animal lovers should pay a visit to the San Antonio Zoo, which is a McDonald family favorite. It features a small kids zoo with a beach, train ride and butterfly house. Outdoorsy families will want to make a trip to Natural Bridge Caverns, where kids can wander deep into an underground world and see some marvels of nature. Older kids can even abseil on an adventure tour (). For the ultimate in Texas living, visit a ranch. Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch offers a wildlife safari experience, all in the comfort of your own car. Kids can feed the animals from their window, and there’s also a petting zoo and picnic area. San Antonio’s famous River Walk, which runs right through town, is an outdoors must-see. Stroll along the buzzing shoreline or take a dinner boat cruise.
Get into the Game: Basketball fans can cheer on the San Antonio Spurs – the McDonald family’s favorite NBA team – at the AT&T Center. In the fall, catch a football game with another Texan team, the Dallas Cowboys.
Cowboys and Indians: Remember the Alamo? It’s a must-see for history buffs – a historical mission where Texans fought Mexican troops in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Kids can peek down a cannon, see treasures like Davy Crockett’s original buckskin vest, and witness a live reenactment – check for dates online. For those interested in cowboys, witness that other must-see Texan institution – the rodeo. Time your visit for February, when rodeo season will be in full swing, with horse racing, bull riding and calf roping. Afterwards, hit Far West Rodeo (+1 210 646 9378) for some country music and some serious boot scootin’.
Scenic Daytrip: For their favorite Texan excursion, the McDonalds head to the gorgeous Hill Country a little more than an hour’s drive away. Fredericksburg is also a long-time favorite of the family, and there are B&Bs if you want to stay the night. You can pick famous Fredericksburg peaches from May through August and lap up the town’s Texan/German fusion food. If you prefer the ocean to the mountains, head to Port Aransas near Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast. Located less than three hours away, Port Aransas has long, wide beaches and, of course, the temperate Gulf sea. Tania McCartney