14 Things You Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners About San Antonio

When it comes to hosting guests in San Antonio -- whether you have relatives in town, college buddies visiting, or are steadily building an Airbnb empire -- you’ll eventually need to explain some quirks about the city. These are 14 pieces of vital information to impart to out-of-towners.

1. We don't call them hard-shelled tacos

We don’t find the need to designate our tacos as “soft tacos.” At both breakfast and lunch, a taco in San Antonio will be a folded tortilla (corn or flour) filled with anything from eggs to beef fajita strips. That hard-shelled taco that you may be used to is called a “crispy taco” down in these parts. 

2. Puffy tacos, know them, love them

There is one unique taco to the city: the puffy taco. Imagine a corn tortilla, deep-fried until it puffs up and stuffed with ground beef or shredded chicken -- that’s a puffy taco. It has its roots in San Antonio at Ray’s Drive Inn and is distinct to our city (though they may be making their way up the Northern I-35 corridor in addition to LA). And there’s even a puffy taco mascot that races around the bases at San Antonio Missions games.

3. Austin isn't the only place with bats

Austinites may think they have it all (BBQ, weirdness, etc.) but we too have an urban colony of bats that hang out underneath the upper level of I-35 near the Camden and Newell intersection. But if you really love bats, book a guided tour to see an estimated 20 million bats emerge from Bracken Cave.

4. There’s a toilet seat museum

Possibly one of the most bizarre museums in the country is right off of Broadway in Alamo Heights, a municipality that San Antonio envelops. Barney Smith, the artist and proprietor, has hundreds of toilet seats with his unique art and etchings that can be visited by appointment only.

5. Barbacoa and Big Red is our official hangover cure

Did you have a little too much to drink Saturday night? Stop by a taqueria and pick up some barbacoa (slow-cooked meat from a cow’s head) and Big Red (a cream soda that’s, well, red). This cure is guaranteed to heal what ails you.

6. Beat the heat with paletas...

Paletas are essentially naturally flavored popsicles. In addition to milk-based flavors (vanilla, pecan, chocolate) you can order fruit-based ones (strawberry, mango, cucumber, watermelon, tamarind, or pineapple). Look for a person pushing a paleta cart in the parks downtown or stop at a store like SA Pops.

7. ... or raspas

What you may call a snow cone a San Antonian would call a raspa. The traditional flavors (blue coconut, cherry, etc.) will be available alongside those particular to this area (Big Red). Most raspa stands offer more than your traditional snow cones with items like a piccadilly (cherry raspa with pickle brine and chopped pickles) or a mangonada (frozen mango puree with chamoy, a sort of sweet-and-sour chile sauce). Chamoy City Limits is now the go-to food truck for outrageous raspas.

8. We don't riot, we honk

Whenever our beloved Spurs win a playoff game, locals flood downtown to go "honking" along Commerce St. The line -- and noise level -- increases as we go deeper in the playoffs. We don’t believe in lighting fires or damaging property when our team wins a championship, we just make a lot of noise.

9. The River Walk extends up North...

The River Walk is a fantastic attraction and draws tons of people to San Antonio every year. But there’s more to it than the downtown stretch filled with restaurants and riverboats. Make your way North on the river to the Museum Reach. This stretch of the river will connect you to the San Antonio Museum of Art in addition to lots of public artwork and sculptures along the way. Look for signs where you can use your smartphone to watch videos about the art.

10. ... as well as down south

Pick up the river in the funky King William neighborhood known as Southtown and make your way along the Mission Reach. This particular section is bike-friendly and you can rent a bicycle by the hour at one of our B-cycle stations as you explore this stretch of the river that links you up with our other historic missions. While most of the tourists stay on the downtown stretch of the River Walk, you’ll find locals enjoying the other two parts.

11. Hit the hard "a" in "Blanco Road"

You’ll notice many of the streets and buildings have Spanish names and carry the traditional pronunciation. That is with one notable exception: Blanco Road. Rather than being pronounced with the correct Spanish pronunciation with a soft “a” like in “awning,” locals use a long “a” like in “cake."

12. Remember the Alamo, but don't forget the other missions

The Alamo is a site to behold and is the Shrine of Texas Liberty. But did you know that it is only one of five missions along the San Antonio River? The other four missions -- Concepción, San José, San Juan Capistrano, and Espada -- form the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, and are currently being considered for the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. One of the greatest blues guitar players of all time recorded here

Robert Johnson, one of the greatest blues guitar players who influenced everyone from the Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton, had one of his few recordings done at the Gunter Hotel downtown.

14. ¡Viva Fiesta and chicken on a stick!

Fiesta is a 10-day celebration in April stretching across the entire city. Many neighborhoods and organizations have unique events that highlight their own local flavor. But one thing that is always a hit is the chicken on a stick at NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio). As soon as the gates open, make your way to that stand before the line gets too long.

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