The only controversy these days has to do with tour buses: banned! A leisurely stroll is in any case the best way to appreciate stately homes such as the Steves Homestead Museum and Villa Finale, built starting in 1876 and now housing the quirky collection of furnishings and Napoleana amassed by its last owner. Others such as the elegant Carl Groos House, now occupied by grocery magnate Charles Butt, must be appreciated from the sidewalk; a peek into back yards is available from the River Walk that forms one of the district’s boundaries. Afterwards, reward yourself with drinks or dinner nearby at glittery Feast or riotously colorful Hot Joy -- both staunchly non-historic.
Though it’s considered English Gothic, Our Lady of the Lake’s Conventual chapel reminds some of a more French example: Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle. True, the Parisian gem is loftier, glassier, and, well, much older (SHCCA was completed in 1923, and its stained glass happens to be German), but the two share a certain delicacy -- and both prove to be glorious venues for musical performances. Pilgrims after a peek are welcome at regular services, the annual Jubilee Mass, and other special events on the Chapel calendar. If you’re planning to get hitched anyway, that’s another option to experience the space. But no funerals, baptisms or quinceañeras are conducted in the Westside landmark, just in case.