With attractions like Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the River Walk, and the historic Alamo site, it’s no surprise that San Antonio is the most visited city in Texas. It’s actually the 17th most visited city in the nation. San Antonio receives more than 39 million visitors a year, including 31.1 million overnight guests.
While the River Walk and Alamo may be among the top two places to visit in San Antonio, this article is about one of the more recently developed areas in San Antonio—the Pearl District!
The Pearl Brewery District, also known as the Historic Pearl, is a former industrial area north of downtown San Antonio that’s been transformed into a hip, vibrant neighborhood.
With a rich history dating back to 1883, the San Antonio Brewing Company later became the Pearl Brewing Company and was one of Texas’ largest breweries, brewing one of Texas’ iconic beers, Pearl, from 1883 to 2001.
Pearl beer’s name came from Kaiser-Beck’s brewmaster, who thought the foamy bubbles in a freshly poured glass of the brew resembled sparkling pearls.
In 2001, Silver Ventures, a San Antonio-based investment firm, purchased the 23-acre brewery site and started the development that has led to its current manifestation as a culinary, shopping, and cultural destination.
Things to see and/or do in the Pearl District area:
1) Hotel Emma
Hotel Emma is a 146-room riverfront hotel built in 2015 and named for Emma Koehler, wife of Pearl Brewery founder Otto Koehler. It is the very definition of industrial chic. The hotel’s design firm, Roman and Williams, is known for work that is distinguished by its unique blending of historic elements with modern references and finely balanced tension between the past and future.
In the lobby, oversized brewery machinery and pipes stand alongside subtle South Texas design touches, like hand-tooled saddle leather wall coverings in elevators, buffalo-hide sofas in the bar, and Redondo Mexican tile floors in the lobby.
Hotel Emma boasts the 3,700-volume library of Sherry Wagner, a San Antonio icon, novelist, historian, Harvard Fellow, and cultural anthropologist. Housed in one of the Brewhouse’s vaulted rooms, the library is furnished with club chairs and enticing lighting.
The hotel also includes a sunny clay-tiled rooftop pool.
Supper, the bistro-meets-farmhouse restaurant by chef John Brand, is part of Hotel Emma and offers fresh, seasonal, greenmarket cuisine; a solid wine list; craft cocktails; and local microbrews. In keeping with the neighborhood, it is foodie-focused but maintains a casual ambiance of historic and modern elements within the cool industrial context of a former factory.
2) Farmers Market
Pearl’s Farmers Market is a true producers market featuring local produce from family-owned farmers from a 150-mile radius. It hosts close to 50 vendors every weekend with products ranging from farm-fresh produce and dairy to honey, salsas, and gourmet candies. It was recently named the “Best Farmers Market” by San Antonio Current.
3) The Culinary Institute of America
The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) opened its third campus at Pearl. The campus gave the college a platform to offer special expertise in Latin American cuisines and to serve Latin foodservice professionals, including a certification program in culinary arts and cuisine programs for foodservice industry professionals and food enthusiasts. Stop by Savor in the Pearl (with both indoor and outdoor seating) for a chance to see what CIA students are cooking. You can even take a cooking class yourself.
4) The Bottling Department Food Hall
San Antonio’s first food hall, the Bottling Department opened at Pearl in 2017. It offers a range of cuisines from local to Japanese and Caribbean. The hall is located in a vaulted brick building at the site of the brewery’s original bottling plant and includes salvaged, original cornerstones and a stone nameplate. The building has seating for just over 100 guests inside, with additional seating outside. Every Wednesday night you can dance under the stars with sunset sessions in front of the Food Hall.
5) Park at the Pearl
The Pearl is home to a 1.33-mile extension of the River Walk. Park at the Pearl is a beautifully landscaped park featuring amphitheater seating for 1,000 people overlooking the river barge turning basin and loading dock that doubles as a stage. The park is for people. Whether you want to picnic, read the paper, or catch a performance at the amphitheater, everyone is invited to enjoy the park at the Pearl.
6) Food and Drinks
Other than Supper and the Bottling Department’s Food Hall, Pearl offers a wide variety of remarkable cuisines. Bakery Lorraine, Boiler House, Botika, Cured, Green, La Gloria, Savor, Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery, Bud’s Southern Rotisserie, Fletcher’s Hamburgers, Tenko Ramen, and Mi Roti provide plenty of options to suit any taste.
7) Retail Shops
For the shopping aficionados, Adelante Boutique, Bike World, Curio, Dos Carolinas, Feliz Modern Pop, Lawrence Markey Art Gallery, LeeLee, Niche at Pearl, Ten Thousand Villages, The Sporting District, The Tiny Finch, and The Twig Book Shop offer some good options for collectibles.
Whether you are visiting San Antonio or live here, a trip to the Pearl District is almost like visiting a different city. What is your favorite part of the Pearl? Let us know in the comments!