The Pearl District is one of San Antonio’s hottest spots with an abundance of bars, restaurants and shops nestled in a quaint outdoor area. It has a youthful and vibrant feel, with open space and plenty to see and do.
Located close to downtown, the Pearl has everything you could need for a retreat: Farmer’s Markets on the weekends, nightlife with some great cocktail and wine bars, some of San Antonio’s most fabulous eats and a luxury hotel with a scandalous past.
Its infamous history started after Otto Koehler, who was known as one of the wealthiest men in the Southwest, took over as the president of the Pearl Brewing Co. in 1902. By 1914, he was married to one woman and dating two others, all named Emma.
It was actually one of his mistresses who shot and killed the San Antonio mogul. His wife Emma took over the brewery and ran the business until her death in 1943. The brewery briefly closed at one point, but construction of the 22-acre complex around the brewery began in the late 2000s with Hotel Emma and the Food Hall opening in 2015.
Now the area is a great place for visitors, and as a bonus, it is pet and kid friendly, so everyone can be included in a trip to the Pearl. It is free to stroll around the Pearl and take in the sights or treat yourself to a nice dinner, drinks and sweet treats.
Here are some of our favorite things to do around the Pearl:
Bring a picnic to the green area: Located right smack in the heart of the Pearl is a giant AstroTurf area surrounded by tables where visitors can lounge and relax. This is one of the best reasons to go to the Pearl because you can bring a blanket, some snacks and a beverage or two (up to you if it is an adult beverage or not) and simply sit and enjoy being outside. No purchase necessary, though several of the restaurants have alcohol and food to-go options if you don’t want to bring your own. Every week during the summer, the Pearl hosts a Thursday night dance party and there is a splash pad for the kids.
Walk the Riverwalk: In my opinion, the Pearl area is one of my favorite spots to start a stroll on the Riverwalk. A little less touristy and crowded than the downtown portion of the river, it is a great spot to take the dog, grab your partner or friends and enjoy some time outside. The river is also easily accessible with multiple pathways near Hotel Emma to take down to the river’s edge.
Check out the shops: The Pearl is home to many boutique shops in and around the district for whatever you may be shopping for. If you are looking for a collection of locally owned shops, this is the place to go. From crystals at Ruby Road Gems to local authors’ works at The Twig Book Shop to some puro San Antonio merch at Feliz Modern Pop there are plenty to check out.
Grab a bite to eat: As previously mentioned, the Pearl is a hot spot for some seriously good and unique restaurants. The Pearl is like a Texas-version of Epcot with flavors from around the world: try a French cuisine at Brasserie Mon Chou Chou or Bakery Lorraine, The Boiler House or La Gloria for authentic Texas foods, Mi Roti to take a trip to the Caribbean or Tenko Ramen for some Japanese flair. On the outskirts of the Pearl is one of San Antonio’s favorite bar restaurants Down on Grayson that specializes in fun cocktails and elevated American cuisine.
Try the Three Emmas: Everyone has to stop into Sternewirth inside Hotel Emma at least once to try their signature cocktail the Three Emmas. Named after Koehler’s three lovers, this cocktail is the perfect excuse to check out the cozy atmosphere at Sternewirth. If you’re lucky you may even get a seat inside one of the empty silos that used to hold the brewery’s product.
Sip some vino at High Street: While there are plenty of places that serve wine around the Pearl district, one of my favorite wine bars to go to is High Street wine bar. A small indoor-outdoor bar nestled in a corner of the Pearl surrounded by greenery; it makes you feel like you’re in a private vineyard in the Hill Country. The selection of wine is abundant, and the wait staff is knowledgeable, helpful and friendly.
Kelley Martin of Ascend Elite Realty, a Top Producing agent in San Antonio, can provide more for local spots, or the housing market in the San Antonio area.