The center of San Antonio de Areco is the leafy Plaza Arellano, surrounded by cobblestone streets and overseen by a statue of Juan Hipólito Vieytes, a local involved in the Argentine war for independence from Spain. His memorial sits in an acoustic circle, so talking here is fun, especially if you bring kids. The statue faces south to Mitre Street, staring at the church from which the town draws its name, San Antonio de Padua, rebuilt in the late 1800s over the original 1730 colonial version. Colonial on the outside, the interior mixes Gothic and neoclassical styles with frescoes of angels and saints in niches on the walls, all overseen by a coffered ceiling. On the plaza's north side is the Belle Epoque Municipal Hall, a long pink building at Lavalle 363 with an attractive central courtyard. Nearby is the Draghi Museum and Shop, Lavalle 387, between Alsina and Arellano (tel. 2326/454-219; daily approximately 10am-5pm, though technically by appointment only). Opened by the late Juan Jose Draghi, a master silversmith who began his career more than 45 years ago making ornamental items for gauchos, it is now run by his son Mariano. The museum is itself a work of art, with its exquisite stained-glass ceiling. The museum also has its own hotel. A few blocks away, you can watch other silversmiths at work in the small Artesano Platero, Alsina at Zerboni, facing the Parque San Martín (tel. 2326/454-843 or 2325/15-656-995 [cell]; www.arecoplateria.com.ar; daily 9:30am-12:30pm and 3-9pm).
From here, head to Parque San Martín, on the south side of the Río Areco. It's lined with trees and monuments, and full of vine-covered walkways called glorietas. It's a place where families picnic and kids play soccer or climb over the small dam constructed in the river. Two bridges cross the park here, but the most picturesque is the Puente Viejo, originally constructed in the 1850s as a toll crossing. The other end of the river has Parque Criollo, and here sits the city's most famous site, the Museum of the Gaucho (aka Museo Ricardo Güiraldes, in honor of the author of Don Segundo Sombra), Camino Ricardo Güiraldes, at Sosa (tel. 2326/455-839; www.museoguiraldes.com.ar; Wed-Mon 10am-4:30pm). Written in 1926, the novel immortalized the noble gaucho, making him an honored part of Argentine history. The museum combines an authentic 1830 pulpería, or country general store, where gauchos gathered, with a museum designed in a colonial style by Argentine architect José María Bustillo in 1936. Here you will find the author's personal effects, photos, books, and other gaucho memorabilia. It's a bit kitschy (think rooms filled with gaucho mannequins), but if you speak Spanish, a conversation with the museum's guide and historian, Omar Tapia, will help you put the gauchos in their proper historical context.
Excursions to San Antonio & Estancias -- Various travel companies in Buenos Aires arrange day trips to San Antonio de Areco, with or without overnight stays on nearby estancias. Borello Travel & Tours is a travel firm specializing in upscale travel with offices in New York and Buenos Aires (7 Park Ave., Ste. 21, New York, NY 10016; tel. 800/405-3072 or 212/686-4911) or Perú (359 Ste. 407, Buenos Aires 1067; tel. 11/5031-1988; www.borellotravel.com). They can include a visit to San Antonio with stays in the local estancias. They maintain an additional office in Buenos Aires (tel. 11/5031-1988). Buenos Aires-based Say Hueque Tourism, with two locations (at Viamonte 749, Office 601, 1053 Buenos Aires, tel. 11/5199-2517; and at Guatemala 4845, Office 4, 1425 Buenos Aires, tel. 11/4775-7862; www.sayhueque.com), also provides trips to this area.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.