Downtown -- There are a lot of hotel rooms downtown because, well, it's a fun place to stay. It has variety, too. Besides the River Walk, you can explore distinctive areas, such as La Villita or the area surrounding Market Square, which have an entirely different feel from the rest of downtown -- La Villita exhibits a more modest architecture. The houses are two-story buildings surfaced in unadorned limestone tiles. The streets are narrow and predominantly pedestrian. Market Square is somewhat similar, contrasting sharply with the exuberant skyscrapers that fill much of the rest of downtown. There are more street vendors than in the rest of downtown. And then there's the street scene, which features interesting facades, and curious examples of buildings being adapted to new uses. People are open and helpful, and the vibe is unintimidating. Much of the city's downtown was built when architects were still having fun and weren't shy about adding decoration. The architectural details, both outside and inside these old buildings, make exploring downtown highly enjoyable, day or night.
With so many hotel rooms, it's important to shop around. Rates float up and down depending upon occupancy, and occupancy is driven by conventions and smaller corporate or professional gatherings. These have their quirks -- convention people will tend to group in certain hotels, and many conferences are based at a particular property. So hotels do not fill up evenly, hence, you should do some checking at different properties, and, if you have flexibility, you should inquire about different dates. If you want to see the big picture, check out this website, where you can find what meetings are taking place during your travel dates: www.meetings.visitsanantonio.com/meeting-calendar. The high seasons for conventions in San Antonio are fall and spring.
And now a few words about the listing info: The rates included here are those that are prevalent for most of the year, before taxes (16.75%). They can go both higher and lower, again, depending on occupancy. By now, almost all large hotels are nonsmoking properties; when smoking rooms are available, I say so in the review. Parking fees are always per day. Pet fees and Wi-Fi fees are per visit, unless the listing specifies otherwise. Wi-Fi is free unless specified otherwise.
King Willam -- There's no doubt that this neighborhood and the larger Southtown area are happening places these days -- more about the arts and leisure than business, this is a perfect choice for a couple of grown-ups wanting to spend a relaxing weekend, or longer if possible. And the monthly street fair on South Alamo (first Fridays) is quite popular with visitors. If you're going to stay in this part of town, you'll want to lodge in one of the grand old houses in King William. Downtown is only a 15-minute walk away, via the River Walk or along South Alamo Street, with its galleries and stores. As with B&Bs in the Monte Vista area, prices don't fluctuate as much as those at the large hotels. For a larger selection of properties, check out the website of the San Antonio Bed & Breakfast Association: www.sanantoniobb.org.
Monte Vista -- B&Bs in this neighborhood offer an especially good value. The houses are beautiful, the neighborhood is quiet, despite its central location, and there are some interesting neighborhoods on all sides. It's either a 30-minute walk or a short and easy bus ride to downtown. And there are several new things happening nearby, including the redevelopment of the old Pearl Brewery. And B&B innkeepers, both here and in King William, are great at giving tips and answering questions during your stay. You can also expect B&Bs to provide fax and other business services, and these days most offer wireless Internet connections.
With a few other exceptions detailed here, the vast majority of the other lodgings around town are low-priced chains. The most convenient are clustered in the northwest, near the Medical Center, and in the north central area, around the airport. For a full alphabetical listing of the accommodations in the city, mapped by area and including rate ranges as well as basic amenities, phone the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 800/447-3372) and request a lodging guide. The "Accommodations" section of www.sanantoniovisit.com is also a good resource.
Wherever you decide to stay, try to book as far in advance as possible -- especially if the property is located downtown. And don't even think about coming to town during Fiesta (the third week in Apr) if you haven't reserved a room 6 months in advance.