- Checking Out the Headgear at Paris Hatters: Even if you’re not in the market for a Stetson, wander over to this San Antonio institution that has sold hats to everyone from Queen Elizabeth to Pope John Paul II (“We ‘hatted’ a saint,” said one of the owners). See how big your head is compared to those of the stars.
- Shopping for Handmade Boots at Lucchese: For many adult male Texans, getting fitted for Lucchese (pronounced Loo-kaiz-ee) boots is a sign that one has made it in the world. A symbol of Texas roots, they’re worn both with suits and jeans. The boots are also a fashion statement for sassy Texas women, who love the pointy sh*t-kicking toes.
- Picking Up Tacky Souvenirs at Alamo Plaza: Seeking souvenirs with no redeeming aesthetic value, the perfect something to staunch all pesky requests to bring something back from your trips? Souvenir stores are scattered throughout the touristy areas of downtown, but the west side of Alamo Plaza is especially fertile hunting ground. Take your pick of such gems as an Alamo ashtray, a beer can wind chime, or a barbed wire candle, to name a few.
- Love Potion: Ask a proprietor of a botanica, “What kind of store is this?” and you’ll hear anything from “a drugstore” to “a religious bookstore.” But along with Christian artifacts (including glow-in-the-dark rosaries and dashboard icons), botanicas carry magic floor washes, candles designed to keep the law off your back, wolf skulls, amulets, herbal remedies, and, of course, love potions. The common theme is happiness enhancement, whether by self-improvement, prayer, or luck. Many of San Antonio’s small botanicas specialize in articles used by curanderos, traditional folk doctors or medicine men and women. Books directing laypersons in the use of medicinal herbs sit next to volumes that retell the lives of the saints. It’s easy enough to figure out the use of the santos (saints), candles in tall glass jars bearing such labels as “Peaceful Home,” “Find Work,” and “Bingo.” Milagros (miracles) are small charms that represent parts of the body—or mind—that a person wishes to have healed. Many of the labels are in Spanish; the person behind the counter will be happy to translate them for you if necessary. San Antonio’s best-known botanica is Papa Jim’s, 5630 S. Flores (www.papajimsbotanica.com; tel. 210/922-6665). Although Papa Jim, who used to bless the various artifacts he sold, died a few years ago, the shop still thrives. Can’t make it to the shop? Order online, or get a copy of Papa Jim’s comprehensive print catalog by phoning or ordering through the website.
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.