When groups come to San Antonio, the nucleus of their event is typically the downtown River Walk, where the riverfront bars and restaurants can make even the most stoic meetings feel like fun. Yet meeting planners who confine their venue search to the River Walk risk are missing out on a wealth of opportunities at properties across the city and surrounding environs.
Just 30 minutes north of downtown, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa (pictured) has completed a refresh encompassing each of its 1,002 guest rooms. Inspired by the Blanco River that runs through the Texas Hill Country, the revamped accommodations feature a cool, gray color palette evocative of the river's waters, as well as natural materials like wood, copper, limestone and leather that capture the area's rustic ethos. Especially notable are new headboards that resemble stonework -- a nod to the stone and rock found naturally across the region -- as well as a signature work of art that references the Blanco River's signature gray limestone. On 600 acres of oak-covered hills, the resort has a sprawling 9-acre water park, seven restaurants, a 36-hole golf course, a spa and 288,000 square feet of meeting space.
"We are thrilled that we will have the ability to offer our guests, new and returning, a heightened sense of arrival and experience in their guest rooms," said general manager Arthur Coulombe. "Whether our guests are visiting to connect, network, meet or refresh, we are welcoming a new level of luxury committed to providing a world-class experience on-property."
Four More Essential San Antonio Hotels
Of course, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is just one treasure among many across San Antonio. Here are four more -- either near the River Walk or out in the hills.
• Another Hill Country resort that's ideal for groups that want to bypass the city is the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa. Twenty minutes from downtown, it has 500 guest rooms and more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, not to mention 27 holes of golf, a spa inside a refurbished barn, a 5-acre water park and a lazy river. A fitness center, and two restaurants and several bars, including a Texas saloon with shuffleboard, darts and billiards, round out the amenities. It's what you get when you combine "traditional resort" with "Texas ranch."
• For groups that want all the convenience and amenities of downtown, but without the crowds of the River Walk, there's Hotel Emma, which is two miles from the River Walk in San Antonio's trendy Pearl District. Opened in 2016 on the banks of the San Antonio River, the historic property is located in a 19th-century brewery, the ambiance of which gives the hotel a unique industrial vibe. Along with 146 guest rooms, there's a library with more than 3,700 books, a private terrace with fireplaces, a rooftop pool, Electra bikes for guest use, a restaurant, a bar and an on-site grocery store specializing in gourmet provisions. Plus, the hotel offers 6,160 square feet of indoor meeting space and 1,500 square feet of outdoor space – including the 3,250-square-foot "Elephant Cellar," which still features remnants of tanks where the former brewery stored its beer.
• Just a couple blocks from the River Walk, the St. Anthony is part of Marriott's Luxury Collection. Overlooking Travis Park, the hotel is a National Historic Landmark, built in 1909 as the first luxury property in Texas. The hotel reopened in 2015 after a two-year renovation that simultaneously restored the building and updated it for contemporary guests. In its current iteration, the St. Anthony offers 277 guest rooms, a signature restaurant and two bars, including the historic St. Anthony Club, which opened in 1959 as San Antonio's first private members-only club but is now open to the public. According to the hotel, the club was the birthplace of Southwest Airlines -- the plans for which were first drawn on a napkin at the bar. Finally, there's a rooftop pool and more than 31,500 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.
• For groups that want to embrace the River Walk instead of escape it, there's the Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio. The 14-story hotel has 473 guest rooms -- many of which have balconies or terraces overlooking the River Walk just below -- and more than 28,000 square feet of meeting space for groups of up to 784 people. There's also a heated outdoor pool, a fitness center, a restaurant, a café and a full-service spa.