San Antonio Hill Country is Ideal for Families

Considering a family getaway? My family of five – including three active boys – needs a few things for a successful vacation. Primarily, there is really no “vacation” in the traditional sense with our family. The sites may change, but the activity level certainly does not decrease. So, consider your options for a family road trip that is outside of the usual routine, offers non-stop entertainment for kids, cultural sites and great dining for mom and dad, AND the chance to learn a little history: check “yes” for all of the above and pack the car for San Antonio, Texas.

After researching hotel and lodging options in San Antonio, we decided the traditional River Walk itinerary was a little too confining for our gang of five. So, instead, we opted for one of the resorts just outside the city. We chose The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort with a recently completed renovation and impressive list of family-friendly amenities. Never having visited the outskirts of San Antonio, we were unfamiliar with the real rugged beauty of Texas Hill Country. Perched atop the hills, the Four Diamond La Cantera resort provides amazing views of the rough landscape and surrounding communities. The resort property and companion golf courses occupy one of the highest points in the area and include a main resort facility as well as adjacent casitas.

The sprawling property is connected by a series of hiking trails, some manicured and some for the more adventurous, as well as open tunnels and bridges that allow foot access to all areas of the resort. The grounds are beautifully maintained with native landscaping and natural features. The main resort tower boasts a multi-story atrium entrance with a lobby bar, gourmet bodega and a wall of glass opening to the pool and lagoon complex behind the building. Two additional restaurants, one casual American grill and an upscale fine dining option, are also located in the central tower.

Finding a room spacious enough to be comfortable for a longer stay with an  active family can be tricky, but our accommodations at La Cantera were perfect.  Our two-room suite offered plenty of space for everyone and included a large  dining area, kitchenette and two full baths. With views from every balcony, the  kids could keep an eye on the pool, golf course and watch the sun set over the  western hills. The resort offers great package deals, as well as special rates for longer stays and holidays.

Despite the comfort of our well-appointed room, the kids could not wait to  explore the property and take advantage of the well-planned family activities. Catering specifically to families during the school break and holiday seasons, the resort had an impressive line-up of activities just for kids. On every night of our visit, the resort screened a family movie, either on a large outdoor screen or inside the dedicated Kids Club. The Kids Club also featured a game room and daily craft projects, and offers babysitting for an additional fee. A portion of the tennis complex was transformed into a festival-like fun zone with inflatables, water slides, outdoor ping-pong tables and a basketball court.

On our visit, the weather cooperated perfectly and we enjoyed the pool complex every day of our trip. With six pools, including a zero entry wading pool perfect for the youngest family members, there is something for everyone. The pool also features a small waterslide set within natural landscaping that entertained our crew for hours. A family spa area gives families a spot to relax and great poolside fare is available from the attentive staff.

With two golf courses, including the PGA tour stop Resort course and the Arnold Palmer-designed Palmer course, the resort draws both professional players as well as amateurs ready to test their skills. During our visit, an early morning tee-time was the perfect opportunity for two of the golfers in my family to hit the links. Junior players are welcome on the course and lessons, rental clubs and caddies are available. Even my 9-year-old, who is an accomplished competitive player himself, found the course challenging but accessible.

Though we could have been content to enjoy the activities at La Cantera every day of our visit, we had a full itinerary of activities planned to truly explore the city. First on our list was a day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, literally minutes from the resort. We arrived early in the morning and beat the crowds. It was the quintessential Six Flags experience with Warner Brother’s “Toon Town,” go-kart racing and enough rides to satisfy the coaster fans in our family.

Also within a five-minute ride of the Westin La Cantera resort is the eponymous upscale retail area, The Shops at La Cantera. Featuring many not-found-in-Tulsa stores and several good restaurants, it is a convenient option for shopping and dining.

Continuing our tour of area theme parks, next we tackled Sea World. We mapped out our visit around the choreographed water shows, but soon discovered that today’s Sea World is as much about the rides as it is marine life. Our crew was dully impressed with Shamu and the up-close dolphin experience, but would have been just as happy to ride the “Steel Eel” all day.

Beyond the amusement park destinations, we were determined to work some local flavor and history into our trip, so we headed into San Antonio proper for a day. We shared the history of the Alamo with our boys before we arrived at the mission site, and they were ready to spot the canons and barracks. The museum tour, albeit abbreviated for the attention span of a 5-year-old, proved just as exciting with glimpses of historical objects such as Davie Crockett’s actual buckskin vest, old rifles and an authentic Bowie knife.

Like all good tourists, following our visit to the Alamo we hopped aboard a riverboat for the requisite cruise. Our kids enjoyed the boat ride, but a couple of hours was plenty of time spent along the banks. Next, we jumped back in the car for the short ride to Market Square, or “El Mercado.” The square is the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico, and offers a unique ethnic and cultural experience. Armed with suggestions from a few native San Antonians, we stopped for lunch at La Margarita before exploring the plaza and visiting several of the local shops. A serenade from the strolling musicians was a hit with our kids as they took in the sites. No visit to El Mercado would be complete without a stop at Mi Terra bakery for authentic Mexican pastries and delicious Mexican hot chocolate.

With three boys, we knew seeing an NBA game would be a treat, but our visit to the Alamodome proved to be a highlight of the trip. We caught a game that showcased a great Western Conference match-up between the victorious hometown San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. Our kids cheered with all the enthusiasm of lifelong Spurs fans, and their genuine excitement (and impressive volume) attracted attention from everyone within ear-shot.

The drive to San Antonio, while a test of patience with three kids in booster seats, is manageable in a single long day. The route we chose takes you directly through Dallas and Austin, and clocked in at about nine hours including stops.  If your schedule allows, side excursions to the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas or the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin would make excellent diversions.

So, pack up the car and hit the road to Texas Hill Country. You’ll have a great time, even if you can’t call it a vacation!

Plan Your Trip

For hotel reservations or more information, including family packages, special rates and free nights:

Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort

San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau:

Sea World, San Antonio:
Six Flags Fiesta Texas:
The Alamo:
The Shops at La Cantera:

San Antonio is not just for summer! The holidays are a great time to explore Hill Country with special packages and exciting family activities. La Cantera Hill Country Resort is transformed into a winter wonderland, and even Sea World gets into the act with a special Christmas Celebration. The River Walk glows with thousands of Luminarias lighting the way for carolers and Santa.

Find out more about a Hill Country holiday with your family:

Categories: Travel