Travel Nurse Guide to San Antonio
With the scarcity of bedside nursing jobs in California almost ten years ago, I packed my bags and moved from San Francisco to the last place anyone would expect me to go – good ole San Antonio, Texas. Having heard there was a great need for nurses in Texas, I figured it would be easier to land a new-grad bedside job and ended up staying for two beautiful years. And although I can’t officially call myself a true Texan, since I wasn’t born there, my love for Texas remains. It shows in my use of the gender-inclusive y’all pronoun and the fact that I’m a self-proclaimed barbecue snob (if you need to add sauce, the barbecue just ain’t that good, sorry- not sorry!).
If you’re headed to San Antonio for a contract, here’s the insider’s scoop on great spots to check out and things to do during your stay. It’s not as boring as Austin-ites say it is.
Datapoint is the place to be for night shifters working in the Medical Center area going out with the whole crew for post-shift breakfasts. You can’t find better tacos or gringas anywhere else in town. What makes it more legitimate is the fact that they don’t speak English. Their original building is still under renovation after a fire in 2020, but they are still operating out of a taco truck!
Asian Fusion with funky décor in Southtown, Hot Joy has dishes that are filled with flavor and fun cocktails. Great place for big groups! I still occasionally dream about their twice fried wings.
Magnolia Pancake Haus
This San Antonio staple and classic breakfast spot was featured in Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, drawing in people from all over the country. Take note that they do not take reservations, it’s first come, first served.
Super popular little spot, there’s always a little bit of a wait for Tex-Mex deliciousness. 100% worth it. Great spot to head to after a night out and keep the party going since they’re open until 4am.
Located in the beautiful Pearl – more on this later – this restaurant was founded by two bakers who worked at the famous Bouchon Bakery in Napa. It’s no surprise that everything on the menu will make your heart smile. From the Parisian macarons, to their quiches, Bakery Lorraine has become a local staple for San Antonians wanting a treat at any time of the day.
Quirky spot not too far from downtown, the Cove is where my friends and I would go if we wanted to eat out while still being “healthy.” They grow a lot of their ingredients on-site, and only purchase local products. With 60+ beers on tap, live music and a playground for the kiddos, this is a great, family-friendly restaurant.
Picture perfect spot. Indoor and outdoor restaurant bustling with people, especially when there are live musicians on the stage outside. Very spacious, The Rustic is the place to be for larger groups, and the wait is never that long!
2M Smokehouse Barbecue
How could I skip the famous central Texas barbecue?! This spot actually opened up the year I left San Antonio, and I can’t speak personally to it, since my go-to spots are all in Austin, but rumor has it this is the best barbecue joint in San Antonio. What sets it apart from other spots is the fact that they also offer barbacoa. You read that right. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Local is actually the only place I’ll be including for coffee, because this is hands down the best coffee in San Antonio. Great quality coffee. Super friendly baristas. Located at the Pearl – yes, right next to Bakery Lorraine! Priding themselves on being the pioneers of specialty coffee in the city, every cup I’ve had has been amazing. You can’t go wrong at Local. They’ve since expanded with other branches, even one in Austin, but named after their roasting company Merrit Coffee Co. Best coffee in San Antonio, but I already mentioned that!
Things to Do
Only putting this here because everyone mentions the Riverwalk as a must-see when coming to San Antonio – honestly, the Riverwalk itself is underwhelming, except for when the city is expecting a large influx of tourists and cleaning everything up. The only time I would usually find myself here was to 1) tour people around, or 2) First Fridays for the local Pub Run. It’s still a great place to take photos!
San Antonio is where I fell in love with road cycling and bought my first road bike, Petunia. SATX Social Ride was one of the highlights of my time in San Antonio. Every Tuesday, bike enthusiasts (it doesn’t matter what bike you have) gather and ride together around downtown. Lights, music, pets in bike baskets! It’s a fun time to socialize and explore the city in a big group. Rides usually end at a brewery or coffee shop, where everyone can get together and chat afterwards. Other than SATX Social Ride, there are plenty of bike trails around town, like the Missions Trail or the Greenbelt.
The Arts District of San Antonio is full of charm and houses a large creative community. On First Fridays or Second Saturdays, check out the free Artwalk and admire pieces made by local artists.
The Pearl! I’ve mentioned this spot a couple of times already, but the Pearl is one of my favorite places in San Antonio. In the past, it was one of Texas’s largest breweries, but has since been repurposed into a one-stop shop for a beautiful day trip. From the farmers market on the weekend, to Local Coffee and Bakery Lorraine, a green picnic area and food hall, along with numerous other shops and restaurants, it’s a guarantee that everyone can find a source of entertainment here. Also, the structures and views are also quite beautiful to just look at.
Mobile Om. Founded by awesome yogi Cassandra Fauss, this is a yoga studio breaking the norms of the definition of a studio. They hold free community classes in various Missions around the city, sponsored by the San Antonio River Association, as well as drop-in classes at brunch places, museums and breweries. It’s a great way to explore the city while getting your om on.
Tubing is not just an activity, it’s a lifestyle. When the weather warms up, rivers are just the place to be. Head on over to New Braunfels and go tubing on the Comal River. With an abundance of tube rental outlets, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Bring waterproof speakers, alcohol, some good company and sunscreen (very important). You’re bound to make new friends tubing down the river, and you’ll find yourself wanting to go again every week!
Night Out in Old San Antonio (NIOSA)
If you find yourself in San Antonio sometime in April, cross your fingers for a chance to visit NIOSA. A four-night event in the historical La Villita, this festival honors the famous Battles of Alamo and San Jacinto with a party like no other. Dancing, live music, food, craft stalls, and games for children – NIOSA offers activities for people of all ages.
When I first moved to San Antonio, someone mentioned I had to visit Buccees, so I navigated there and found myself face to face with a beaver mascot (Bucky) in front of a gas station like no other. It was practically a mall. From a hunting section to souvenirs, kolaches, beaver nuggets and an endless variety of beef jerky.
Although San Antonio itself is pretty landlocked, there is an abundance of rivers and other adventures to explore around the area. I thoroughly enjoyed and always recommend Hamilton Pool, Wimberley Blue Hole, Texas Ski Ranch, exploring the greenbelt and boating at Lake Canyon or further up north at Lake Travis (plus points if you get to wakeboard).
Interested in traveling to another city? Check out our Trusted Guide to Denver!