Travel: San Antonio's Newest Rose
San Antonio’s Newest RoseDeep in the Heart of Texas, a Resplendent Resort Beckons
By Jack Macaleavy
EVERY SO OFTEN, all of the planets align for a new development and, when it is completed, one can say that it was done right. In southern Texas, the resort community of La Cantera is one such area.
Twenty years ago, La Cantera, 20 minutes north of San Antonio’s airport, was basically barren land used for nothing much more than hunting. Then a national insurance company saw its potential and invested in the 2,000-acre site, creating a resort community which today offers a collection of amenities that make La Cantera a true destination for locals, a draw for regional markets, and a place that can attract business and leisure travelers from anywhere in the country.
The Westin La Cantera is a 508-room resort hotel custom-built in 1999 and today overseen by General Manager Anthony M. Cherone. On any given day, he can be found walking the floor, greeting guests and working closely with employees to maintain the extraordinary level of service that has made the Westin brand top-tier in the hotel industry. The sprawling hotel is built on one of the highest points in San Antonio on an old limestone rock quarry – la cantera, in fact, means “rock quarry” in Spanish.
The Place to Play
The history of La Cantera didn’t begin the day construction crews showed up. It began much earlier, with a physician for the Army of the Republic of Texas named Horace Beall, who first acquired the land in 1846. Oddly enough, Beall was issued the land through a Bounty Warrant five years after his death. Since no heirs came forward to claim the land, it remained deserted for 36 years. In 1882, Cal Brannon occupied the land and, in 1887, was granted full ownership. A dozen title changes and 100 years later, the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) set its sights on the land, hoping to developing a resort community for locals and travelers.
Massive entry doors welcome visitors to the resort, situated on a prominent hillside overlooking a stunning landscape. One of the most popular pastimes for guests is teeing up for a round of golf at the resort’s golf courses. The first course, the Resort Course, is a 7,001-yard, par-72, championship-caliber golf course that was named “the best new public golf course of the year” by Golf Digest in 1995. The La Cantera Golf Academy has its own 15-acre practice facility, a four-to-one student-teacher ratio and state-of-the-art instruction. Another 18-hole course, the Palmer Course, was designed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer in 1999 and is a 250-acre, par-71 course approximately 7,000 yards in length.
La Cantera offers its guests abundant amenities for both work and play. The resort has more than 39,000 square feet of function space, including five meeting rooms, three boardrooms, a ballroom, and an events pavilion that is part of the golf clubhouse.
The Lost Quarry Pools features a water recreational area, including six outdoor pools and two hot tubs. As if that wasn’t enough to keep you active, La Cantera also offers a complete health-club facility. And when you get hungry, Francesca’s at Sunset is the resort’s specialty restaurant, offering diners a taste of the Southwest.
La Cantera’s other famous attraction is its nearby theme park. Jump on one of the hourly Westin shuttles and within five minutes, kids young and old are dropped off at Six Flags Fiesta Texas Theme Park. This 200-acre entertainment extravaganza hosts six roller coasters billed as some of the most thrilling in the country and enough other entertainment opportunities to keep everyone amused for days. Like Disney, Six Flags offers single and multi-day entry passes to fit your needs.
Another five-minute ride away from the resort is the Shops at La Cantera. Phase One opened last fall and is a showcase of the new trend in shopping center development. This open-air marketplace design is much like Destin Commons, with multi-level, wide pedestrian walking areas all tied together with water elements, kids’ play areas, kiosks and many comfortable seating areas. Anchor stores Neiman Marcus, Foley’s (soon to be Macy’s), Dillard’s and Nordstrom tells the discriminating shopper that this shopping mecca is very serious about quality and choice. Signature brands such as Polo, The Apple Store, Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, Kenneth Cole, four restaurants, and a food court that is several notches above the norm. Phase Two will bring in a multiplex movie theater and more dining and shopping opportunities.
The Westin shuttle arrives every hour just outside Neiman Marcus so, with reasonable planning, one can be just a moment away from a return trip to the Westin.
Twenty minutes down the interstate, the AT&T Center is an entertainment facility that is home to the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. With seating for 18,500, the place rocks every time the Spurs play at home. When the season is over, you’ll find a schedule full of world-class rodeo, hockey, wrestling, Cirque de Soleil, concerts, and American Indian and Mexican heritage events.
San Antonio’s signature destination is the Riverwalk. Constructed on both sides of a flowing downtown waterway, the Riverwalk is a collection of 38 restaurants, saloons, small concert halls and more than 100 retail shops. Walk it or take a water taxi to sightsee and travel from one area to the next.
San Antonio and La Cantera Resort are year-round destinations that boast weather not much different from North Florida’s. They have made the transition from a cowboy and military town to a vibrant historical, sports, convention and leisure center that’s rapidly becoming a leader in the hospitality industry.