Queer Guide to San Antonio and Pride River Parade

Editor’s note: TravelQ is a series that documents the diverse experiences of queer and trans travelers as we negotiate dressing our most authentic selves with navigating complex travel obstacles unique to our communities. We have returned with a very special piece featuring the best of San Antonio and celebrating San Antonio Pride’s River Parade.

Over the last few years, states have advanced a record number of bills that attack LGBTQ+ rights, with Texas leading in the number of anti-trans bills. Many LGBTQ+ and ally travelers have united in boycotting travel destinations that are introducing or have passed legislation that is harmful to our communities. However, many members of LGBTQ+ communities, including business owners, performers, and the most isolated and economically vulnerable,  often disproportionately experience the social and financial costs of such boycotts. While some are choosing to boycott, which is effective, others are increasing their social and economic support of thriving and resilient local communities that are continuing their fight against anti-LGBTQ+ bills and laws.

We had the honor of visiting San Antonio and experiencing their unique Pride River Parade and put together an LGBTQ+ guide to San Antonio featuring the best LGBTQ+ owned and LGBTQ+ ally businesses and safe spaces that desperately need our support. We genuinely had a good time and felt welcomed in the city. Keep reading for our picks!

Things to Do

Pride River Parade | San Antonio River Walk

I have been to some of the world’s most famous Pride parades from New York City to Stockholm to Madrid. But, the award for most unique has to go to the San Antonio’s Pride River Parade. Most of us have seen marches and floats that cruise down the streets, but this was the first time I got to experience 17 colorful river barges. It was a literal floating Pride on one of the nation’s largest ecosystems. And, I somehow hustled my way onto one of the floats. Balancing was not as easy as it looked, but years of NYC subway surfing gave me an advantage. Truly, one of the most memorable Pride events I have ever witnessed. If plan on visiting San Antonio during the month of June, definitely make sure your itinerary dates include time for this event!

Nowhere Bookshop | 5154 Broadway

Our first stop after landing in San Antonio was Nowhere Bookshop, an independent bookstore featuring author events, unique gifts, and a coffee, wine and beer bar.

Nowhere hosted a panel on LGBTQ+ fashion and a dapperQ book signing. I moderated the discussion highlighting the work of two local drag performers: Foxy Blue Snacks and Jasper St. James.

Foxxy Blue Snacks is the bearded burlesque beauty from San Antonio, TX! She has been seen hosting and headlining shows and pageants across the US including the Midnight Menagerie, Mother and Pop Tart at SF Oasis, the Humboldt Burlesque Festival and the inaugural Noire Pageant at the House of Yes in Brooklyn in March of 2020. As her literary alter ego, Dino Foxx, they are the author of Tragic Bitches: An Experiment in Queer Xicana & Xicano Performance Poetry and When the Glitter Fades (Kórima Press).

Jasper St. James is an award-winning burlesque performer, producer and founding member of The Pastie Pops Burlesque Revue in San Antonio, TX. He has been changing the city of San Antonio one tassel twirl at a time and has become one of Texas’ leading male burlesque performers. Jasper is a cast member of Fat Bottom Cabaret’s “Midnight Menagerie,” a performers of size and color collective in Austin, TX. and is a co-producer for the San Antonio Burlesque Festival. When not on-stage, Jasper is a published plus size model, content creator, and certified sex educator and co-owner of The Sexology Institute in San Antonio.

After the panel, I stayed for a book signing and I was beyond delighted to see the new dapperQ book displayed front and center in a Texas store.

Japanese Tea Garden | 3853 North St. Mary’s

If you are seeking some tranquility with picturesque surroundings, I highly recommend a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden. For LGBTQ+ travelers who enjoy birding, nature, and outdoor spaces beyond the bar and nightlife scenes, this Japanese-inspired garden with foot bridges, ponds, walkways, and waterfalls is an absolute must on your trip to San Antonio.

Confluence Park| 310 W Mitchell St

Confluence Park has it all. It is an Instagrammer’s dream. The park is perfect for birding. The design of the park’s futuristic pavilion is captivating for architecture enthusiasts. The park is adjacent to the San Antonio River, allowing access to a stroll along the banks. But, most impressive, for all of us who care about the environment and climate change, the park includes a site-wide water catchment system and the pavilions’ geometric design collects rainwater and feeds it into an underground water storage system. This reservoir is the sole source of water used in the park, with the exception of sinks and drinking fountains. Additionally, the multi-purpose Estela Avery Education Center has a green roof providing thermal mass for passive heating and cooling. A photovoltaic array provides 100% of the energy use for the project when measured over a yearly basis. These features allow Confluence Park to be an energy neutral space, eventually giving power back to the electric grid.

Witte Museum| Brackenridge Park at 3801 Broadway
The Witte Museum, San Antonio’s most visited museum, inspires people to shape the future of Texas through relevant and transformative experiences in nature, science and culture. Justin Munoz (he/him), the Museum’s out LGBTQ+ Vice President of Development, has been transforming the Museum’s offerings and experience by advocating to provide more inclusive exhibits, events, and safe spaces that celebrate San Antonio’s diverse past and present. One such exhibit was “Black Cowboys: An American Story.” During a time when there are increased efforts by conservatives to erase Black history, Justin helped bring this important exhibit featuring biographical profiles, photos, artifacts, multimedia and interactives that revealed how Black cowboys were integral to the American economy, shaped the legacies of Black ranching families and turned ranch skills into popular performances in rodeos, music and film. In celebrating San Antonio’s present, Justin has worked with the Museum to create a monthly “cocktails and culture” event, programming that Justin describes as “happy hour meets classroom presentation” where guests enjoy open bar, eat from local vendors, and learn about the Museum’s exhibitions and local culture.  June’s “cocktails and culture” event will be a celebration of Pride!

Hopscotch| 711 Navarro St Suite 100

LGBTQ+ owned and operated Hopscotch is an immersive and experiential brand that brings together artists in collaborative environments to create unique, impactful, and distinct shared experiences. Hopscotch is committed to working with creatives from around the world. Within the space, there are 15 immersive installations to experience, created by 40+ local, national, and international artists.

Places to Eat and Drink

Elsewhere | 103 E Jones Avenue

Established in 2020, LGBTQ+ owned Elsewhere Garden is a hidden gem on the San Antonio Riverwalk. The trees, plants and porch swings overlooking the river create an oasis where people can enjoy outdoor games, cocktails, DJs, and that good good Texas food! I arrived around 8:30pm on a Friday night after my book signing at Nowhere Bookstore and the venue was PACKED. The DJ had the party going and the scene was a whole vibe. So, I highly recommend reserving a table if you can. Oh, and did I mention Elsewhere had one of the most memorable floats at the River Parade?

Southerleigh| 136 E Grayson St. Suite 120

Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery, helmed by San Antonio Chef Jeff Balfour, is a modern take on Texas’ cross-cultural cuisine. Influenced by the coastal classics of Chef Balfour’s upbringing in Galveston married with the comfort of southern cuisine, Southerleigh boasts a curated, seasonally shifting menu that reflects Chef Balfour’s innovative craftsmanship. Southerleigh will house a custom manufactured brewery designed by Portland Kettle Works, offering 15 different beers on tap. While not specifically LGBTQ+ owned, Chef Balfour stopped by to personally greet our table, discuss his commitment to allyship, and said he has a zero tolerance policy for bigotry and hate, stating that he enjoys tossing people who do not respect his staff or customers right out the front door! That is some allyship we can get behind!

Ocho | 1015 Navarro Street

Situated in a glass conservatory overlooking the River Walk, Ocho serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks. Ocho has created a menu rooted in the hotel’s pan-Latin cultural influences from Mexico, Cuba and Texas. Chef Kirk treated our group to a tasting of their debut menu after the River Parade. Dishes included tacos de carnitas, mejillones borrachos, coctel campechana, asado de hongos, and more. I was dizzy with food, I started to lose count. The highlight of the night was meeting Chef Kirk, who won season 47 episode 13 of “Chopped” on the Food Network. They stopped by our table to share their journey as a chef and more recent journey transitioning, and how their family has been an unwavering support and inspiration in everything they do. Pronouns: chef.

The Bonham Exchange | 411 Bonham

Voted San Antonio’s #1 LGBTQ+ nightclub, The Bonham Exchange is not only a safe space for dancing the night away, but also a platform for a diverse range of LGBTQ+ events, including 2023’s Mister, Miss, Mr. & Ms. Pride Pageant and queer designer Austin Alegria’s recent fashion show REGAYLIA, showcasing his latest swimwear line. I had the pleasure of sitting front row at Alegria’s show, so stay tuned for a full dedicated post of the event and his collection.

Picks Bar| 4553 N Loop 1604 West #1101

Queer Latina owned and operated, Picks Bar is a music and performance venue, sports bar, and indoor/outdoor LGBTQ+ meetup that has all of the welcoming atmosphere of your local bar combined with impeccable design. I arrived at 10:45am for their Sunday brunch and drag show and there was already a line outside the door before 11:00am opening. The owners, Jessica Marinez and Amber Hernandez, were kind enough to whisk me inside before the doors officially opened so I could get some Insta photos of the venue before it filled up. This venue definitely needs to be on your agenda. Good vibes only.

Four Brothers| 112 College Street

Anyone who has travelled with me or follows me on Instagram knows that I’m that bougie lez who loves high end dining with chic ambience. Four brothers met all of my requirements and exceeded all of my expectations. I secured a cozy table along the river and enjoyed a meal of the most beautifully plated hamachi tostadas and a ribeye served with parmesan fries and Paris butter. I would say more but my words will not do the meal and the river views justice. I can only look at these photos and dream of returning.

Best Place to Stay

Canopy Hotel by Hilton| 123 North St. Mary’s Street

Location is, of course, everything. And in the case of my hotel, it’s one of the main reasons why we recommend you stay here. It is centrally located to many of the main attractions featured above, and it is right on the river walk. There is a main restaurant (Domingo), a rooftop bar over looking the river that serves snacks (Otro), and plenty of lounge and work spaces that are gorgeously decorated and thoughtfully designed.

Want to know more about San Antonio? Check out visitsanantonio.com online or visit them on Instagram at @visitsanantonio.

And if you’re like us and wanting to fight anti-LGBTQ legislation, there are multiple ways and means to do so. You can write to your representatives, help get people registered to vote, donate, knock on doors, phone bank (yes, it’s still a thing!), attend rallies and protests, and speak up when you hear or see something. Some national resources include: Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project, and in the South, the San Antonio Pride Center and Campaign for Southern Equality.

 

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