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Beth: Wow! Have you ever been a tourist in your own hometown? My friend Jeannie and I went tourist recently when we visited Market Square, just west of downtown San Antonio. For almost 200 years, this plaza has been a place for San Antonians and their visitors to meet and shop. From just a few small stores back in the 1820s, it’s grown into today’s exciting destination offering dining, music, art, and shopping.

Market Square is actually two city blocks of things to see and do: an open cobblestoned plaza lined with historic buildings, and an enclosed space that previously housed the San Antonio Farmer’s Market. This is shopper’s heaven, with more than 100 unique shops – lots of them family operations that have been there for more than 20 years – open seven days a week for you to find that special item.

Artwork at The Market Square. Photo courtesy of The Department of Culture and Creative Development
Artwork at Market Square. Photo courtesy of the Department for Culture and Creative Development.

I fell in love with Mexican sterling jewelry and a whole rack of lucha libre masks – more about that later. Inside the Farmers Market, Jeannie was enchanted by an arrangement of huge (and I mean really giant) yellow roses, but unfortunately it wasn’t for sale.

Always interesting to explore, Market Square really comes to life on weekends, with family events and artisans filling the plazas, creating one-of-a-kind pieces for gifts (or, what the heck, take something home for yourself.) Just a sampling of the entertainment you can find: At the stage in the Farmer’s Market building, you can watch folklórico dancers or listen to music from mariachi to Tejano to classical guitar to blues, all presented by local performers. As a fan of most of those styles, I had to ask myself why I haven’t taken advantage of this before. Answer: I didn’t know, but now I do, and I’ll be there. Even better, Market Square’s events are free, and any time you can entertain the whole family on a budget, that’s a definite plus. For meals, there’s a wide range of possibilities, from snacks at the food court in the Farmer’s Market to dining at famous restaurants.

As the mom of an active 4-year-old, Jeannie was really excited to find that there’s a place nearby where her family can enjoy a few hours during the weekend.

Jeannie: Aaaaajajajajuuuuaaa!!! – the popular grito we Mexicans love to belt out when we are surrounded by things we love – is probably the sound you’d expect to hear echoing throughout Market Square. A recent trip downtown with my friend Beth made me realize how much I missed my home in Mexico, and how much I longed for my culture.

As I wandered inside the Farmer’s Market, I realized that, just like the majority of the people in San Antonio, I had assumed that Market Square is exclusively the place where tourists/locals come to enjoy the fine dining at Mi Tierra and La Margarita. And, of course, there are the days of Fiesta de los Reyes at Market Square, where we all enjoy a drink or two or 12 (responsibly, of course).

Food at The Market Square. Photo courtesy of the Department of Culture and Creative Development.
Food at Market Square. Photo courtesy of the Department for Culture and Creative Development.

But, jokes aside, as we continued our walk, I noticed more than 100 well-established unique stores, along with many food offerings to choose from, with prices starting as low as a dollar. I quickly lost Beth as she was mesmerized by all the beautiful sterling silver and turquoise jewelry. I, on the other hand, was intrigued by a vendor who sold art from foreign countries, and came across a carved wooden frog that mimicked its own call when you rubbed its back with a stick –  I mean, how cool is that? As we continued our shopping journey across the sea of folk art, we both agreed that the lucha libre masks were definitely the way to go. (I’m thinking of my Mexican wrestling name as I write this – La Diva Tequila. Beth says she’s still figuring hers out.)

Surrounded by molletes (pan dulce/sweet breads) and guayaberas, we discover that, along with live entertainment, Market Square also provides indoor/outdoor arts and crafts lessons for the whole family to enjoy. For instance, I could learn how to make pottery while my 4-year-old son learns to make a piñata and as my husband listens to the variety of live music. (Unless, of course, you want to act like newlyweds, pretend you’re Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, and take the pottery lessons together.)

Jewelry and fashion at The Market Square. Photo courtesy of The Department of Culture and Creative Development
Jewelry and fashion at Market Square. Photo courtesy of The Department for Culture and Creative Development

You don’t have to be Mexican, or be craving Latin culture, to enjoy Market Square – the themed events presented year-round appeal to all. Did I mention this is all free? Parking was a breeze, and let’s not forget about free city parking on Tuesdays.

I encourage all of you to pick up the Market Square calendar of events and check out what you’ve been missing – trust me, it’s way more than you can imagine. Bring the whole familia, shop, eat, drink, pray to la Virgen de Guadalupe (available for purchase, by the way, in all sizes and colors) if you feel like it, but just get here. I fell in love with Market Square at the age of 18, and now recently again as a 30-something mom who can’t wait to re-experience my culture and all the fun-filled activities this historic San Antonio landmark has to offer. To conclude, it would be only fitting to toast Market Square with a shot of tequila, wearing my green lucha libre mask, still reminiscing about the sights, sounds, and aromas. We leave you with one very passionate word to sum it all up:

(Jeannie): Aaaaaajajajajuuuaaa!

(Beth): I need to learn how to do that.

Know before you go:

  • Market Square is between Commerce and Dolorosa streets, just off IH-10E/IH-35 S.
    • If you want to take advantage of being downtown to explore further, hop on one of the VIA trolleys that pass by at frequent intervals; fares are reasonable, at just $1.20 for adults and 55¢ for seniors or children 5-11.
  • Parking is easily available nearby – costs range from $2.50 to $10 a day, depending on location and time of arrival. Parking in all downtown City of San Antonio lots is free after 5 p.m. every Tuesday.
  • For out-of-town visitors looking for lodging near the downtown area, there are several hotels nearby.
  • For more information on upcoming special events, or on Market Square’s many merchants, visit its website at www.marketsquaresa.com or visit its Facebook page.

*Featured/top image: Market Square during the day.  Photo courtesy of The City of San Antonio Department of Culture and Creative Development.

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Department for Culture and Creative Development

The Department for Culture and Creative Development (DCCD) advocates for the growth of the local creative industry by increasing awareness of the impact and value of arts and culture to the city. Its mission...