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Just Back from San Antonio

hotel_valencia.jpgFrom new hotels to a revitalized arts scene, San Antonio is sizzling with new energy and excitement. In the next few years alone, 44 hotels are poised to alter the landscape. The biggest hotel under construction, the Grand Hyatt, opens in spring 2008. Adjoining the Convention Center, the Grand Hyatt offers 79,000-square-feet of business space and 1,000 guest rooms. But the hotel garnering the most gossip is the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, (photo, right) the city’s first boutique hotel. Open since 2003, it’s puffed pillows for Hollywood big names like American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell.

On the cultural side, artists from many ethnic backgrounds have leapt onto the canvas, making the city’s arts scene as hot as glassmaker Gini Garcia’s 2,150-degree furnace and as whimsical as the items artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz sells at his just-opened “botanica,” a sort of artsy five-and-dime store. In San Antonio’s revitalized Southtown neighborhood, Garcia’s thriving glass-blowing business serves clients as far away as London, where her glass pumpkins were part of this summer’s U.K. Harry Potter premiere.

Ruiz’s shop of what-nots is located inside the new Museo Alameda, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate catering to the Latino community and an attraction in its own right. Anchoring Market Square’s northeast end, the watermelon-pink complex opened in mid-April with lots of hype and some 20,000 visitors the first week.

Insider tip: Azuca, next door to Garcia’s glass shop, is “the” place for after-work drinks and Latin dancing. For dining with a local flavor, try Mi Tierra in Market Square.

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