It may be America’s seventh largest city, but San Antonio has a comfortably compact downtown. Tourist-friendly and highly walkable, the heart of this vibrant metropolis with a Mexican accent abounds with so many intriguing sights that a group could spend several days without straying beyond its central core.

From my base at The Westin Riverwalk, San Antonio, I found a treasure chest of attractions just blocks away. The River Walk, right outside my door, is indisputably the crown jewel of downtown San Antonio. Landscaped with palm and banana trees, cypress and magnolias, the cobbled walks along the meandering San Antonio River create a scene no other American city duplicates. Twenty feet below street level, away from the noise, groups can enjoy a meal at a riverside cafe or an open-air barge tour that glides past festive umbrella tables and under arched pedestrian bridges. You can even arrange a moving feast, with narration, aboard one of the boats of Rio San Antonio Cruises. Our group’s floating dinner was catered by Boudro’s, one of the River Walk’s premier restaurants. During the magical evening, the private barge made several loops, each time stopping at Boudro’s to pick up a course (and give people a chance to use the rest room). At one point we cruised right between entertainers performing on the stage of the Arneson River Theatre and, on the opposite bank, the audience.