San Antonio’s La Cantera Resort–built on Texas legends

I walk through massive entry doors of Westin La Cantera Resort into Tio’s Lobby, a spacious and welcoming parlor in the San Antonio hotel complex. I learn that it was named for Tio Kleberg, a fifth generation cowboy and overseer at the legendary King Ranch in South Texas.La Cantera Resort

A plaque on the door explains how this main resort building was modeled after the Casa Grande (Big House) of the King Ranch.  White stucco walls inside and out, red tile roof, deep blue slate floors, and loomed rugs were all replicated with permission from the ranch.

Texas history is full of legends, and this resort is one of the best places where stories come alive.  Perched high on a hill overlooking San Antonio, La Cantera was built around those legends with architecture that reminds visitors of missions and fortresses, ranches and refuges. Named for the quarry just over the hill, La Cantera takes its colors and ambience from the land it occupies.

La CanteraOpened in 1999, La Cantera was among the first hotels to offer non-smoking rooms, Heavenly showers, and the Heavenly bed (best night’s sleep in a hotel). In 2009, the resort celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a $12 million renovation. Now all 508 guestrooms include tooled leather headboards, large flat-screen HD televisions, new carpeting, and updated furnishings. The Casita Village, a luxurious mini-resort set in its own enclave, added 38 villa-style guestrooms.

While dining at the new “farm-to-table” restaurant called Francesca’s at Sunset, I hear the legend of unrequited love between a beautiful senorita named Francesca and a young priest. True to its Texas roots, more than 80 percent of products served in the resort’s fine dining restaurant—beef, game, produce, and wine—are from south Texas ranchers, farmers, and vintners.

A fitness center and luxury spa (yes, I had a heavenly massage) are available at Castle Rock Health Club. Exercise outdoors by walking the mile-long nature trail–a great way to feel removed from civilization.  Five lagoon-style pools, including one for adults only, give guests a change to splash under waterfalls or lounge undisturbed poolside.  Located on a tributary of the Medina River about 14.5 miles northwest of San Antonio, the resort has become a legendary refuge with panoramic views of the countryside.

La CanteraMore history: Brannon’s Café is named for Cal Brannon, a homesteader who saw great potential for the rugged 160-acre plot studded with limestone boulders he claimed in 1887.  A century later, USAA, current developers of La Cantera, turned seemingly inhospitable land into a grand complex that welcomes families as well as couples or groups. In addition to the resort, the company also owns nearby Six Flags Fiesta Texas, La Cantera Golf Club which has an academy and two championship 18-hole courses, and Shops at La Cantera, an outdoor mall with free shuttle service for some retail therapy.

Signs throughout the property tell stories of early padres who established missions, settlers like Karl Steinheimer who left Germany as a teenager to find his fortune in gold and silver (the ceiling of the resort’s lounge sports a painted copy of his treasure map), the lost mine of San Saba, the Yellow Rose of Texas (whose legendary escapades were pivotal to Texas’s fight for independence), Gregorio Esparza (a local farmer who defended the Alamo), and assorted battles that lend their names to conference rooms.

As one sign notes, the resort is built around “sights, sounds, and scents to stir your soul and replenish your spirit.”  Wandering around the property I feel a sense of personal revival—and appreciation for the way La Cantera is reviving legends from Texas history.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Read about playing golf at La Cantera: http://www.goingonadventures.com/2011/04/golfing-at-la-cantera-resort-in-san.html

More travel stories at Going on Adventures and Austin Adventure Travel

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