Inga and her family received a one-night stay at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa to assist her in writing this review. All opinions are her own.
It’s hard to get our busy family together all in one place to relax and have fun. That’s why I’m so grateful for the JW Marriott in San Antonio: we can slow down, spend time together, and make memories as a family. Our first visit was last summer, using tips from Taylor’s post; in the winter, we stayed again to enjoy the holiday activities. Recently, the JW Marriott invited us to visit and explore some on-site activities that were new to us, including the Lantana Spa and the Kids’ Night Out program at the Range Riders Kids’ Club.
We are a hard-working family. My husband, Mike, loves what he does; even when he’s not at the office, he spends a lot of time puttering and thinking about his research. Our son, F.T., goes to an academically demanding charter school, and our preschool-aged daughter, G.N., has an active social life. So, when do we push away all the distractions and spend time together? We carve out time for family dinner, all four of us, almost every night, and my husband and I go out for date night about twice a month. To get more than a few hours together, we block out some time for a staycation.
The JW Marriott is the ultimate staycation place. Just a short drive away to the north side of town, it has all of the elements we need: rooms, restaurants, pools, kids’ activities, and more. The setting, atop rolling hills, is heartbreakingly beautiful. The hotel facilities are elegant and artistic, with handmade touches. The thoughtful customer service makes everything easy, so that you can stop worrying and start having fun.
Let me walk you through our recent weekend overnight visit. As soon as we checked into our room, Mike went to lie down, like Daddy Pig, while the kids and I went exploring. The open staircases have wide views of the pools and water attractions—known as the River Bluff Water Experience (RBWE)—the golf courses, and the hills beyond. We walked through the lobby, past the RBWE, and down to the Range Riders Kids’ Club (RRKC).
I’ve visited a lot of schools—it’s kind of what I do. The well-stocked playroom at the RRKC measures up to the best early childhood education centers. It’s decorated for fun and filled with toys, games, and craft supplies. The staff members show warmth and kindness toward the children and enthusiasm for the activities. They help the kids get to know each other and make friendships, which is a great benefit for young guests who are staying for as long as a week.
The RRKC welcomes adults, including parents and grandparents, to stay a few minutes while their children or grandchildren are getting settled. This summer’s activities have a retro theme, to encourage adults to share experiences from their youth and maybe even show off a few dance moves. The welcome desk of the RRKC has been transformed into a VW bus with the help of a pop-up tent. Tie-dyed tablecloths, disco wall murals, fringe curtains, and a Twister game on the floor help to set the mood.
RRKC is open daily from 9:00 A.M.–5:00 P.M. for $12 per child per hour (add lunch or dinner for an additional $10), and nightly for Kids’ Night Out, from 6:00–10:00 P.M., at a cost of $65 per child (including dinner). The activities change daily but follow the retro theme and this basic format: movement, a craft, dinner, and a movie. You can choose a dinner from the kids’ menu, including favorites like chicken strips, hot dogs, fruit, and fries. Later on, the kids curl up with blankets and watch a movie. While the children are at Kids’ Night Out, the adults have to stay on the JW Marriott property, but you have plenty of time to go to the Lantana Spa or eat dinner at 18 Oaks.
While our kids played at the RRKC, my blogger friends and I got to peek inside the Lantana Spa. Everything is designed to help you relax and leave your worries behind. After you check in, there are men’s and women’s zones, but there is also a couple’s room, which would be a special experience for date night. A recurring theme at the JW Marriott, in the restaurants as well as at the spa, is the use of local ingredients; we got to sample products made with fragrant lavender from Blanco, Texas.
After the spa tour, I went back to the room to change clothes, and then my husband and I went to the club house for a memorable dinner at 18 Oaks. Date night is an essential time for us to talk and stay connected as a couple. Mike is one of the most interesting people I ever get to talk to. Sometimes we talk about his work, or my blogging, but on that particular night we talked about politics. Date night keeps our bond strong; having good times together helps us get through the rough spots.
In addition to the great conversation, the food at 18 Oaks is always memorable. We shared a salad with heirloom tomatoes and ricotta cheese. Mike ordered an off-menu item, a ribeye steak from Akaushi cattle, well marbled and very tender. It was served topped with sprigs of thyme, probably from the hotel’s on-site organic garden. I ordered the wild game special—antelope—which was full of flavor. That evening the weather was damp; we had a table by the window, with a view across a deep veranda over a misty landscape of greens and live oaks, and a grey sky that deepened to dusk while we ate.
Mike and I love going to steakhouses; we’ve visited many of the best in San Antonio, and 18 Oaks is one of our favorites. Even if you’re not staying at the JW Marriott, it’s worth the drive to 18 Oaks for a date night. Just be sure to make a reservation online or by calling (210) 491-5825.
After dinner, Mike went back to our room, and I went to the RRKC. Most of the children were wrapping up in blankets and getting ready to lie down for a movie, but my kids were tired and ready to go to our room. G.N. showed off her craft project, a fleece pillow with a peace symbol and knotted fringe. F.T. had missed me while Mike and I were at date night, but that’s part of building independence. Later, F.T. told me how much he enjoyed the dancing and said he would be happy to play at RRKC again.
As I think back about our overnight stay at the JW Marriott, it’s amazing how many activities we packed in. To get a sense of the possibilities, download the summer experience guide. Every week, the hotel prepares a detailed schedule showing when these events will be offered during your stay. Some of our favorites were making s’mores, playing with rubber ducks, doing Little Passports activity books, and having breakfast at Cibolo Moon.
Before dinner, my kids and walked across the RBWE to the East Fire Pit to join the nightly activity of making s’mores. On Saturday nights, the chefs bring fixings for bacon s’mores. G.N. and F.T. each grabbed a big fork and speared two jumbo marshmallows. They held their forks low over a bed of lava rocks until the gas flames turned the marshmallows brown and toasty. Then, they picked up a pair of graham cracker squares and a chunk of chocolate; G.N. grabbed a stick of bacon, too. They smashed it all together and took a big bite. The kids loved it, as you could tell from their smiling faces and sticky fingers.
On Sunday morning, we were hoping to enjoy the pools in the RBWE. Unfortunately, a massive storm—bringing lightning, thunder, and more than an inch of rain—kept us indoors all morning. The RRKC staff rose to the occasion, bringing games and supplies into the lobby. F.T. loves geography and enjoyed the custom Little Passports activity books, full of facts about Texas.
G.N. found a deck of Frozen-edition UNO cards, because we will never be over Frozen. The upstairs lobby has two interactive, table-sized screens with apps for puzzles, word games, coloring, and more.
The traditional rubber duck race in the RBE’s lazy river was cancelled due to the weather, but F.T. and G.N. still got to decorate a pair of rubber duckies, which are now retired and swimming happily in our bathtub at home.
We ate breakfast at Cibolo Moon. The buffet offers healthy, kid-friendly options. F.T. had scrambled eggs, fresh strawberries, and orange juice. G.N. had an apple and chunks of cheese—locally made, of course. I sipped a cup of green tea; my bowl of steel-cut oats was topped with blueberries and milk. For my made-to-order omelet, the chef sautéed mushrooms, spinach, onions, jalapeños, and black pepper in a pan before adding the eggs. While the storm raged outside the windows, we were safe and cozy and well-fed.
The JW Marriott offers even more activities that we haven’t had time to try yet. Here are some things on my wish list for our next visit:
- Try Yogi Bugs, a kids’ yoga class.
- Tour the organic garden and beehives and walk the trails.
- Make our own ice cream, using salt, ice, water, sugar, cream, etc.
- Learn about animals with the Zoomagination Wild Animal Experience and the Nocturnal Creatures class.
- Get artistic: make our own tutus, create sand art, or paint with Royal Canvas.
- Study Texas dinos and fossils or go stargazing at night.
- Visit a pop-up shop featuring local vendors like the Sporting District.
During our tour of the RRKC, we got to meet Amy Ecklund, a retired actress who now teaches a summer class at the JW Marriott called “The Making of a Movie Star.” Kids in the class will get to warm up and practice their drama and acting skills, leading up to a performance and awards ceremony. “The Making of a Movie Star” class sounds like it will be a memorable experience for kids staying at the JW Marriott.
The little things can be memorable, too. When my kids remember our visits at the JW Marriott, it surprises me how much they talk about the hotel room. They say how comfortable the beds are, how much fun it is to play cards together, and to jump on top of Mike when he is trying to rest. They like going out on the balcony to look at the view and see the changing weather. It’s a relaxing way to spend time together and make lasting memories as a family.
Are you and your family ready to make memories at the JW Marriott? Go online or call (210) 276-2500 to book your reservation today!