Historic Shopping (and Fun!) at La Villita

If you only think of La Villita during NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio for you non-Fiesta-ers), think again. It’s a great destination for shopping, with a cool vibe and quality, fun finds, along with a side of history. Nestled just off the River Walk, La Villita is a tree-shaded trove of shops and restaurants housed in what was San Antonio’s first neighborhood. And it’s an easy spot to explore with family in tow.

Image credit: Limelight San Antonio

Confession: I like to play tourist in our city, and I usually drag my family along on my excursions. We might live in the suburbs, but we embrace all that San Antonio has to offer. And while regular shopping drives me up the wall, I love to explore unique finds. We often venture to La Villita after a visit to Briscoe Western Art Museum, or as a sidebar to a trip to Yanaguana Garden. On weekends, I’ve left my family at a playground while I’ve enjoyed some quiet time at La Villita, and I’ve also been known to bribe everyone for shopping time with awesome paletas from Paletería San Antonio. (Haven’t tried them? RUN and get a cookies and crème. You won’t regret it, but you will have to fight your kids for it.)

Why I am so drawn to La Villita? It has personality galore and terrific shopping finds. I love roaming the historic buildings and stepping into gorgeously decorated shops and studios. Many of the shops feature goods crafted onsite or in San Antonio, giving everything a home-grown, authentic touch. With clothing, jewelry, artwork, décor, and more, La Villita offers something for everyone, especially those who seek quality, unique goods to make a statement all their own.

If shopping isn’t your thing, La Villita also has a good dose of San Antonio history. There’s an exhibit that gives you a great overview just off of Maverick Plaza. You can also pick up a map of La Villita’s historic buildings so you can step back in time while you roam the tree-covered walkways. So if you just want to roam and explore, do it! And take the family to enjoy pizza and gelato at Rio de Gelato. Just around the corner from La Villita, it’s another favorite stop (and bribe) for my family.

By the way, before you ask, there are parking options all around La Villita, so don’t let that stop you. The lots range from $2 to $10 (or more for special events), and we never have a problem finding one. On Sundays, meters are free, too, so that’s always an option. And if you’re already on the River Walk, just cross the bridge at Arneson River Theatre and duck into the magical tunnel of stairs. 

A few of my favorite La Villita destinations:

From jewelry unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else to carry-all pouches, eye-popping pillows, and koozies you’ll covet more for how they look than what they hold, Bird and Pear is a must. One of ACMB’s Favorite Things last year, the “cosie,” as they call them, are handcrafted from Mexican serapes and Puebla dresses, as are the snap cuffs that give every outfit a pop of color. Confession: I’m so not good at dressing cute/pulling together outfits, but the awesomely fun things at Bird and Pear make me feel cool. One of my favorite summer accessories is a colorful bracelet I snagged while “researching” my post (doesn’t that sound way cooler than “shopping”?). I’ll be sporting it through the fall, too, so please tell me I’m hip when you see me. And if you’re on the hunt for cool sugar skulls, look no further. How about a pink sugar skull poncho?

All things colorful, all things sugar skulls. Image credit: Bird and Pear

By the way, the shop also features a fabulous children’s section with unique games and books, so when I pop in with my son in tow, he always begs for something fun. Seriously, I haven’t seen these games and books anywhere else, so keep it in mind when you’re looking for a great gift. Another fabulous gift idea: locally made candles from Bear and Roo Candle Company (another 2016 ACMB Favorite Thing and one of my all-time, hands-down favorite ways to make my house smell dreamy).

B & C Leather Designs and Unique Finds features a fantastic array of jewelry and leather goods, most of which are handcrafted by Bobby and Claudia Brown. Working together, they create gorgeous pieces onsite. The store also features goods from other artists they know, a carefully curated collection of products that make it hard to choose which items you should take home. But with a selection this fantastic, why limit yourself, especially when Bobby and Claudia can also customize pieces for you? 

Villa Tesoros is a gorgeous space with fabulous finds. Image credit: Villa Tesoros

You can also thank the Browns for the wonderful Villa Tesoros, the gorgeous shop filled with fabulous clothes, accessories and gifts. With an inventory that’s constantly changing (due to Claudia’s great eye for fun, fashionable finds), the shop offers a mix of fashion, décor, and fun in a beautifully decorated space. There’s a small collection of children’s items, too, alongside terrific accessories and clothing to add a cool vibe to any outfit.

For an artistic look at San Antonio through home-grown art, River Art Group’s unique history and variety make it a favorite. A fine art gallery operated by a cooperative of 160 active artists all located within a 75-mile radius of San Antonio, River Art Group features works in acrylic, oil, watercolor, pen and ink, pastel, photography, clay, glass, metal, wood, and more. The gallery is member-staffed, so on any given day, you can meet one of the artists behind the fabulous works available. With a wide selection of San Antonio-inspired pieces, an array of mediums on display, and a variety of price points suited for any budget, you can spend hours admiring the works and deciding which will make the perfect addition to your home. And the group’s membership is predominantly female, so you’re supporting other San Antonio women when you shop there.

Some of the great pieces at River Art Group. Image credit: Limelight San Antonio

If you want to pamper yourself, check out the body care luxuries, blissful butters, and fresh signature fragrances at Capistrano Soap Company. Named for Mission San Juan Capistrano, the shop’s products are all natural and manufactured locally. Its history goes back three generations, when Capistrano’s founder’s grandfather made and sold soaps outside Mission San Juan. Reformulating his heirloom recipes to create modern products that respect the past, the shop features Acequia, a bath and body collection named for the aqueducts that brought crystal clear water to the city’s early settlements.

The light, airy space of Capistrano Soap Company. Be sure to check out their line of candles named for San Antonio’s missions! They make great gifts. Image credit: Capistrano Soap Company

Another La Villita must: Equinox, housing the studio of owner and artist Alejandro Sifuentes. Equinox features Sifuentes’ work alongside studio jewelers from across the country, as well as 14 different San Antonio metalsmiths and artists. From the pristine polish of silver so shiny you can see your reflection in it to the iridescent, peacock luster of black Tahitian pearls, each piece is more beautiful than the one before. The craftsmanship and true artistry behind each piece will leave your mouth open in awe as you imagine adding one of these creations to your collection. I love popping in just to admire the work.

More shimmer and shine can be found at Plaza Taxco, with stunning jewelry and more from Taxco, Guerrero in Mexico. All of the pieces are hand-crafted from locally sourced silver mines in Taxco, inspiring what you’ll fall in love with at Plaza Taxco: vintage style with a modern flair, along with personal touches that combine to create unique pieces. And if you can tear yourself away from the jewelry, you’ll love their hand-blown glassware, talavera pottery, and other handcrafts of the same quality as their metal work.

So what are you waiting for? Shopping, gelato, and paletas await! And if you have a favorite find or destination in La Villita, please let us know!

2 Responses to Historic Shopping (and Fun!) at La Villita

  1. Deborah Sibley September 12, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    Thank you Dawn for sharing the pleasure of shopping and exploring in San Antonio’s historic downtown. We truly love introducing our artisan bodycare products to visitors at Capistrano Soap Company in La Villita.

    • Dawn Robinette
      Dawn Robinette September 19, 2017 at 10:09 am #

      Thanks Deborah!! Capistrano Soap Company is definitely one of my favorites! Can’t wait to check out your new men’s line and look forward to doing some of my Christmas shopping at La Villita!