Celebrating Day of the Dead at San Antonio’s Omni La Mansión del Rio

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Celebrating Day of the Dead at San Antonio’s Omni La Mansión del Rio

Going back to a city you visited as a child is always an interesting experience, as you wonder if it will hold up to your memory. A recent visit to the San Antonio Riverwalk did just that.

I was invited to San Antonio for their first ever Tasting Texas Food and Wine Festival, and to my surprise, the celebrations had already begun for a holiday that doesn’t even start until November 1. It was an added bonus to what this Texas girl already knew would be a good time. Here are a few highlights for your next (or first) trip to San Antonio.

Part of my visit included a stay at the Omni La Mansión del Rio hotel. One thing Omni does well is when they purchase a historic property, they let it be historic. The rooms are lovely, with new furniture and nice bathrooms, but it’s not like they took the building down to the studs and redid the whole thing. And honestly, if they did, you can’t tell because it still feels like you are staying in a classic landmark. As a girl, we would visit San Antonio, and what is locally known as La Mansiòn still has the same feel as it always did, just updated. It sits right on the river and guests can choose to have a room with a balcony overlooking this iconic part of San Antonio.

The Omni La Mansión del Rio has a sister property across the river, Mokara Hotel and Spa. These properties share some amenities, specifically the fitness center located on the roof of the Makara. Let’s face it, when the Omni La Mansion del Rio was built, people weren’t going to a fitness center.

You can sit in courtyards that are perfectly groomed and they are a lovely place to sit and (obviously) write.

The other thing I loved was the turn down service which included a nod to the local culture. There was a note on my bed and a box with small handcrafted “worry dolls.” The legend is that the Yanaguana Indians gave these to Spanish settlers. You transfer your worry to a doll and put it under your pillow and they will be gone by morning.

They gave me six little dolls, and I made use of all of them before turning out the lights!

I was invited to a four course dinner at the Four Brothers Restaurant as a part of the festival. The restaurant is a new addition to the property, but it’s tied to a crucial part of San Antonio history. Four brothers from the Catholic congregation the Society of Mary—John Baptist Laignoux, Nicholas Koenig, Xavier Mauclerc and Andrew Edel—came to the city in 1836 to open a school. That school, St. Mary’s Institute, later became the hotel.

To be honest, I’m often hesitant when it comes to high class dinners like this one. Will I still be hungry after I sit here for two hours? Will this food be too weird to actually eat? You never know.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised! Not only was the food delicious but there was so much of it. The chef, Andres Farias, combines Latin and South Texas flavors to create something truly scrumptious. The food is absolutely elevated as one would expect in fine dining, but he was able to create something that I think is still best described as comfort food.

While everything was delicious, the braised lamb shank was the highlight. It was huge and looked as big as a turkey leg. I was tempted to pick it up and eat it right off the bone, but of course, manners! Had they served it to me at a renaissance fair, I would not have hesitated.


Served with goat cheese polenta and lentils, it was so filling that I couldn’t finish my dessert, which was tragic since it was a sticky toffee pudding with oranges.

The good news is that the lamb shank is a regular menu item, so anyone can order that if they come to visit. It takes 72 hours to prepare, and trust me, you will wish you could savor it for just as long.

Wines were perfectly paired with the meal as well, thanks to Food and Beverage director Edward Parker. A particularly good pairing was the Chardonnay by Stags Leap Wine Cellars with the Baby Beets salad. One taste of the wine before the salad arrived and I thought it was going to be way too sweet. I was wrong. It was exactly right.


However, the surprise of the evening for me was when I found out that I had arrived in time for Dia de los Muertos. The hotel lined up chairs along the Riverwalk and instead of the usual tour boats telling the same jokes, it was like an electric parade on water. Not only did every hotel and restaurant along the river participate, but the music was amazing and the joy was palpable. I had never been to one of these celebrations before, and it was exciting to be a part of it all.

The hotel even had an artist come into the property and paint a three foot tall skull before the parade began; it is on display through the holiday season.


They also continued to honor the Four Brothers with a day of the dead ofrenda at the hotel.

There is a reason that San Antonio’s iconic Riverwalk has been a tourist destination for years: it’s lovely. And unlike some locations that have lost their luster over the years, San Antonio has retained its historic, iconic atmosphere while staying up to date with the times. The boats and boat tours that float down the river are telling the exact same stories and jokes they always have, and La Mansiòn is still here, but it all has a modern feel.

It just has a freshness, and yet the Omni La Mansiòn del Rio still maintains the essence of its founders from almost 200 years ago.

Keri Lumm is a professional chatterbox who loves watching TV & movies, reading about pop culture, and gawking at any craziness on the internet. You can follow Keri on Twitter.

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