An image of the letter s, which is made into a maze.

The Letter S, thanks to

Today’s blog post is sponsored by the Letter S. In downtown San Antonio along Navarro Street, you will find the Southwest School of Art and Craft and the main branch of the San Antonio Public Library. Just north of downtown, after Navarro turns into San Pedro Avenue, Shag the Salon and San Pedro Springs Park and City Pool await you.

While you’re downtown, snake your way over to St. Mary’s at Navarro to enter the grounds of the Southwest School of Art and Craft from the street. You may also enter from the River Walk, in between the Convent Street bridge and the Navarro Street bridge. For me, SSAC is an oasis of serenity in downtown San Antonio. Their brochure says it’s an urban oasis, but I don’t think that quite captures the spirit of the place. After all, SSAC is housed in what was a cloistered convent built in 1851. All of the prayers of the Ursuline nuns seeped into the pores of the place, giving it a spiritual air.

Photo of the Ruth Roby Johnson fountain at the Southwest School of Art & Craft

Ruth Roby Johnson fountain at SSAC

Start out at the Visitors Center, open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sundays. During the summer, they close at 4 p.m. on Mondays, according to the helpful and informative Al Castano, who holds down the fort on the weekends.

Pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the center to make sure you hit all of SSAC’s high points, including the Zilker Courtyard that features the Ruth Roby Johnson Memorial Fountain; the chapel, with its gorgeous stained glass windows and stunning needlepoint tapestry designed by local artist Zelime Matthews; the convent garden with a grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes; and the River Garden and its wedding-worthy gazebo. Plus, you won’t want to miss their to-die-for Gallery Shop, open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays…be sure to ogle/purchase Priscilla Martinez’s stunning jewelry…or the Navarro Campus that’s across the street and features 33,000 square feet of exhibition space and classrooms/studios.

The Southwest School of Art and Craft is “a community-based, professional-level school that has offered studio art classes for children and adults in the San Antonio community and beyond since 1969.” As the parent of a child who’s attended their Saturday Morning Discovery art classes multiple times, I can attest to the success of SSAC’s mission. What’s extra great is that their program encourages parents to jump in and create, too. (In other words, not just the kids get to have fun!)

Through this phenomenal FREE program, we’ve been able to weave, paint, draw, silk screen, pinhole photograph, sculpt, and more! Call the SSAC at (210) 224-1848 to sign up for this FREE, yes free, school-year program. Out-of-town visitors and San Antonio natives will want to check into SSAC’s year-round art and craft classes. Tuition and fees vary, depending upon the length of the class and the medium. You may also stop for a bite to eat at SSAC’s Copper Kitchen, open Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Photo of the San Antonio Public Library's Main Branch

San Antonio Public Library's Central Library

Just across the street from SSAC is the San Antonio Public Library’s Main Branch, also known as Central Library.

For those of us with kids who’ve watched the “Spy Kids” movies written and directed by San Antonio native Robert Rodriguez, you’ll recognize the library as the OSS headquarters in SK2.

Designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta, the edifice is known for its enchilada red exterior.

Inside you’ll find computers with free Internet connectivity, a comfortable place to cool off while you peruse magazines and books, an art gallery, a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture titled Fiesta Tower, a Fernando Botero horse sculpture, and a mural by esteemed San Antonio artist Jesse Treviño. Plus, the JavaNook just outside of the library is a nice place to dash in for a cup of coffee and a tasty treat.

On the corner of Navarro at Augusta (on the SSAC Navarro Campus side of the street), catch a number 3 or 4 VIA Metropolitan bus. (See the On Broadway! post for detailed bus info.) Ask for a transfer so you may hop on and off the bus along San Pedro Avenue. (Navarro turns into San Pedro not far from the library.)

Photo of the hair salon Shag the Salon in San Antonio, Texas.

Good hair doesn't happen by itself.

Not everyone who visits San Antonio or lives in San Antonio needs a haircut, but when you do, you do. Bad hair days can simply ruin a trip and attendant photographs. Luckily, Shag the Salon, whose motto is “good hair doesn’t happen by itself,” is at your service.

Located at 110 Warren just off of San Pedro, ask the bus driver to let you off at the La Paz Community Health Center stop. Then hang a left at the Night Rocker Live sign onto Warren. (Careful crossing San Pedro! It’s a busy street.)

Keith Taylor, David Reed and Kayla Conkin are wizards at creating a style that works for you. Their salon offers cuts, color, thermal straightening, extensions, and hair products in a cooler-than-cool setting. Seriously. You’ll want them to re-do your home after they re-do your hair. Plus, they’ll offer you a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while you’re there. How great is that?

In addition, Shag the Salon has wonderful hours. It’s the first salon I’ve ever known that’s open on Sundays (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Tuesdays through Saturdays (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Give them a call at (210) 222-1700 to set up your appointment!

A little further up San Pedro, within walking distance from Shag, you’ll find a Starbucks on one side of the avenue and a Walgreens on the other. Dash in if you need/want to! (Walgreens, by the way, has cute, inexpensive San Antonio T-shirts and magnets that are perfect for souvenirs.) At that same corner (San Pedro at Cypress), jump back onto a northbound number 3 or 4 bus and ask the driver to let you off at San Antonio College, right across from the San Pedro Park Branch Library. (You could walk this leg, if it isn’t too beastly hot.) Check out the cool fountain in front of the library.

Photo of San Pedro Springs City Pool in San Antonio, Texas.

Plunge into San Antonio's history at San Pedro Springs!

After you exit the bus, you’ll cross across San Pedro again (careful!) and stroll over to San Pedro Springs Park, which is San Antonio’s oldest park and the second oldest park in the nation. (Okay Boston, so you bested us there, but I think our park is prettier than yours, so there!)

According to historians, Native Americans gathered at San Pedro Springs and Creek more than 12,000 years ago and the Spaniards settled here in the late 1600s. The current pool pictured above is artistically designed to look like it’s spring fed, but it’s not. Therefore, you won’t freeze your you-know-whats off like you do at Barton Springs in Austin.

The real springs are visible just north of the pool, but you’re not supposed to swim in them because of the potential damage you may cause. The pool is run by the City of San Antonio, and it is open during the summer on Tuesdays through Sundays from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. (Closed Mondays.) Admission is FREE, but you do have to wear proper swimming attire to get in. This year, 2010, the pool is scheduled to close on August 15 unless funding is extended.

A photo of a paleta (popsicle) vendor in San Pedro Springs Park in San Antonio, Texas.

Paletas mean heaven on a stick in Spanish!

And what’s a trip to a San Antonio park without purchasing a yummy paleta (popsicle)?

Fidel, a vendor of Fabito’s paletas, was selling fresa (strawberry), piña (pineapple), piña colada, sandia (watermelon), nuez (nut/pecan), platano (banana), coco (coconut), vainilla (vanilla), limon (lemon), chocolate (chocolate), cookies and cream, mango, and chili lucas (spicy) the day I was there. I purchased a coco (coconut) paleta, and it was a religious experience. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe it. I wish I had one right now!

At $1 each, you may decide to buy multiples and have your lunch and/or dinner on a stick! Sit in the shade of one of San Pedro Springs’ heritage oaks and enjoy your cool treats and reflect back on your super sightseeing in San Antonio, Texas. Thank you Letter S!