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San Antonio’s La Villita (little village) is the city’s original melting pot. Native Americans, Mexicans, Spaniards, East Texans, Texas Rangers, Germans, Swiss, French and Anglos all called this little piece of land home.

Located in the shadow of the Hilton Palacio del Rio along the banks of the San Antonio River on South Alamo at Nueva Streets, La Villita’s melting pot heritage lives on today through the countless festivals that are held there each year: Night in Old San Antonio, Soul Food Festival, Festival of India, St. Patrick’s Day Festival,  Mardi Gras, Fiesta Noche del Rio and the Diez y Seis Celebration, to name a few.

My personal favorite is the International Accordion Festival, on October 7-9 this year (2011). Click on the artists’ photos to sample their music, ranging from Tex-Mex to Tango to Bulgarian Wedding Music and more. This FREE event never disappoints. The festival features four venues for its musicians: the Arneson River Theater,  Maverick Plaza, Juarez Plaza and Bolivar Hall. It’s tough choosing where to go, so we find ourselves running back and forth among venues. The festival’s weather is usually fabulous, and you have a gigante choice of food and beverages. Volunteer opportunities abound. Do NOT miss this festival! It’s one of San Antonio’s best, if not THE best.

For those who just want to stroll through La Villita on an off-festival day, you’ll find un monton of shops that sell art, pottery, stained glass, jewelry, textiles and more. Make sure you go into the River Art Group Gallery next to the Little Church of La Villita. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., as are all of the shops in La Villita. More than 200 artists’ original works are featured here. For less than $100, you might just find the bluebonnet painting you’ve been searching for all these years. Plus, the River Art Group Festival is coming up on Oct. 3-4, 2011 in La Villita.

If you’re in need of your own venue for a wedding or a quinceañera, the La Villita Assembly Hall is worth checking out. It’ll hold up to 500 people, and it is also the site of many ethnic festivals. I have very fond memories of the Greek Funstival being held there for many years before it moved over to St. Sofia Greek Orthodox Church. Their 51st festival will be Oct. 21-23 this year.

La Villita’s website offers a thorough walking tour of the village with all of the structures’ histories and current inhabitants. Check it out!