first_friday

Alamo Street in downtown San Antonio is one of America’s most visited tourist destinations, and with good reason. However, the neon lights of the Riverwalk set against the historic landmarks and twentieth century architecture serve as the perfect back-drop for a different kind of attraction, First Friday Art Walk.

First Friday in the art district of San Antonio is perhaps the city’s best social block party.

On the first Friday of every month, as the name implies, four blocks of South Alamo St. between Pereida St. and St. Mary’s St., transform into a stage for local artists, musicians and entertainers.

In between the live music and the cold beers, San Antonio’s cultural diversity is on full display at the festive event that features everything from folk blues bands to hand-crafted beaded work, to vibrant portraits of Frida Kahlo and her furrowed unibrow.

“First Friday is like Fiesta, except that Fiesta only happens once a year,” John Melendez, 53 said. “For me, it’s a perfect time to enjoy good ol’ San Antonio.”

With plenty of outdoor seating, live bands and affordable drink specials, places like the Friendly Spot Ice House and Tito’s Mexican restaurant invite on-lookers to indulge and people-watching.

Mad Hatter’s Tea House and cafe on Beauregard St. is another must-stop as the quirky restaurant features an appetizing full menu and a variety of drinks in a more intimate setting – perfect for lovebirds, young and old alike.

The arts, ranging from full floral pieces to hand-blown glass, are also as diverse as the dining and the crowd.

Places like The Jewelry Box, Jive Redfried Vintage and Art, Inter Artisan and a few dozen street vendors highlight San Antonio’s growing art community.

“We try to promote the Hispanic culture in San Antonio,” Carlos Murguia, owner of Pulquerios Art Gallery said, “which is evident in the artwork fusing Mexican tradition and contemporary urban influences.”

“My paintings are a combination of European religion and Hispanic culture,” said First Friday artist, Alejandra Martinez, 48.

Contrasting against the old world art, only a few feet away, two younger artists draw inspiration from a different source: electronic music.

Carlos Flores, 27, spray paints his freeform art in between two large speakers playing the repetitive beats of trance. “I draw my inspiration from music,” he said.  “I just tune in, ignore the crowd and let the music do the work.”

Cristo Jesus Salazar, 19, an urban artist from Monterrey, Mexico, also creates his artwork on demand.

“The [younger First Friday attendees] like my customized paintings. They seem to enjoy watching me customize their skateboards in front of them,” Salazar said.

Tracey Ashenfelter, a local artist who has been featured in Stash magazine and in Jump Start at the Blue Star Arts Complex, draws inspiration from the historic city itself.

“The scenery in San Antonio is very romantic,” Ashenfelter said. “It’s like San Francisco, New Orleans, maybe Manhattan…they are fun places, rich with history.”

If the local bands, eclectic paintings and street pedicars are not your taste for the night, First Friday also hosts a running (and drinking) tour of the King William district and downtown San Antonio bars.

The pub run begins and ends in the heart of San Antonio’s art district. A few hundred individuals navigate the streets of downtown San Antonio in search of their next drink in a variety of biker, local and tourist bars.

“Where else do you get to go out in running shorts, drink, buy cool art and get your daily cardio?” said Jaime Adler about the Run-a-Tap Pub Run. “This event rivals Austin’s social scene, and everyone knows Austin is the Mecca of arts and music.”

Whatever the case, whether the night is spent in the cozy, hole-in-the-wall restaurants along Alamo street, in the buzzing bars and street-vendor shops, or jogging in search of the next stop (and drink), expect to savor the taste of a night out in good ol’ San Antonio.

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