Site Visit: Hotel Emma, San Antonio
I had the pleasure of visiting Hotel Emma in San Antonio. This fabulous hotel has been one of my favorites for several years.
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A destination style sleep for foodies and culture lovers at the north end of downtown San Antonio.
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For those of you who only know San Antonio from your time at conferences or conventions, please please know that there is so much more to San Antonio than the whole touristy Riverwalk vibe (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course). San Antonio is a city with a robust and thriving arts scene. It's quickly rising as a food destination and of course has a cultural vibe that just feels as warm and sunny as the Texas weather.
The Hotel Emma embraces all of this, and more. The hotel was converted from the old Pearl Brewery, and was named after Emma Koehler, the patroness of the brewery after her husband, Otto Koehler, was murdered. Otto, it is said, was not only married to an Emma, but had affairs with not one, but two additional Emmas! (The hotel has two signature drinks and one is called The Three Emmas.) It's an elegant place but not stuffy, and the hotel definitely has a sense of humor about its past.
The Emma is the cornerstone of the Pearl District, which is an awesome area for food and shopping. It's also still on the Riverwalk, but on the quieter part so you don't have the noisiness that the heart of the Riverwalk can sometimes (almost always) bring. Opened as a hotel after a multi-year renovation from the brewery in 2015, it is the most fabulous mix of industrial chic and comfortable elegance. The lobby is fabulous (and smells WONDERFUL), with a big fireplace (which also opens to the front for a seating area on cooler nights). Upon arrival, each guest receives a wooden token, which is redeemable for one of the house cocktails in The Library — a real working collection of art and history books and available only to hotel guests. Similarly, there is a section of the large, hip hot and happening bar, Sternewirth, on the mezzanine, which is also only available for guests. The hotel is something of a "local attraction," so having those areas is great.
The hotel has a very strong culinary program as well, with five restaurants onsite as well as a host of special events, chef demonstrations in the evenings, wine programs, etc.
We were in the room category called the King River Cellar. It's a big room with lovely bathroom and a king-sized bed. There are six different types of rooms, the most coveted being those with a nice 300 SF terrace and a fireplace. (Texas isn't always hot – we stayed in one of those rooms a couple of years ago during the holiday season and it was an absolute delight.) There are king rooms and double queens, river views, terraces, etc.
I also was able to see the Otto Koehler penthouse suite, which is accessed by a semi-private elevator (with a security guard on weekend evenings) that serves the hotel's six penthouse suites, each with varying attributes and features, but all fabulous. The penthouse suites are two-story, high-ceilinged, open and beautiful spaces with plenty of room for entertaining or unwinding, or a group get-together downstairs, while the master bedroom and huge bath are upstairs and fully private (with a door). I could see a get together where various adult children could be in their own rooms, but then congregate with parents or whatever in one of these suites. The Emma Koehler suite is the most luxurious, with a grand piano in the living room and a huge terrace for entertaining.
The hotel has a lovely rooftop pool with bar and plenty of lounges for people-watching. There is also a spa, but it is located across the street from the hotel. I didn't see the spa this time but have heard wonderful things about it.
Service is key at the Emma, with a large employee-to-guest ratio and an emphasis on providing the best possible hotel experience for every guest. I would not hesitate to recommend the hotel for weddings, business meetings or other get-togethers.
I would not recommend the hotel for young children: certainly the hotel welcomes them, but it's pretty romantic.
While the hotel feels much larger in stature, there are only 146 rooms, so it is definitely a boutique feel.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you might have. As you can tell, I love the hotel. We love it so much that we named our chocolate lab Emma! (But, unfortunately dogs are not allowed at Emma, so she'll never get to experience her namesake.)
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