Explore San Antonio's Fiesta Event With a Native

By Danica Barnett
Posted in The Field Guide to Drinking in America, on April 14, 2016

Fiesta® San Antonio began in 1891 as a one-parade event to honor those who fought in the Texas Revolution and has expanded into an eleven day party all across the city. This year, it celebrates its 125th anniversary when it kicks off on April 14th and takes over downtown San Antonio until the 24th.

As a San Antonio native, I’m a seasoned Fiesta veteran, and I’ve learned the tricks of the trade to get the most out of the celebration—from knowing the best way to crack a cascarone on someone, to knowing when to cheer at the parades. Before you make your way to San Antonio, here’s what you need to know to become a Fiesta pro:

  1. NIOSA at San Antonio's FiestaA Night In Old San Antonio® (NIOSA) - Eat your way through the city’s cultural influences during one of the four nights that NIOSA takes over La Villita. Hit up Maria’s Tortillas while the night’s still young and the line’s still short before you explore all the food and drinks featured at NIOSA’s 15 heritage-themed areas. Crack a cascarone on an unsuspecting victim’s head (but try to avoid getting confetti in their beer) and then make your way to Frontier Town for an order of Shypoke Eggs and a Wrangler Rita. Drink a preparadas while you wait in line for a famous Bongo-k-Bobs (beef shish-k-bobs named after local music legend Bongo Bob). Don’t forget to stack your souvenir beer cups from every section—true NIOSA-goers will hold up their stacked cups with pride.
  2. Texas Cavaliers River Parade -This parade has floats that actually float. Bring your own canned beer or purchase drinks from any of the vendors along the San Antonio river. You won’t get in trouble for walking around with a beer, but you’ll probably make a few people angry if you don’t join in on the “Go Spurs Go!” cheers that erupt often. Don’t forget to yell for the Fiesta court to show their shoes as they float by!
  3. Fiesta Oyster Bake -Try the wide variety of beers while you soak up all the Fiesta Oyster Bake has to offer. Get your drink before the 10:30 PM last call, and before you find a spot on the lawn to enjoy the fireworks. And remember—an oyster shot is a raw oyster, not an event-themed drink. The proceeds from this event go towards scholarships for St. Mary’s University students, so drink up and support higher education.
  4. Fiesta Arts Fair - Sip on refreshing sangria and take in contemporary art from artists all over America. When the Texas heat gets to be too much for you, cool down with a frozen wine popsicle or a margarita.
  5. Cornyation - Fiesta’s irreverent sketch show turns 50 this year. Held at the historic Empire Theatre, a full bar is available and the performers encourage audience intoxication. Come expecting to be insulted and leave with sides that hurt from too much laughter, but don’t be that person who doesn’t tip the bartender.
As you make your way to the Alamo city, don’t forget to pick up a copy of The Field Guide to Drinking in America: A Traveler’s Handbook to State Liquor Laws by Niki Ganong to learn about Texas’ liquor laws.