Culture / Travel

Charles Barkley Finally Professes Love for San Antonio (Really)

One Surprising Night Changes Everything for Alamo City’s Fiercest Critic

BY // 12.18.17

Charles Barkley has fallen in love with San Antonio after all. The most entertaining analyst in all of sports (sorry Tony Romo) and the land of the Riverwalk have been engaged in a cold war for almost as long as anyone can remember.

Barkley has been taking sophomoric shots at San Antonio’s women (Chuck hasn’t exactly caught up to 2017) and its food for years. He disparages San Antonio with such regularity that it’s become a running bit on TNT’s NBA coverage and prompted politicians to get involved.

But now, Barkley’s finally seen the light. There he was on TNT’s postgame show late last week, gushing with the unbridled joy of a smitten Kardashian over something San Antonio.

All it took was one of the best hotels in the world. Yes, Charles Barkley stayed at Hotel Emma. And now, the NBA Hall of Famer cannot stop talking about it.

“One of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at,” Barkley says of Emma, essentially giving the San Antonio hotspot a (well deserved) free national TV ad. “Unbelievable.”

Someone should have booked Barkley a room at Hotel Emma sooner. He finally got there because he was filming Capital One commercials centered around the 2018 Final Four (which is headed to San Antonio on March 31 through April 2) at The Pearl, the hip restaurant and shopping district that’s a world away from the Riverwalk’s touristy kitsch.


  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North
  • Post Oak Hotel - 29 Degrees North

Fellow celebs Samuel Jackson and Spike Lee joined Barkley for this working getaway weekend. And the trio seemed to hit all the Pearl hotspots, including restaurant Osteria Il Sogno, and delight in documenting their adventures on Instagram.

“I didn’t go to the Riverwalk,” Barkley says.

Hotel Emma’s Magic

Anyone who’s ever stayed at Hotel Emma knows there is no reason to venture far. From the moment you arrive at the converted historic brewery building, you’re taken away to another world as only the very best hotels can manage. Any stay starts with a free drink in the library — and these aren’t the throwaway welcome drinks of an impersonal resort. Instead, they’re hand-mixed and worthy of a top cocktail bar.

I was lucky enough to book a stay at Hotel Emma with my family after PaperCity’s resident San Antonio guru Linden Wilson first wrote about Hotel Emma soon after its debut. You could find some cheaper rates back then, before the hype and the celebrities started rolling in. Now, a standard king room midweek can run you over $400 a night. (Not that anything is really standard at Hotel Emma.)

During our stay, our kids played with two Spanish kids who were taking a two-month long vacation across the United States with their parents. In multiple encounters at Hotel Emma’s rooftop pool, we never saw the parents. The kids were always just with their nanny. The Spanish know how to travel.

Of course, it’s hard not to travel well at Hotel Emma.

Conde Nast Traveler named one of the 50 Best Hotels in the World for a reason. This is the type of place that stays with you. The kind of place that even may change how you feel about an entire city.

Just ask Charles Barkley. As soon as he’s done gushing. Barkley is such a San Antonio fanboy.

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