By Richard A. Marini, Staff writer
The pandemic has brought back plenty of simple activities that had been all but forgotten in our technology-soaked times: family board game night, voice telephone calls and the Sunday drive following a big family dinner.
Indeed, many are finding that getting out of the house and driving places they don’t normally go is a good way to refresh themselves and see things they hadn’t seen before. And it sure beats taking yet another walk around the same old neighborhood.
Here are several scenic drives in and around San Antonio you can enjoy from the comfort of your air conditioned vehicle.
Most of these drives are pretty short so if you’d like, you can do several in a single day. And to make things interesting, we’ve suggested one restaurant acclaimed by our Taste Team critics near each where you can stop to get a bite to eat. Just remember to call first to make sure they’re open and serving.
Gentlemen (and ladies) start your engines…
This route takes you through 15 miles of some of the prettiest ranchland in South Texas, beginning and ending at Loop 1604 on the far Southeast Side. It’s such a pleasant drive that, unless it’s really scorching, you may even want to turn off the AC, roll down the windows and let the wind blow through your hair.
Don’t miss: Kicaster Country Store & Grill, at 2239 FM 3432 to experience a bit of old-timey Texas.
Where to go for a bite: Mesquite-smoked barbecue has been the specialty for a quarter-century at Texas Pride Barbecue, with live music most Friday and Saturday nights. 2980 E. Loop 1604 S., 210-649-3730, texaspridebbq.net.
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The route takes you from Olmos Park, one of the toniest enclaves in the area, and through Olmos Basin Park, which has been vital to the region’s flood control efforts but also a popular place to play and exercise with plenty of soccer and baseball fields. It’s like driving through a forest, only you’re in the middle of the city.
Don’t miss: Squiggly East Contour Drive, which will make you feel like a Le Mans driver. But a heads-up, watch the speed limit.
Where to go for a bite: Get a carb fix with some steamed buns and a bright, healthy bowl of Summer Noodles out on the deck at Ming’s Noodle Bar, 5253 McCullough Ave. in The Yard, 210-570-6318, Facebook: Ming’s Thing.
Just off Nacogdoches Road north of Loop 410, Forest Oak is a tidy refuge of perpetually shaded homes beneath ancient and towering live oaks. It feels cool to drive through, even on the hottest days.
Don’t miss: With only about half-dozen streets, you can tour the entire hood in just a few minutes, but you’ll want to do it several times to enjoy the full effect.
Where to go for a bite: Run by a 2016 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, The Last Slice serves pizza, wings, subs and such. It’s takeout only, but think of it as bringing home a memory of your drive. 3021 MacArthur View, 210-994-5661, lastslicepizza.com
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Looking for someplace to take the kids that’s part scavenger hunt and part drive-thru safari? Head for this nondescript neighborhood bordered by Loop 410 and the Medical Center that’s home to a flashy flock of peafowl — more commonly known as peacocks.
The birds have lived here for decades, and this is their home. They roost in trees and on roofs, but keep a sharp eye out because they’ll also often wander into the street without warning.
Don’t miss: The intersection of Lyceum and Baywater, which is where they most tend to congregate. But you can also see them throughout the neighborhood, as well as in the nearby subdivisions of Oak Hills and Dreamhill Estates.
Where to go for a bite: Escape the blandness of Loop 410 chain restaurants and head for Suck It: The Restaurant for its pan-Asian menu that features dumplings, sushi, ramen and bubble teas. 7220 Louis Pasteur Driver, 210-560-2113, Facebook: Suck It The Restaurant.
It might not seem like much to someone raised in, say, Colorado, but this neighborhood is made up of some surprisingly steep (for San Antonio) hills, with one of the best views in the city.
Don’t miss: The intersection of Clubhill and High Sierra drives, where you’ll find one of the prettiest views of the downtown skyline you can see without having to pay to take an elevator ride to the top of the Tower of the Americas.
Where to go for a bite: Both the molcajete de chicharrón (a big stone bowl of guac and chunks of crispy deep-fried skin-on pork) and the costra de trompo (cheese fried to a crisp, stuffed with al pastor pork and folded up like an omelet) are fantastic at La Taquería de Monterrey, 2715 Hillcrest Drive, 210-994-8686, lataqueriademonterrey.net.
King William District
The 10 blocks of stately, Victorian-style homes you’ll find along King William Street and Madison make this neighborhood a spectacular showplace unlike any other this side of New Orleans. Most were originally constructed by prosperous German businessmen in the years following the Civil War and have been rediscovered and reclaimed over the past few decades.
Don’t miss: The Italianate Villa Finale at 401 King William, now a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the Edward Steves Homestead Museum at 509 King William, designed by noted San Antonio architect Alfred Giles; and 202 Madison, a three-story Palladian-style home that, evidence suggests, served as a house of ill repute back in the 1940s.
Where to go for a bite: Enjoy a pancake breakfast on the shaded patio of the genteel Victorian mansion that is The Guenther House. 205 E. Guenther St., 210-227-1061, guentherhouse.com
The 80-acre lake was created in 1889 by the developers seeking to enhance the area’s attractiveness, and today, the hiking trail that loops around the lake is more popular than ever with exercisers seeking a bit of fresh air while they sweat. For drivers, the 1 ½-miles of serpentine city streets that encircle the lake pass an eclectic collection of neighborhood homes and a public pool a park.
Don’t miss: The iconic Woodlawn Lake Lighthouse, standing like a sentinel in the middle of the lake.
Where to go for a bite: Head over to Diana’s Burgers for a two-handed cheeseburger and a couple of chalupas. 2202 N. Zarzamora St., 210-251-2252, Facebook: Diana’s Burgers.
Richard A. Marini is a features writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Richard A., become a subscriber. email@example.com | Twitter: @RichardMarini