Easy summer destinations, complete with cool drinks on the backside

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An Italian cream soda and Almond Joy from Buon Giorno Café - Sarah Maspero
Sarah Maspero
An Italian cream soda and Almond Joy from Buon Giorno Café

In this era of “Just Google it,” it’s true: there is very likely “an app for that.” Chances are the restaurant you went to last night was the product of a lazy iPhone search. Likely the digital modulations of a GPS voice guided you into the order lane cooing, “Your destination is on your left.” Food and drink materialize through a window, money is paid, and the transaction is complete — no more thought needed. Although San Antonio in summertime ranks just a hair cooler than Hades and its hard-boiled-egg-layin’ chickens, it’s worth the effort to break out of the climate-controlled rut of tech-mediated home-to-work, car-to-drive thru, home-to-bed to enjoy the many outdoor activities San Antonio has to offer. But you need to know how to stay cool.

Alamo City has been hard at work improving its green spaces and public exercise areas of late, expanding bike lanes, repairing swimming pools, creating new hiking trails, and introducing the B-cycle bike-sharing system. Second to an IV drip of iced mocha or frozen underwear, knowing where to cool down and rehydrate after any exertion is critical to surviving these 100-degree days.

Comanche Lookout

If you gained a few more friends around the midsection this winter, begin the season with a gentle reintroduction to exercise at Comanche Lookout. Located next to the Julia Yates Semmes Public Library, this 96-acre park offers 4.5 miles of hiking with significant elevation gain. Comanche Lookout, so named for its early use by the Native American residents of Bexar County to survey the land during hunting expeditions and warfare, rises to an elevation of 1,340 feet, the fourth-highest point in the county. A four-story, medieval-style tower stands at the top of the hill, evoking notions of damsels in distress and clandestine midnight meetings. Having left the chaotic rumblings on Nacogdoches Road below, take a moment to appreciate the view and the quiet of the air.

To refuel the body as well as the mind, make a pit stop at Buon Giorno Café on the way home. A throwback to your Great Aunt Enid’s parlor with a European twist, Buon Giorno Café is the perfect counterpart to a hike rooted in Native American heritage. The walls are papered with postcards and Italian memorabilia; feel free to pull a book from the crowded shelves to read as you sip your Italian cream soda. The café offers many tempting coffee drinks, ranging from frothy cappuccinos to a drink aptly called the Almond Joy, which tastes just like its chocolaty namesake. To properly refresh and refuel, I recommend the Italian cream soda, mixed to order from the café’s stunning collection of flavored syrups, including orange, chai, chocolate, and hazelnut. The crisp, sparkling notes of soda also deliver a hefty serving of calcium, the key to muscle repair and recovery.

Woodlawn Park

What could easily be mistaken for a mirage on the city’s west side, Woodlawn Park provides the perfect scene for a DIY yoga session anytime. In the serene hours before work or school, take advantage of the cool breeze coming off the 30-acre lake to start the day with an invigorating yoga practice. As you move through your last chaturanga dandasana, take in the rising sun over the downtown skyline. If you are more of a night owl, the sunset is equally majestic, a fact that makes this park a coveted vantage point for viewing July 4 fireworks. A 1.3-mile walking path skirts the lake and the park also features a playground, swimming pool, tennis courts, volleyball and basketball courts, and ample green space for a game of soccer.

To keep the good energy flowing from an early yoga practice, stop by Brown Coffee Company. Founded with a mission to change the way San Antonians think about coffee, Brown Coffee Company’s café is run by champion barista Aaron Blanco. A self-proclaimed purist, Blanco’s deep love and respect for the coffee bean come through in each cup. Blanco’s commitment to coffee is noticeable in the absent milk and sugar bar, upheld to preserve the fine balance of the barista’s mixology. The “rocks,” a cold brewed coffee over ice, and the “dirty,” the same with milk and sugar (which the trained barista stirs in for you), are stars on a bare-bones menu that includes cappuccino, macchiato, Americano, and espresso.

River Walk

Leaving the mat for a trusty two-wheeled steed, head downtown to the Blue Star Arts Complex, where you can rent a bike from the Blue Star Bike Shop or the newly installed B-cycle bike sharing system. Take a leisurely tour through the King William district to marvel at the Victorian architecture and visit Southtown’s funky shops and stands before heading north along the San Antonio River. Pedal past downtown’s crowds to the Museum Reach, where you can stop at Pearl Brewery for a visit to the recently opened Culinary Institute of America Bakery Café. A colorful and modern space, the café offers views into the school’s teaching kitchens for enthusiastic foodies, as well as an outdoor dining area for people-watching, a great pastime during Saturday’s farmer’s market. The students work with seasonal flavors and fresh ingredients, concocting a variety of equally beautiful and decadently delicious pastries to choose from. Order a hibiscus or tamarind agua fresca and a mango mousse pastry to linger over as you watch the parade of chocolate caramel tarts and key lime pies go by the kitchen window.

The most obvious of summer recreation choices, a trip to San Pedro Springs is a must for a refreshing swim in the cerulean blue waters of this historic gathering point. Restored in 2000, the springs are a romantic spot to while away an afternoon beneath the shade of the regal Cyprus trees that line the pool. Despite being but a few minutes from downtown, it is possible to feel secluded in this copse of trees, surrounded by the cool chatter of the spring waters. A testament to its beauty, San Pedro Springs caught the eye and pen of fabled American writers such as O. Henry and Sidney Lanier. Join the great minds of American literature’s next generation at The Foundry coffeehouse, a favorite of San Antonio College students thanks to the free wi-fi, plentiful power strips, squishy couches, and locally roasted coffee with unlimited refills. The frozen chai is a perfect complement to a languid afternoon spent on the water’s edge. On select nights The Foundry presents poetry readings, lectures, and live music.

So even as you read this article from the comforts of your sub-zero air-conditioned home and plan the shortest route to the icy depth of the movie theater, shake off the excuses and use this summer to get out and get active while enjoying these tasty treats. •

Comanche Lookout Park
1555 Nacogdoches, 78247
5am-11pm daily

Buon Giorno Café
15033 Nacogdoches Rd, Ste. 201, 78247
7am-4pm Mon-Thu, 7am-8pm Fri, 8am-8pm Sat

Woodlawn Park
1103 Cincinnati, 78201
5am-11pm daily

Brown Coffee Company
1702 W Kings Highway, 78201
8am-3pm Wed-Sat

San Pedro Springs Park
1415 San Pedro Avenue, 78212
5am-11pm daily

The Foundry
2720 McCullough Ave, 78212
7am-5pm Mon, Wed, Fri
7am-10pm Tue & Thu
8:30am-2pm Sat

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