Adventure Activities in San Antonio -- Try if You Dare
1. Say 'Yippee-kay-yay,' cowboy!
Mosey on over to BR Lightning Ranch -- upon arrival, there'll be no more moseyin'. This family-owned, working cattle ranch, located about 22 miles northwest of San Antonio in Pipe Creek, offers lessons in mounted shooting. Wannabe cowboys learn the ropes of shooting while riding -- which is much easier said than done and a lot of fun to watch.
Ranch guests are treated to the Wild West history of mounted shooting, a la 'The Wild Bunch,' and the gear you need: horse, saddle, clothes, replica guns -- not to mention, the ability to aim a weapon while hanging onto an ear-skinning, lightning bolt of a horse. The ranch has a corral of trained horses so you can mount up and try your hand.
Location: Farm Road 1283, Pipe Creek
2. Bite into a burning burger
I once ate a habanero -- one of the world's hottest peppers -- at my sorority initiation and nearly passed out. That little firecracker had nothing on the Chunky's Burgers Four Horsemen.
Aptly named for those apocalyptic harbingers of death, the Four Horsemen is a beyond-fiery, half pound hamburger smothered in a lethal combination of grilled serranos, Naga Jolokia (evil peppers also known as ghost chilis), and topped with jalapeno jack cheese. To add insult to injury, the concoction is doused in habanero sauce.
There are rules to eating a Four Horsemen: You've got 25 minutes to finish this monstrosity, and no thirst-quenching water for five minutes after. Since so few people have actually finished this demon, it's hard to gauge how many actually waited the full five minutes.
One bite and I was sweating and spitting and begging for a fire extinguisher.
Location: 4602 Callaghan Road
3. Have a nightmare on Alamo Plaza
Calling Ripley's Haunted Adventure a haunted house is a gross understatement. This year-round ghoulish adventure activity in San Antonio, Texas plays on primal human fears, and is truly the stuff of nightmares.
The experience begins with the bloody, half torso of a ghoul beckoning passersby into the house of horrors, where I was offered a glow stick and warned that it was "very dark inside." A decrepit mummy then summons you into an equally decrepit cage, where our moldering tour guide explained the "history" of the house as we rode up to the next floor -- and then he left us on our own to escape.
The room wasn't dark and it wasn't a room: It was a pitch-black tunnel filled with ominous hissing sounds and the creepy sensation of thousands of rat tails swished across your feet. We gingerly made our way to an antechamber with a plank crossing an bottomless chasm while a disembodied voice shrieked, "Walk the plank! Walk the plank!"
We did, of course, knowing full well that we were walking across some kind of transparent floor over a mirage -- but the illusion of tottering over a bottomless pit on nothing but a spindly plank twisted my stomach and gave me such a dizzying spin of vertigo I nearly crashed to my knees.
The entire experience plays like a list of man's greatest fears, and is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Location: 329 Alamo Plaza
4. Plummet the San Antonio skyline
My daddy, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, used to say, "Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?"
The answer, of course, is adrenaline. Lots of it. Tandem skydiving with San Antonio Skydiving pumps up the adrenaline with the assurance of a seasoned sky-diving partner strapped to your back.
The ride is a heart-stopping free fall from a small plane. The plunge can rate up to 120 mph straight down, so don't blink (or squeeze your eyes shut) or you'll miss the eagle-eye view of the San Antonio skyline.
5. Go on an urban treasure hunt
Grab a partner and strap on your hiking boots to sign up for a High Trek Adventure in San Antonio, Texas, an amazing race-type expedition that will take you through the heart of the city. This high-energy scavenger hunt sent me scrabbling around the Alamo, navigating the River Walk and sniffing around off-the-beaten-path bowling alleys and ice cream joints.
It's a kind of 'National Treasure' meets Trivial Pursuit, with check points to find clues that lead to the next check point. We encountered and solved word jumbles, a Sudoku puzzle and had a tourist take our picture in front of the Alamo. Some teams were experienced adventurers, with matching costumes, GPS systems and palm computers. But contestants do get serious, because qualifying for the national championship gets you a chance to win more than $10,000.
This adventure is offered in various cities across the United States throughout the year. It next comes to San Antonio on Oct. 9, 2010.
- Overview:San Antonio Travel Guide