BACK TO TOP

ReadersOutdoors & Recreation

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

Can one possibly have more fun putting fingers in holes than playing a few strings at this Austin institution? Possibly by mashing one's face into a plate of their decadent truck-stop enchiladas and inhaling those suckers like they are the last food on Earth. Possibly by people-watching life's rich middle-class pageant as they twinkle-toes it to the line and heave balls with total Fred Flintstone abandon. Possibly by studying the Dart Bowl's museum-quality homage to the sport in the large lobby cases brimming with bowling tchotchkes. And definitely by making a promise to your date, your mate, your kids, your besties, and yourself to come back again, again, again, and again.

Dart Bowl, 5700 Grover, 512/452-2518, www.dartbowl.com

Best Cheap Thrill
Barton Springs

When you first move to Austin it seems like all people talk about is Barton Springs. It's like, "Okay, okay, we get it: Austin is home to a three-acre spring-fed pool that maintains an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, ideal for year-round swimming. Cool." And then you go there (for only $3, mind you) and suddenly you're a mermaid swimming amongst the most interesting breeds of people, fish, and turtles. If you're really lucky, you'll bump into a Barton Springs salamander. The water is freezing, and there is a man doing yoga in his Speedo on the edge of the pool, but it all just adds to the experience. You've lost count of all the different types of the tattoos you've seen, and a single tear runs down your face when you realize that you'll have to leave when it closes. Everything everyone told you about this place is true. You tuck yourself into bed that night still warm from the Texas sun and the feeling of finally knowing what it means to be a lover of Barton Springs – cozy in the truth that you are now a true Austinite.

Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Rd., 512/867-3080, www.austintexas.gov

Best Day Trip
Fredericksburg

Fallen into a weltschmerz because you and your schnucki just cannot take one more person telling you that "you just have to try this new place on East Cesar Chavez"? Wir verstehen. Abscond to Fredericksburg, where even the oddest couple can find things to do: World War II buff? Visit the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site and the National Museum of the Pacific War. Shopaholic? Spazieren Main Street to browse local crafts and kitchen wares. Foodie? Repeat after us: "Wurst, schnitzel, und streusel!" Venture outside the center of town, and you're bound to run into a tasting room or two of some of Texas' finest wineries, leaving you each with one helluva honigkuchenpferd grinsen.

Visit Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg Visitor Information Center, 302 E. Austin St., 888/997-3600, www.visitfredericksburgtx.com

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
Academy

A definitive choice for Austin's outdoor needs, Academy has everything from tubes for river floating, boots for hiking, kid's bathing suits, and sleeping bags, to basketball hoops and baseball bats. If they don't have it, you might be leaving the planet. When you head out to enjoy the amazing parks and camping spots in Texas or simply a day at the park, if you've forgotten anything, there's likely an Academy nearby.

Academy, 4970 Hwy. 290 W., 512/899-6310, www.academy.com

Academy, 7513 N. I-35, 512/407-6310, www.academy.com

Academy, 12250 Research, 512/506-6000, www.academy.com

4 more locations

Best Golf/Driving Range
Topgolf

Taking a page from the Alamo Drafthouse business model, Topgolf turns practicing your long game into a party for neophytes and fairway regulars alike. The not-so-secret ingredients? Food and booze! Please and thank you.

Topgolf, 2700 Esperanza Crossing, 512/222-5950, www.topgolf.com

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
iFly

Wouldn't it be nice, if before every cockamamie idea – say changing careers after the age of 40 – you could try it out in a safe and supportive environment? Are you thrilled at the prospect of skydiving but terrified of heights? This worldwide indoor skydiving facility lets you poke that internal adrenaline junkie at a comfortable altitude. You'll receive pre-flight training and a special suit before entering a vertical wind tunnel that creates true free-fall conditions, with a personal instructor guiding you through the entire experience. Fly alone or with a buddy – there are no age restrictions.

iFly Austin, 13265-A Hwy. 183 N., 512/774-4359, austin.iflyworld.com

Best Outdoor Festival
Austin City Limits

Every year, that impeccable vista of our city skyline competes with the spectacle of sight and sound on each of the eight stages at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, as crowds pack Zilker Park for the annual trip to music mecca. The ever-popular fest grew out of its traditional one weekend two years ago. This year they continue with that expanded calendar format: Music lovers can see, hear, and feel the psychedelic vibes of Tame Impala and strum their air guitars to the Foo Fighters as they soak in unlimited views of Austin, two weekends long.

Austin City Limits Music Festival, 300 W 6th Ste. 2100, 512/478-7211, www.aclfestival.com

Best Place to Camp
Krause Springs

No Austin summer would be complete without a get-to-know-your-Hill-Country trip to Krause Springs. With ample space to swim and play, it lacks the typical claustrophobia of most area campgrounds. Whether you’re soaring through the air on a rope swing, climbing over the roots of magnificent Cypress trees, or just sipping a cold one in the crystal clear water, Krause is the perfect place to pitch a tent for the weekend.

Krause Springs, Spicewood, 830/693-4181, www.krausesprings.net

Best Place to Skate
Playland Skate Center

If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words scissoring, dipping, bouncing, toe dragging, trucking, or rexing has to do with Wiccans out in the woods, it's been way too long since you've been to Playland. Their long-running adults-only sessions still light up Tuesday nights. And while they've invested a lot to keep the old girl up to snuff, she still emits that sweet Seventies/Eighties vibe that's kept her rolling for over 40 years. Everyone knows and loves the looming glitter skate-ball centerpiece. But c'mon, can we hear it for the array of red neon thunderbolts? Or the neon clouds and stars? Nothin' beats how they glow in the fog, except, perhaps, the smooth whoosh of quads against that glorious new wood floor.

Playland Skate Center, 8822 McCann, 512/452-1901, www.playlandskatecenter.net

Best Place to Tube
San Marcos

The San Marcos River brings a steady stream of people to San Marcos to tube down its 72-degree waters year-round. Let your troubles float away past Rio Vista Park, where the Lions Club tube rental shuttle picks people up or a quick visit to the Korner Stop can set you afloat. This part of the river has deep pools that flow into three chutes known as Rio Vista Falls. About 14 minutes east of San Marcos in Martindale, Texas State Tubes, run by Bobcat Alum, and Don's Fish Camp offer shuttles to and from the river and all the tubes and gear you'll need for your day in the sun.

Tube San Marcos, 170 Charles Austin, San Marcos, 512/396-5466, www.tubesanmarcos.com

Best Pool/Billiards
The Grand

What do you do when you're craving some fun, but the hubbub of Dirty Sixth or Rainey has become too much of an exhausting and expensive endeavor? How about some billiards and beer? Our readers appreciate cheap beer deals, and the Grand's got ’em, plus a floor of 20 pool tables to keep the hustlers hustlin'. So leave your uncomfortable going-out attire behind, and slap on who-cares-what. The only concerns on a night of billiards and beer should be, well, the billiards and beer, and the Grand takes home win no. 7 to prove it.

The Grand, 4631 Airport, 512/454-1986

Best Romantic Escape
Fredericksburg

Fallen into a weltschmerz because you and your schnucki just cannot take one more person telling you that "you just have to try this new place on East Cesar Chavez"? Wir verstehen. Abscond to Fredricksburg, where even the oddest couple can find things to do: World War II buff? Visit the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site and the National Museum of the Pacific War. Shopaholic? Spazieren Main Street to browse local crafts and kitchen wares. Foodie? Repeat after us: "Wurst, schnitzel, und streusel!" Venture outside the center of town, and you're bound to run into a tasting room or two of some of Texas' finest wineries, leaving you each with one helluva honigkuchenpferd grinsen.

Visit Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg Visitor Information Center, 302 E. Austin St., 888/997-3600, www.visitfredericksburgtx.com

Best Scenic Drive
Loop 360

Few other cities as big as Austin can boast our green-to-concrete ratio, but Loop 360 offers the best of both. It curves through rock cut-throughs, steep fills, and several parks and rivers, offering a wide survey of the Capitol, the UT Tower, and most of Downtown. And the early-rising bicycler can take advantage of the wide shoulders to catch several beautiful sunrise vistas – the most breathtaking on Pennybacker Bridge, overlooking Lake Austin.

Loop 360, www.txdot.gov

Best Social Bike Ride
Thursday Night Social Ride

For as much of a bike town as Austin wishes itself to be, the amount of car traffic on city streets is harrowing. Social cycling (in general, and Social Cycling, the group) is a safety-in-numbers scheme designed to increase bike riders' comfort-levels and chance of survival on the sometimes mean streets. Visibility is key. The more riders there are, the more riders are seen. And the more riders are seen, the safer and more politically supported they're likely to be, come time for funding allocations. Plus, there is no better place in this town to get such an eyeful of God-bless-American booty: every size, shape, and hue.

Social Cycling Austin, www.fb.com

Best Sports Venue
Dell Diamond

The house that Nolan Ryan and family built is home to Round Rock Express baseball. But people visit Dell Diamond for the experience: the kiss cam, kids doing stunts for free pizza, a rock wall, loud cheesy old rock & roll, and deliciously overpriced vittles like the James Dean hot dog with bleu cheese and the Elvis deep-fried peanut butter/banana. Catch a foul ball and grin while the kids pose with Spike, the Express Mascot. ’Merica!

Dell Diamond, 3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock, 512/255-2255, roundrock.express.milb.com

Best Swimming
Barton Springs

When you first move to Austin it seems like all people talk about is Barton Springs. It's like, "Okay, okay, we get it: Austin is home to a three-acre spring-fed pool that maintains an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, ideal for year-round swimming. Cool." And then you go there (for only $3, mind you) and suddenly you're a mermaid swimming amongst the most interesting breeds of people, fish, and turtles. If you're really lucky, you'll bump into a Barton Springs salamander. The water is freezing, and there is a man doing yoga in his Speedo on the edge of the pool, but it all just adds to the experience. You've lost count of all the different types of the tattoos you've seen, and a single tear runs down your face when you realize that you'll have to leave when it closes. Everything everyone told you about this place is true. You tuck yourself into bed that night still warm from the Texas sun and the feeling of finally knowing what it means to be a lover of Barton Springs – cozy in the truth that you are now a true Austinite.

Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Rd., 512/867-3080, www.austintexas.gov

Best Yoga/Pilates
Black Swan Yoga

Looking to work up a sweat, but can’t handle another gym session? Black Swan Yoga is the answer to your calorie-burning prayers. With four levels of perspiration persuasion (class options), everyone from the newbs to the yogis can find a practice that fits the flow. After a couple of classes you’ll be tree-posing with the best and bendier than the typical pretzel, not to mention more Zenned out.

Black Swan Yoga, 403 Orchard, 512/710-5131, blackswanyoga.com

Black Swan Yoga Westgate, 4534 West Gate Blvd., 512/630-2332, blackswanyoga.com

Black Swan Yoga, 12636 Research, 512/630-2332, blackswanyoga.com

Best Annual Festival
Austin City Limits

Every spring now, like clockwork, news of the fall's ACL festival lineup hits the Internet-o-sphere, and the populace goes apeshit. Who wouldn't with the concatenation of class-act acts both world-renowned (Outkast, Belle & Sebastian) and soon-to-be-world-renowned (Mø, Von Grey). Truth be told, we buy our tickets early-bird, because, what? Like ACL Fest would ever disappoint? Pshaw. And like clockwork, we get to gloat that we're already going.

Austin City Limits Music Festival, 300 W 6th Ste. 2100, 512/478-7211, www.aclfestival.com

Best Basketball Court
Shipe Park

Whether your skill level is H-O-R-S-E or you hit the court every afternoon for intense pick-up games and mad dunking sessions (those exist, right?), you will love this clean and centrally located court in Hyde Park. Sure, the court sees plenty of players, but in this case, that’s a good thing.

Shipe Park, 4400 Avenue G, www.shipepark.org

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

A rainbow-hued, carpeted horizon depicts bowling pins, flung every which way by a sentinel army of bowling balls quixotically placed in 10-pin arrangements. You wonder why the bowling balls have suddenly substituted the pins – some kind of psychological remark on the nature of power and skills mastery, maybe? Then someone taps you on the shoulder, "Hey! You're up!"

Dart Bowl, 5700 Grover, 512/452-2518, www.dartbowl.com

Best Cheap Thrill
Peter Pan Mini Golf

We'll save you the Mastercard parody (which is funny because Peter Pan doesn't accept plastic), but just know that the dollar amount that you'll pay to play mini-golf amongst the iconic plaster and concrete "sculptures" of this two-course mainstay is inversely proportionate to the amount of fun you're likely to have. Unless you're dead inside. In which case, what's the point of even living anymore? We'll tell you: Peter Pan is always BYOB. Priceless!

Peter Pan Mini-Golf, 1207 Barton Springs Rd., 512/472-1033, www.peterpanminigolf.com

Best Day Trip (Dry)
Enchanted Rock

Someone once promised us a picnic at Enchanted Rock. Promises unfulfilled, it never happened. That’s all right, the 62-mile batholith is perfectly trekked in solitary contentment. Stargazing, rock climbing, and fairy shrimp all balanced on a pink granite mound, it’s truly a spiritual experience. Charged by the forces of campfires and healing properties, Enchanted Rock remains the quintessential Hill Country day trip.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 16710 RR 965, Fredericksburg, 830/685-3636, www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Best Day Trip (Wet)
Hamilton Pool

Holy heaven on Earth, Batman! Just over 20 miles from town this triple-threat winner – a natural swimming hole just off the Pedernales River – offers a rich oasis of vegetation and wildlife with a limestone grotto nestled in a gorgeous protected habitat, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Pack a lunch, walk the trails down to the beach area, and spend the day at one of Central Texas’ most cherished outdoor adventure spots. When the water levels are copacetic, a 50-foot waterfall rushes down, but even in the heat of summer, there’s plenty of water in which to play. It's ingrained in local folklore and has been featured in films, so you’d better get there early, because this secret Batcave fills up.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, 512/264-2740, www.parks.traviscountytx.gov

Best Escape
Hamilton Pool

Holy heaven on Earth, Batman! Just over 20 miles from town, this triple-threat winner – a natural swimming hole just off the Pedernales River – offers a rich oasis of vegetation and wildlife with a limestone grotto nestled in a gorgeous protected habitat, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Pack a lunch, walk the trails down to the beach area, and spend the day at one of Central Texas’ most cherished outdoor adventure spots. When the water levels are copacetic, a 50-foot waterfall rushes down, but even in the heat of summer, there’s plenty of water in which to play. It's ingrained in local folklore and has been featured in films, so you’d better get there early, because this secret Batcave fills up.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, 512/264-2740, www.parks.traviscountytx.gov

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
REI

REI is one of those stores where "popping in and out" is not an option – whether you're outfitting for a trek across the country, embracing nature for a weekend camping trip, or just feel like fueling your well-worn travel fantasy. Get to talking with one of the knowledgeable staff and the afternoon will be gone before you know it.

REI, 601 N. Lamar, 512/482-3357, www.rei.com

REI, 9901 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 512/343-5550, www.rei.com

REI, 201 University Oaks, Round Rock, 512/255-1938

Best Golf
Topgolf

It's golf in your own private bull pen without the pain and $uffering of a private country club – kinda like your own bowling lane or karaoke room. So grab your gang, and claim your own waitstaff-attended bay. Hit a golf ball at the colored target, and enjoy a drink. Topgolf stands for "Target Oriented Practice Golf." You set the pace. You choose the shots. For putt's sake, you are at Topgolf. It is no surprise this Dallas HQ'd entertainment empire – with locations across the country and across the pond – is on our readers' map for backswing shenanigans and pure fairway fun.

Topgolf, 2700 Esperanza Crossing, 512/222-5950, www.topgolf.com

Best Place to Camp
Inks Lake

It’s a Colorado River reservoir, so this Hill Country superstar boasts constant water levels and scenic backdrops, including a waterfall. Primitive, hike-in camping sites are awesome and available with a reservation, but there are also air-conditioned accommodations for the more cabin-inclined. Hiking, boating, swimming, and both pier and shoreline fishing are favorite pastimes; special activities like moonlight paddling happen on the regular. Go outside!

Inks Lake State Park, 3630 Park Road 4 W., Inks Lake, 512/793-2223, www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Best Place to Skate
Playland

This returning victor is about to get tricked out with a new wooden floor, so we're fairly certain we'll see it back in this winner's slot for years to come. Playland features a playscape for kids and offers day care, lessons, parties, Sk8 4 Fitness Fridays, and fundraiser options for schools, churches, and charities. Adult night is Tuesday, after 7pm. Fortunately nearby Austin Beerworks is closed on Tuedays so there is little risk of skaters rolling over and forgetting to return their rentals.

Playland Skate Center, 8822 McCann, 512/452-1901, www.playlandskatecenter.net

Best Place to Tube
San Marcos

We're always surprised that the professors at Texas State University in San Marcos don't show up to the first day of classes in the fall with gnarly tan lines, a Lion's Club inner tube strapped around their waists, faintly smelling of beer. If we were a professor, that's how we'd roll. Which is probably why we're not … anymore.

Tube San Marcos, 170 Charles Austin, San Marcos, 512/396-5466, www.tubesanmarcos.com

Best Pool/Billiards
The Grand

There ain’t no frills, and that’s just the way we like it. It’s a field of fun at this longtime late-night institution: Tons of pool tables, arcade games, a jukebox, dartboards, pizza, draft beers, and great specials on billiards and drinks create a dive after our own dark little pool-hall hearts.

The Grand, 4631 Airport, 512/454-1986

Best Scenic Drive
RM 2222

We like to turn left onto 2222 coming off of the dramatic decline from Spicewood Springs Road. Used to be that you could look out onto the rolling hills of West Austin without seeing nary a McMansion in sight – and that's painfully not so anymore. Still, if you follow the advice of brilliant lyricist Chamillionaire and "Keep Drivin," you'll suddenly feel like you're in an altogether different, and older, Austin.

Best Social Bike Ride
Thursday Night Social Ride

One can hardly sip a martini from a patio on the first day of the weekend without seeing this horde of cyclists whir by. Luckily, you’re invited. Perfect for making new friends or meeting up with the tried-and-trues, the Thursday Night Social Ride is a veritable union of cycling and synergy. Thursday is the new Friday after all.

Social Cycling Austin, www.fb.com

Best Swimming Hole
Hamilton Pool

Holy heaven on Earth, Batman! Just over 20 miles from town, this triple-threat winner – a natural swimming hole just off the Pedernales River – offers a rich oasis of vegetation and wildlife with a limestone grotto nestled in a gorgeous protected habitat, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Pack a lunch, walk the trails down to the beach area, and spend the day at one of Central Texas’ most cherished outdoor adventure spots. When the water levels are copacetic, a 50-foot waterfall rushes down, but even in the heat of summer, there’s plenty of water in which to play. It's ingrained in local folklore and has been featured in films, so you’d better get there early, because this secret Batcave fills up.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, 512/264-2740, www.parks.traviscountytx.gov

Best Swimming Pool
Barton Springs

Enjoy howling at the moon? Love a good LARP? How about just a dunk into (what seems like) icy water on a sultry summer night? Okay, fine, this is a great place to go by daylight too. Right across Lady Bird Lake from downtown, this is the spot for that midday swim we wouldn't recommend attempting in the lake. With nearby picnic tables and a toot-toot tour aboard the Zilker Zephyr handy, the springs make for an excellent family outing as well. But when the sun goes down and the admission follows suit, Barton is Austin's nightswim nirvana.

Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Rd., 512/867-3080, www.austintexas.gov

Best Tennis Court
Caswell Tennis Center

Game, set, and match, no other tennis courts have dominated over half of the Best Tennis Court "Best of Austin"s throughout the years as has Caswell. Makes sense, what with their eight well-lit courts and reasonable fees (reservations recommended). Even if your game is more fetch than fire, they've got friendly pros that'll get you in the know, and clean courts are aplenty. Competitors, you got served.

Caswell Tennis Center, 2312 Shoal Creek Blvd., 512/478-6268, www.lovetennis4caswell.com

Best Yoga/Pilates
Yoga Yoga

We hope you know, Austin, that you are spoiled in this category. Yoga Yoga's hook from the very beginning was to offer several styles of yoga under the same roof (something which is now commonplace, but not so in 1997 when Yoga Yoga opened a space on South Lamar). In this way, the kundalini yogi and the hatha yogi can all go to the same studio, connecting through practice and a shared sense of community.

Yoga Yoga, 4477 S. Lamar #420, 512/358-1200, www.yogayoga.com

Yoga Yoga, 1700 S. Lamar, 512/358-1200, www.yogayoga.com

Yoga Yoga, 2167 Anderson, 512/380-9800, www.yogayoga.com

2 more locations

Best Annual Festival
Austin City Limits Festival

Since 2002, ACL has merged local acts like T-Bird & the Breaks with stratospheric stars like David Byrne and Elvis Costello in Zilker Park for three days every fall. Celebs are spotted sweating alongside dancing fans in the sea of thousands, surrounded by a perimeter lined with beer and local food vendors, and aftershows pepper Downtown venues. Drawing an audience of approximately 75,000 per day, this year ACL Fest, under the management of Austin-based C3 Presents will go double or nothing with two music-filled weekends.

Austin City Limits Music Festival, 300 W 6th Ste. 2100, 512/478-7211, www.aclfestival.com

Best Austin Holiday
Eeyore's Birthday

Once a year, Pease Park becomes the Hundred Stoner Woods in celebration of Eeyore's Birthday. All sorts of party animals come out of their gloomy place to drink milk and honey and be merry one sunny day a year. All tomorrow's parties should be just like this spring fling of joy. Don't forget your useful honey ... pot.

Pease Park, 1100 Kingsbury, 512/974-6700, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Basketball Court
Shipe Park

You got game? Do you wish for a swish? Then bounce to where the ballers, shot callers, and cheerleaders hold court, right there in the heart of Hyde Park. Next time you get a basketball jones, Shipe Park is a slam dunk choice for pounding the pavement. Score.

Shipe Park, 4400 Avenue G, www.shipepark.org

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

To some, all bowling alleys look the same and smell like feet. But those in the know go to Dart Bowl, tucked away behind McCallum High School, for its smooth lanes, bustling league nights, and totally reasonable rates. As an added bonus, the guys in the pro shop are knowledgeable and caring, and the enchiladas (served in cast iron, of course) are some of the best in town.

Dart Bowl, 5700 Grover, 512/452-2518, www.dartbowl.com

Best Day Trip - Dry
Enchanted Rock

Get high on life at Enchanted Rock, 425 feet above ground, to be precise. But be sure to wear comfortable climbing shoes, definitely not flip-flops, or run the risk of being swept down the pink granite boulder like we almost were, or swept up in the mysticism that surrounds the rock's history. Hearing unexplained creaking, the Tonkawa believed ghosts hung around the rock and heard unexplained creaking. There are also stories of alleged sacrifices on the rock, and bad juju may or may not befall you if you climb to the top with ill intent or drink from/swim in the pools on top of the rock.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 16710 RR 965, Fredericksburg, 830/685-3636, www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Best Day Trip - Wet
Hamilton Pool

This iconic Texas stunner is the swimming hole that launched a thousand Google image searches. One part geological wonder and one part enchanted watery grotto, Hamilton Pool is a truly unique place to explore. As a historic preserve, the area is well-maintained and home to many species of bird and plant life. Swim under the waterfall, commune with a turtle, or just gaze into the jade green water. Go early, go often.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, 512/264-2740, www.parks.traviscountytx.gov

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
REI

If you love cool gear as much as you love doing cool stuff, REI is the go-to resource for outfitting your next excursion. In fact, just browsing at REI is so fun and exciting, when you leave the store it's almost like you're all ready to go home and relax instead of going out into the woods (but you really should go into the woods, you bum).

REI, 201 University Oaks, Round Rock, 512/255-1938

REI, 9901 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 512/343-5550, www.rei.com

REI, 601 N. Lamar, 512/482-3357, www.rei.com

Best Golf
TopGolf

TopGolf is shaking up the sport à la Happy Gilmore – minus the beer bongs and Bob Barker brawls. This isn’t Bagger Vance territory, golf enthusiasts and their friends can practice their drive and short game while winding down with a few drinks on any given night. You can also challenge each other to specific games like TopScore, TopChip, and TopPressure – just to make the night more interesting.

Topgolf, 2700 Esperanza Crossing, 512/222-5950, www.topgolf.com

Best Place to Camp
Krause Springs

Krause Springs is what Texas summer is all about. This magical spring-fed swimming hole/swimming pool/campground boasts lush Cypress trees, a rope swing, sprawling grounds, clean facilities, and a BYOB policy. Waking up here really is spellbinding, so don't blame us if you want to change your name to Unicorn Windchime Sunbeam and live under the Krause waterfall in the cave with all the fairies. (We did mention there are fairies, right?)

Krause Springs, Spicewood, 830/693-4181, www.krausesprings.net

Best Place to Skate
Playland Skate Center

Happy 40th, Playland! We imagine your sheeny shiny skate surface in 1973, holding up the likes of teens on dates, holding hands, rolling to Melanie's "Brand New Key." Sure, nowadays we're more likely to hear Ke$ha, but you know, the more things change ... When we circumambu-skate around that mirrored quad, for a brief moment, it's 1973.

Playland Skate Center, 8822 McCann, 512/452-1901, www.playlandskatecenter.net

Best Place to Tube
Comal River

The laid-back Comal really is the ideal tubing river. The float is easy, the shuttles are convenient, and you can pick and choose your in-and-out points to create your most perfect lazy-day float. The banks are lined with Cypress, the water is cool, and you've got nothing to do but float, float on.

Comal River, New Braunfels, www.ci.new-braunfels.tx.us

Best Pool/Billiards
The Grand

I'm broke but I'm happy, but everything is gonna be fine, because I got one ball in the pocket and the other one is giving a high five down at the Grand. You don't need to be a baller to play ball at Austin's favorite pool hall. If you enjoy a nice rack and think pool is cool then that's your cue to chalk it up at the Grand.

The Grand, 4631 Airport, 512/454-1986

Best Romantic Escape
Fredericksburg

Need a getaway? Fredericksburg is just 80 miles west of Austin and is a romantic’s oasis. With no shortage of bed & breakfasts and with over 30 wineries in and around the city, grab your partner and head to the Hill Country. Stroll hand in hand down Main Street, sipping your favorite brew. Pop into Hondo’s for some live music or take a 15-minute drive to Luckenbach. Apologies to the state of Virginia, but Fredericksburg is for lovers.

Fredericksburg, www.fbgtx.org

Best Scenic View
Mount Bonnell

Whether it be the big, blue Texas sky, the majestic Colorado River, the Austin skyline, or some pretty sweet McMansions, the Mount Bonnell view never disappoints. This is the perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset as you soak in the breathtaking sights. Views like these are what make Texans proud!

Mount Bonnell at Covert Park, 3851 Mount Bonnell Dr., 512/974-6700

Readers: Media
Readers: Politics & Personalities
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)