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2001ReadersOutdoors & Recreation

Best Basketball Court
Gregory Gym

This is a great place to pick up a game of basketball if you have a student ID and you are currently enrolled in classes at UT. Non-Longhorns can either purchase a semester membership for $450 or for a less intimidating rate of $130 with the sponsorship of a UT student or faculty member. If the game doesn't make you sweat, the throngs of hot college coeds might.

University of Texas at Austin, 727 E. Dean Keeton, 512/471-3434, www.utexas.edu

Sarah M. & Charles E. Seay Building, Speedway & Dean Keeton, 512/471-1157

UT Architecture Library, 200 Battle Hall, 512/495-4620

University of Texas Department of Art & Art History, 2301 San Jacinto, 512/475-7718, www.utexas.edu

Best Bike Ride and Best Dog Walk
Town Lake Park

With the northside trail offering pastoral and serene vistas, the southside trail is a bit more adventurous. Whatever side you're on - what could be more enchanting than breezing past swimming swans, fragrant blossoms, and bat guano? For the same reasons that make Town Lake Park the Best Bike Ride, it is also the nicest place to stroll with your canine friends. Populated with generally courteous and law-abiding pet owners, the trail is extraordinarily clean and offers a thousand inviting distractions for Fido ... or Buster ... or Addison.

Town Lake Park, 920 W. Riverside, 512/974-6700, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

"Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks ..." Wait ... that's baseball. Let's try this again: "Buy me enchiladas and fresh-made rolls; I don't care if I never leave Dart Bowl." How can this place not be a classic with its display cases full of bowling memorabilia and a diner that's right up our alley?

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

Best Day Hike
Barton Creek Greenbelt

The Greenbelt may be one of our last connections with the natural plant and animal life of Austin. Sure, we have parks, but the Greenbelt provides an outdoor experience that is a little more rugged but not quite a total wilderness immersion. A hike (or a bike ride) around the Greenbelt can be as exciting as you want it to be and always yields a new surprise.

Barton Creek Greenbelt, Zilker Park to Lost Creek, 512/974-6700, www.ci.austin.tx.us

Twin Falls, and off MoPac, south of Loop 360, north of U.S. 290, 512/974-6700

Best Day Trip
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock has caves for the spelunker, hike-in camping for the outdoors-type, and "mountain" climbing for those who like to play with ropes and pulleys. Most folks just find it a treat to hike all the way up the steep incline to stand and look out from one of the high points in our mostly flat state. During the school months, flocks of school kids can be seen running up the smooth flat side while their less energetic teachers follow along slowly. This is one amusement park that can be taken at your own pace, created by nature, not man.

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

Best Gym/Fitness Facility
World Gym

Don't sweat those late-night tacos - sweat them off instead at any of World Gym's many 24-hour locations. Treadmills, lifecycles, and well-appointed weight rooms await you. And if aerobics and step classes aren't your style, personal training at reasonable prices make this a great gym for the uninitiated. Just do it, baby.

World Gym, 115 E. Sixth, 512/479-0044, www.worldgym.com

Best Local Athlete
Lance Armstrong

Austin is a town that's grown many great athletes, but the story of Lance Armstrong's battle against cancer and subsequent triple triumph, winning the Tour de France in 1999, 2000, and 2001, make him one of the most well-known and respected athletes in the world. We watch and wait to see what 2002 may bring Lance.

Lance Armstrong, Lance Armstrong Foundation, 2201 E. Sixth, www.lancearmstrong.com

Best Local Team
Round Rock Express Baseball Team

Here's a team that knows how to bring out the best in people. Loyal fans turn out by the thousands for every home game, filling baseball's Dell Diamond and the grassy slope beyond. As they did last year, fans broke attendance records again this year, topping out with a 668,792 tally. Talent-wise, the Express has the best record in the Texas League. Sadly, the team was headed into the final leg of a championship series when terrorism struck September 11, silencing fans and forcing the cancellation of the games. But take heart, fans, next season will be here before you know it.

Round Rock Express Baseball Team, 3400 E. Palm Valley,, Round Rock, 512/255-4946

Best Outdoor Gear/Sporting Goods
REI

No jokes about "pitching tents," please. REI has been hammering the stakes and lighting the camp fires, pumping the tires and rowing the boats of our readers for nine years. That's longer than they've been at their current location in the Gateway shopping center. Although the national co-op has been around since 1938, outdoorsy gearheads here in Austin did not get our first taste until 1989, when REI opened its doors on Lamar. Needless to say, they've grown immeasurably (just check out the climbable rock wall for goshsakes!) and have been wowing our readers ever since.

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

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

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

Best Participatory Sport
Disc Golf

Somebody made this sport up. Recently, we mean. They had to have. It's like one of those yard games you and your friends would make up and play for hours. Anything that involves taking a heavy little "flying disc" and throwing it as hard as humanly possible ... well, that sounds more like recreation than sport. Especially when you're stuck in the middle of a big clump of trees and your target is across the valley behind that last hill on the right, and all your friends are laughing, knowing you're gonna be the one who buys the 12-pack tonight. Okay, so it can get pretty damn competitive.

Best Public Golf Course
Lions Municipal Golf Course

One of the busiest golf courses in the state, "Old Muni" opened in 1934 as a civic project of the local Lions Club begun in 1928. At 6,001 yards long, this is a rather short course by modern standards. The narrow fairways and small greens make it a challenge for serious duffers, but forgiving enough for the casual hackers. Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson played exhibition matches here and Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw learned their strokes on the tree-lined course. Austinites recognize the value of having a public golf course 10 minutes from downtown and with green fees less than $20. Weekday tee times are taken one day in advance beginning at 7am.

Lions Municipal Golf Course, 2901 Enfield, 512/477-6963, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Public Sports Venue
Dell Diamond

The Dell Diamond brings it all home with a hot dog, a cold beer, and thou. This sports venue guarantees an enjoyable outing: It's just small enough to be intimate, so no matter where you're seated you've got your eye on the ball. Bring a date, bring the family, bring the whole gang from work. You're bound to get revved up. A trip to the Dell Diamond is worth every mile spent headed north on I-35.

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

Best Skating Rink
Chaparral Ice Capades Chalet, Northcross Mall

Again, amidst a bevy of roller rinks in town, our readers agree: Ice is nice! The sad news is that despite our readers' absolute adoration, and due to the short-sighted blight of "progress," the Northcross location of this ice rink chain is going the way of the Ice Age. Cool off, hot head! Don't chuck your puck just yet. Fortunately, the north location of Chaparral Ice is not melting away in the Texas heat. Their free learn-to-skate nights, Camp Sub Zero, and hockey leagues should be enough to keep you cool, fool.

Chaparral Ice (in Northcross Mall), 2525 W. Anderson, 512/451-5102, www.chaparralice.com

Chaparral Ice, 2525 W. Anderson

Best Spectator Sport
UT Football

Football games are all about the mob fervor. Even for those who don't understand the game, who can resist the appeal of 80,000 people chanting in unison, "Make 'em eat shit!"? The visual impact of those same 80,000 people all decked out in orange and white is equally powerful in transforming even the most sports-hating into a true believer. This unified spirit more than compensates for the aching legs caused by standing for four hours in the student bleachers. The experience is worth it to fans, even if they didn't really see the game at all. Folks seated on the opposite, less rowdy side of the stadium have a better vantage and are able to lean back into their own discrete chairs. The upshot is, everyone enjoys.

University of Texas at Austin, 727 E. Dean Keeton, 512/471-3434, www.utexas.edu

Sarah M. & Charles E. Seay Building, Speedway & Dean Keeton, 512/471-1157

UT Architecture Library, 200 Battle Hall, 512/495-4620

University of Texas Department of Art & Art History, 2301 San Jacinto, 512/475-7718, www.utexas.edu

Best Swimming Hole
Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs is our own private swimming hole, right smack-dab in the middle of Austin. In those long summer months, a dip in Barton Springs is a refreshing respite from the 100-plus-degree temps. And hey, if you get tired of performing your world-famous cannonball off of the diving board, there is always nude sun bathing available in the changing rooms. When you're through frolicking in the Springs, step through the meat grinder-like exit door and all of Zilker Park awaits you.

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

Best Tennis Court
Caswell Tennis Center

It's not surprising that this central tennis center is the favorite; it's had a lot of practice. In operation since 1946, it's the oldest operating tennis facility in the state, and the great location, exceptional education programs, and well-stocked pro shop make it a perfect place for the Austin serve-and-volley crowd.

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

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