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Outdoors & Recreation

Best Body Slam
Inspire Pro Wrestling

photo by David Brendan Hall

The French philosopher Roland Barthes described professional wrestling – or, as he called it, true wrestling – as the battle of good against evil. Inspire Pro Wrestling is winning a different battle. They’re getting one of America’s greatest, purest forms of physical spectacle and drama taken seriously. Creative Director Max Meehan has gathered the best grapplers, bruisers, and high-flyers from Texas and beyond, filling the Marchesa Hall with screaming crowds. After two years, Inspire has become a promotion that wrestlers from around the globe praise for its dedication to excellence. And that’s inspirational.

Inspire Pro Wrestling, inspireprowrestling.com

Best Choo Choo Ch'Boogie
Austin Steam Train Association

America's romance with rail can sometimes seem an odd and fickle fling, as old modes give way to new. Here in Central Texas, however, the Austin Steam Train Association keeps the trains running on time in a living history museum of real-life rail cars and engines restored to their former glory: a fully operational leisure rail system to afford glimpses into the past along routes of the present, featuring regular treks like the Hill Country Flyer and Bertram Flyer and special event excursions celebrating various themes and holidays. Volunteers here are not mere docents, they are conductors, engineers, and tradespeople restoring decades- and centuries-old rigs and their love of history is as deep as the roots they honor. Their passion is 100% can-do and their only wish is to share it all with everyone. All aboard!

Austin Steam Train, 401 E. Whitestone Blvd., Ste. C-100, Cedar Park, 512/477-8468, www.austinsteamtrain.org

Best Colony of Flying Creatures, Non-Bat
Swift Fest and the Jonestown Cistern

Behind a Jonestown realty office stands a structure altogether unremarkable in its utility. The 16-feet tall and 10-feet in diameter concrete cylinder looks like what it was built to be – a cistern. Arrive at dusk in the late summer months, however, and you'll see it transform, as hundreds of chimney swifts nosedive into the free-standing structure after a long day hunting insects. They're not here to stay, only on their migratory way to the Amazon Basin. But Jonestown residents are so smitten with their swift friends that in 2012 the city began Swift Fest (say that 10 times fast) in their honor. A cautionary note for swift friends heading up from Austin: Beware of that speed trap.

Swift Fest, 18649 FM1431, Jonestown, 512/339-9432, www.swiftfest-jonestown.com

Best Date Spot for You and Your Pup
Yard Bar

No more feeling guilty when going out for drinks leaving Pickles alone at home. You can both meet your friends or make new ones at this wonderful new spot, featuring playgrounds with agility equipment and clean water bowls where dogs of all sizes can play to their hearts' content. Trained "Bark Rangers" take care of scooping duties and watching the pups while you relax with a cold local brew, a glass of wine, or a signature cocktail paired with tasty backyard fare. You can sign up for an annual membership or pay as you go. Two paws up for Yard Bar!

Yard Bar, 6700 Burnet Rd., 512/900-3773, www.yardbar.com

Best Hidden Hike (in the Middle of the City)
Blunn Creek Nature Preserve

photo by Sandy Carson

Most of Austin knows our green space is pretty great, which is why it can be a difficult place to hike in solitude. The Blunn Creek Nature Preserve is the perfect alternative for adventurers who want to be one – and not one of many – with the outdoors. Tucked between Travis Heights and St. Edward's University, it's an in-town hike that nonetheless feels like a Hill Country retreat. With fields of wildflowers, gurgling streams, and picturesque bluffs, Blunn Creek is the perfect place to not really get away.

Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, 1200 St. Edward's Drive, 512/480-3060

Best Karaoke at a Bike Shop
Windmill Bicycles

photo by Jana Birchum

Brother-and-sister team Aaron and Sarah Goeth are not only co-owners of this friendly full-service retail bicycle shop, but are also bandmates, movie-night curators, and karaoke hosts with the mosts. BYOB and BYO rendition of Queen's "Bicycle Race" – or just go with perpetual crowd-pleaser "Bohemian Rhapsody." Check their Facebook page to see when these open-to-the-public showdowns go down, and scope out their great selection of refurbished vintage bicycles while waiting for your turn to croon.

Windmill Bicycles, 2209-B Manor Rd., 512/215-2395, www.windmillbicycles.com

Best Pool With a View
The High Road

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

The High Road on Dawson resides in the old Elks Lodge. One of the main attractions is the pool that overlooks Downtown. If the pool could talk, it could tell the history of Austin's skyline. The club has hosted a Fourth of July pool party since the pool was built in the late Fifties. This year's pool party was packed with young and old, neighbors and the famous, hipsters and conservatives alike, as the crowd ooooh'd and ahhhh'd as the city of Austin displayed fireworks over Ladybird Lake. Open year round, the pool is maintained by member volunteers.

High Road on Dawson, 700 Dawson, 512/442-8535, thehighroadondawson.com

Best Squeeze
Texas Folklife's Big Squeeze Accordion Contest Finals

Lone Star living teaches us that accordions rock as hard as guitars. Texas Folklife’s ninth annual Big Squeeze Accordion Contest Finals at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in June summoned the next generation of native firestarters. Finalists plucked from around the state by Austin’s nonprofit roots preservationists, button pushers 21 and younger pumped their wheezy squeezes for top honors in polka, zydeco, and conjunto categories. The sea of family, friends, and headlining genre queen Eva Ybarra did the rest, raising such a joyful community clatter that local history was made.

Texas Folklife Resources Office, 1708 Houston St., 512/441-9255, www.texasfolklife.org

Best Trap and Skeet Range
Capitol City Trap & Skeet Club

photo by David Brendan Hall

Located minutes east off of 290, Capitol City Trap & Skeet Club is the most convenient place to take out your everyday frustrations on some bright orange clay birds. Trap and Skeet are an American and Texas tradition, and Capitol City offers a friendly, fun, and welcoming place to participate in a sport centuries old. Capitol City has multiple traditional trap and skeet towers as well as a unique course that wraps around the property. The towers are good for beginners because they offer consistent targets. The course is a fun step up for intermediate and expert shooters, with each station launching targets in different directions, traveling at varying speeds. You’re sure to catch “the fever” after shooting at Capitol City.

Capitol City Trap & Skeet Club, 8707 Lindell, 512/272-4707, www.capitolclays.com

Best Vacation Flood Relief
Take a Central Texas Staycation

Need a break? Why not funnel vacation dollars into our own backyard to aid neighbors affected by the Memorial Weekend floods? A list of recommendations could easily take pages; for this award, we'll name-check a few resources to get you started:
• Martindale: When the wild hustle and bustle of San Marcos and Gruene are too much, but you still wish to be a stone's throw, consider going east for a float down the San Marcos River.
• Taylor: Home of the legendary Louie Mueller Barbecue. Need we say more?
• Bastrop: Yes, wildfire-recovering Bastrop was hit by the floods as well, especially Bastrop State Park, which is open for business.
• Blanco: The Austin Steam Train goes to Blanco, and there's plenty to do, including the town square and Blanco River State Park.
• San Marcos: The last few weeks of good tubing and Texas State Bobcat sports top the fall. Plus, this mini-Austin is as live-music loving as we are.
• Wimberley: One of the sweetest collections of bed & breakfasts and non-chain accommodations in Texas and our area artists' colony always offers a magical getaway.

City of Martindale, 409 Main St., Martindale, 512/357-2639, www.martindaletexas.org

Taylor Chamber of Commerce, 1519 N. Main St., Taylor, 512/352-6364, www.taylorchamber.org

Blanco Chamber of Commerce, 312 Pecan St., Blanco, 830/833-5101, www.blancotex.com

4 more locations

Best Venture Point in Point Venture
The Gnarly Gar

Floating right atop Lake Travis is a waystation for wayward Austinites. Steer your ship into one of many boatslips between mile markers 16 and 17 (across from the Lakeway Resort and Spa), or drive ’n' walk, it don't matter! What awaits is a dockful of food, music, and a roiling, tumbling, mess o' catfish. Speaking of … what is their precise geometry as they fight for your food and attention? A knot? A ball? A hypercube? We don't rightly know the answer to that, but they'll keep you and any kids you might bring entertained for a solid hour. And remember to keep a close eye on your young'uns while you sit ’n' sip, as the proprietors promise to give unattended minors "a double espresso and a free puppy to take home."

The Gnarly Gar, 18200 Lakepoint Cove, Point Venture, 512/267-1845, www.gnarlygar.com

Best Way to Grow a Garden in a Drought
Dripping Springs Ollas

Ancient indigenous agriculture cultures used to make a practice of burying unglazed, porous clay pots called ollas (pronounced “oyas”) to water their vegetable gardens. Fast forward several centuries: Two military wives have brought back the idea to drought-stricken Texas. Instead of watering by sprinkler or hose, gardeners plant the ollas, fill them with water once or twice a week, and let the plant roots draw the moisture from the vessels. Available at finer gardening and hardware stores.

Dripping Springs Ollas, 512/227-4048, www.drippingspringsollas.com

Best Weekday Secret
Bull Creek District Park

photo by John Leach

These 11 miles of limestone waters mark the best-kept secret weekday getaway. There are dozens of trails, boulders, cliffs, seeps, springs, and waterways to satisfy your inner Yogi Bear, and little to no crowds if you go on a Monday or Tuesday. Have the kids (or very skinny adults) slide down the small channeled waterfalls, and check out the "secret area" – just look for the concrete stairs. Use the park entrance by Xiang Yun Temple on Loop 360.

Bull Creek District Park, 6701 Lakewood, www.austinparks.org

Most Formidable Footpath
Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Walkway

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

She may not be as vaunted or glamorous as her younger sibling to the east (the James D. Pfluger), but the Crenshaw's got it going on! This veritable runners runway – a trail suitable for casual stroller, dog trotter, power walker, and marathon maniac alike – that runs under MoPac near Zilker Park, is named for environmental activist and visionary Roberta Crenshaw, whose efforts to stave off showy circus-like initiatives and encroaching development introduced the notion that Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake in her day) could be a peaceful, in-town respite. Though Ms. Crenshaw passed in 2005, when she was here, she walked with giants like Lady Bird Johnson and made sure we all had a place to enjoy the bounty that's right under our feet.

Austin PARD, 200 S. Lamar, 512/974-6700, www.austintexas.gov/parks

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

photo by Sandy Carson

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/department/barton-springs-pool

Best Day Trip
Fredericksburg

photo by Chris Litherland/CC BY-SA 3.0

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

photo by Shelley Hiam

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

photo by David Brendan Hall

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

photo by Chris Litherland/CC BY-SA 3.0

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

photo by Sandy Carson

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/groups/socialcyclingaustin

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/index.jsp?sid=t102

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/department/barton-springs-pool

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 Westgate, 4534 West Gate Blvd., 512/630-2332, www.blackswanyoga.com

Black Swan Yoga, 1417 W. Anderson, 512/361-7187, www.blackswanyoga.com

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

Best Bald Spot
Mount Baldy

Sleek stone steps lead to panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country atop Mount Baldy aka Prayer Mountain aka Old Baldy. "Baldy" is somewhat deceiving because the mount sports generous patches of numerous tree varieties. Located just outside of Wimberley, this nature escape closed to the public indefinitely and was purchased a few years ago by the local City Gate Church (which blessed it "Prayer Mountain"). Apparently, City Gate's prayers were answered when buyers purchased the property the congregation could no longer take care of. If the mountain's three names weren't confusing enough, the land exchange stems to 1900, when Mount Baldy and its nearby fair-haired sister mountain were purchased by the Lowery family and dubbed Edith and Edna, respectively.

Best Hoedown
San Marcos Community Garden

The San Marcos Neighborhood Gardens project works to cultivate community bonds by providing training, resources, and space to grow organic food, flowers, and herbs (the kind you eat). It's not quite a hoedown, though hoes are welcome, but a space located in the city's Dunbar Historic District that contains private plots for local residents, as well as two plots reserved for donation to the Hays County Food Bank. We give it a big "Best of Austin" green thumb of approval. Way to grow, San Marcos!

San Marcos Community Garden, San Marcos, www.sustainablesanmarcos.org

Best Improved Entry to the Soul of Austin
Barton Springs Southside

Entering the waters of Barton Springs Pool has always provided a thrilling jolt, whether one inches slowly in from steps or a ramp or plunges in recklessly from the diving board or deep end. Entering the grounds from the South entrance, however, used to be an experience more akin to a revisit to the Dust Bowl than a gateway to paradise. But not any more. The newly landscaped hillside, environmentally sensitive parking lot, and ADA pathway have transformed the Robert E. Lee Road entry into a pastoral setting worthy of the pool it serves. The whole pool experience has been revitalized as a result: The hillside has been extended to include massive trees protected by tended rings of mulch, janky overhead power lines are gone, providing an unobstructed view of the stately Texas sky, and a thoughtfully terraced wheelchair ramp/path provides poolside access where there was once erosion blighted, barren dirt hillside. Friends of Barton Springs take a bow, or better yet: a dip!

Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Rd., 512/867-3080, www.austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool

Friends of Barton Springs Pool, Friends of Barton Springs Pool, www.friendsofbartonspringspool.org

Best Lover's Wake-Up Caw
The Peacocks at Mayfield Park

photo by Bret Brookshire

When we think "peacock," and earnestly try to suppress the traumatic visual of pre-tweens bobbing their necks to that filthy filthy Katy Perry song, we think of the 100 eyes of Argus. They see all. Truly. Hera (you know, Zeus' wife) knew that, and as a tribute to her loyal 100-eyed watchdog pal, placed those eyes on the plumes of her favorite bird, the noble peacock. We lie. We actually think of finding a shady spot near the cottage at Mayfield Park and spreading out a blanket. On that blanket, we place pillows, bottles, and a basket of tempting treats intended for tempting intendeds. 1-2-3. That's it. We lay out our bounty and just wait. It's a pretty simple formula, and, trust us, one that works. Your beloved, fully rested and sated by your thoughtful offerings will be a-slumber (or something…) in your arms in no time. And don't worry, Casanova, you won't snooze through curfew. Peacocks are pretty freakin' loud. And curious. Actually, they're downright nosy. Just watch out for the 100 eyes of Argus. They really do see all.

Mayfield Park & Preserve, 3505 W. 35th, 512/974-6700, www.cityofaustin.org/parks

Best Most Intense (Lost) Tennis Face
Beverly Bowes

photo by Kate X Messer

The resolve! The focus! That lip! That hair! For years we'd been meaning to give this face an award. On the day we had enough time to pull over and really check her out, construction barricades were up and demolition crews were mowing down her residence, the UT Tennis Center on Trinity. So yes, this award is posthumous – well, to the mural, not to the person. Just the teeniest bit of digging yielded details about the identity of this awesome Eighties UT tennis wiz. She's Beverly Bowes, 1987 Southwest Conference Player of the Year. After spending most of the Nineties in Florida (Palm Beach County re-pruh-zent!) Bowes returned to Austin a pro (Lost Creek Country Club), then in the 2000s, returned to college sports as coach, first at Southern Methodist, then back to her alma mater UT. Now she offers private coaching, consultation, and public speaking on all things tennis. We're going to miss her on our Trinity drive-bys, but we'll never forget that face.

UT Women's Tennis, 403 E. 23rd, www.texassports.com

Best New Eastside Respite
Bartholomew Pool Renovation

photo by Lizzie Jespersen

With the Texas sun blazing and Austin humidity sticking, it's easy to want to spend summer hidden away in the cool embrace of an air-conditioning unit. We get it. Unfortunately, your kids probably don't. When they drag you wide-eyed and blinking into the sunlight, steer them in the direction of Bartholomew Pool and all of its renovated, newly opened glory. Between the winding waterslide duo, frog slide, "lily pad" obstacle course, and diving board, the whole family will find something to keep them occupied, wet, and happy.

Bartholomew Pool, 1800 E. 51st, 512/974-9332, www.austintexas.gov

Best New Path Through the Woods
Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Austin’s longest paved hike-and-bike trail opened in August, and it’s a winner. Covering more the seven miles from Govalle Park east of Downtown to Lindell Lane just shy of U.S. 290 in Northeast Austin, it follows the shaded creek bed most of the way. Perfect for all skill levels of bicyclists, walkers, and joggers, the trail has already become a popular way to avoid the traffic-clogged automobile arteries.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail, 512/974-7142, www.austintexas.gov

Best New Way to Avoid I-35
The Boardwalk Trail at Lady Bird Lake

photo by Sandy Carson

Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Trail Foundation and Austin Parks & Recreation Department, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail no longer forces pedestrians and cyclists to meander up the sidewalks of Riverside Drive to cross I-35 at one of the busiest intersections in town for the sake of a jolly jaunt round the lake. Nay, explorers can loop the landmark lake from MoPac to the dam at Pleasant Valley Drive nearly oblivious to the traffic havoc nearby, and the planned eastern pedestrian bridge will pretty much banish sight of the automobile from one's stroll.

Hike & Bike Trail, Austin PARD, 512/499-6700, www.austintexas.gov

Best Resort Repurposing
Schlitterbahn's Bastrop Timber Initiative

Next time you're hanging out at Schlitterbahn's Treehaus Luxury Suites, pick up one of the bar stools. Yeah. So, after you recover from that hernia, we bet you'll say to yourself, "Geeeez, that thing's a tree trunk!" Well, guess what? That thing's a tree trunk. After the decimation of acres and acres of gorgeous Texas timber in the 2011 Bastrop County Complex fire – the largest and most destructive in the state's history – SchlitterJefe Jeff Henry figured the ambitious building projects of his empire of waterparks might be able to put that languishing resource to good use, in the spirit of reclamation, to honor the loss. And what reclamation. And it's not just bar stools. It's siding. It's end tables. It's bar tops. It's support beams. It's now integrated into pretty much everything the Schlitterbrand builds. What's next? Decommissioned oil rigs? Don't get him started….

Schlitterbahn, 381 E. Austin St., New Braunfels, 830/625-2351, www.schlitterbahn.com

Visit Lost Pines, www.visitlostpines.com

Best Self-Guided Stump Tour
The Self-Guided Stump Tour

New Rule: Create a one-tree self-guided stump tour and advertise it as a "Best of Austin" winner and have us come upon it entirely organically, and we’ll throw a complimentary "Best of Austin" award your way. Transcribed from above photo: “2nd Annual Self-Guided Stump Tour. ‘Chronicle’ Best Stump Tour!” Congratulations, y’all. You most surely deserve it.

Self-Guided Stump Tour, 4300 Avenue F

Best Skate Coach
Sonny Felter

photo by Sandy Carson

Competitive roller sports exist in Austin because of Sonny Felter. He’s coached the Texas Speed Club to multiple medals and championships, and he taught the first Texas Rollergirls and TXRD Roller Derby how to skate. A hard taskmaster and a loving father figure, Sonny’s sacrificed nights, mornings, and weekends to train speed skaters on quads and inlines, from juniors to veterans, making them faster, stronger, safer. When the U.S. Olympic Committee proclaimed him Roller Sports Developmental Coach of the Year for 2014, they confirmed what we all knew: Sonny has put a smile on every skater’s face.

Sonny Felter, Texas Speed Club, www.texasspeedclub.com

Best Sports Party
World Cup With the Austin Aztex

photo by Jana Birchum

World Cup fever was rampant in Austin this summer, but no one did it bigger or better than our hometown soccer team, who worked with the city to put together a massive outdoor watch party on the Long Center grounds on July 1 for the final U.S. game – drawing a reported 5,000 fans. Within the same month, the Aztex also: announced that they’re going pro next season, with the help of some heavyweight new investors; won the PDL Mid South Division, and hosted the PDL playoffs, both for the second year in a row; and set both regular-season and playoff attendance records in their last games at the amateur level. Onward and upward.

Austin Aztex, 2720 Bee Caves Rd. #220, 512/402-2892, www.austinaztex.com

Best Water ReBirth
Floating Lotus Watsu

You're a dolphin. Or a manatee. And someone else is in control. The body in this environment is not limited by gravity the way it is on dry land. You can be heavy, or clumsy, or in need of physical rehabilitation, and here, be as graceful as a sea creature. Keep your eyes closed; the experience can take you higher. A therapist holds you in the pool, pulling and pushing your body through the water. As you are gently propelled, the gush and rush of the water creates a lullaby like no other. You're a giant baby ready to get born. Balletic. Soaring. Rippling. Invincible. For the better part of the last decade or so, Judy Kegg has immersed herself in the healing practices of the aquatic bodywork known as Watsu. From learning to training, Kegg's mastered the art, and this year, has a pool at the Sol Healing & Wellness Center fit for her vast wealth of Watsu ways. Come on in! The water's wet!

Floating Lotus Watsu, 13805 Ann, 512/522-6569, www.solhealing.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/state-parks/enchanted-rock

Best Day Trip (Wet)
Hamilton Pool

photo by Bret Brookshire

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

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