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Sports & Recreation

Best Ambassador of Body Positivity
Erica Nix

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Every body needs to get physical sometimes. But all bodies are not necessarily comfortable in all gyms. That's why Erica Nix's brain baby, Transform Fitness, is such a breath of fresh air. Catering to trans, gender-nonconforming, and queer folks with humor and warmth, it's our favorite place to get our blood pumping.

Best Beards on the Flat Track
Austin Anarchy Men's Roller Derby

Call it men's derby. Or merby. Or even dangle derby. For years, Roller Derby – invented in Austin, natch – was solely the domain of female players. So of course, once men started lacing up their skates, Austin would always hit heavy in the pack. After making it to this year's Men's Roller Derby Association national championship, it's a bright future on and off the track.

Best Bird's-Eye View
Dr. Janet Reed of the Monk Parakeets of Austin, Texas

You've no doubt seen the shocks of bright green dappling our city's canvas of nattering grackles, but do you know where they came from? Luckily, Austin wildlife biologist Dr. Janet Reed's Facebook page can answer just about any question about our delightfully odd monk parakeet flocks. There you can find word of new nests, melt over adorable pics, and memorize factoids certain to fill that awkward silence on your next date. How's that for birdwatching?

Best Dirt Alley
Hyde Park/North Loop between Avenues G & H

Something magical happens when you go off the beaten path. Take the stretch that runs from East 56th to East 45th in the Hyde Park/North Loop area. Trees on either side of the alley hang over and shade the caliche, dirt, and crushed gravel. If you walk them at the right time of year, you can forage overhanging figs. An alley cat or two may join you on your journey, but that's all the more reason to take it slow. Point A and point B don't matter so much when you've already arrived.

Best Exercise for People Who Hate Exercising
Grown Folks Step N' Roll

It seems to us that step class was invented by sadists. And we know if the knights of the Crusades had stationary bikes, they surely would have given up on the rack. But as much as we hate anything related to cardio, we still love Step N' Roll at the MYEC. We don't quite have a routine worked out, like the roller boogie pros, but after a few laps of skating we're into the groove, completely forgetting we're burning calories. And honestly, after a few beers, we're probably not.

Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, 1156 Hargrave, 512/472-6932,

Best Facebook Public Group
Does the Greenbelt Have Water?

The brainchild of the brilliant Eastside socialite Becca Hyatt, the public Facebook group answers the question that every outdoorsy Austinite has when they wake up on a clear and hot summer day. In our sun-loving city, it doesn't have to do anything more.

Best Feel-Good Bike Ride
Lend Your Legs: Social Cycling Austin & Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

As if riding your bike didn't already offer enough benefits, this Monday night ride pairs cyclists with visually impaired schoolchildren and a fleet of tandem bicycles to give them the opportunity to experience something they couldn't do on their own. The delight that this social ride bestows to these kiddos is as palpable as the wind in their hair. Volunteers (and tandem bicycle donations) are always welcome, so reach out to the school if you're interested in making a kid's week – or even your own.

Best LGBTQ Sports League
Softball Austin

To paraphrase a perhaps not unrelated movie, there's no crying in softball. So when heavy rains interrupted this year's Gay Softball World Series, host league Softball Austin made the most of it, enlisting volunteers to help clean the fields and making sure the games went on. But even when not handling a crisis, the young organization is still mighty impressive, providing a way for players of any skill level to participate in a fun and non-judgmental environment and setting the stage for lifetime camaraderie. We think they're batting 1,000.

Best Place for Adults Who Miss Chuck E. Cheese
Full Circle Bar

photo by Devaki Knowles

From the free Skee-Ball – that's right, we said free – to the cornhole out back, Full Circle Bar is the best place to feel and act like a kid again. So what if there's no cardboard pizza, and if the creepy mice are only likely to show up on Halloween? There's ample amounts of beer (and sometimes prosecco!) on tap, a large backyard, and plenty of opportunities to impress your latest Bumble date.

Full Circle, 1810 E. 12th

Best Place to Get Lost
Springdale Park

A bizarre mixture of illegal dumping and beautiful trails, Springdale Park sometimes shows up on maps, and sometimes doesn't. But the single-track dirt trails will lead you out to surprisingly breathtaking vistas if you're cool with passing some molding mattresses and shattered TV frames along the way. The trails are a maze of dead ends, loops, and cut-backs, but that's most of the fun.

Best Secret Science Oasis
Austin Nature & Science Center

photo by John Leach

The Barton Springs area hosts a slew of well-known stops for the outdoorsy type, but one of the best recreational hot spots is too often overlooked. The Austin Nature & Science Center is home to a collection of rescued animals, including birds of prey and Texas-native reptiles and amphibians. Water features and native plants line the trails around the exhibits, attracting kaleidoscopes of butterflies. And while the classes and many exhibits are kid-focused, there's plenty for adults to see too – like a bobcat named Moxie and a live honeybee hive. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? That's something to buzz about.

Austin Nature & Science Center, 301 Nature Center Dr., 512/327-8180

Best Smile in the Face of Adversity
Beth English

photo by Jana Birchum

Earlier this year, UT pre-med student Beth English survived a harrowing nightmare. While riding her bicycle home, she was hit by a truck and dragged for half a mile. The trauma cost English her right leg, and the subsequent medical treatment has already eclipsed the million-dollar mark. Yet she still resolves to get back on her bicycle, flashing a seven-figure smile, and inspiring the entire cycling community.

Best Sports Hybrid
Footgolf at Harvey Penick Golf Campus

The name footgolf may sound a little goofy, but they could have called it "folf" or "goccer" or some other equally terrible portmanteau. Whatever the name, it has been our 2016 obsession. Combining the precision of golf with the athleticism of soccer, it's one of the healthiest (and most affordable) ways to while away the weekend.

Harvey Penick Golf Campus, 5501 Ed Bluestein, 512/926-1100

Best Sportsmen
Austin Sol

Austin is a perfect fit for the high-flying sport of ultimate (Frisbee) and the Sol received a warm welcome from the ATX in their inaugural season. SportsCenter-worthy highlights, self-imposed penalties, and high fives represent the spirit and integrity of the game.

Best Team You've Never Heard Of
Austin Crows

We wouldn't blame the Austin Crows for feeling a bit like Rodney Dangerfield. While dealing with broken-down buses and near anonymity in their own hometown, they have quietly racked up back-to-back national titles in the United States Australian Rules Football League with four titles overall, and remain mainstays on the top of national polls. If that's not something to, er, crow about, we don't know what is.

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

Dart Bowl went out of their way year after year to really be welcoming, and affordable, to my kids and staff when I used to coordinate a summer camp for kids with special needs for a local nonprofit. I will be forever appreciative of that. – Shireen Connor

Dart Bowl, 5700 Grover, 512/452-2518,

Best City Trail
Lady Bird Lake

Every non-motorized transport; variety of pet; kid conveyance; size, shape, age, ethnicity, gender of runner, loper, limper, or rider; language; deciduous flower; insect, reptile, and bird resident even temporarily in Austin shows up and has a good time. – Davida Charney

Lady Bird Lake, 512/974-6700,

Best Exercise Class
Barre3 Austin

photo by Bret Brookshire

Love love love!!! Great workout and great vibes. Best barre tribe in town! – Rachel Larreta

Barre3 Austin, 115 Sandra Muraida Way #103, 512/391-6200,

Best Golf
Peter Pan Mini-Golf

Shockingly chill, and BYOB? A blast of pure, old Austin. – Roy Janik

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

Best Gym

There is a real community there. Every time I go, I feel better – not just my body, but my mood. – Chris Jenkins

YMCA East Program Center, 1809 E. Sixth, 512/476-1183

Best Kids' Sports Rec Program
Soccer Shots

Soccer Shots hires great coaches who know how to work with kids. I'm always impressed. Coolest soccer shirts out there, too. – Sylvia Martinez-Haley

Soccer Shots, 5555 N. Lamar Ste. J-103, 512/420-9450,

Best Place to Camp
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock is the most magical place in Texas! – Brian Shicoff

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 16710 RR 965, Fredericksburg, 830/685-3636,

Best Place to Tube
Rockin' R River Rides

25 years of fun with this company! – Pamela Houston

Rockin' R River Rides, 1405 Gruene Rd., New Braunfels

Best Skate Park
Heath Eiland and Morgan Moss BMX Skate Park (House Park)

Great crowd; great structures; great parking. – Laura Rockefeller

House Park, 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd., 512/335-8881,

Best Social Ride
Thursday Night Social Ride

photo by Devaki Knowles

Meet all kinds of people, see new parts of Austin. It's a hoot! – Dana Gruber

Best Sports Venue
Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

Just you and 100,000 of your closest, loud, burnt orange-wearing, early-coming, late-staying friends. – Drew Ingram

Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, 2100 San Jacinto, 512/471-3050,

Best Swimming Pool/Hole
Barton Springs Pool

Photo by John Anderson

This place should be lauded based on its magical hangover-curing properties alone, but it's also the most beautiful place on Earth. – Lia Crockett

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

Best Yoga
Black Swan Yoga

The energy shared by the instructors is the biggest takeaway from BSW. You don't have to be an amazing yogi but they sure do make you feel like one. – Gustavo Manzur

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

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

Black Swan Yoga, 403 Orchard, 512/710-5131,

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