Outdoors & Recreation
1998 Readers Poll
1998 Critics Picks
Best Adult Lemonade Stand

OK, it's not lemonade, it's sports drink, but why quibble? You need the electrolytes, the price is right (free!), and it's right where you want it, right when you need it: At the north end of the MoPac footbridge on the Town Lake Hike & Bike. Our favorite flavor? Blue.

422 W. Riverside, 512/472-3254
2201 Lake Austin Blvd., 512/477-9464

Best Blacktop

Oh, sure, there are bigger blacktops, with more basketball hoops and ample four-square space, and there are smoother blacktops, better for marbles and skateboards, but Maplewood is the only one we know of with a six-color map of the world painted on it, in all it's cartographical glory. Think you can hit a jump shot from Australia? How 'bout Sweden? Talk about your Mercator projections . . .

Maplewood Elementary School
3808 Maplewood

photograph by Ada Calhoun   Ada Calhoun

Best Collection/Shrine

Four display cases at the entrance to Austin's Dart Bowl celebrate not only the noble bowling pin, but also its hard-headed bud, the bowling ball, plus an occasional ode to its sister, the towel. The cases brim and strain at the weight of this massive collection of bowling-themed everything: pins painted like Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men, statuettes of celebrity bowlers like Fred Flintstone, Porky Pig, and the Peanuts Gang, and mug, steins, and glasses to outfit any real bowlers bar. In addition to the key fobs, lamps, koozies, lighters, and pewter figurines, the cases also include some items from the Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis Missouri: a turn-of-the-century hardwood ball, a 19th century king pin for a 9-pin set, and the first rubber bowling ball made in 1905. It's a skittle homage you can sink your fingers into.

Best Fledgling Altruistic Tradition

With Corpus Christi native Bobby Julich finishing third in this year's Tour de France, Lance Armstrong may no longer even be the best cyclist from Texas much less from the U.S. No matter, he's still tops in our town. Who else could bring Miguel Indurain, Greg LeMond and Jakob Dylan to Austin? With rides of 25, 50, and 100 miles, the annual bicycle trek through the Hill Country allows anybody to help Armstrong help cure cancer. And with his buddies bringing the rock, even lazy people can help the cause by simply going to a party.

Lance Armstrong Foundation
2201 E. Sixth

Best Gym For The Lazy

We've gotten steadily healthier since the renovated Gregory Gym reopened last November. Before, we used the Texas heat as an excuse not to run, now we jog on the AC'd indoor track overlooking the basketball courts. We used boredom as an excuse not to go on the Stairmaster, now we can watch sweet television as we pump away. Gregory is so beautiful, airy, and expansive that sometimes we want to go there just to hang out, and the gym provides ample opportunity to do just that: We can watch the ball game while sitting in the Sports Cafe, play a game of pool or table tennis in the underused lounge, or throw spitwads at the humans splayed all over the indoor climbing wall. Our love for the Gregory is so mighty that we (usually) don't mind the crowds or the parking nightmare. Of course, you have to be a UT student to take advantage of all this, or - and this also gives Gregory the award for "Best Reason to Kiss Up to a UT Affiliate" - be sponsored by a UT student or staff member for a membership, which is quite reasonably priced.

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

Best Local Sports Story

While coaching controversies and disappointing records grabbed headlines in football, baseball, and basketball, the University of Texas softball team christened its new stadium with a stellar season that saw them go all the way to the college world series in only their second year of Division I play. Led by pitching phenom Christa Williams, Coach Connie Clark's team provides one of the best shows in town, blending stunning talent with enthusiasm for the game, its fans, and each other.

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

Best National Champions

Last year, the Lady Longhorns missed a national crown by one agonizing point. This year, it was close again: Coming into the last event, they trailed UCLA by five points, and had to place at least third in the 4x400 relay to win the meet. Despite having an inexperienced freshman on the leadoff leg, they pulled out a gutsy come-from-behind finish to win the race and take home the trophy.

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

Best Pick-up Soccer Games

Athletes from a range of nations, showing skill and passion and love for what Brazilians call "the beautiful game" - there was plenty of that going around during this year's superlative sporting event, the World Cup, but this is also the weekly scene at 51st and Guadalupe. Each week, as the sun relents, a rotating group of international students and locals lace up their cleats, throw their backpacks into the goal nets, and attempt to outdo each other on the pitch. It's a better workout than softball, for sure, and transcends the muscled machismo of pick-up basketball into sport that often, even at this grassroots level, masquerades as art. Those Brazilians are right.

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

photograph by Jana Birchum   Jana Birchum

Best Place To Impersonate Sisyphus

Sisyphus, the despot of Corinth, was condemned in Hades to roll a huge boulder uphill, which always rolled back before he reached the top. If you're looking to atone for some sins, pick a summer ozone day when the heat hangs in the air like a wet towel and at, say, 2pm, head down to the Veloway with your favorite brand of in-line skates. After a mile or two of baby hills and level ground, when you've had enough and your heart is about to explode, there it looms, what an Austin writer nicknamed "Jacob's Rail," a hill whose degrees in steepness rival Barton Springs' degrees in coldness. By then you're so sweaty that even if you clung to the rail for dear life, you'd skid back down. You're on wheels, remember, so no boulder is necessary; your fat ass will suffice.

4900 La Crosse

Best Place To Live Out A Hitchcock Movie

If Austin harbors a place where you can regularly be chased by a cropduster or scale the giant stone nose of a president, á la Hitchcock's North by Northwest, we've yet to find it. But we have discovered a spot that lets us be menaced by scores of seemingly malevolent winged creatures right out of Hitch's The Birds. Almost every day at sunset, staggering numbers of birds flock around the north shore of Town Lake at Drake Bridge on South First. They swarm, they swoop, they cover the trees in the small triangle of greenspace at the end of Drake Bridge, all of them squawking and shrieking like berserker warriors pumping up for battle in some holy war - which maybe they are. In any case, they're good for a Hitchcockian case of the creeps.

Best Place To Play Hoops In A Thunderstorm

In many ways, Metz is like any other outdoor hoops court: a stretch of asphalt with hoops on the perimeter, rims slightly bent and nets in need of repair. What sets Metz apart is that it's got a ceiling 25 feet overhead. It's not just a roof in a rainstorm, but shade in the summertime. Lights, too, making it one of the best places in Austin to take it to the hole.

Metz Recreation Center & Park
2407 Canterbury

Best Place To Run The Pooch

This park has it all: endless meadows in which to run or Frisbee, cliffsides to hike and explore, lots of wild animal scats to sniff, and an old spillway. Fido won't know where to go first, but you'll always know where he is no matter which way he chooses. The park is laid out in rough wedge. The fields open up into limestone cliffs and heavily wooded perimeters, the line of sight is uncluttered and the entire tract leads one away from dangerous roads. The park is usually not crowded, but the parking lot is a little tricky to spot.

St. Edward's University
3001 S. Congress

Best Place To Teach A (scaredy) Pup To Swim

Low lake levels, a narrow channel, warm water, and gentle currents conspire to make Cypress Creek the perfect place to let your trepidatious pooch develop his dog paddle. We've spent a few years searching the Hill Country and the Gulf Coast for a place to share some sun-soaked frolics with our dogus. We'd sort of given up ever coaxing our cowardly canine into any body of water when we stumbled over Cypress Creek during a leisurely tour of lakeside recreation areas. Since the boat ramp was closed, we were completely alone. When we swam across the channel and called to our furry friend we were surprised to see her wade into the shallows and begin to swim to us. She easily completed the crossing and was still eager for more when it was time to go home.

Best Place To Unleash Your Inner Eastwood

We popped on our goggles and our ear protection and stepped into the airlock. We were soon on Planet Gunpowder, and boy was it loud. Of course we spent the first five minutes jumping and yelping every time our partner discharged his weapon (whew!). We were a bit afraid of our Glock 9mm at first, of its surprising weight, and even more suprising kick in our hands. We had perhaps an unseemly enjoyment when we "killed" our target. When we were done we felt the giddy, nauseous exhilaration we get after a really scary roller coaster ride. The staff was patient and kind even though we were obvious amateurs. We plan to take a bunch of chicks from the office down some Monday night for their ladies happy hour from 5-9 pm. They provide the lane and the weapon, shooters buy the ammo. Good, cheap, unconventional fun.

Cook's Shooting Range
516 W FM 1825

Best Place To Unload Your Quiver

À la Ted Nugent, bow hunters are a burly, macho lot. If you stumble into Archery Country on a Monday (Monday night and Saturday mornings are reserved for leagues), you'll be in over your heads, kids. (Although it is worth a look-see.) Better to go on a quieter night when you can sink deep into your Xena warrior princess fantasy uninterrupted. Fit your arrow into the bow string, pull back and - thwing! Enjoy the satisfying thunk when your missile finds its mark. If the screeching of the resident cockatoo starts to get to you, just holler at him like the pros do! Note to the sensitive: This store contains big, dead, stuffed bears.

Archery Country
8910 Research

Best Place To Watch Football (american Or European)

Built in 1939, these unassuming bleachers play host to both the Austin Lone Stars soccer club and a regular schedule of AISD football. With peaceful greenspace Pease Park lying just west and the downtown skyline crouching benignly to the south and east, this central city park is a decidedly Austin spot to spy a speck of sport. Got that? Play ball.

House Park
1301 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Best Place To Work Out Aggression

Maybe it's the countless posters, photographs, and other boxing memorabilia lining the walls that provide Richard's boxers with the motivation they need to survive his grueling workouts. Perhaps it's his constant encouragment that helps them get through the heat, the warehouse is hot, really hot. Whatever the stimulus, they work hard - beating those heavy bags for all that they are worth. Stop by to watch champion Texas boxers and amateurs hone their skills; there was a time when you could see Jesus "El Matador" Chavez prepping for a match. If you are truly brave, Lord offers lessons. Just remember, you've been warned.

Richard Lord's Boxing Gym
5400 N. Lamar

Best Reason To Visit Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium

The NFL paperwork was signed and Longhorn fans were resigned: The nation's highest-rated running back was surely going pro. But then - surprise - Ricky Williams decided to stay his senior year at UT, a decision which catapulted him to the top of the list of Heisman trophy contenders and added a much needed jolt of excitement to an otherwise questionable Longhorns football season. This may be a rare time to believe the hype: The dreadlocked teddy bear has got mountains of talent - and he's actually a nice guy, too. Run, Ricky, Run!

Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium
2100 San Jacinto

Best Reason To Visit Springfield, Ma

With more than 700 wins under her belt, Jody Conradt is women's college hoops' most successful coach and - along with the likes of Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp - one of the winningest coaches in all of college basketball. Next month, she will join Celtic star-turned-Pacers coach Larry Bird and other basketball legends in the Hall of Fame. Conradt, only the second woman to ever receive the honor, can take more than a little credit for the development of the women's game and its explosion in popularity on both the collegiate and professional level. Conradt's talent, humor, and grace have long been prized here in Austin. We're thrilled to see it celebrated on the national stage as well.

Best Scenic Drive

As an alternative to MoPac or even Bee Caves Road, we take the long way home whenever there's time. Running from Lake Austin Boulevard to Bee Caves Road, Red Bud Trail crosses Lake Austin just east of Tom Miller Dam and wends through Hill Country terrain and wildlife. Driving toward town, this route has the added bonus of a Capitol vista.

Red Bud Trail
Red Bud Trail, between Lake Austin & Bee Caves

photograph by Ada Calhoun   Ada Calhoun

Best Target Practice

Practice makes perfect, and here at Red's 100-yard concrete range, you can rent a lane for a nominal fee to work on your shooting accuracy. Gruff but helpful attendants will rent you a gun, or there's a gun store attached in case you want to invest in a weapon of your own. This is an ideal date spot, plus keep an eye out for regular special days. Monday is "Ladies' Night;" Thursday is the night of the fully automatic weapons.

Red's Indoor Range
6200 Hwy. 290 W., 512/892-4867
1908 W. Pecan, Pflugerville, 512/251-1022

Best Two-Hour $5 Vacation

Out near City Park, 30 minutes from downtown, a relaxed resort attitude permeates this hamburger joint like the smell of motor boats and beer. The cheap menu is the hook and the yummy food is the sinker. Off-duty usicians (like Stevie Ray Vaughan) have been coming to hang out at this quiet little piece of Austin-yesteryear for years now. Swimsuited kids let out water-logged, caffeine giggles as they run up and down the docks. Boaters lean way back in their chairs, letting their sunburns heal in the faint porch lights that shine across the water like idle fireflies.

Ski Shores Cafe
2905 Pearce

Best Urban Track

The triangular area which includes Disch Faulk Field and UT Press is bordered by a broad sidewalk on all sides that makes an excellent walking/jogging track. One "lap" is almost a perfect mile. The terrain is well landscaped and surprisingly pleasant, with good trees and lamp posts for stretching. Plus, when the ball park is not in use, the stadium stairs make a fantastic place to do stamina training. But what really makes this place a favorite of ours is the evening entertainment. During the fall, you can jog to the sound of the Longhorn band booming out the "Wabash Cannonball," a truly invigorating experience, and during baseball season they let you stand by the sidelines free after the 6th or 7th inning. It puts a little spunk into your eight o'clock exercise.

Disch-Falk Field
1300 E. MLK

Best Way To Lower Your Internal Thermostat

On the heels of a summer that's been an infernal and cussed mess, a surly swatch of unmitigated torment, an unholy amalgam of unpardonable heat and unacceptable drought, we're more grateful than ever for the 68 degree waters of ye ole city swimmin' hole. Barton Springs for Best of Austin? Old hat, to be sure, but this time we give the nod to the cooler, calmer nighttime hours, when admission is waived and the sun has mercifully set. Still the best way to cool down before bedtime.

Barton Springs Pool
2131 William Barton Dr.

David Brendan Hall

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