Outdoors & Recreation
1999 Readers Poll
1999 Critics Picks
Best Bike Commuter Route

The amount of green space running through the center of the city can, if connected properly through a little research and a little more sweat, get you most anywhere in central Austin without sucking fumes or absorbing road rage from impatient car commuters. The Barton Creek Greenbelt connects West Lake Hills to MoPac and 360 and feeds into the Town Lake Hike & Bike, which provides a great east-west corridor on both sides of the river, hooking up with the Johnson Creek Greenbelt near Clarksville and the Shoal Creek Hike & Bike that runs north practically to 45th Street - all with a scant few cars in sight.

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

Best Day Trip To Just Stand In A Field Full Of Flowers

When the peach crop in Fredericksburg failed this year, it seemed as if those summer afternoon drives into the country would be fruitless. What was the purpose of a road trip through the hills of Texas without a place to stop and pick peaches? Luckily, however, Wildseed Farms saved the summer. With more than 200 acres in prime wildflower country, Wildseed Farms offers walking trails for immersing yourself in flora and fields for picking your own bouquets, making the place a very fulfilling alternative to our much beloved orchards. There are few things in life that feel as grand as standing in a field full of soft pink daisies while watching the clouds roll in across the Texas plains. The only problem is, you can't eat the flowers on the drive back home.

Wildseed Farms
425 Wildflower Hills
Fredericksburg
800/848-0078
www.wildseedfarms.com

David Brendan Hall

Best Dog Viewing

There have been many names assigned to this section of the creek: Doggy Springs, Free Zone, and Pauper's Springs to name just a few. All sum up quite nicely the allure of this very chilly spot just below the big pool. On any given summer day one can sit creekside and watch the antics of water-crazed pooches catching the currents or chasing sticks or just floating lazily in the cool clear waters. And if watching isn't enough, then by all means get in there and join them! Maybe someone will throw you a Frisbee.

Barton Springs Pool
2131 William Barton Dr.
512/974-6300
www.austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool

Best Full Service Garden Center

For years, Diane Winslow has had the ultimate nursery for herbs and antique roses. But with the addition of her husband Chris (who ran the greenhouses at Marbridge Farms for 20-plus years) to the place, it has grown by leaps and bounds. He's added a heavy emphasis on native landscaping plants, and does irrigation and landscaping as well. Cruise the plants and converse with the parrots, but be sure to stop and smell the roses.

It's About Thyme Nursery
11726 Menchaca Rd.
512/280-1192

Best Imitation Of Cousin Itt By A Team Mascot

Tribble or Troll? Koosh™ Ball or hairball? What's the deal with Austin High School's team mascot? It's a big ball of something. Fun Fur? Shag Rug? Fluff? Bellybutton fuzz? The nasty stuff that comes out of your dryer's lint catcher? What's up with that? Oh, Mr. Maroo (that's the cuddly ball of something's name), no matter what you are, we love you!

Austin High School
1715 W. Cesar Chavez
512/414-2505

Best International Jersies

Okay, the whole sporty-casual thing has gotten out of hand. Face it: officially licensed duds of the major leagues are major duds when it comes to fashion. Baby, you don't have the body for that Spurs tanktop. But, y'know there is one or two sports that haven't been done to death. Soccer is our favorite, and quite frankly, it has a lot to do with the shirts. Those shiny collared numbers are downright chic and look good on just about any physique. The most global array of official national soccer team jersies is - bar none - at Soccer World. Not that we want to start a run on jersies and lure a bunch of wannabes to the specialty sports shop, but really, these outfits are the real thing, high quality, offical nationa jersies from just about every team on the planet - home and away, coach and goalie.5446 Hwy290 W., 899-1135; 221 S. Lamar, 320-8447; 13376 Research, 257-8560 Kate X Messer

Austin Soccer World
221 S. Lamar
512/320-8447

Best Lake Travis Park To Go To With A Swimsuit

For a clothes-on, great spot to watch the sunset and take a dip, head to Windy Point on Lake Travis. It's cheap to get in, a great place to watch windsurfers, scuba divers, and bikinis, and you can play volleyball on one of the two sand courts. If you get there early enough, you may be able to snag a foliage-hidden picnic table for you, your pals, and your cooler. Don't let the ranger catch you with glass-bottled beverages, though. If you've got a sailboat, you'll be glad to know that Windy Point has a no-motorboat access ramp to the lake.

Bob Wentz Park at Windy Point
7144 Comanche Trail
512/854-7275
www.co.travis.tx.us/tnr/parks/bob_wentz.asp

Best Local Athlete

Tough choice, so we'll call it a tie. These two Lady Longhorn classmates finished their college careers this year as the most dominant athletes in their respective sports in school history: Reid in track & field and Sance in volleyball. Reid ended her career with five national championships in the 400 meters and six wins as a member of the 4x400 relay, and she was a major contributor to the Longhorns' four team titles in the last two years. Sance was equally powerful, leading the Longhorns to a No. 8 national ranking. The four-time All-American retired from college competition as the school recordholder in kills, attacks, and digs. When she blasted the ball with her howitzer-like arm, opposing players could only watch the ball whiz by and listen to the announcer say: "Kiiiiiillllll foooooooor Deeeeee!" Expect to see both of these marvels in the 2000 Olympics.

Susiann Reid
University of Texas Department of Athletics
326 Bellmont Hall
www.texassports.com

Demetria Sance
University of Texas Department of Athletics
326 Bellmont Hall
www.texassports.com

Best Man-Made Shade

Neither rain nor sleet nor black of night shall screw up your appointed round of one-on-one - if you set your date for Alamo Park, that is. This summer, Austin PARD installed a mod-looking open-air structure that effectively put a roof on the sucker without impeding incoming breezes - an essential element to that hour-long match of H-O-R-S-E. Since the roof came with lighting, what used to illuminate the court now lights up the whole darned park for shiny, happy nighttime play.

Alamo Recreation Center
2100 Alamo
512/974-5680
www.cityofaustin.org/parks/alamo.htm

Best Mopac Exit

In rush-hour traffic, with Ricky Martin howling from the radio and our shaded eyes able to see nothing but dead cars ahead, it is always a relief to spot the exit-only sign for Windsor. Among all those cranky straight arrows shooing us off the freeway, a wide circle symbolizes the deep sloping turn ahead. Soon it will swing us smoothly beneath MoPac, sending us from the mire of stalled traffic into quiet neighborhood streets. And Ricky Martin? He too shall pass.

Best New Park/Nature Spot

Located out on Hwy. 71 about 15 miles east of the new airport, the LCRA-run McKinney Roughs offers another Central Texas ecosystem for your examination and recreational pleasure. The park staff is big on education, so don't be afraid to ask questions before you hit the well-marked trail system, which winds through gorgeous acres of rolling piney woods along the Wilbarger Bend of the Colorado River. What they're not big on, though, is dogs, as our four-legged friends are being permitted on a "trial basis" only, which means keep them on leashes and away from equestrians.

McKinney Roughs Nature Park
1884 Hwy. 71 W.
Cedar Creek
512/303-5073
www.lcra.org

Best New Stadium

When King Football needed more seats in Royal-Memorial, the answer was to rip out the track. But fortunately, the UT track & field program didn't suffer. The university kept its commitment to having the best of everything and built one of the greatest track arenas in the nation, with seating for 20,000 and improved views of the field events. And now, the infield is accomodating the soccer team quite nicely.

Mike A. Myers Stadium
707 Clyde Littlefield Dr.
512/471-7568
www.texassports.com

Best Place For Summer Fireworks

To watch fireworks on a nearly black lake is a singular experience. The fireworks put on a day or two before the Fourth of July by the restaurant Carlos N' Charlie's last a dizzying 40 minutes. Each firework shows its fiery face and fizzles, only to be followed by another. The last minute or so is a display of rapid-fire sound and color, until suddenly the lake is plunged into blackness. The silence that follows is broken only by clapping and then the start of motor boats as they wind their way home.

Best Place To Doze Off

Tucked away in the heart of the city is this refuge within a refuge. Located down a short steep cliff off a wandering path that leads to the Town Lake side of Mayfield Park, this tiny pier is shaded by large cedar trees that waft with their scent as the breeze coming across the river stirs through them. There's just enough room for a picnic basket and a blanket. Lay out and watch the ripples on the water as the cicadas drone on - and on - and on.

Best Place To Look For Alligators

Even if you don't spot a real alligator, you can enjoy this idyllic crossroads where Barton Springs joins Town Lake; you can watch kids at play, dogs that romp, joggers at work, turtles at rest, kayaks that better not flip, and the reverie of your own mind, imaginary alligators and all. There's archaeological evidence that prehistorics also sat here looking toward the future Austin skyline. Melt into the past, ponder the future, and be happy, here, now.

Best Place To Pick Sunflowers

For the first summer in forever, old Bob has been freed from the constant onslaught of Austin travelers and now has a chance to become himself again. The grounds of the Robert Mueller airport are currently being allowed to revegetate as part of the redevelopment project, so Bob is currently letting his hair down and going for the shaggy, rugged look for a change. With such an opportunity to become wild and free, the little plants that had been carefully clipped and pruned all these years are quivering at their roots with excitement. A veritable floral coup is taking place, as sunflowers and crabgrass take on the task of covering up the "Welcome to Robert Mueller Municipal Airport" sign out front. While the revolution of the foliage won't last forever, the transformation that is taking place at Robert Mueller Airport is a celebration of new beginnings.

Robert Mueller Airport
3600 Manor Rd.
512/530-4000
www.cityofaustin.org/mueller/default.htm

Best Place To Shake Freeform Booty

This is one of those well-kept secrets that may make those in the know unhappy it's being shared. It's considered a "sacred space" for body movement: no talking, shoes, smoking, or alcohol. Eclectic music is played with five sequential rhythms: flowing, staccato, chaotic, melodic, and meditative. With no obligation to be social, participants dance alone or with others. Rules are few. Everyone sweats. People laugh and cry, and if you care to stay afterward, folks circle around and talk about what they experienced as they "let go."

Austin Yoga School
1122-C S. Lamar
512/916-4499

Best Place To Smell The Roses

Lyndon called her Bird and deferred to her intelligence and grace in a manner that left no doubt as to the impressive stature of her being. When we walk, jog, and bike the paths along our beloved Town Lake, it is, in part, thanks to her vision and patronage. Devoted to nature, her formidable skills also led to the creation of this national center for the study and propagation of wildflowers. Over 400 species native to Central Texas flourish here. Our country is more beautiful because of this remarkable woman. Just think - all this from a courtship which began over coffee at the Driskill.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse
512/232-0100
www.wildflower.org

Best Place To Take A Climb

Pseudo Rock is anything but fake. They offer rental equipment, ropes, and 10,000 square feet of wall-to-wall climbing space, varying in difficulty for the most experienced or inexperienced climber. A half-day trip to and from Enchanted Rock can be replaced with a short trek into town. Both sites are equally fun and challenging. Pseudo Rock's one-day pass is $8, rental gear is $5.

Pseudo Rock
200 Trinity
512/474-4376

Best Place To Take A Fall

ARG has nine inches of carpet foam, and enough Alice-in-Wonderland-sized mattresses to feel like a moonwalk at your 10th birthday party. Naturally, the idea is to climb up the 30-foot textured rock walls and the 15-foot "godzilla" boulder, but if you drop, you won't pop.

Austin Rock Gym
4401 Freidrich
512/416-9299
austinrockgym.com/

Best Place To Test Your Knobs

Like the slew of sorry SUVs on the road, most urbanite-owned mountain bikes will never know the pleasure of the dirt for which they were created. If you want to tackle some of Central Texas' most challenging mountain bike trails, head out to Emma Long Motocross Park (FM 2222 west of Loop 360, left at City Park Road, 3.8 miles and left at Oak Shore Road). It's not for the faint of heart, as steep limestone dropoffs and grueling rocky climbs are the norm on this relentless eight+ mile loop, but the payoff in fun and exercise is well worth the work.

Best Romantic Row

City-run, our town's canoe center is a short walk down from the Springs in Zilker Park. For $7.75 an hour, or $28.50 for the day, you can paddle a canoe as far as your octopus arms can reach. Go right for the stunning cityscape, or left for the pastoral view. Pack a picnic, catch the sun just right, and sweethearts can't find a more enchanting place to listen to the murmurs of the heart.

Zilker Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd.
512/974-6700
www.austintexas.gov

Best Shallow End

Deep Eddy is a shallow giant, perfect for a summer afternoon of splashing and jumping through the seeming miles of cold, blue water. On a Saturday afternoon, there are swarms of tiny, naked bottoms swishing around the edges of the pool, while older kids shout "Marco" in the waist-deep center. For really big kids, there is a very deep end for lap swimming. And with the lawn loaded with beach towels and sunbathers, it's perfect for reading and people watching.

Deep Eddy Pool
401 Deep Eddy Ave.
512/472-8546
www.deepeddy.org

Best Springtime Yard Extravaganza

The yards in Wilshire Woods, just off Airport, are always lovely, shaded, and expansive - an Emerald City in the heart of town. But those yards are made drab by comparison to the corner lot of 1307 Wilshire. Like the difference between Kansas and Oz, the breathtaking masses of brilliant spring flowers and the incredible display of shocking pink azaleas provide a Technicolor feast for passersby. In springtime, there's no place like the home on Wilshire.

Best Summertime Workout

Not much of a jock or a joiner? Check out Austin PARD's summer water aerobics classes. Although available at many city pools, Northwest pool is our personal favorite. Expect a low-impact workout with no discernible sweat. We love splashing and flexing in a happy neighborhood pool, shaded by waving oak trees. Our fearless leader, Brandi Allen, guides us through our paces ruthlessly and with great good humor. Within a brief 40 minutes, we receive the benefits of a 90-minute workout with no strain on our couch potato-bones and joints. Sessions last a mere two weeks and are available all summer long, should you find yourself actually enjoying exercising.

Dept. of Aquatics
901 W. Riverside
512/480-3030
www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/

Best Sunrise View

When we just need that something extra special to feed our weary souls and appreciate a new day, we get on down to this LCRA campsite located just past Volente Beach on FM 2769 in the early dawn and hike down to the boat pier for the best sunrise over the lake. Better than any shrink session, almost as good as a deep tissue massage, it's natural and it's free.

Lower Colorado River Authority
3505 Montopolis, 512/473-3200
6550 Comanche Tr., 512/473-3333
www.lcra.org

Best Timing

The Astros AA affiliate Jackson (Mississippi) Generals came to Austin in May for a five-game series against the San Antonio Missions that was designed to whet the local appetite for minor league ball. (The Generals become the Round Rock Express next year.) Even though their previous season-high winning streak was two, the Generals swept all five games. Dead last in AA Texas League attendance, the Generals played like they can't wait to move here for good.

Disch-Falk Field
1300 E. MLK
512/471-5732
www.texassports.com

Best Whoosh!

Barefoot in the warm sand, we chased sandpipers as the foam from baby breakers tickled our toes. Ahhh, summers spent on the coast. Most Austinites transplanted here from a seaside strata agree that one of the few things missing in our near-perfect burg is a beach. Volente Beach goes a long way to re-create a seashore experience right on Lake Travis. And this summer they added two 40-foot waterslides to the mix. It's endorsement enough to know that these water rides were constructed by the folks at Schlitterbahn. Wow. Now our burg is even nearer-perfect! We'll know the world's gone topsy-turvy when we hear people refer to their trips out to Volente as "Going down the shore."

Volente Beach Waterpark
16107 Wharf Cove (FM 2769)
Volente
512/258-5110
www.volentebeach.com

Prettiest Place To Post A Letter

Whether to make bill paying less odious or to fashion a fitting sendoff for love letters, this mailbox in Pemberton Heights has a gifted caretaker who has made it the place to post. Canopied by pink crape myrtle, flanked by lovely flowers, and graced with a beckoning stone path, it is said (by us) that any romantic missives mailed there will be hand-carried by Cupid. Try it!

 
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