Outdoors & Recreation
2000 Readers Poll
2000 Critics Picks
Best Basketball Court

A favorite among longtime Austinites, Enfield Park couldn't be a cozier place to drain the pill. Tucked away just west of MoPac, you can usually find a competitive half-court pickup game here while others are at happy hour.

West Enfield Neighborhood Park
2008 Enfield

Best Bike Ride And Day Hike

Where else can you go to get completely away from urban life without leaving the city? Less citified than Town Lake's hike-and-bike routes, Austin's greenbelt defines nature: no pavement, no restrooms, no lights. Just 7.5 miles of grassy trails, rock formations, and endless beauty. Don't forget your water bottle.

Barton Creek Greenbelt
Zilker Park to Lost Creek, 512/974-6700
Twin Falls, and off MoPac, south of Loop 360, north of U.S. 290, 512/974-6700

Best Bowling Alley

Are you looking for a place to do something different on a Friday night? Go hit the alleys and let Showplace Lanes redefine your bowling experience. They add a little spunk and juice to each game by throwing in some music and disco flavor. It's open late, is well-maintained, and has an excellent staff to boot. Let the vibe kick in to provide a new sensory version of an old faithful recreational alternative.

Showplace Lanes
9504 N. I-35, 512/834-7733
9504 North I-35, 512/834-7733

Best Day Trip

Holy incredible mound of pink granite! The 50-foot Central Texas dome is the main feature of this fun-filled nature park. You can climb the big rock with just about anyone in your family, from young kids to grandparents. The State Park also provides trail hiking, wildlife, caving, and camping. The park is splendid all year round, but the spring months bring forth a burst of brilliant colors, courtesy of the annual explosion of wildflowers. No matter what time of year you decide to go, you will always leave with a sense of awe and inspiration. Open 8am-10pm daily.

Enchanted Rock
16710 RR 965

Best Dog Walk

Not your typical singles pickup joint - this place is reserved for dogs only. The best spot in Austin for canine feet to meet and greet. A big open area with plenty of space for Rover to roam, all under the watchful eye of dog's best friend.

Pease Park
1100 Kingsbury

Best Local Athlete

Used to be, "yellow streak" was a derogatory term; but the sight of Lance's sunbright shirt whizzing by is nothing but joyfully edifying to Austinites who gather by the hundreds to cheer this hometown boy onward. He's done it again, taken the Tour de France, and no "Ooops!" involved - because this time all the world's top competitors were racing against him. Have you seen this fiercely dedicated man on a bike, up close and personal, when he really gets going? It's a wonder his surname's not "Legstrong," instead.

Lance Armstrong Foundation
2201 E. Sixth

Best Local Team

October 14 marks the first game of the fall season, as the Ice Bats face off against the Fort Worth Brahmas. After only four years since they first laced up, the Bats finished second in their division last year, making it all the way to the semifinals, filling on average 6,000 of the 7,000 stadium seats at the Travis Co. Expo Center. While you won't see Ice Bats in cowboy hats (at least while the game is on), you might have a chance to get up close and personal with FANG, the team mascot.

Ice Bats
Travis County Exposition Center, 7311 Decker Ln.

Best Outdoor Gear/Sporting Goods

Campers, hikers, climbers, paddlers, backpackers, skiers, fitnessers (fitnessers?!) - REI has been outfitting all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts since 1938. True to its co-op roots, this gear shop still pays an annual dividend to anyone who becomes a member of the cooperative. Their commitment to enviro causes makes them a natural complement to the Austin vibe.

9901 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 512/343-5550
601 N. Lamar, 512/482-3357
201 University Oaks, Round Rock, 512/255-1938

Best Participatory Sport

Like golf? Like Frisbee? Then you'll love Frisbee golf, or disc golf as it's officially known. Austin Parks and Recreation maintains five different golf sites throughout the city, offering both 9- and 18-hole courses. Like Austin itself, disc golf's casual, laid-back attitude and its emphasis on outdoor fun should merit it being declared the city's official hang-time sport.

Best Public Golf Course

Lions continues to dominate the course as Austinites' favorite place to hit the links. It must be that cool, humid Lake Austin breeze that keeps the greens so lush - that and the meticulous care provided by the Lions' maintenance crew. Be sure to call before you go to find out if there is a tournament going on, unless all you want is the putting green.

Lions Municipal Golf Course
2901 Enfield

Best Public Sports Venue

Behind a multibillion-dollar corporation's funding, this minor-league ballpark - home of the mighty Round Rock Express - is more luxurious than most. With a DiamondVision scoreboard, party suites, Sports Court, and swimming pool, seeing a baseball game is more than just something to pass the time; it's a full-bodied, multimedia recreational experience. There are even fireworks shows every Friday night, and the play on the field isn't too shabby either.

Dell Diamond
3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd.
Round Rock

Best Secret Swimming Hole

Other than "Mind Your Own Business" and "Not Telling," Hamiton Pool tops our readers' list of secret swimming holes. It's no secret that Hamilton Pool is a rejuvenating retreat, a small natural grotto formed when a cave fell in thousands of years ago, a lush forest paradise, with overhanging moss-covered cliffs, and clear, cool water. It's a bit of a drive, but it's worth it. Because, after the car ride, the $5 vehicle fee, and the 15-minute hike down the hill, one is met by Eden itself. Just keep an eye out for the snapping turtles and biting catfish.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.
Dripping Springs

Best Skating Rink

Well, since we hold the "Best of Austin" poll during the first month of the Texas summer, it stands to reason that y'all would vote in an ice rink. Heck, Chaparral stands on its own anyway, year-round. An added plus is that the Northcross Mall location is located next to the food court, so even if you don't have the time or inclination to strap on some blades, you can still sit and enjoy the view.

Chaparral Ice
2525 W. Anderson

Best Spectator Sport

After consecutive top-five recruiting classes from coach Mack Brown, expectations are sky-high as fans seek what could be the Longhorns' first national championship since 1969. With pre-season top-10 rankings in every poll and an easy schedule to boot, the Horns should be playing shortly after New Year's. This year's biggest games? Other than the regular-season Red River Showdown against archrival Oklahoma, there may be a mid-December rematch with Nebraska for the Big 12 Championship. Hook 'em, boys.

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 Tennis Court

Whether it's lessons, league play, or friendly rallies, "love" is always a dirty word at this mecca for Central Austin baseliners. The tennis center provides cold water at courtside for those looking to beat the heat and re-strings racquets in the pro shop.

Caswell Tennis Center
2312 Shoal Creek Blvd.

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