Outdoors & Recreation
2002 Readers Poll
2002 Critics Picks
Best Cheap Thrill

on the Barton Creek Bridge

Best Country Club

This place is a golfer’s dream. Of the four golf courses that surround Barton Creek Country Club two are ranked one, two in the state of Texas (Fazio Foothills and Fazio Canyons) and the other two are designed by legendary pros (Ben Crenshaw’s Cliffside and Arnold Palmer’s Lakeside). If hitting the lynx is on the same level as watching paint dry, you’ll have plenty of other options with the eleven lighted tennis courts, the indoor and outdoor pools, the fully equipped weight room, the masseuse filled spa, as well as countless restaurants, bars and lounges. While club membership is private, a weekend at the 300 room resort is opened to the public, more than enough time to get away from everything without really getting away at all.

Barton Creek Country Club
8212 Barton Club Dr.

Best Initiative for the Elderly

When Austin’s newest skatepark (roller rink with wooden hills and a rubber-lined ceiling) opened in April, Wednesday nights became Old Man Night. The initiative proved so popular with the bus pass crowd that Monday night turned into Older Man Night. A mere $5 for over 18 year olds ensures clear runways, polite company and less chance of trampled dentures. “Without all the kids running at every ramp, the experienced skaters can watch each other, then try out new tricks,” comments Sam “Matlock” Peterson. Up-and-comers leave their elders in peace, preferring to watch pro skater videos from the lobby couch.

M&M Skatepark
1606 W. Stassney

Best Living Piece of Art

Metz Recreation Center, Canterbury Street. With the help of local children, Mexican artist Patricia Greene designed this Life-Scape: three arches which look like the six legs of some giant visitor. For the bones, Greene used local cedar branches, vines act as sinews holding the arches together. An ivy fur grows over it all, even the head that’s woven in wicker over the first arch.

Metz Recreation Center & Park
2407 Canterbury

Best Place for a Keg Party at the Lake

With every mile that passes between downtown and Lake Austin, Voltage’s “Keg Party at the Lake” resounds slightly louder. Anyhow, what good is a lake without a keg? Emma Long Park, just off of FM2222 and Loop 360, is the best host for that kind of outing. Although it can become quite crowded on the weekends and holidays, it is well worth it. Close to town and nature, Emma Long is the place to be. It proves its worth every summer for the Ritz party. Camping, boating, swimming, and sunning are commonalities, but sorry, swimsuits are required.

Best Place to Just Set and Meditate and Watch The Crosspaths of Ducks, Heart Patients, Food Connoisseurs and State Hospital Patients

The Big Tree at Central Park, adjacent to Central Market, is a mighty oak and a giving tree indeed. With upper branches that stretch 300 stories high and lower branches dancing along the earth, it provides a place to set, think, climb, relax, and sometimes, catch live music drifting over from CM's patio.

Central Market North
4001 N. Lamar

Best Strokes

Introduction to Rowing Course starts at $65 at the Texas Rowing Center on Town Lake. Follow-up with a 10-row card for $99.

Texas Rowing Center
1541 W. Cesar Chavez

Best Unusual Day Trip, Really

Fredericksburg might be 80 miles from Austin and crowded with tourists on most weekends, but it can be more than a cliche to take out-of-town guests to visit. Look for some of the more unusual attractions like the Butterfly Ranch, 508 West Main; dulcimer factory, 715 S. Washington St.; Herb Garden, six blocks south of Main St. on Milam St.; Cross Mountain, on the northern edge of town off FM965 (Milam St.); and the Hill Top Cafe, 11 miles north of town on US87.

Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce
106 N. Adams

Best way to get punched out by a man with shaved legs
Possibly stupidest NFL franchise name
Best Skatepark for Young and Old Alike

Equipped with verts in the back half, and quarter pipes, rails, and boxes in the front street course, M&M Skatepark is a full-on skaters dream come true. Plus, Monday nights are Old Man Nights -- 21 and up skate for $5, after the kids are put to bed. This special proved so popular with the bus-pass crowd that Monday night offers clear runways, polite company, and less chance of trampled dentures. ?Without all the kids running at every ramp, the experienced skaters can watch each other, then try out new tricks,? comments Sam ?Matlock? Peterson. Up-and-comers leave their elders in peace, preferring to watch pro-skater videos from the lobby couch. Kids are welcome most days before 8pm, as long as an adult accompanies them.

M&M Skatepark
1606 W. Stassney

Jana Birchum

Best Place to Chill on Lake Austin

If you can't afford to pop for a hillside mansion, a million-dollar lake house, or even a zippy little ski boat, Lake Austin is still within your reach. Make a left off 2222 onto City Park Road and wind all over God's creation until you come to an unpretentious little burger shack straight out of the 1950s. Shade starts at about 4:30pm and lasts until sundown. Sit out on the lawn and watch the water sports or feed the ducks from the shade covered deck. Good, affordable grub, beer with names you can pronounce, live music, and multimillion-dollar ambience make Ski Shores an Austin treasure.

Ski Shores Cafe
2905 Pearce

Best Way to Get Around Austin

Tired of sitting in traffic? Feeling guilty about relentlessly trashing the city with emissions from your motor vehicle? Leading a sedentary lifestyle? Then get out yer bike and start riding it! Do you know that Austin is rated (by Bicycling magazine) one of the top 10 cities for bicycling in the U.S.? Well, you live here, now take advantage of it! Strap on a canteen and shades, bring a towel to wipe off the sweat, and you're good to go. Keep your city bike-friendly!

COA Bicycle & Pedestrian Program

Jana Birchum

Best Place to Remember That We're in Texas

What, you don't know where your good pair of chaps went? Not to worry, little vaquero. They won't think any less of you, as long as you remember the proper contraction of "you all" (hint: it is not "you guys"). Offering riding lessons for the greenest beginners ("That's not a horse, ma'am. That's just where we set the saddle"), both of our favorite stables also cater to the more experienced buckaroo with boarding facilities and equine care. A spa for horses? Not quite, but you certainly won't suffer from sunstroke under Golden Vista's covered arena, and trail rides at Bear Creek are only as rugged as you desire. Remember: Bowlegs only make you a more authentic Texan.

Golden Vista Equestrian Center
9513 Hwy. 183 S.

Bear Creek Stables
PO Box 1571

Best Chance to Howl at the Moon

Yoga teacher Charles MacInerney leads this once-monthly jaunt to Mt. Bonnell for a free yoga and meditation class on the rocky western side of the mountain, overlooking the lake. Bring a thick blanket, some water, and an open mind. You will be led through some easy breath work and stretching, gazing heavenward to watch the moon rise. Practitioners of all levels may attend, and will certainly get something out of it – there is nothing like practicing yoga outdoors, and this location is ideal, with its wonderful views and delicious air. Plus Charles is a gentle, inspiring teacher who gives a compelling talk afterward, with everyone, young and old, gathered 'round like kindergarteners at story time.

Charles MacInerney
Expanding Paradigms
5803 Westmont

Best Social Event Masquerading as Sporting Event

The Texas Relays has long been one of the premier track-and-field events in the nation, but in recent years, it has also become one of the Lone Star State's major party events. People now travel from all over the state – even if they have no intention of actually going to the track meet – to party down in A-town.

University of Texas Department of Athletics
326 Bellmont Hall

Best Place If You Don't Know Your Amaryllis From Your Elbow ...

When things are hectic, take the time to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and smell the cacti. In 1982, Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes founded the center to educate Texans about native plants. Visitors can wander through the center’s gardens and natural areas, learn about rainwater collection and recycled building materials, and admire American folk art and environmentally conscious construction. Special events include classes on everything from nocturnal plants to xeriscaping and guided sunset tours. Best of all, the Wildflower Café serves Lady Bird’s Chicken Salad (among other treats) Tuesday through Sunday.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse

Best Park for the Family That Does Everything

This property, acquired by the city over a half-dozen decades ago, is an excellent, community-forging, gem of a park on the Eastside. With a softball field, two all-purpose fields, 17 picnic tables, basketball and volleyball courts, a pavilion, a playground, a pool, barbecue grills, free parking, and more, it’s a good place to spend an entire day. Walking the perimeter several times is a good workout, too – something you can do while the kids play soccer or Frisbee on the open fields.

Patterson Park
4201 Brookview

Best Night to Catch the Express in Round Rock

With apologies to Bull Durham: We believe in cold beer on hot summer nights, and we believe the Dell Diamond is not likely to change its name anytime soon. We believe that Express first baseman Royce Huffman should be headed for the show. And if the beer is cheap, we also believe that there are worse ways to spend the night than in Round Rock watching when our boys get clobbered by San Antonio 10-0 as they did on July 25, a Thursday. Did we mention we believe in cold beer?

Dell Diamond
3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd.
Round Rock

Best Place to Meet People Outside of the Office

It's bad enough having one of those, "What do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" conversations, but when you are having it with your dog, you need help. Well, help is here: Just log on to www.hillcountryoutdoors.com. Hosting a wide variety of activities from hiking Turkey Creek to attending performances at Zilker Park's Hillside Theatre to rock climbing in Big Bend, Hill Country Outdoors gives you the chance to get out, have fun, and meet people without the awkwardness of shouting over loud music.

Hill Country Outdoors
PO Box 684732

Best Use of Title IX Funds

Granted, it took a lawsuit in 1992 to bring the Burnt Orange tribe into compliance. Now, however, Longhorn women's soccer is poised for greatness. Last year, these chicks with kicks won the Big 12 championship. This year, a run at a national title looks all but guaranteed with 19 players returning and the NCAA College Cup finals (the equivalent of college basketball's Final Four) scheduled conveniently at UT in December. Keep an eye on goal-scorer Kelly Wilson, who has been tearing it up with the U.S. Women's U-19 squad. The season is already under way! Call for tickets now.

University of Texas Department of Athletics
326 Bellmont Hall

Best Blue Pool Diving Board

Springs, Schwings ... For those who prefer the chlorine and no-slip surface of a blue painted pool, and a diving board to launch you into that pool, welcome to Bartholomew on East 51st Street. A diving board isn't its solo claim to summer fun. The pool is a good 50 meters long, there are covered picnic areas and a baby pool, and overall it's not nearly as crowded as some municipal pools.

Bartholomew Pool
1800 E. 51st

Best Way to Treat a River

Turning the tables on businesses and developers that want to drain the Guadalupe River to unsafe levels, SMRF wants to buy unclaimed water rights in the amount that a Texas A&M study says the coast bays need to remain healthy. The nonprofit has worked to maintain the quality of water in the San Marcos River and wants to donate the water rights back to the people of Texas and let the river flow. Developers and the river authority are crying foul because it might limit growth in the Guadalupe River basin ... Well, duh.

San Marcos River Foundation
PO Box 1393
San Marcos

Best Scary Fish

Strolling through Zilker Botanical Gardens is a very peaceful and beautiful experience; it's the perfect place to take the family or to just relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. Nestled in the middle of the gardens is a lotus pond. Irresistible stepping stones lead the curious to the center of the pond. Movement catches the eye, and one look down over toes draped across the water reveals something very similar to a goldfish swimming by -- only this one is the size of a leg. What was that thing, and what does it eat?! Perhaps it will jump right out of the water and nip those toes off? One wrong step could be the last. We're just kidding; these fish are known as koi. They're magnificent if not daunting, and as far as we know, there have been no reported koi fatalities. Yet ...

Zilker Botanical Garden
2220 Barton Springs Rd.

Best Place to Find Your Dog a Date

The Texas summer is tough on dogs. There's the heat, the fleas, that thick fur coat. During the dog days, we take our pooches to this heavenly stretch of greenbelt. At Shoal Creek, dogs can run without leashes between 24th and 29th Street. They can swim, roll around in the mud, and maybe even find that special someone to sniff. Our dogs say that the pick-up scene is liveliest right around the benches at 24th Street. So, bring your favorite canine and your oldest tennis ball. Among all the other dog owners, you might even find a date for yourself.

Shoal Creek Greenbelt
2600-2700 blocks of Lamar

Best Sporting Event

Professional men's basketball bores some of us to tears. You know why? Supersize players, dully loping about the court like moose, so tall that they barely need to move their legs. UT women's basketball games, in contrast, are full of energy and skill. Those girls can move; they're exciting to watch! Led by super-cool Coach Jody Conradt and return heroes from last season Stacy Stephens and Heather Schreiber, the UT Lady Longhorns exemplify the spirit of finesse and focus that define the game of basketball.

University of Texas Department of Athletics
326 Bellmont Hall

Best Place to Catch a Neighborhood Ball Game

Givens Recreation Center, in the heart of East Austin, is a beautifully kept space with rolling green hills, wading and swimming pools, basketball courts, even indoor facilities. We enjoy watching the kiddos play ball and the spontaneous games between adults even more. Sunday nights rock – it seems the whole town is there, just hanging out. Family, friends, and neighbors alike will find Givens Park a delightful outing remniscent of small-town Fourth of July picnics and Memorial Day celebrations.

Givens Recreation Center
3811 E. 12th

Jana Birchum

Best Historical Cemetery Stroll

Though it may seem like a slightly morbid endeavor, strolling through the Texas State Cemetery and nearby Oakwood Cemetery on a sunny spring day is both peaceful and educational. Restoration efforts spearheaded by Bob Bullock in the Nineties helped make Texas' version of Arlington National Cemetery an epicenter of East Austin revitalization. Stephen F. Austin, Barbara Jordan, J. Frank Dobie, and Bullock himself are some of the luminaries laid to rest there. Just south of Disch-Falk Field, historic Oakwood Cemetery holds the remains of 23,000 people on its 40 tree-lined acres, including humorist John Henry Faulk and Annie Webb Blanton, the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas.

Texas State Cemetery
909 Navasota

Oakwood Cemetery
1601 Navasota

Best Place to Get Lost

Surely somewhere along the 2.5 miles of hiking trails that wind through 227 acres of protected Texas Hill Country you can at least lose yourself to nature if not test your survival skills? Before you strip down to your trusty loincloth, though, keep in mind the added difficulties of 1) respecting the wooded home of threatened species, and 2) being unable to send Lassie for help (no pets allowed in to disturb the native wildlife). Maybe we'll just stick to the nature education programs and stargazing.

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
805 Capital of TX Hwy. N.

Best Revitalization of a Park

For years this square sat unused, unloved, and in the shadow of various construction behemoths. Then the Austin Parks Foundation partnered with the Parks and Recreation Foundation and Downtown Austin Alliance, and the next thing you know, yoga enthusiasts are welcoming a new day with postures in the park in the a.m., and Elvis impersonators are competing before hundreds of moviegoers camped out to see a screening of Viva Las Vegas. Maybe it isn't exactly what the city founders had in mind when they set aside the area for a park in 1839, but that's what we call revitalization, baby.

Republic Square
422 Guadalupe

Best New Use of Public Land

An Eastside answer to Austin's beloved Zilker Park, the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park remains a work in progress, but when complete, will offer something for everyone: a hike-and-bike trail, picnic areas, basketball courts, soccer, softball, and little-league fields. Kudos to the Austin Parks Foundation for helping to make this project a reality.

Colorado River Park
S. Pleasant Valley

Austin Parks Foundation
507 Calles #116

Best Example of Pure Sport

There is a place where sport is not about multimillion-dollar contracts, drugs, or court trials, but about the joy and heartbreak of competition and athletic grace. That place is Austin in the spring – in March, the state basketball tournaments come to town, followed by track and field, golf, and tennis, and in June, by baseball and softball (and the cross-country title is contested up in Round Rock every fall). A few of the participants will one day be superstars; most won't, but still shed the blood, sweat, and tears of champions.

University Interscholastic League
1701 Manor

Best Pay-to-Play Mountain Biking

When we get the hankering for a change of scene, we take our fat-tire steeds to Smithville. With 16 miles of trail stretched across 1,200 acres of Texas Hill Country, there's no place better to seek thrills, work on skills, and take spills. After tackling "Fat Chuck's Demise," "Omar's Howl," and "the Wall," stop into the saloon for a cold one and one of the best burgers this side of Waco. Camping available. Take Highway 71 to FM 153, head north past Buescher Park, and look for the sign on your left about two miles from the junction.

Rocky Hill Ranch Saloon
578 FM 153 N.

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