Outdoors & Recreation
2005 Readers Poll
2005 Critics Picks
Best Basketball Court

With its close proximity to Enfield Pool and fashionable maroon and green pavement, Enfield basketball court stands ready for a pick-up game of shirts vs. skins. Temperatures in Austin being what they are, it is more likely to inspire a game of skins vs. skins. Losers have to wait 'til all the winners are in the pool.

West Enfield Neighborhood Park
2008 Enfield
www.cityofaustin.org/parks

Best Bike Ride

Just look at all our Hike and Bike Trail offers: drinking fountains every mile, breeze off the river, meeting place with refreshments provided by RunTex, showers, central location, safe and populated trail, and don’t forget the view of kayak water polo. It’s the Tour de Austin. Just watch out for the joggers; you don’t actually get bonus points for beaning them.

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake
The Trail Foundation, PO Box 5195
855/448-7245
www.thetrailfoundation.org

Best Bowling Alley

We know Austin has great food ... but at a bowling alley? Isn't that the place you order warm beer and stale pretzels? But no, Dart Bowl has to have veal cutlets, grilled ham, and the nearby Dart Bowl Steakhouse. What's next? Champagne bowling brunches? Um ... actually, it might be time to join a league. With their top-rate facilities and gutterguards, we'll be serving turkeys soon enough. Mmm ... turkey.

Dart Bowl
5700 Grover
512/452-2518
www.dartbowl.com

Best Community Garden

Wildlife scatters across the paths as wildflowers soar from the earth in vibrant, organized displays. Zilker features Zen gardens, historic dinosaur tracks (found in 1992), and even a stone path that leads right through the pond, evoking a powerful sensation of walking on water. This masterpiece is romantic in a most subtle way, with plenty of inviting nooks and clandestine crannies in which to steal kisses. It's Austin's epitome of relaxation. Stop and smell the roses. For real.

Zilker Botanical Garden
2220 Barton Springs Rd.
512/477-8672
www.zilkergarden.org

Best Day Trip-Dry

The Tonkawa have a legend that tells of a conquistador swallowed by this land and reborn as one of their own. "When I was swallowed by the rock, I joined the many spirits who enchant this place," the Spaniard reportedly said. Now, we aren't purporting attempts at rock swallowing, but, if you're looking for a chance to get lost and do a little self-discovery in the wild, it's hard to imagine better accompanying scenery.

Enchanted Rock
16710 RR 965
Fredericksburg
830/685-3636
www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/enchanted-rock

Best Day Trip-Wet

The highlight of this Balcones Canyonland Perserve is her signature 50-foot waterfall flowing from Hamilton Creek. The falls drop into the pool itself, which is nestled in a sheer, grottolike canyon. Apparently our readers love to rough it, as the preserve's first focus is on nature, not cushy amenities. Bring sturdy hiking boots and plenty of drinking water if you plan to stay for a while. Also, swimming is conditioned upon area water bacteria levels. The county has a handy phone number for visitors to check on water quality: 512/264-6740.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.
Dripping Springs
512/264-2740
parks.traviscountytx.gov

John Carrico

John Carrico

Best Fitness Classes

With three (and a fourth on its way) studios, Yoga Yoga knows how to bend, stretch, and kick. Two rooms in the north studio sport Canadian Maple wood floors, which shine with peaceful serenity and prove sturdy for Hatha and Ashtanga sessions. The list of class offerings is long and intricate: from gentle instruction for beginners easing into things to extensive workouts for the truly "twisted." Enjoy the space, where energy flows free and clear; then have a cup of tea (on them), and feel what true relaxation can do for your life. Namaste.

Yoga Yoga
2167 Anderson, 512/380-9800
1700 S. Lamar, 512/358-1200
4477 S. Lamar #420, 512/358-1200
12001 Burnet, 512/490-1200
2501 Capital of TX Hwy S., 512/381-6464
www.yogayoga.com

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
REI

REI stands for the three C's (camping, climbing, cycling) done up in sprawling, warehouse fashion. This place is massive, walls lined with the Gucci's of outdoor gear: North Face, Gramicci, Patagonia, K2, Teva, Columbia, Ex Officio, and more. Stocked in all the brightest colors, REI gets our readers stoked for a woodsy outing, equipped with dehydrated Blueberry Cheesecake, ice picks, or even a kayak the size of a trailer.

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

Best Gym/Fitness Facility

Whether you're a yogi in training or are in search of the almighty six-pack, when it comes to shaping, sculpting, rehabilitating, or building the body you've always wanted, the nine area locations, million tons of weights, 450-plus weekly classes, plasma TVs, ladies-only workout rooms, child care areas, steam rooms, and certified trainers team up under the No. 1 name in physical fitness to bring it.

Gold's Gym
Various locations
512/646-4653
www.goldsgym.com

Best Outdoor Event

If it's your inner explorer you're looking to find, then check out one of Hill Country Outdoor's numerous events. It seems this outdoor adventure club offers a different activity almost every single day: kayaking, biking, backpacking, boating, spelunking, camping, rafting, skiing, golf, disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, tennis, volleyball, swimming. Whew! We got a workout just writing about it.

Hill Country Outdoors
PO Box 684732
512/383-1191
www.hillcountryoutdoors.com

Best Place for a Picnic

The crown jewel of city parks has it all for dining al fresco: shaded picnic tables, sunny grasslands, and charcoal pits. As if that weren't enough, there's a mini train for scenic thrills, an extensive playscape for getting out the sillies, and Best Pool Ever: Barton Springs. And heck, you can even forgo the packing of eats and just pick up a burger and fries right outside the pool gates.

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

Best Place to Camp

Besides being built around the same vein of pink granite outcroppings, Inks Lake in Burnet and Enchanted Rock in Fredericksburg have a few more things in common. Both parks feature great hiking, biking, birding, and of course camping. Enchanted Rock offers a more primitive experience; no RVs or pop-up trailers allowed here. However, the exciting climbing and spelunking challenges make it all worthwhile. Now, if your version of camping involves A/C and a golf course, then head to Inks Lake. The 803-acre lake also affords great fishing, boating, and even SCUBA diving opportunities.

Inks Lake State Park
3630 Park Road 4 W.
Inks Lake
512/793-2223
www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/inks-lake

Enchanted Rock
16710 RR 965
Fredericksburg
830/685-3636
www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/enchanted-rock

Best Place to Skate

Just over 3 miles long, the Veloway is the Austin in-line destination supreme. While it was found in the mid-Eighties amidst slight controversy, the Veloway has proven itself to be a human-made resource prized in the skating community. Changes in incline provide varied levels of difficulty, and the lack of motorized vehicles, pets, and joggers make it a great place to learn.

Veloway
4900 La Crosse
512/974-6700
www.cityofaustin.org/bicycle

Best Place to Smooch Outdoors

Towering more than 700 feet above the city, Mount Bonnell was selected by our readers for its breathtaking views ... which may have something to do with it also being chosen "Best Place to Smooch Outdoors." Hike with your sweetie up the park’s 102 steps to enjoy the 360-degree vista. Marvel at the urban landmarks visible from this vantage point. "Honey! That’s the 360 bridge!" "But look, my darling! It’s our lovely metropolitan skyline!" Aw heck, who are we kidding? You’ll be too busy gazing into one another’s eyes to notice.

Mount Bonnell at Covert Park
3851 Mount Bonnell Dr.
512/974-6700

Best Pool Tables

Buffalo Billiards isn't just a pool hall trying to recall Texas' Wild West past; it's housed in a building that helped create it. Built in 1861, the Missouri House (as it was known then) was rumored to be a brothel. Almost a century and a half later, Buffalo's stage offers some of the best guitar-laden man themes and finest pool tables this side of the Mississippi. Talk about a li'l bit country and a li'l bit rock & roll.

Buffalo Billiards
201 E. Sixth
512/479-7665
www.buffalobilliards.com

Best Sport

Central Texans are hip to what the rest of the world has known for a long time: Soccer is the best (arguably) and most popular (without question) sport on this planet. Beating out what many consider the pinnacle of Austin athletics (UT football) is a testament to the unwavering love its practitioners profess for this beautiful and artistic sport.

David Brendan Hall

Best Swimming Hole

Even those who suffer from a crippling fear of cold water somehow manage to overcome the chill-o-phobia long enough to take a refreshing plunge into Austin’s favorite freaky-cold swimming hole. Kept at a constant 68 degrees courtesy of Mother Nature and some bubbling goodness down below, Barton Springs continues to be Austin's respite from the sweltering triple-digit Texas summer heat. Go on, get in. Trust us, the water’s fine.

Barton Springs Pool
2201 Barton Springs Rd.
512/867-3080
www.austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool

Best Swimming Pool

Tourmaline waters, shimmering trees, all the ecstatic toddlers and tatooed alternaparents you could possible desire to see in their skivvies! This is Deep Eddy, the hidden Jewel of aquiferial runoff tucked alongside Lake Austin Boulevard. It is one-fourth the size of Barton Springs, with a silky concrete bottom and a view of Lake Austin over the fence top. On very hot days, refresh your palate with a cup of Jim-Jim's fruity Water-Ice for sale out front. Deep Eddy Pool is one of Austin's dreamiest spots for communing with nature and the best in human nature.

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

John Carrico

Best Tennis Court

The official Austin Chronicle barometer for determining tennis court cachet is gauged by how much admiration we get for performing our interpretation of Monica Seles-style grunts as we execute our John Cleese-style moves. Unfortunately, due to its great location, numerous separate courts, and a staff accustomed to catering to serious practitioners of the sport, the Caswell center doesn’t rank too highly on our list. But fortunately for Caswell, our readers actually want to learn how to play the game properly in a comfortable environment, and as a result, it tops theirs.

Caswell Tennis Center
2312 Shoal Creek Blvd.
512/478-6268
www.lovetennis4caswell.com

Best View

Towering more than 700 feet above the city, Mount Bonnell was selected by our readers for its breathtaking views ... which may have something to do with its also being chosen "Best Place to Smooch Outdoors." Hike with your sweetie up the park’s 102 steps to enjoy the 360-degree vista. Marvel at the urban landmarks visible from this vantage point. "Honey! That’s the 360 bridge!" "But look, my darling! It’s our lovely metropolitan skyline!" Aw heck, who are we kidding? You’ll be too busy gazing into each other’s eyes to notice.

Mount Bonnell at Covert Park
3851 Mount Bonnell Dr.
512/974-6700

John Carrico

 
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