Outdoors & Recreation
2006 Readers Poll
2006 Critics Picks
Best Basketball Court

The players up in Enfield know how to make a baller feel welcome. And pampered, too: After a heated game, amid the manses of Old Enfield, our readers like to kick it back poolside at the park's nearby pool. Word to the wise: Ride your bike or park along the MoPac frontage road, as parking in this neck of the woods tends to be scarce. Now, if only they'd offer valet parking, the joint would be four-star.

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

Best Bike Ride

It's 10 miles of truly luscious landscape and lots of nice, firm booties to see. There are many points of entry/exit, and the trail is easy enough for beginners. Advanced cyclists can take advantage of the long stretches to build endurance – and even firmer booties.

The Trail at Lady Bird Lake
The Trail Foundation, PO Box 5195
512/733-3989
www.thetrailfoundation.org

Best Bowling Alley

We'll spare you from having to search every alley in the city for cheap entertainment (get your mind out of the gutter), so split to Dart Bowl for a striking good time. Go ahead — get the ball rolling and go. There are leagues of fun waiting for you, and you don't even need a frame of reference. Bowling. Pins.

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

Best Community Garden

Would a tomato by any other name taste as sweet? No one knows better than the Sunshine Gardens gardeners and volunteers, who have continued to cultivate and maintain their urban Eden, despite this summer’s droughts and record-breaking temperatures. Thanks, Sunshine, for having some of the greenest thumbs in Austin.

Sunshine Gardens
4814 Sunshine Dr.
512/458-2009
www.main.org/sunshine

Best Day Trip - Dry

The pink granite dome was sacred ground to the Native Americans for centuries before Anglo settlers began moving into Central Texas north of Fredericksburg. This 425-foot-high rock outcropping attracts legions of campers, hikers, and rock climbers who marvel at the view from the peak. On weekends, the state park often reaches capacity before noon, but usually opens again to visitors by 5pm.

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

Best Day Trip - Wet

A lovely drive through Texas Hill Country and a brief hike down into a ravine, and before your eyes rises an ancient sunken cave. Water cascades from an overhang, at a height where you once stood only moments before and never would have even known such a treasure existed here below. The blue-green lagoon that is Hamilton Pool provides icy relief from the scorching Texas heat. Thirty-four miles west of Austin in Spicewood, the privately owned and lovingly operated Krause Springs is actually two swimming holes in one – a spring-fed swimming pool and below that a creek. Cypress trees line the water and tower over a waterfall.

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

Krause Springs
830/693-4181
www.krausesprings.net

Best Fitness Classes

Since holding her first camp only a year ago, Stephanie McDonald, founder, coach, and bodybuilding physique competitor, has managed to muscle out the competition. We wouldn't dream of denying the novel drill serg-ette anything. Her clients haven't, and they are grateful for the inspiration and the success at the five-days-a-week, four-week camps.

Austin Adventure Boot Camp
4425 MoPac S., Bldg. 2, Ste. 300-B
877/801-8171
www.atxbootcamp.com

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
REI

With everything from bicycles to tents, and kayaks to glow-in-the-dark disc-golf discs, REI has something for everyone. True sportsmen and couch potatoes alike can find something to put on the wish list – even the inspiration to get active. Their impressive selections of dog gear, picnic supplies, and gym accessories cover just about anything one could possible need to make traveling, camping, and staying fit easier. Join the co-op and get a bonus check back at the end of the year.

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

A lot of ingredients go into making this pure original: trainers, nutrition experts, massage therapists, fitness level assessment equipment, fresh towels, sand volleyball courts, one private lake for swimming and kayaking, another location on Town Lake, and even – occasionally – a trainer aiming to run 12 hours to raise money for charity. This homegrown recipe makes two locations, unlimited servings. Go ahead and gorge yourself on this one.

PureAustin Fitness
907 W. Fifth, 512/474-1800
4210 W. Braker, 512/342-2200
www.pureaustin.com

Best Outdoor Event

You refuse to be sidetracked by the heat. Austin’s ACL Fest manages to combine hippies, indie rockers, and KGeezers in a conglomerate of summer love. We just put the fifth edition to bed, and rumors are already flying for 2007: Radiohead, anyone? What other festival notches Tom Petty, Coldplay, the Pixies, and Wilco on its bedpost? Well, we’re better.

Capital Sports & Entertainment
98 San Jacinto #430
512/478-7211
www.planetcse.com

Charles Attal Presents
98 San Jacinto #430
512/385-3602
www.capresents.com

Best Place for a Picnic

There is simply too much to do in one picnic outing at Zilker Park. Feed the ducks. A ride on the miniature train. Romp around the playground. Swim in Barton Springs pool. Snooze under the shady groves. Games of soccer and football on the fields. Live music or theatre. Frisbee golf. Snow cones. So much more. Fortunately, the Texas summer is long, and Zilker is always open.

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

Best Place to Camp

Pace Bend's popular cliffs and coves make for secluded camping areas where folks feel they have the entire cozy nook all to themselves. While the activities at this treasure right off of Lake Travis are vast and varied, you might not leave your chair. Very close to the city, Pace Bend is a wonderful destination to revive the weariest of souls.

Pace Bend Park
2011 N. Pace Bend Rd. (RR 2322)
Spicewood
512/264-1482
www.co.travis.tx.us/tnr/parks/pace_bend.asp

Best Place to Skate

And by skating, we speak of the inline shred, graceful skitching, hitting it hard because this is 3.1 smooth miles of concrete, shared only by bicyclists who know what's up, perfect for tucking in and balling out. Let it rip. Or you can stay to the right and carve out a peaceful stroll for yourself through the wild-flowered parkland. Either way, eight-wheeling doesn't get any better than this.

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

Best Place to Smooch Outdoors

Climb the 100 steps to paradise: That's what our readers tell us year after year. If you're a tad winded when you reach the top, you may want to smooch before you gaze out because the views are truly breathtaking. Settling into the perfect pavilion on the peak, you'll be rewarded for your effort with a sweeping panorama of the Hill Country to the west, Downtown and the UT Tower to the southeast, and Lake Austin on the Colorado River to the north. Keep an eye on both your heart and your footing.

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

Best Pool Tables

One of Paul Newman’s more inspired lines in 1986’s The Color of Money: “Pool excellence is not about excellent pool.” It’s true. But is pool made more excellent with a live music venue upstairs, a solid bar, and three separate rooms of tables? Even TomKat would have a hard time finding a place more excellent to play a little pool than Buffalo Billiards.

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

Best Sport

Football would be too obvious. Basketball would be too normal. In Austin, Soccer reigns supreme as the favorite sporting pastime. There's a league and a team to fit every age and skill level, so everyone can get in on the action. Youth clubs ranging from the Optimists to the fiercely named Warrior Soccer Association are organized under the Capital Area Youth Soccer Association; while women, men, and co-ed adults are in action almost every weekend year-round. And if kickin' it isn't your thing, with so many leagues, plus six college teams and the semi-pro Austin Lightning, there are plenty of opportunities for that other favorite sports pastime: ogling. Austin Women's Soccer League: www.awsl.org Austin Men's Soccer Association: www.austinsoccernet.com Austin Co-Ed Soccer Association: http://acsasoccer.org Capital Area Youth Soccer Association: www.caysa.org Austin Lightning Soccer: www.austinlightningsoccer.com And for general info: SoccerEnterprise.com Soccer Watch Online: www.austinchronicle.com/soccerwatch

Texas State Soccer Association - South
www.soccerenterprise.com

Best Swimming Hole

Austinites have been craving and braving the chilly waters of Barton Springs for as long as the springs have sprung. Some stay for an hour, some for three and some for an entire day, even going into the night hours under the stars. Is it for the great people-watching, the eclectic music, the sun, the moon? Sure, all that and more. But mostly it's for the little slice of heaven right here in Austin.

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

Best Swimming Pool

Deep Eddy is Texas' oldest swimming pool. Situated along the west end of Town Lake Park, the pool is fed by a well and features shallow water for the kiddos and lots of lanes for lap swimmers. On summer nights you can catch your favorite movies projected there on a big screen, while cooling your tootsies in the refreshingly chilly water.

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

Best Tennis Court

They've got a real racket (heh, heh) going on over at Texas' oldest tennis facility. Serious fans can attest, the staff here at the Cas know how to cater to the pros – perhaps due to the city's contracts with true tennis pros to operate the eight Laykold courts. And our readers are happy about it. But, um, hello? Ball boys? Where are the ball boys?

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

Best View

Climb the 100 steps to paradise: That's what our readers tell us year after year. If you're a tad winded when you reach the top, you'd better smooch before you gaze out because the views are truly breathtaking. Settling into the perfect pavilion on the peak, you'll be rewarded for your effort with a sweeping panorama of the Hill Country to the west, Downtown and the UT Tower to the southeast, and Lake Austin on the Colorado River to the north. Keep an eye on both your heart and your footing.

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

 
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