Outdoors & Recreation
2007 Readers Poll
2007 Critics Picks

Bret Brookshire

Best Basketball Court

The boys in the HZ colors mean business. They're after fast breaks, full-court presses, and scholarships. It means something when you're on the team, in the gym, working it out at this basketball training facility. Just like it means something to play here, to join the league or come for private drilling. Or even when you just come to hoop it up all sweaty and loud in an open gym. Welcome to your home court.

Hoop Zone
826 Rutland
512/837-5553
www.hoop-zone.net

Best Bike Ride

Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson's initial efforts, these 10 miles of wide trails, beautiful trees, thoughtfully placed water fountains, stretch and exercise areas, and lakeside breeze, continue to receive resounding approval from bike dabblers and hardcore cyclists alike. The nomenclature of this beloved recreation pathway is up for a change. The lovers of these trails can submit suggestions on the Austin Parks and Recreation website, to be voted on Dec. 10.

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

Bret Brookshire

Best Bowling Alley

Dollar Mondays, legendary chili-cheese enchiladas, trophies spanning vintage triumphs – all mere accoutrements to the reason bowlers of all ages stick with Dart Bowl. Simply put, it's the best, no-frills game you're going to get, offering up clean lanes, fast balls, and cold beer for the little Lebowski in all of us.

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

Best Community Garden

You don't know dedication until you've visited the Sunshine Gardens in Central Austin. This community of gardeners, one of the largest in the nation, toils in the Texas heat to maintain their bountiful refuge. For decades green thumbs have flocked to Sunshine's pastures and continue to honor the surrounding area with the fruits of their labor - the most delicious tomatoes ever and seasonal-plant sales to start your own garden, 'cause this one has a wait list.

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

Best Day Trip - Dry

Enchanted Rock brings out a Texan's pride. We're not exactly sure which came first, the giant rock or the Earth, but we sure do love climbing the damn thing! This enormous, pretty-'n'-pink granite rock/mountain is utterly astonishing with its endless slopes, hidden caves, and mysterious, majestic beauty. It's enough to quiet even the kids with awe.

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

Best Day Trip - Wet

Let's see: an awe-inspiring grotto with a waterfall or a breathtaking spring-fed creek with a waterfall? One was born of an ancient sunken cave (Hamilton), and the other is privately owned, with rocky slabs perfect for sunbathing or watching the line of kids take on the rope swing (Krause). Our readers can't decide either. Why not enjoy both? Both Hill Country swimming holes feature fairly primitive amenities, just the way Mother Earth intended; hiking boots, a supply of drinking water, and plenty o' sunscreen are recommended at each.

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

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

Best Fitness Classes

Sweating flexibility is their thing - stress-relief and the disappearance of that bad office-chair posture. From slumped over to open-chest proud. They started small but have grown into a handful of locations all over town. With more than 100 teachers offering 300 classes weekly, Yoga Yoga lights the path to those divine moments where we just sit, quietly, alone with ourselves. Our breath. The true path starts within you.

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

Going to the greenbelt to picnic? To Canyon Lake to drown a worm? Halfway up the Amazon? Or the Alps? Do the kids need track spikes? A new catcher’s mitt? A pitching wedge? Do you need a pitching wedge? That 9-iron in the bunker routine is a bit ridiculous, dontcha think? That's a lot of questions, but it seems all your outward-bound answers can be found at REI.

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

Wanna shift those love handles? But which gym? You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a workout joint. Well how about old favorite the YMCA? As tricked-out with the latest machinery as any ritzy ab-busting establishment, the exercise icon even comes with personal trainers these days. With so many locations, there'll be one in jogging distance. Just spare us the Village People reference, will ya?

YMCA Town Lake Branch
1100 W. Cesar Chavez
512/542-9622
www.austinymca.org

Best Outdoor Event

Bob Dylan, Björk, Lucinda Williams, Arcade Fire, the Killers, and so many more stars have all moved on to their next gigs, but Austin is still reverberating from the phenomenon that is ACL. With 65,000 attendees, your votes prove once again that dust storms, drizzle, and dark of night cannot loosen the firm hold that the Austin City Limits Music Festival has on the Best Outdoor Event category.

Austin City Limits Music Festival
300 W 6th Ste. 2100
512/478-7211
www.aclfestival.com

Best Place for a Picnic

Our local oasis flaunts a beauty that redefines Texas for many visitors. Pair this amazing setting with a blanket, swimsuit, and picnic basket, and have a first class meal with Mother Nature. There are six picnic areas spread out around the park with barbecue pits and tables, and activities to enjoy after your meal like swimming at Barton Springs or strolling through the free Botanical Gardens. So, eat, be merry, and make good use of Colonel Zilker's gift of 351 acres to the city he loved.

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

Best Place to Camp

Sometimes camping means one night in the wilderness, sleeping in a car with a trunk full of Lone Star. Sometimes, it's a week of truly roughing it, making all your own food, living on a bed pad with leaves for toilet paper. At Pace Bend, you can do either. Located just 30 miles from Austin, it's a quick jaunt to the 9 miles of scenic and peaceful shoreline; Lake Travis encompassed by green that makes us all beam Texas pride. Hiking, climbing, biking, horseback riding, swimming, sailing, and whiskey-drinking. Camping is what you make of it, and Pace Bend's got your back. Pack.

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

Bret Brookshire

Best Place to Make Out

The place formerly known as Antoinette's Leap is not only the highest point in the city, but surely it's the most romantic. The views and vistas, day or night, dazzle the eye, and the legend of the beauty who leaped to her death after her lover was killed by Indians adds a Hollywood touch that's sure to make the object of your affections melt in your arms. From the hazy hills and the winding river during the day to the panoply of stars and city lights at night, Austin's magic is laid out like a feast before your eyes.

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

Best Place to Skate

Playland Skate has more than 20 years of wheeling away the worries of the world under its belt. Dually home to private parties and arcade games for the little wheelers while amped with foggy effects and lighting to satiate the funkiest of the big wheels, this mecca-in-the-round is home of the Texas Rollergirls and the legendary Tuesday night Adult Skate.

Playland Skate Center
8822 McCann
512/452-1901
www.playlandskatecenter.net

Bret Brookshire

Best Pool Tables

Cowboys and gals reminiscent of old dime novels grace the walls while the system beats alt-rock at this Sixth Street staple. Three rooms of pool tables means there’s plenty of game going, and the place is so spacious that it doesn’t really feel crowded even when weekend revelers stream in. But the rockin’ social scene isn’t all – with a live music venue and a video-game room upstairs, this place is boss.

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

Best Sport

Need a reason to take a shot while the sun’s still rising? Well here’s the best reason we can think of: Touchdown, Longhorns! Nothing whets our whistle quite like a Jamaal Charles rush up the middle for 20, or a Brandon Foster interception or a four-and-out defensive stand on the one. So do you have to drink to enjoy UT football? No, no you do not. But is a Saturday morning better sober? Well, we here wouldn’t have the first idea.

University of Texas Football
2012 Robert Dedman
512/471-3050
www.texassports.com

Bret Brookshire

David Brendan Hall

Best Swimming Hole

The crowd. Your book. The hill from which you squint at the people and the pages until you can’t stand to sweat another minute. The jump, when you catapult your body into the cold, cold water. The shock – or what sure feels like it – inside-out and backward. Total refreshment of 68 degrees year-round that’s totally worth repeating. Readers don’t lie; Barton Springs Pool is still the best cool in Austin.

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

Best Swimming Pool

Man and nature joined forces in the beginning of the 20th century, creating a euphoric summer blessing known as Deep Eddy. With a clean cement finish and spring-fed water like Barton Springs (but at a fourth of the size), the oldest pool in Austin is a little slice of heaven in the Texas heat. With summer movie nights, cool treats, and one of the best displays of swimsuits and smiles, Deep Eddy is an Austin institution.

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

Best Tennis Court

Despite tennis' rep as a genteel sport, public courts can bring out the worst: yelling over loose balls, bad calls, obnoxious patter. Never at the South Austin Tennis Center, where the play is neighborly. The leagues are relaxed but competitive and entertaining. Loving tennis is the bottom line. So, here, when your double faults trail into the next court, they'll probably smile and toss it back. Friendly … but maybe not after the 100th time.

South Austin Tennis Center
1000 Cumberland
512/442-1466
www.rippnertennis.com

Best View

The place formerly known as Antoinette's Leap is not only the highest point in the city, but surely it's the most romantic. The views and vistas, day or night, dazzle the eye, and the legend of the beauty who leaped to her death after her lover was killed by Indians adds a Hollywood touch that's sure to make the object of your affections melt in your arms. From the hazy hills and the winding river during the day to the panoply of stars and city lights at night, Austin's magic is laid out like a feast before your eyes.

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

 
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