Outdoors & Recreation
2008 Readers Poll
2008 Critics Picks
Best Conflict Resolution on Wheels

Your kids have issues they gotta work out? Your staff just not cooperating to get stuff done? There is no "I" in team, people. Who can bring us all together? At last, somebody in Austin can offer help for far less cash than a therapist. Not Your Usual Bikes offers tours on its seven-seater Conference Bike that require everyone to work together to get anywhere. Just like life. Team building, anyone? Load your crew on this puppy, and those creative juices will start pumping in no time.

Not Your Usual Bikes

Best Creepy Lakeside Serenity

Consecrated in 1993, this shaded inlet along the north side of the Trail at Lady Bird Lake is easy to miss. Don't, because the ornate temple scaffolding – now grown over with vines – and the clay-colored Voodoo Pew provide a beautiful view of the water and the occasional possum. Artists T. Paul Hernandez, Robert Phillips, and Lars Stanley created this calm, if mildly spine-tingling, respite from the trail.

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake

Sandy Carson

Best Day Trip

An hour east of Austin, La Grange has all of the elements for a weekend minivacation. Anchored by the historic Fayette County Courthouse, the town square is lined with shops including the oldest continuously operated drug store in Texas and an Internet cafe selling custom-made coffee drinks. Take the kids to the Jersey Barnyard, a working dairy farm and the home of Belle, Blue Bell's singing cow. For lunch or dinner, try Fishes & Loaves Family Restaurant for a home-cooked meal. Adults will enjoy playing dominoes at Friendly’s Bar and Tavern, touring the Monument Hill & Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites, or driving the scenic back roads to the painted churches. Get back to town in time for the evening concert at the Bugle Boy, where songwriters play to small crowds in a relaxed, family atmosphere. Then curl up for the night in one of the 20 bed & breakfasts.

La Grange Chamber of Commerce
La Grange Chamber of Commerce, 171 S. Main
La Grange

Best Get-Fit-Quick Scheme

Whether you're bikini-bound or looking to shave some time off of your mile, this coed, three-week intensive boot camp is all you need to achieve your goal. Relying on no tools but the willing body and the beautiful backdrop of Lady Bird Lake, these encouraging trainers whip you into a blissful exhaustion that has never felt so fulfilling or fun. If Lady Bird Lake is a stretch, two other locations and three time slots exist to fit your scheduling and geographic needs.

Go Fit

Best Island

If all dogs do go to heaven (which we're pretty sure man's best friend does), heaven better live up to Red Bud Isle. When a mutt (and his or her person) needs to hit the "paws" button on the hustle and bustle of the city, it's just a strain of the lead down Lake Austin Boulevard to the Tom Miller Dam: Hello, outdoor recreation, doggy-style. The water is cold and clear for lapping or leaping, the ruff trails provide plenty to sniff, and there's ample room for a game or two of fetch. Pure canine bliss.

Red Bud Isle
3401 Red Bud Trail

Best Ladies' Day Shoot Out

Ladies, get your guns! Monday nights are for the girls at Red's Indoor Range. As if free gun rental and half off the hourly rate weren't incentive enough, the extremely courteous and knowledgeable staff sure gets us fired up. Learn the sport, or practice for your own defense. The staff patiently explains your weapons of choice and helps you during target practice. Shoot 'em up!

Red's Indoor Range
6200 Hwy. 290 W., 512/892-4867
1908 W. Pecan, Pflugerville, 512/251-1022

Sandy Carson

Best New Little Armored Ride

Created in the art-car tradition, this fire-breathing armadillo is the child of husband-and-wife team C.J. Anderson and Kate Bower, with conceptual assistance from friend Avi Hartman. So, the fire actually comes out of the Carmadillo’s eyes, and it’s more of a go-kart than a car. But both are moot points, because it’s really the most rad ride around. Carmy’s mean, little face and shell were hand-molded by Hartman. Scary as the beast may be at first glance, Bower says their art car is adored by the kiddos. You can find the Carmadillo at Alternative Softball League games, “regional Burning Man events, builder events like Maker Faire, and really anything Austin-focused where a little more weird is needed,” says Anderson. It can be rented for any event for rides only; Carmy’s two dads, Anderson and Hartman, are the sole operators.


Undead Metals

Best Pingpong Room

One of the most popular sports in the world (thanks, mostly, to China) has finally found a cozy underground club to call home in Austin. (Could it have anything to do with the spate of terrible pingpong movies over the last year?) Early in the week, three tables, located in the no-man's-land between La Zona Rosa and the Backstage Bar, allow everyone, from the casual date to the "loser buys the next round" crowd, to experience the wonder that is poor man's tennis. If you think you've got game, beware: There are always hustlers lurking.

Best Place to Bocce

Though you can play boccie ball just about anywhere there’s a stretch of grass, we’ve been waiting for some real boccie courts to show up in town and take their rightful place among the shuffleboards, pool tables, and other classic games we like to play with our friends when we’re out and about and feeling especially coordinated due to, uh, beer. The Triangle has more than delivered, with not one but two Astroturf-covered courts available for anyone to play — bring your own playing set, or borrow one from the nearby Flipnotics.

The Triangle
4700 Guadalupe

Best Place to Cool Your Heels on a Saturday Night

More precisely a family section of the newly designated Butler District Park, the area features a meadow, a circular climb (or run!) observation hill overlooking Lady Bird Lake and Downtown, and a magically programmed fountain which plays with children (and braver grownups) like a whimsical home sprinkler system designed by Willie Wonka. For the scholarly, it comes with its own homemade history: The fountain is named after writer and Lady Bird confidant Liz Carpenter, the meadow for local Negro League Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Wells, and the observation hill for Texas music legend Doug Sahm. When the kids are blissfully soaked and exhausted, you can tell them all about Liz, Willie, and Doug.

Butler Park
1000 Barton Springs Rd.

Sandy Carson

Sandy Carson

Best Place to Start a Bike Trip

In a town with more than its fair share of great bicycle shops, it isn’t enough that Lance Armstrong, the most famous American cyclist in the world, is the owner. Named for the French pronunciation of "yellow jersey," the shop takes full service a step beyond the usual with a cafe, repair shop, clothes, classes, group rides, rows of brand-name cycles, lockers and showers for commuters, and a friendly staff that is excited about sharing cycling with the world – even the beginners.

Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop
400 Nueces

Best River Shuttle

Sure, there are tons of tube rentals all along the Comal and Guadalupe rivers. Some even offer shuttle services to get you back to your car when you are through lazily floating the day away. But did you know that a shuttle bus will pick up you and your group of friends all the way in Austin and all along the I-35 corridor? Corner Tubes, located in New Braunfels near the Hinman Island Park, the Prince Solms Tube Chute, and Schlitterbahn, offers door-to-door service all the way to Austin, as well as back and forth to local campgrounds. Their bright-yellow buses – the largest fleet along the Comal – run all day, 9am-7pm. They are even available, with driver, for private-party rental.

Corner Tubes
120 S. Liberty Ave.
New Braunfels

Best Runner Training Facility

If you could imagine what the secret love child of RunTex and Bettysport would look like, it would most likely resemble Rogue Equipment. The store specializes in all things that aid runners, especially those who are participating in one of Rogue’s running training programs (they get a 15% discount in the store). Located in a colorful, airy corner of a refurbished warehouse on the Eastside, the store often hosts early-morning runs through Downtown to the hike and bike trail, teasing the coming development plans for a hike and bike that may one day loop all of Austin.

Rogue Equipment
500 San Marcos St.

Best Soccer Player

Playing for the Under-23 (amateur) Austin Aztex, Gallardo was tabbed as Goalkeeper of the Year in the 67-team Premier Development League; immediately after the season ended, he became the first signing for the Aztex pro team that will start play next season in the United Soccer League's First Division. The 23-year-old native of Torreón, Mexico, attended Westwood High in Round Rock and, after a stint with Tigres in the Mexican first division, has been a fixture on several top amateur teams here in his adopted hometown. He's an acrobatic shot-blocker, dangerous at starting attacks with long outlet passes, but his biggest asset, particularly on a young team, may be his commanding, vocal presence in the back. Even from the stands, it's easy to tell who's in charge on the field.

Miguel Gallardo
Austin Aztex
2720 Bee Caves Rd. #220

Best Starry-Eyed Dream

Never heard of the Austin Planetarium? That's probably because it doesn't exist – yet. Believe it or not, Austin is the largest city in the U.S. without a planetarium. Hopefully, things are about to change – and they will, if the Friends of the Austin Planetarium have anything to say about it. The nonprofit, started by a group of stargazers, incorporated in 2003 to bring a world-class planetarium to Austin. Since then, it's been spreading the word and raising funds. Stargazers rejoice! If all goes well, the group will soon ink a contract for a 9-acre tract of land near the intersection of Highway 290 and SH 130, with plans to open the planetarium as soon as 2010.

Austin Planetarium
1001 Capital of TX Hwy. S., Bldg. L #200

Best Walk in the Park

Minutes from Downtown, this West Austin wilderness opens to the public at 9am on the second Saturday and Sunday of each month for guided tours. The hike winds through woods along the Balcones Fault uplift, providing the docents plenty of stories to tell about the geology, plants, fauna, and natural history of old Austin.

Bright Leaf
Between MoPac and Highway 360, bordered by 2222 and Crestway Drive

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