Outdoors & Recreation
2008 Readers Poll
2008 Critics Picks
Best Local Team

With the University of Texas bringing home the hardware in this category, one could safely assume the "team" referred to here would be the Colt McCoy-led juggernaut known as Longhorn football (which this entire town revolves around), but don't forget about their nationally respected soccer, track & field, swimming, softball, baseball, et al. programs.

University of Texas Athletics: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, 2100 San Jacinto, 471-3050; Frank Erwin Center, 1701 Red River, 471-7744; Disch-Falk Field, 1300 E. MLK, 471-5732; Mike A. Myers Stadium, 707 Clyde Littlefield Dr., 471-7568

Best Annual Event

We're lucky to have a festival of this size right in the heart of our own city – no camping, no long drives. It may be hot and dusty, but we can still shower and sleep in our own beds every night (after the afterparties, of course). The wide range of acts and local flavor (of both artists and food!) have our readers selling out the festival year after year. We're right there with them – eagerly lining up at the gates waiting for the Star Wars theme song to signify the start of all that rocks.

Austin City Limits Music Festival

Sandy Carson

Best Scenic View

More than 200 feet above the city, Austin’s favorite “mountain” offers spectacular views of the Colorado River and Lake Austin as it winds through the cedar-covered hills. It’s a steep climb up the stone steps, but once you’re there, you’re on top of the world.

Mount Bonnell at Covert Park
3851 Mount Bonnell Dr.

Best Solitude/Quiet

Whether you're walking, running, or biking, the beauty and serenity of Lady Bird Lake is entrancing. The fish, nutria, swans, geese, ducks, and turtles are a constant reminder of this glorious natural gift bestowed upon us. But if we close our eyes just a little bit, we can go to a place that is a calm oasis amidst our busy lives – a place so restful, so peaceful, and so delightful to the senses that it seems to be a million miles away. Don't ask where it is, because you already know.

Lady Bird Lake

Best Place for a Picnic

Lay a blanket down, and revel in all the room you've got to throw a stick to your pooch or a Frisbee to your dreadlocked friends. Someone smell patchouli? If space is what makes your special picnic a romantic getaway right here in the city, then Zilker is your park. There are haunts by the water, tiny hills for secret kisses, trees to climb, and remnants of the ACL foot traffic, memories left behind. Just put your head on a patch of bushy green, and the sky is all yours.

Zilker Park
2100 Barton Springs Rd.

Best Gear/Sporting Goods

For practically everything you could do outside, REI should be your first stop for gear, instruction, clothing, edibles, and electronics. Camping? The store can fit you in the gear you need whether you're sleeping in a cabin or "digging your own hole"-style roughing it. Skiing? Accessories, skis, boots, snowboards, and racks to keep it all together. Canoeing? Same bet, only wetter. This is every adventurer's one-stop shop for all of his or her needs, big or small, novice or expert.

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

Best Bike Ride

Whether you're walking, running, or biking, the beauty and serenity of Lady Bird Lake is entrancing. The fish, nutria, swans, geese, ducks, and turtles are a constant reminder of this glorious natural gift bestowed upon us. But if we close our eyes just a little bit, we can go to a place that is a calm oasis amidst our busy lives – a place so restful, so peaceful, and so delightful to the senses that it seems to be a million miles away. Don't ask where it is, because you already know.

Lady Bird Lake

Best Place to Skate

There are good reasons why both the local flat-track derby league and the Texas Speed Club make their home under the big, sparkly skate. With lessons and times for every age and ability, and maybe a Texas Rollergirl to give you the odd tip about toe-stops, everyone can get eight wheels under them.

Playland Skate Center
8822 McCann

Best Day Trip - Dry

This ancient lump, once completely underground, eroded away to become the giant, beloved granite stone it is now. Enchanted Rock is one fierce batholith and is consistently one of Central Texas' most popular sites. With it's tendency to awe and inspire, this day trip destination challenges all adventurous visitors. Can you make it to the top?

Enchanted Rock
16710 RR 965

Best Day Trip - Wet

It's hot as hell in Austin. Luckily, we Texans have a few options to combat cerebral meltdown. Pack a car full of friends, and flip a coin. Heads if you're in the mood for slippin' and twistin' across miles of slides and tunnels. Tails if you're ready for jaw-dropping nature at its best. Schlitterbahn's got water under a spell, mastering millions of gallons of the stuff to propel your hot mess of a mass up a curvy slide in one sweet gravity-defying swoop. Hamilton Pool's cove and waterfall echo the magical backdrops of fairy tales and far away lands. Take a floaty and a picnic, and you're set for a day of soul revival. Clock both spots at about an hour's drive away. Feel miraculously refreshed any way you cut it.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.
Dripping Springs

381 E. Austin St.
New Braunfels

Sandy Carson

Best Place to Tube

"Tubing? What's tubing?" New Central Texans only get one chance to utter that ill-informed phrase before getting slapped upside the head, then fitted for the inside of a truck tire and taken directly to the Guadalupe River. "It's like sitting for two hours with your ass in a bucket of cold water," one editor notes. But most folks get hooked the first time out. Hill Country towns such as Canyon Lake and New Braunfels thrive on the hoards of incoming tubers looking for sun and fun along the rolling river. The key is to go with a big group of friends and get at least one tube with a bottom attached for an ice chest. And, of course, a designated driver.

Guadalupe River State Park
3350 Park Road 31
Spring Branch

Best Place to Camp

Adventurous campers dive into Lake Travis from the high limestone cliffs, and families bring their pets and barbecue on the more mellow flats on the opposite side of the loop. Since the park is only 30 miles west of Austin, Pace Bend is the perfect weekend getaway and a reminder of just how beautiful Central Texas is.

Pace Bend Park
2011 N. Pace Bend Rd. (RR 2322)

Bret Brookshire

Best Swimming Pool

Swimming lanes cover one half and free-swimming the other; the best of both water worlds can be found at Deep Eddy. Whether you're a splishing kid, a splashing adult, or wishing simply to escape the heat, the free-swim side is no-holds barred. For structured swimmers and newbies alike, the lanes are wide open and welcoming. It's the oldest pool in the state of Texas, and Austin is its home.

Deep Eddy Pool
401 Deep Eddy Ave.

Best Swimming Hole

It will knock the wind right out of you, the average 68 degrees year-round. But go ahead, jump in. And just try to catch your breath.

Barton Springs Pool
2131 William Barton Dr.

David Brendan Hall

Best Basketball Court

The proximity to swimming doesn't hurt, but it's the crowd that makes this the place to get down, street-ball-style. You know, with players who do that whole around the back, between the legs kinda thing, schooling one another, in one another's eyes and such. As sleek as outdoor hoops can get. It's groomed nicely, but take your eye off the ball too long, and you'll get a real close look at that landscaping.

West Enfield Neighborhood Park
2008 Enfield

Best Tennis Court

Let's face it. Getting to the gym to burn those tacos off is not that easy. Putting some snazzy short shorts and sweatbands on to thwack tennis balls at your friends, however, can be a little more inspiring. Noah Rippner and Brie Rippner-Parsons, brother-and-sister founders of Rippner Tennis at South Austin Tennis Center, which they now manage, have created a tennis haven with a loaded schedule of activities, including youth classes, cardio group lessons, and Express Lunch Workouts for the more ambitious. Why go to the gym when, for a few bucks, you can send bright-yellow balls sailing, grunt like Seles, and settle your scores on the courts?

South Austin Tennis Center
1000 Cumberland

Best Bowling Alley

An addictive pastime, bowling embodies good, clean, all-American fun. First bowlers are sure to get hooked by the charm of these classic lanes. The Dart Bowl cafe serves up some serious truck-stop enchiladas and munchies; there's also a full bar. Be sure to check out the sweetest deal on Mondays: $1 everything! Shoes, lanes, even nachos are only one buckaroo. Get there early; it fills up fast.

Best Pool/Billiards

This Sixth Street delight has been around for years, which means it's got to be doing something right. It's the pool, says it right there in the name: "Billiards." Take the Wild West and give it over a dozen pool tables, all shiny green and seriously well-kept; a prime locale that spans over 22,000 square feet; and a full bar to get you looser than the pockets, and there you have it. It takes balls to do what Buffalo Billiards does. Good thing it's got 'em.

Jana Birchum

Best Golf

“Old Muny,” as most Austin golfers affectionately refer to the city course in Old West Austin, has challenged hackers and duffers, as well as some of the legends of the game, since 1928. The 18-hole course isn’t the most difficult, the easiest, nor the prettiest. It doesn’t have the fairest greens nor the greenest fairways. But it does have character and history that can’t be replicated. It’s just the best. It’s a golf thing. You wouldn’t understand.

Lions Municipal Golf Course
2901 Enfield

Best Fitness Classes

When you can't tell a bicep from a baguette, it's time to make a quality-of-life upgrade. The five days per week camps can be spotted on the shores of Lady Bird Lake breaking records in log-lifting, jump-roping, and the group sprint. Whether your core is quivering Jell-O or rock solid, the sergeants at Austin Adventure Boot Camp will make a hard body out of you.

Austin Adventure Boot Camp
4425 MoPac S., Bldg. 2, Ste. 300-B

Bret Brookshire

Best Dance Classes

The proof is in the step, ball, change. The proof is also in the more than 500 students Go Dance teaches every week: those trying out salsa, swing, Country & Western, the foxtrot, waltz, rumba, bolero, tango, or simply preparing for their wedding dance. They cover it all, with 20 dedicated instructors who move what momma gave them. And teach you to do the same.

Go Dance
2525 W. Anderson

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