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2010ReadersOutdoors & Recreation

Best Annual Event
South by Southwest

South by Southwest: When else can you hear 30 different languages spoken on Sixth Street, all telling you to check out their bands, films, or Web 3.0 projects? SXSW brings the best of the best to three conferences – Music, Film, and Interactive – and Austinites bask in the reflected glory.

South by Southwest, 400 Bowie, 512/467-7979, www.sxsw.com

Best Annual Festival
Austin City Limits Music Festival

That first year, 2002, the Arc Angels crowned Zilker Park's inaugural music marathon like a picnic in, well, Zilker Park. Dark as pitch, there was plenty of room to spread out a blanket in front of the main stage, looking at the stars while repeating, "There's no place like home." Last year, Pearl Jam roiled its muddy mosh pit like the fields at Woodstock ’94. Everything in between, for the perennially sold-out and now three-day festival, has followed that yellow brick road.

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

Best Austin Holiday
Eeyore's Birthday

Hipper than hip and hippie-er than hippies, Eeyore's Birthday came to be in 1963, long before many regular Chronicle readers were even born. Heralded for its drum circles (once described by a critic as having all the rhythm of tennis shoes in a clothes dryer), face paint, body paint, outlandish costumery or lack thereof, and other crowd-pleasing features, Eeyore's Birthday has continued to draw huge crowds of a cross-section of Austin hippies (er, citizens) for more than three generations. Sound like something up your alley? Well, it's certainly in your park – Pease Park. Every year. Hip, hip, hippieee!

Friends of the Forest Foundation, www.eeyores.org

Pease Park, 1100 Kingsbury, 512/974-6700, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Basketball Court
West Enfield Neighborhood Park

For most guys, finding a reliable pickup basketball game is akin to a lady's search for a little black dress. Luckily, there's almost always some competition to be found at the Enfield court, thanks to its central location and ample shade. It sure beats the traffic of MoPac.

West Enfield Neighborhood Park, 2008 Enfield, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Bike Ride
TIE: Lady Bird Lake; Hill Country Ride for AIDS

"Crunch!" That's your fat tire introducing itself to the gravel. "On your left!" That's the babe in the crossover overtaking you. "Huff huff huff – swoosh swoosh swoosh!" That's you pedaling your damnedest to catch up, all the while taking in one of the sweetest views of our town from the Trail at Lady Bird Lake, named for the former first lady who first set out to beautify this urban green space. Out west once a year is another sort of bike ride, this one to raise dough and awareness for a great cause. The annual Hill Country Ride for AIDS has been chugging through ribbons of rural roadway for nigh over a decade now, since 1999. And no matter if you come in ninth, 99th, or 999th, everyone's a winner, baby … wheelie.

Lady Bird Lake, 512/974-6700, www.cityofaustin.org

Hill Country Ride for AIDS, PO Box 49097, 512/371-7433, www.hillcountryride.org

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

Retro is cool, but it's even cooler when it's retro because it never changed. In business since 1970, this is your father's and maybe even your grandma's bowling alley, complete with a bar and restaurant serving up greasy goodness (try the chicken-fried steak, the enchilada dinner, or the scrumptious breakfast).

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

Best Day Trip - Dry
Enchanted Rock

The Tonkawa Indians were convinced that this massive pink granite lump was home to spirits, and after hearing some of the strange groans and creaks that issue from the ancient dome, who are we to disagree? But we'd argue that even without that history of haints around it, someone was bound to dub this rock "enchanted." Everything about it has a touch of magic to it, from its curious shape curving up out of the Central Texas landscape to its rosy tint, from the smoothness of its slope – gentle enough for toddlers and their grandparents both to make the climb up its face – to the majestic view of the Hill Country surrounding it. It's no wonder that folks swarm to and over this monumental outcropping. It's a wonder.

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

Best Day Trip – Wet
Hamilton Pool

When your toes dig into the sand and pebbles near the tiny beachhead of Hamilton Pool, it's a good thing you're already wet. Now go back on shore and shuck down to your bathing suit. And don't dry off before the ultimate misting under the enchanted swimming hole's waterfall. A magic over-the-hills-and-through-the-woods hike to reach CenTex's El Dorado adds even more to the pleasure portal. You don't need a Spanish fortune hunter to find it, either.

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

Best Fitness Classes
Austin Adventure Boot Camp

When the saying "Everything is bigger in Texas" starts applying to your ass, then you know it's time to give Stephanie McDonald and her team at Austin Adventure Boot Camp a call. You participate; they motivate; your booty gets a little less bounce. You better let them see you sweat!

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

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
TIE: Academy; REI

Need a kayak? No problem. Baseball pants? Sure, we got those. How about a tent, meals ready-to-eat, slippers, or even a firearm? Yup, got ’em all. Let's face it, between outdoor outfitting giants REI and Academy Sports + Outdoors, you can find anything and everything you need to tackle any and every outdoor activity – and it's no wonder these powerhouse players have tied as our favorite retailers for outfitting the unknown!

REI, 601 N. Lamar, 512/482-3357, www.rei.com

Academy, 7513 N. I-35, 512/407-6310, www.academy.com

REI, 9901 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 512/343-5550, www.rei.com

REI, 201 University Oaks, Round Rock, 512/255-1938

Academy, 12250 Research, 512/506-6000, www.academy.com

Academy, 801 E. William Cannon, 512/486-6000, www.academy.com

Academy, 5400 Brodie, 512/891-4240, www.academy.com

Academy, 1351 I-35 S., Round Rock, 512/246-4600, www.academy.com

Academy, 1104 C-Bar Ranch Trl., Cedar Park, 512/259-6200, www.academy.com

Best Golf
Lions Municipal Golf Course

To outside viewers of the course, the only thing more recognizable than the netting protecting balls from straying onto Lake Austin Boulevard are the Save Muny signs. The Austin staple founded in 1934 keeps getting the "BOA" award for best golf course, so let’s hope the UT board of regents gets smart and Lions Municipal sticks around.

Lions Municipal Golf Course, 2901 Enfield, 512/477-6963, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Local Team
Texas Longhorns

With Colt McCoy signed on as a Cleveland Brown, the Garrett Gilbert era has begun for Austin's (and the entire state of Texas') most beloved team. Some may attend church on Sundays, but here in football country, we worship in the pews of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturdays.

Texas Longhorns, www.texassports.com

Best Place To Camp
Krause Springs

Thirty-two springs on 115 acres make this Hill Country getaway prime stomping grounds for campers. Take a stroll through the butterfly gardens or a dip in one of the spring-fed pools. Set up your tent, or park your RV. It's only $5 for day-trippers and $10 for overnighters.

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

Best Place To Skate
Playland Skate Center

Under the giant sparkly disco skate, Austinites have learned to tell their toe stops from their bearings, the Texas Rollergirls and the Texas Speed Club have become better competitors, and kids have celebrated their birthdays on wheels. With a new floor laid earlier this year, Playland will keep rolling into the future.

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

Best Place To Tube
Comal River

The Comal River gives New Braunfels what Barton Springs offers Austin – a relaxing, affordable respite from the summer heat. While overshadowed commercially by the Guadalupe, the Comal actually makes for a better day trip, especially for tubing, as it's considerably shorter, has a sweet tube chute, and is only a stone's throw away from the downtown circle.

Comal River, New Braunfels, www.ci.new-braunfels.tx.us

Best Pool/Billiards
The Grand

Now this is a pool hall. The tables seem to stretch in rows for miles to the back of the room, where a comfortingly dive-y bar waits for your order. If you get a cramp from practicing the alignment of your shots, there are pinball games and TVs to keep you busy while you rest. Monday nights you can shake it to Burger City Rock n Roll, a punk rock DJ club of sorts (headed by DJ Ben Blackout) that spins everything from Sylvain Sylvain to the Fleshlights and plays host to local stalwarts and up-and-coming bands you may know from your travels on Red River. (Oh, and there's free pool then, by the way.)

The Grand, 4631 Airport, 512/454-1986

Best Scenic View
Mount Bonnell

Once known as Antoinette's Leap, Mount Bonnell has been considered the most romantic spot in Austin for many years for its sweeping views of the Colorado River and Lake Austin, as well as the almost homey atmosphere of the lookout. Try a workout on the mossy stone steps, and reward yourself at the top.

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

Best Secret Romantic Hideaway
Loop 360 Bridge

Of course couples are lured to the ambience of this overlook: From the Pennybacker spans and gentle lap of the water below to the relaxing hum of traffic, how could they not? The headlamps of passing vehicles become sweeping spotlights. The red glow from nearby radio antennae and dots of passing brake lights paint twinkling streaks against the night sky – like so many strands of holiday decorations. Stars are just barely visible for the gazing. For those special moments, seek out the falling ones and make a wish.

Pennybacker Bridge, Loop 360, www.co.travis.tx.us

Best Swimming Hole
Barton Springs Pool

There have been photography exhibits about it, books bound in its honor, and people have moved here after taking one swim in it. Barton Springs isn't just a swimming hole; it's a state of mind, a body of water with magnetic pull, and summers in Austin wouldn't be the same without it. Dive, lap, or float – the springs won't judge you.

Barton Springs Pool, 2201 Barton Springs Rd., 512/867-3080, www.austintexas.gov

Best Swimming Pool
Deep Eddy

What's not to love about Deep Eddy? It has history (built in 1915, it's Texas' oldest man-made swimming pool), aesthetics (gorgeous, WPA-built and recently refurbished bathhouse), appeal to all ages (lap lanes on one end, shallow and kid-safe on the other), and cold, nonchlorinated water (from a well almost as chilly as Barton Springs).

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

Best Tennis Court
South Austin Tennis Center

Singles or doubles, this is the place to get your racket action on. Tennis hounds love a court without cracks, and the courts at SATC are above par. Add that to friendly desk folks, classes and clinics, a repair center in case your act needs restringing, and well-lit outdoor courts, and you've got the best hometown place for a match or solo serve.

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

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