Outdoors & Recreation
2011 Readers Poll
2011 Critics Picks
Best Annual Festival

Fact: It'll be hot. It'll always be hot. But this party in the park has consistently proven, year after glorious year, why we march proudly with our freak flags flying and the "live music capital of the world" crown atop our collective heads all three days of this blissful backyard musical madness.

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

Best Austin Holiday

Shame on those who miss the Saturday graced with Austin's favorite annual holiday, the day of Eeyore's birth. It's a call to bust out in costume, midspring, when ecstatic, stir-crazy children; glitter-dusted fairies; and topless, painted lasses run amok in Pease Park. The party is not only to celebrate an ass' b-day but, more importantly, to raise funds for local nonprofits. Not to mention this is one of the few local fests where dogs are allowed, regardless of attire (doggy costumes highly encouraged). More than a great excuse to lay on a blanket and listen to a drum circle, Eeyore's Birthday is true Austin form.

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

Friends of the Forest Foundation
www.eeyores.org

Sandy Carson

Best Basketball Court

Whether your game is full- or half-court, whether you've got your posse or are looking for a new pickup crew, come battle it out under the shady canopy at this small Eastside park between Manor Road and MLK. And if you've got kids in tow, fret not, there's four-square and hopscotch painted in the margins, a full playground in view, and a couple of small sets of bleachers for cheering or hanging out.

Alamo Recreation Center
2100 Alamo
512/974-5680
www.cityofaustin.org/parks/alamo.htm

Best Bike Ride

Handsome, athletic, and a consummate leader, ride founder David C. Smith is one of the heaviest-hitting AIDS fundraisers in Austin, a springtime ride for all skill levels through our gorgeous Hill Country. This year the ride raised more than $560,000, spreading love among beneficiaries that include AIDS Services of Austin, Project Transitions, and the Wright House Wellness Center. The camaraderie is unparalleled, and the refreshment pit stops along the way are staffed by wildly entertaining crews of volunteers.

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

Sandy Carson

Dart Bowl   Sandy Carson

Best Bowling Alley

We're spoiled for bowling alleys in Austin, Texas, and our options are lousy with personality. Who doesn't adore Dart Bowl, with its legendary truck-stop enchiladas and kitschy-cool decor? It's an Austin institution. And what's not to love about the HighBall, that Alamo Drafthouse step-sib, with its retro vibe, classy cocktails, and lounge-y atmosphere appealing to Rat Pack and Brat Packer alike? Both of these classic alleys are choice places to roll those gutter balls and mark it zero.

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

The HighBall
1120 S. Lamar
512/383-8309
www.thehighball.com

Best Day Trip – Dry

What's a batholith? Hint: It's not something that has fangs and destroys horcruxes (nerd!), but rather an underground rock formation. Oh, but our batholith is big, pink, and partially above ground. Climb atop it and scream: "I'm the king of the batholiths!" (Double-nerd!) And what's the best thing about camping out at Enchanted Rock? All the creepy groaning and creaking noises the rock makes in the middle of the night. It's like staying at Grandma's but with less sleeper-sofa, more moths, and fewer mothballs.

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

Find your favorite dose of natural wonder out west on Highway 71. Hamilton Pool, as evidenced by anthropological remains, has been a killer swimming hole for thousands of years. Picnic and swim in the area of the collapsed grotto and 50-foot waterfall, or get your hiking and bird-watching done deeper into the 232-acre preserve. Twenty minutes past the Hamilton Pool turn-off is the magical Krause Springs. Krause's waterfall and grotto are equally enchanting, though more reminiscent of a fairy habitat than a prehistoric hang-out. The perpetually grumpy gatekeeper of this private park is all part of the charm.

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

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

Best Fitness Classes

A variety of styles (Hatha, Vinyasa, and Kundalini, to name a few), a crew of far-out and in-tune instructors, and inventive classes like Paddle Yoga, Candle Sweaty Yoga, and Night Cap Yoga have made Black Swan Yoga the place to get down with your bad self. The studio's "yoga-for-the-people" donation-based system encourages students to pay what they're able, creating a diverse group of students and allowing even the financially tight the opportunity to limber up.

Black Swan Yoga
Black Swan Yoga Westgate, 4534 West Gate Blvd., 512/630-2332
1417 W. Anderson, 512/361-7187
403 Orchard, 512/710-5131
www.blackswanyoga.com

Sandy Carson

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
REI

What makes REI an outstanding source for supplies and expertise for almost every sport and recreational event imaginable are the company's core principles and the absolute get-outside-and-live passion expressed by President/CEO Sally Jewell and employees alike. (The end-of-year dividends for member-customers are nice, too.) This perennial winner is right at home in our great outdoors.

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 Golf

The turtle! The mill! The pirates! The whale! The Peter! Peter Pan Mini Golf has been entertaining Austin for generations. Situated in the heart of everything on Barton Springs Road, PPMG has been a go-to for low-cost fun since 1946. Aptly named, this minigolf course is fun for the whole family, and it's a reminder that in so many ways you never have to grow up.

Peter Pan Mini-Golf
1207 Barton Springs Rd.
512/472-1033
www.peterpanminigolf.com

Sandy Carson

Best Place To Camp

What's a batholith? Hint: it's not something that has fangs and destroys horcruxes (nerd!), but rather an underground rock formation. Oh, but our batholith is big, pink, and partially above ground. Climb atop it and scream: "I'm the king of the batholiths!" (Double-nerd!) And what's the best thing about camping out at Enchanted Rock? All the creepy groaning and creaking noises the rock makes in the middle of the night. It's like staying at Grandma's but with less sleeper-sofa, more moths, and fewer mothballs.

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

Best Place To Skate

Despite the Seventies-nostalgic Roll Bounce and the not-shot-in-Austin-after-all Whip It, this generation is sorely lacking a roller-skating epic like, say, 1979's Roller Boogie or Xanadu. Playland is an Austin tradition in family fun that keeps getting better. It still has that skate-shaped disco ball, and it now has a two-story playscape for the tiny ones, as well as summer camp, lessons, birthday and private parties, and a light show. And if Rick Linklater can't envision the epic potential in Playland's perfect setting to capture those sweaty-palmed couples' laps around the rink or dance solos under the lights, well, then, you are just going to have to live it out yourself.

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

Best Place To Tube

What good is living life in Central Texas if you can't spend some time in an inner tube, freezing your buns off in spring-fed water while drinking beer and simultaneously peeing where you sit? New Braunfels thrives on the luxury of offering tubing accommodations on the icy Comal River while much of the rest of the state is drying up due to record-breaking drought. Bring your cheap sunglasses, plenty of sunblock, and your designated driver, and New Braunfels will provide the rest.

Comal River
www.ci.new-braunfels.tx.us

Best Pool/Billiards

South Austin? Big deal. That neighborhood is about as weird as a bucket of Crocs. The real pockets of ye olde Austin can be found in the northern reaches of Burnet Road, Lamar, and yes, Airport Boulevard. Upon first entering the Grand, you may feel as if you're entering some strip mall arcade left over from the Reagan administration – its facade and proximity to Vogue College perhaps fit for Slacker B-roll footage – but you'll find a cavernous dive with all the trimmings, including pool tables at which to shark or be sharked upon.

The Grand
4631 Airport
512/454-1986

Best Scenic View

T-shirt: Mount Bonnell is for lovers! T-shirt: I lost my last shirt at Mount Bonnell! T-shirt: -> I got this stain at Mount Bonnell! Move over, tongue jockeys; we wanna see the view. Whether it inspires those thumpa-thumpa feelings of raw attraction or strikes a sublime chord in your other-than-nether regions, Mount Bonnell is worth 100 steps and then some.

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

Best Secret Romantic Hideaway

T-shirt: Mount Bonnell is for lovers! T-shirt: I lost my last shirt at Mount Bonnell! T-shirt: -> I got this stain at Mount Bonnell! Move over, tongue jockeys; we wanna see the view. Whether it inspires those thumpa-thumpa feelings of raw attraction or strikes a sublime chord in your other-than-nether regions, Mount Bonnell is worth 100 steps and then some.

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

Best Swimming Hole

With its 1920s vibe and slew of inevitably beautiful people, swimming at Barton Springs makes us feel effortlessly glamorous like Jazz Age men and women of independent means. So put on your bathing costumes, grab a few Beautiful and Damned friends, and get on down to this living, flowing legend.

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

Best Swimming Pool

A wade in the waters of Deep Eddy feels like visiting an old friend – and this year, an old friend with a new mural and renovated bathhouse. As the oldest swimming pool in Austin, old Eddy has seen the world morph into nearly unrecognizable forms, but her fluid dynamics never change. She is never jaded, always there, running against the main current, and always will be, with warm, open arms and a kind, nonchlorinated smile.

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

Best Tennis Court

Nestled between the swoosh of North Lamar and the bustle of the UT campus, Caswell is prized for its constancy as both a great place to play tennis and an opportunity to be taught the game by some of the best professional instructors in town. With the Davis Cup's 2011 appearance at the Erwin Center and Andy Roddick and other pros setting up homes nearby, this could put Austin on the tennis map.

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

 
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