Outdoors & Recreation
2012 Readers Poll
2012 Critics Picks

image courtesy of Circuit of the Americas

Best 200MPH View of Austin

They're calling it the Austin Turn. Why? Because it's high and tight to the left. The signature turn one was the brain child of Circuit of the Americas creator Tavo Hellmund: Not only is it a challenge for the drivers, one like nothing else on the F1 calendar, but it will be a defining camera shot. Every time the camera tracks up from the starting line, it will be the Austin skyline on TVs across the planet.

Circuit of the Americas
9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.

Best at Safely Gesticulating

With Austin's growing bike-ceptance comes the very real challenges of sharing the asphalt. Blasé and entitled auto drivers are just as much a public threat as cyclists who run stop signs, stealthily sidle past rows of waiting cars, and don't use their damn hand signals. Sorry, embattled road warriors, you have nothing on the be-helmeted APD Bike Patrol, who lead by example in this arena, always safely signaling their two-wheeled intentions. Arm up, arm out, arm down. Grateful drivers and pedestrians are better for it. Whoa, we just wrote a whole entry without objectifying the Bicycle Patrol for their Lieutenant Dangle-style short-shorts - whoops, just did! Sorry. Now, if we can just get your engine-bound po-po compadres to use their turn signals…

Austin Police Department
715 E. Eighth

Devaki Knowles

Best Bird's Eye View

Stacy and Randy Riggs and their team of seasoned chopper jockeys want to show you their world, from 1,000 feet over Austin. It's a view few get to take in – you know, those unique, but oh-so-short perspectives on take-off or landing at ABIA. The Riggs have brought their successful formula to Austin from their original (and still going strong) Alamo Helicopter Tours in San Antonio. And from their cherry new spot right off of E. MLK/969 at the Bud Dryden Airport, they are a mere chop, swish, and a thump from the new Formula 1 track, one of the many Austin sights featured in their variety of affordable tours.

Austin Helicopter Tours
10301 F.M. 969, 866/205-7084
10301 FM 969, 866/205-7084

Best Chance To See the Great Pumpkin

Growing up rooting for Linus on Charlie Brown’s Halloween special made for generations of pumpkin patch fans. The spirit of his Great Pumpkin can be found in Marble Falls at one of the area’s finest, Sweet Berry Farm. A veritable bounty of pumpkins and gourds onsite make would-be jack-o-lantern carvers spoiled for choice. With hayrides, pumpkin painting, scarecrow stuffing, corn mazes, photo ops, and their famous pumpkin ice cream, an afternoon channeling the very best of the Halloween spirit is right down the road.

Sweet Berry Farm
1801 FM 1980, Marble Falls, 830/798-1462
1628 FM 696 E., Lexington, 979/773-2200

Terry Woodroffe

Best Eastside Outdoor Fix

This hidden treasure, full of potential, has been overlooked for too long. There is a back entrance with trails that practically connect to the tail end of the Ladybird Lake trail. The city has just completed a renovation of the woods into an expansive and shady disc golf course. And we are now publicly outing the real treasure of the park, Secret Beach, which has been overrun in recent summers, anyway. This sandy banked bend of the river below the dam is perfect for doing what Austinites do best, hanging out and swimming.

Roy G. Guerrero Park
400 Grove

Best Fitness Charity

Austin Pets Alive! at Town Lake has partnered with Team Spiridon, a local running group, to create maybe the most brilliant joint venture in the history of "Arfstin." Overstatement? You decide. It's a mutually beneficial situation, where runners take shelter dogs for jogs around Lady Bird Lake. The times are flexible, and the dogs are just happy to get out. It's the perfect solution for apartment dwellers that can't have dogs, and athletic dogs who don't have homes yet. There's a onetime training session, and then you're off and running.

Austin Pets Alive!
1156 W. Cesar Chavez

Team Spiridon

Sandy Carson

Best Humus Pumpers

Up hills and down alleyways, the stretch limo of bikes churns compost with eco-purpose. This bicycling recycling program collects your compost and delivers it to urban farmers, restaurants, and gardeners who grow local produce. The secret's in the mechanics. These mobile composters ride a special cargo bike with a wheel barrow-like bucket fitted between the handlebars and front wheel. Aerobic to the max. Budding urban agriculturists located inside the triangle of Airport Blvd., I-35, and Lady Bird Lake, or by visiting HOPE Farmers Market can become part of this symbiotic digestive system of Austin.

East Side Compost Pedallers
2921 E. 17th

Best Motorcyclist's Pal

If you live in the Austin metro, chances are you or someone you know has spent painful times in the Brackenridge ICU waiting room. The kind and brilliant professionals at this hospital are at the top of the class regarding their knowledge and skill in head trauma situations. During ROT Rally and on sunny days perfect for a bike ride through the Hill Country, these exemplary docs do overtime caring for our helmeted loved ones. And for some families, that means numerous kin. Austin is fortunate to have a facility like this in our reach.

Brackenridge Hospital
601 E. 15th

Best Organic Reliefs

Although she dabbles in twee terraria, Monique Capanelli's real strength lies in her living walls - large frames of succulent fronds and greenery. It's difficult to distill the essence of walking, observing, and meditating on the natural world, but Capanelli does so with aplomb. She strikes the perfect balance between representing the secret spaces of beloved spots like the greenbelt - rocky, scrubby, brushy - and the open lawns of Austin's front yards - lush, green, and perky. All-over fields of green remind even the most salty among us that we're just … happier … surrounded by the full array of the botanical world.

Articulture Designs
6405 Menchaca Rd.

Best Place To Take an Urban Nap

You've had a hard day walking 'round town, hustlin'. Makin' the Austin (wo)man-baby dream come alive! But those aching dogs? Where to put them? Beauteous, polychromed nets hang on the cantilevered porch of Whole Earth Provision Co. just waiting for the fabulous flaneurs to swiiiiing looooowwww. Sweet Chariot! Also: We hear the staff of WEP is super knowledgeable, friendly and chill. So please don't call the po-po on us hammock-moochers, mmkay? We'll buy – one day.

Various locations

Todd V. Wolfson

Shelley Hiam

Best ’Bents

Easy Street Recumbents really makes life easy for people who wouldn't ordinarily be able to bike! Car or motorcycle crash survivors, wounded veterans, developmentally disabled kids and, yes, baby boomers are devoted and happy customers of these reclining cycles. One patron even stormed the beach at Iwo Jima in 1945. Whatever you might believe prevents you from cycling with your friends, stop by and let Mike, Chuck, or Gene (read their bios online; they are amazing) set you free from those limiting beliefs. From custom wheels to the extensive inventory of already built 'bents, these guys have got it! We started test-driving trikes on our lunch hour … The immediate lower-back-pain relief had us at "try."

Easy Street Recumbents
5555 N. Lamar Ste. C-105

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