Outdoors & Recreation
2012 Readers Poll
2012 Critics Picks
Best Annual Festival

A glorious week of secret shows, drink specials, and the chance that wandering into a random bar could introduce you to your next favorite band? Or a pulsating weekend of festival energy and hundreds of bands conveniently located in one place? Austinites just can’t make up their mind – and we can't either.

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

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

Best Austin Holiday

You are cordially invited to the 50th anniversary of Eeyore's Birthday this spring on April 27th, 2013, in Pease Park. We will be banging gongs, getting it on, and something something bong. Bring anyone you like, including pets and children, wear plenty of sunscreen, and avoid the brown acid. Munchies will be served. Attire is optional.

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

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Basketball Court

Shipe Park's basketball court isn't state of the art, but we don't need all that razzle-dazzle. All we need is a beautiful Saturday afternoon and a pick-up game. There's always someone ready to test our hoop dreams. And when we feel more like benchwarming than blocking, we stick around to play the dozens.

Shipe Park
4400 Avenue G
www.shipepark.org

Best Bowling Alley

The veteran palace of family fun that has been serving up spares and strikes for generations is so much more than just a bowling alley. It's also melt-in-your-mouth enchiladas, cold (cold, cold) beers, a (new) laser maze, a video arcade – and, most of all, good people who want to make sure you can't wait to come back for more.

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

Best Day Trip (Dry)

“[T]hey say that if you catch it at just the right time – late at night – you can hear it: creaking and groaning like it’s alive.” This is no campfire horror story, but the real-life description of this weirdly active batholith that offers up beautiful scenery, great hiking trails, and camping – for the adventurous.

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)

Just 30 miles west of Austin is one of our readers' favorite oases. Hamilton Pool rests in the hollow of a collapsed dome of a subterranean river, creating a natural limestone grotto carved out over thousands of years that now serves as a favorite Austin swimming spot. It's clear, crisp waters boast fish and large turtles that float just as leisurely as the 232-acre nature preserve's weekend denizens. Nothing says "romantic hideaway" like a private 50-foot waterfall crashing into limpid pools. Can you hear the Muzak? Swim across the water, under and behind the waterfall, sit and listen to the falls, shout and count your echoes, or just settle in for a cuddle. The park is picturesque at all times of the year, but most romantic during the week, when it's likely deserted.

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

Best Fitness Classes

Streeeetch it out: your chi, your spine, and your dollar. Good vibes abound in this chill yoga space. Whether your vibe is to melt away your daily grind with mellow, candlelit yoga or to dance it off in a "Yoga Rave," get in the flow with Black Swan's convenient variety of times and interesting roster of teachers. Whichever path you choose, it's all donation based. Breathe. All is well. And within your budget.

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

Best Gear/Sporting Goods
REI

REI has been reppin' the sporting goods industry in Austin and racking up "BOA" awards like a boss for more than a decade. The company's outstanding supplies and expertise have even inspired our good friend to get off the couch and go outside – we're talking hiking, camping, and cycling. (The end-of-year dividends for members/customers didn't hurt either.)

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

Best Golf

Many of the great golfer-philosophers of our time have posited that the green is an apt and compelling metaphor for life. Peter Pan Mini Golf is no exception. On this course, you will encounter familiar archetypes: the pirate, the clown, the ambiguously gendered fairy. And just as in life, obstacles are around every corner; indeed, the time to loop-de-loop comes for everyone. How will you handle this test of green felt and newly repainted plaster? Who will you be at the final hole?

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

Best Place To Camp

Krause Springs is an enchanted land. Besides the inherent summer perfection of swimming in crystal clear, spring water surrounded by thick luscious ferns and Cypress, Krause has trees you can climb inside of, a slightly ominous watery cave, and a mystical garden complete with the biggest wind chimes we’ve ever seen. Not to mention the unicorn/donkey hybrid that roams the grounds. Do you believe in magic, Austin?

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

Best Place To Skate

Your rental includes quads: Just like when you were a kid. Lasers blaze and music from the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties blares: Just like when you were a kid. Come out on Tuesdays for Adult Night (ages 18+ only) where it's just like when you were a kid – only there are no kids.

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

Best Place To Tube

There are lots of places to blow up an inner tube and lazily chute, but none so lovely as the San Marcos River. Fed by Spring Lake, her waters are cool and clear. Rope swings, rapids, and really amazing people watching round out the experience. So strap on some styrofoam balls, four eyes, and load up your coolers with brewskis (no glass), coozies, and Hi-Cs (Ecto-Cooler, duh).

Tube San Marcos
170 Charles Austin
San Marcos
512/396-5466
www.tubesanmarcos.com

John Leach

Best Pool/Billiards

Ask any Magic 8-Ball where the best place to shoot stick is and it will tell you the Grand. Cheap drinks? Cheap pool? Laid-back dive vibe? Games galore? All signs point to yes. Escape the trappings of Downtown. Skies of blue and seas of green felt await.

The Grand
4631 Airport
512/454-1986

Best Scenic View

The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of this historic landmark. Yee haw! Every visit to Mount Bonnell, aka Covert Park, holds a the promise of a breath of fresh air and beautiful vistas of the Colorado River to put tears in your eyes, a song in your heart, and your lover's lips next to yours. For small little moments in the day, sunrise, sunset, the witching hour … we don't care: Heaven is a place on earth! How'd we go from patriotic standard to Belinda Carlisle? You tell us, Mr. Mount Bonnell, you tell us.

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

Best Secret Romantic Hideaway

Just 30 miles west of Austin is one of our readers' favorite oases. Hamilton Pool rests in the hollow of a collapsed dome of a subterranean river, creating a natural limestone grotto carved out over thousands of years, that now serves as a favorite Austin swimming spot. Its clear, crisp waters boast fish and large turtles that float just as leisurely as the 232-acre nature preserve's weekend denizens. Nothing says "romantic hideaway" like a private 50-foot waterfall crashing into limpid pools. Can you hear the Muzak? Swim across the water, under and behind the waterfall, sit and listen to the falls, shout and count your echoes, or just settle in for a cuddle. The park is picturesque at all times of the year but it's most romantic during the week, when it's likely deserted.

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

Best Social Bike Ride

What's that ancient proverb? A bike on the road is worth two in your garage? Well, why don't you dust off that old steel steed and take it for the night ride of its life, and yours? This brilliant way to get "butts on bikes" (their mantra). Original founders Keith Byrd and John Acker work with a slew of informal volunteer ride-leaders to coordinate and guide any of many rides in the Social Cycling Austin roster, including Monday's Biking Betties, Wednesday's Queer Ride, the Saturday Caffeine Cruise, and more. Sweat, socialization, sweet drink deals at local hotspots, and the potential for some serious political pedal power, seal this night and many more in Austin's weekly social calendar.

Social Cycling Austin
www.fb.com/groups/socialcyclingaustin

Sandy Carson

David Brendan Hall

Best Swimming Hole

It's cold, clear and quite possibly the Fountain of Youth. The regulars swear by a daily swim, but go during any heatwave and all layers of Austin strata come for a dip. Don't forget your goggles though, the best view is below the surface. Among the limestone shelves and underwater arrowhead grass are pockets of fish, crayfish, and turtles. The highlight is finding one of the beautiful underwater flowers in bloom. With the Save Our Springs Alliance watching over it, the pool is protected, and so are the endangered Barton Springs salamanders. If the water feels too cold, lay out on the lawn and soak up some rays – after all, this could easily be named "Best Place To Play Hooky." Next season will see some cosmetic and structural changes to the pool; can they do all this and still keep Barton Springs eternal?

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

Best Swimming Pool

If you’re feeling a little less keen on water weeds, salamanders, and Speedos (we’re looking at you Mr. Blue Banana Hammock – even though we’re really trying not to), you can’t beat the original. Texas’ first swimming pool is a bit less hippie, and a bit more dip-y than its downstream neighbor. Plus, movie nights!

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

Todd V. Wolfson

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Tennis Court

We've been crowing about how public and private collaborations are the wave of the future. Good thing the folks at ATX Tennis, Home Court Stringing, and the city's Parks & Rec Dept. were listening. This conveniently central facility has a calendar brimming with classes, clinics, and its own on-site pro shop and stringing service. And considering its proximity to its noble namesake and alma mater to many, we wonder how adorable Mr. Maroo looks in those tightie tennis whities?

Austin High Tennis Center
1717 W. Cesar Chavez
512/477-7802
www.austinhightenniscenter.com

 
Readers: Media
Readers: Politics & Personalities

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle