2013ReadersOutdoors & Recreation

Best Annual Festival
Austin City Limits Festival

Since 2002, ACL has merged local acts like T-Bird & the Breaks with stratospheric stars like David Byrne and Elvis Costello in Zilker Park for three days every fall. Celebs are spotted sweating alongside dancing fans in the sea of thousands, surrounded by a perimeter lined with beer and local food vendors, and aftershows pepper Downtown venues. Drawing an audience of approximately 75,000 per day, this year ACL Fest, under the management of Austin-based C3 Presents will go double or nothing with two music-filled weekends.

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

Best Austin Holiday
Eeyore's Birthday

Once a year, Pease Park becomes the Hundred Stoner Woods in celebration of Eeyore's Birthday. All sorts of party animals come out of their gloomy place to drink milk and honey and be merry one sunny day a year. All tomorrow's parties should be just like this spring fling of joy. Don't forget your useful honey ... pot.

Pease Park, 1100 Kingsbury, 512/974-6700,

Best Basketball Court
Shipe Park

You got game? Do you wish for a swish? Then bounce to where the ballers, shot callers, and cheerleaders hold court, right there in the heart of Hyde Park. Next time you get a basketball jones, Shipe Park is a slam dunk choice for pounding the pavement. Score.

Shipe Park, 4400 Avenue G,

Best Bowling Alley
Dart Bowl

To some, all bowling alleys look the same and smell like feet. But those in the know go to Dart Bowl, tucked away behind McCallum High School, for its smooth lanes, bustling league nights, and totally reasonable rates. As an added bonus, the guys in the pro shop are knowledgeable and caring, and the enchiladas (served in cast iron, of course) are some of the best in town.

Dart Bowl, 5700 Grover, 512/452-2518,

Best Day Trip - Dry
Enchanted Rock

Get high on life at Enchanted Rock, 425 feet above ground, to be precise. But be sure to wear comfortable climbing shoes, definitely not flip-flops, or run the risk of being swept down the pink granite boulder like we almost were, or swept up in the mysticism that surrounds the rock's history. Hearing unexplained creaking, the Tonkawa believed ghosts hung around the rock and heard unexplained creaking. There are also stories of alleged sacrifices on the rock, and bad juju may or may not befall you if you climb to the top with ill intent or drink from/swim in the pools on top of the rock.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, 16710 RR 965, Fredericksburg, 830/685-3636,

Best Day Trip - Wet
Hamilton Pool

This iconic Texas stunner is the swimming hole that launched a thousand Google image searches. One part geological wonder and one part enchanted watery grotto, Hamilton Pool is a truly unique place to explore. As a historic preserve, the area is well-maintained and home to many species of bird and plant life. Swim under the waterfall, commune with a turtle, or just gaze into the jade green water. Go early, go often.

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, 512/264-2740,

Best Gear/Sporting Goods

If you love cool gear as much as you love doing cool stuff, REI is the go-to resource for outfitting your next excursion. In fact, just browsing at REI is so fun and exciting, when you leave the store it's almost like you're all ready to go home and relax instead of going out into the woods (but you really should go into the woods, you bum).

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

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

REI, 601 N. Lamar, 512/482-3357,

Best Golf

TopGolf is shaking up the sport à la Happy Gilmore – minus the beer bongs and Bob Barker brawls. This isn’t Bagger Vance territory, golf enthusiasts and their friends can practice their drive and short game while winding down with a few drinks on any given night. You can also challenge each other to specific games like TopScore, TopChip, and TopPressure – just to make the night more interesting.

Topgolf, 2700 Esperanza Crossing, 512/222-5950,

Best Place to Camp
Krause Springs

Krause Springs is what Texas summer is all about. This magical spring-fed swimming hole/swimming pool/campground boasts lush Cypress trees, a rope swing, sprawling grounds, clean facilities, and a BYOB policy. Waking up here really is spellbinding, so don't blame us if you want to change your name to Unicorn Windchime Sunbeam and live under the Krause waterfall in the cave with all the fairies. (We did mention there are fairies, right?)

Krause Springs, Spicewood, 830/693-4181,

Best Place to Skate
Playland Skate Center

Happy 40th, Playland! We imagine your sheeny shiny skate surface in 1973, holding up the likes of teens on dates, holding hands, rolling to Melanie's "Brand New Key." Sure, nowadays we're more likely to hear Ke$ha, but you know, the more things change ... When we circumambu-skate around that mirrored quad, for a brief moment, it's 1973.

Playland Skate Center, 8822 McCann, 512/452-1901,

Best Place to Tube
Comal River

The laid-back Comal really is the ideal tubing river. The float is easy, the shuttles are convenient, and you can pick and choose your in-and-out points to create your most perfect lazy-day float. The banks are lined with Cypress, the water is cool, and you've got nothing to do but float, float on.

Comal River, New Braunfels,

Best Pool/Billiards
The Grand

I'm broke but I'm happy, but everything is gonna be fine, because I got one ball in the pocket and the other one is giving a high five down at the Grand. You don't need to be a baller to play ball at Austin's favorite pool hall. If you enjoy a nice rack and think pool is cool then that's your cue to chalk it up at the Grand.

The Grand, 4631 Airport, 512/454-1986

Best Romantic Escape

Need a getaway? Fredericksburg is just 80 miles west of Austin and is a romantic’s oasis. With no shortage of bed & breakfasts and with over 30 wineries in and around the city, grab your partner and head to the Hill Country. Stroll hand in hand down Main Street, sipping your favorite brew. Pop into Hondo’s for some live music or take a 15-minute drive to Luckenbach. Apologies to the state of Virginia, but Fredericksburg is for lovers.


Best Scenic View
Mount Bonnell

Whether it be the big, blue Texas sky, the majestic Colorado River, the Austin skyline, or some pretty sweet McMansions, the Mount Bonnell view never disappoints. This is the perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset as you soak in the breathtaking sights. Views like these are what make Texans proud!

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

Best Social Bike Ride
Thursday Night Social Ride

Whether you're a cycling Speedy Gonzales or Slowpoke Rodriguez doesn't matter. If your bike has a basket, a bell that rings, and tricked-out things, or is a two-wheeled beater that scrapes when it brakes, get ready to roll. Make a new friend or 20, get into shape, tour the city, and sharpen your skills at the hottest night on two wheels: the Thursday Night Social Ride, where all riders are welcome, and no one gets left behind.

Social Cycling Austin,

Best Swimming Hole
Barton Springs

Fall down the rabbit hole to a place where politicians mingle with yogis and everything in-between, where the water stays an average 70 degrees and local lore flows easy out of the mouths of locals; have you heard the one about how Robert Redford learned to swim in Barton Springs Pool when he was five years old? This popular destination is home to something even more endangered than good actors – the Barton Springs salamander.

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

Best Swimming Pool
Deep Eddy

Come one, come all to Texas' first swimming pool. Taste the clean, nonchlorinated water from a hand-dug well (don't swallow). Feel the blissfully clear waters (no pond scum). Hear the joyous screams of children piling on their favorite parent (ear-piercing delight). See disaffected youth guarding your life like it was their summer job (it is).

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

Best Tennis Court
South Austin Tennis

Lessons and clinics appropriate for all levels taught by experienced and friendly teaching pros? Ace, South Austin Tennis. Well-maintained courts available for play seven days a week? Advantage, South Austin Tennis. And a newly redesigned pro shop available that offers great gear as well as repairs? That's game! South Austin Tennis gets the win!

South Austin Tennis Center, 1000 Cumberland, 512/442-1466,

Best Yoga
Black Swan Yoga

Joining a night class at Black Swan Yoga is the second-best way to get sweaty in a candlelit room. Supported by a cork floor and an open (heated) room, your body will bend like a steamed wood cane. When you hit Natarajasana and follow it up with Ardha Uttanasana, you'll experience a kind of calm/ecstatic high that you thought was only reserved for the first-best way to get sweaty in a candlelit room.

Black Swan Yoga, 1114 W. Fifth, 512/630-2332,

Black Swan Yoga Westgate, 4534 West Gate Blvd., 512/630-2332,

Black Swan Yoga, 12636 Research, 512/630-2332,

Black Swan Yoga, 403 Orchard, 512/710-5131,

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