Outdoors & Recreation
2015 Readers Poll
2015 Critics Picks

Sandy Carson

Best Bowling Alley

Can one possibly have more fun putting fingers in holes than playing a few strings at this Austin institution? Possibly by mashing one's face into a plate of their decadent truck-stop enchiladas and inhaling those suckers like they are the last food on Earth. Possibly by people-watching life's rich middle-class pageant as they twinkle-toes it to the line and heave balls with total Fred Flintstone abandon. Possibly by studying the Dart Bowl's museum-quality homage to the sport in the large lobby cases brimming with bowling tchotchkes. And definitely by making a promise to your date, your mate, your kids, your besties, and yourself to come back again, again, again, and again.

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

Best Cheap Thrill

When you first move to Austin it seems like all people talk about is Barton Springs. It's like, "Okay, okay, we get it: Austin is home to a three-acre spring-fed pool that maintains an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, ideal for year-round swimming. Cool." And then you go there (for only $3, mind you) and suddenly you're a mermaid swimming amongst the most interesting breeds of people, fish, and turtles. If you're really lucky, you'll bump into a Barton Springs salamander. The water is freezing, and there is a man doing yoga in his Speedo on the edge of the pool, but it all just adds to the experience. You've lost count of all the different types of the tattoos you've seen, and a single tear runs down your face when you realize that you'll have to leave when it closes. Everything everyone told you about this place is true. You tuck yourself into bed that night still warm from the Texas sun and the feeling of finally knowing what it means to be a lover of Barton Springs – cozy in the truth that you are now a true Austinite.

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

David Brendan Hall

Chris Litherland/CC BY-SA 3.0

Best Day Trip

Fallen into a weltschmerz because you and your schnucki just cannot take one more person telling you that "you just have to try this new place on East Cesar Chavez"? Wir verstehen. Abscond to Fredericksburg, where even the oddest couple can find things to do: World War II buff? Visit the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site and the National Museum of the Pacific War. Shopaholic? Spazieren Main Street to browse local crafts and kitchen wares. Foodie? Repeat after us: "Wurst, schnitzel, und streusel!" Venture outside the center of town, and you're bound to run into a tasting room or two of some of Texas' finest wineries, leaving you each with one helluva honigkuchenpferd grinsen.

Visit Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg Visitor Information Center, 302 E. Austin St.
888/997-3600
www.visitfredericksburgtx.com

Best Gear/Sporting Goods

A definitive choice for Austin's outdoor needs, Academy has everything from tubes for river floating, boots for hiking, kid's bathing suits, and sleeping bags, to basketball hoops and baseball bats. If they don't have it, you might be leaving the planet. When you head out to enjoy the amazing parks and camping spots in Texas or simply a day at the park, if you've forgotten anything, there's likely an Academy nearby.

Academy
7513 N. I-35, 512/407-6310
12250 Research, 512/506-6000
801 E. William Cannon, 512/486-6000
5400 Brodie, 512/891-4240
1351 I-35 S., Round Rock, 512/246-4600
1104 C-Bar Ranch Trl., Cedar Park, 512/259-6200
www.academy.com

Best Golf/Driving Range

Taking a page from the Alamo Drafthouse business model, Topgolf turns practicing your long game into a party for neophytes and fairway regulars alike. The not-so-secret ingredients? Food and booze! Please and thank you.

Topgolf
2700 Esperanza Crossing
512/222-5950
www.topgolf.com

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill

Wouldn't it be nice, if before every cockamamie idea – say changing careers after the age of 40 – you could try it out in a safe and supportive environment? Are you thrilled at the prospect of skydiving but terrified of heights? This worldwide indoor skydiving facility lets you poke that internal adrenaline junkie at a comfortable altitude. You'll receive pre-flight training and a special suit before entering a vertical wind tunnel that creates true free-fall conditions, with a personal instructor guiding you through the entire experience. Fly alone or with a buddy – there are no age restrictions.

iFly Austin
13265-A Hwy. 183 N.
512/774-4359
austin.iflyworld.com

Best Outdoor Festival

Every year, that impeccable vista of our city skyline competes with the spectacle of sight and sound on each of the eight stages at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, as crowds pack Zilker Park for the annual trip to music mecca. The ever-popular fest grew out of its traditional one weekend two years ago. This year they continue with that expanded calendar format: Music lovers can see, hear, and feel the psychedelic vibes of Tame Impala and strum their air guitars to the Foo Fighters as they soak in unlimited views of Austin, two weekends long.

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

Best Place to Camp

No Austin summer would be complete without a get-to-know-your-Hill-Country trip to Krause Springs. With ample space to swim and play, it lacks the typical claustrophobia of most area campgrounds. Whether you’re soaring through the air on a rope swing, climbing over the roots of magnificent Cypress trees, or just sipping a cold one in the crystal clear water, Krause is the perfect place to pitch a tent for the weekend.

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

Shelley Hiam

Best Place to Skate

If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words scissoring, dipping, bouncing, toe dragging, trucking, or rexing has to do with Wiccans out in the woods, it's been way too long since you've been to Playland. Their long-running adults-only sessions still light up Tuesday nights. And while they've invested a lot to keep the old girl up to snuff, she still emits that sweet Seventies/Eighties vibe that's kept her rolling for over 40 years. Everyone knows and loves the looming glitter skate-ball centerpiece. But c'mon, can we hear it for the array of red neon thunderbolts? Or the neon clouds and stars? Nothin' beats how they glow in the fog, except, perhaps, the smooth whoosh of quads against that glorious new wood floor.

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

Best Place to Tube

The San Marcos River brings a steady stream of people to San Marcos to tube down its 72-degree waters year-round. Let your troubles float away past Rio Vista Park, where the Lions Club tube rental shuttle picks people up or a quick visit to the Korner Stop can set you afloat. This part of the river has deep pools that flow into three chutes known as Rio Vista Falls. About 14 minutes east of San Marcos in Martindale, Texas State Tubes, run by Bobcat Alum, and Don's Fish Camp offer shuttles to and from the river and all the tubes and gear you'll need for your day in the sun.

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

David Brendan Hall

Best Pool/Billiards

What do you do when you're craving some fun, but the hubbub of Dirty Sixth or Rainey has become too much of an exhausting and expensive endeavor? How about some billiards and beer? Our readers appreciate cheap beer deals, and the Grand's got ’em, plus a floor of 20 pool tables to keep the hustlers hustlin'. So leave your uncomfortable going-out attire behind, and slap on who-cares-what. The only concerns on a night of billiards and beer should be, well, the billiards and beer, and the Grand takes home win no. 7 to prove it.

The Grand
4631 Airport
512/454-1986
www.thegrandaustin.com

Best Romantic Escape

Fallen into a weltschmerz because you and your schnucki just cannot take one more person telling you that "you just have to try this new place on East Cesar Chavez"? Wir verstehen. Abscond to Fredricksburg, where even the oddest couple can find things to do: World War II buff? Visit the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site and the National Museum of the Pacific War. Shopaholic? Spazieren Main Street to browse local crafts and kitchen wares. Foodie? Repeat after us: "Wurst, schnitzel, und streusel!" Venture outside the center of town, and you're bound to run into a tasting room or two of some of Texas' finest wineries, leaving you each with one helluva honigkuchenpferd grinsen.

Visit Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg Visitor Information Center, 302 E. Austin St.
888/997-3600
www.visitfredericksburgtx.com

Chris Litherland/CC BY-SA 3.0

Best Scenic Drive

Few other cities as big as Austin can boast our green-to-concrete ratio, but Loop 360 offers the best of both. It curves through rock cut-throughs, steep fills, and several parks and rivers, offering a wide survey of the Capitol, the UT Tower, and most of Downtown. And the early-rising bicycler can take advantage of the wide shoulders to catch several beautiful sunrise vistas – the most breathtaking on Pennybacker Bridge, overlooking Lake Austin.

Loop 360
www.txdot.gov

Best Social Bike Ride

For as much of a bike town as Austin wishes itself to be, the amount of car traffic on city streets is harrowing. Social cycling (in general, and Social Cycling, the group) is a safety-in-numbers scheme designed to increase bike riders' comfort-levels and chance of survival on the sometimes mean streets. Visibility is key. The more riders there are, the more riders are seen. And the more riders are seen, the safer and more politically supported they're likely to be, come time for funding allocations. Plus, there is no better place in this town to get such an eyeful of God-bless-American booty: every size, shape, and hue.

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

Sandy Carson

David Brendan Hall

Best Swimming

When you first move to Austin it seems like all people talk about is Barton Springs. It's like, "Okay, okay, we get it: Austin is home to a three-acre spring-fed pool that maintains an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, ideal for year-round swimming. Cool." And then you go there (for only $3, mind you) and suddenly you're a mermaid swimming amongst the most interesting breeds of people, fish, and turtles. If you're really lucky, you'll bump into a Barton Springs salamander. The water is freezing, and there is a man doing yoga in his Speedo on the edge of the pool, but it all just adds to the experience. You've lost count of all the different types of the tattoos you've seen, and a single tear runs down your face when you realize that you'll have to leave when it closes. Everything everyone told you about this place is true. You tuck yourself into bed that night still warm from the Texas sun and the feeling of finally knowing what it means to be a lover of Barton Springs – cozy in the truth that you are now a true Austinite.

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

Best Yoga/Pilates

Looking to work up a sweat, but can’t handle another gym session? Black Swan Yoga is the answer to your calorie-burning prayers. With four levels of perspiration persuasion (class options), everyone from the newbs to the yogis can find a practice that fits the flow. After a couple of classes you’ll be tree-posing with the best and bendier than the typical pretzel, not to mention more Zenned out.

Black Swan Yoga
Black Swan Yoga Westgate, 4534 West Gate Blvd., 512/960-4026
1417 W. Anderson, 512/960-4026
403 Orchard, 512/960-4026
www.blackswanyoga.com

Best Sports Venue

The house that Nolan Ryan and family built is home to Round Rock Express baseball. But people visit Dell Diamond for the experience: the kiss cam, kids doing stunts for free pizza, a rock wall, loud cheesy old rock & roll, and deliciously overpriced vittles like the James Dean hot dog with bleu cheese and the Elvis deep-fried peanut butter/banana. Catch a foul ball and grin while the kids pose with Spike, the Express Mascot. ’Merica!

Dell Diamond
3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd.
Round Rock
512/255-2255
roundrock.express.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t102

 
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