Sports & Recreation
2016 Readers Poll
2016 Critics Picks

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Ambassador of Body Positivity

Every body needs to get physical sometimes. But all bodies are not necessarily comfortable in all gyms. That's why Erica Nix's brain baby, Transform Fitness, is such a breath of fresh air. Catering to trans, gender-nonconforming, and queer folks with humor and warmth, it's our favorite place to get our blood pumping.

1909 Wheless

Best Beards on the Flat Track

Call it men's derby. Or merby. Or even dangle derby. For years, Roller Derby – invented in Austin, natch – was solely the domain of female players. So of course, once men started lacing up their skates, Austin would always hit heavy in the pack. After making it to this year's Men's Roller Derby Association national championship, it's a bright future on and off the track.

Best Bird's-Eye View

You've no doubt seen the shocks of bright green dappling our city's canvas of nattering grackles, but do you know where they came from? Luckily, Austin wildlife biologist Dr. Janet Reed's Facebook page can answer just about any question about our delightfully odd monk parakeet flocks. There you can find word of new nests, melt over adorable pics, and memorize factoids certain to fill that awkward silence on your next date. How's that for birdwatching?

Best Dirt Alley

Something magical happens when you go off the beaten path. Take the stretch that runs from East 56th to East 45th in the Hyde Park/North Loop area. Trees on either side of the alley hang over and shade the caliche, dirt, and crushed gravel. If you walk them at the right time of year, you can forage overhanging figs. An alley cat or two may join you on your journey, but that's all the more reason to take it slow. Point A and point B don't matter so much when you've already arrived.

Best Exercise for People Who Hate Exercising

It seems to us that step class was invented by sadists. And we know if the knights of the Crusades had stationary bikes, they surely would have given up on the rack. But as much as we hate anything related to cardio, we still love Step N' Roll at the MYEC. We don't quite have a routine worked out, like the roller boogie pros, but after a few laps of skating we're into the groove, completely forgetting we're burning calories. And honestly, after a few beers, we're probably not.

1156 Hargrave

Best Facebook Public Group

The brainchild of the brilliant Eastside socialite Becca Hyatt, the public Facebook group answers the question that every outdoorsy Austinite has when they wake up on a clear and hot summer day. In our sun-loving city, it doesn't have to do anything more.

Best Feel-Good Bike Ride

As if riding your bike didn't already offer enough benefits, this Monday night ride pairs cyclists with visually impaired schoolchildren and a fleet of tandem bicycles to give them the opportunity to experience something they couldn't do on their own. The delight that this social ride bestows to these kiddos is as palpable as the wind in their hair. Volunteers (and tandem bicycle donations) are always welcome, so reach out to the school if you're interested in making a kid's week – or even your own.

Best LGBTQ Sports League

To paraphrase a perhaps not unrelated movie, there's no crying in softball. So when heavy rains interrupted this year's Gay Softball World Series, host league Softball Austin made the most of it, enlisting volunteers to help clean the fields and making sure the games went on. But even when not handling a crisis, the young organization is still mighty impressive, providing a way for players of any skill level to participate in a fun and non-judgmental environment and setting the stage for lifetime camaraderie. We think they're batting 1,000.

Devaki Knowles

Best Place for Adults Who Miss Chuck E. Cheese

From the free Skee-Ball – that's right, we said free – to the cornhole out back, Full Circle Bar is the best place to feel and act like a kid again. So what if there's no cardboard pizza, and if the creepy mice are only likely to show up on Halloween? There's ample amounts of beer (and sometimes prosecco!) on tap, a large backyard, and plenty of opportunities to impress your latest Bumble date.

1810 E 12th

Best Place to Get Lost

A bizarre mixture of illegal dumping and beautiful trails, Springdale Park sometimes shows up on maps, and sometimes doesn't. But the single-track dirt trails will lead you out to surprisingly breathtaking vistas if you're cool with passing some molding mattresses and shattered TV frames along the way. The trails are a maze of dead ends, loops, and cut-backs, but that's most of the fun.

1175 Nickols Ave.

John Leach

Best Secret Science Oasis

The Barton Springs area hosts a slew of well-known stops for the outdoorsy type, but one of the best recreational hot spots is too often overlooked. The Austin Nature & Science Center is home to a collection of rescued animals, including birds of prey and Texas-native reptiles and amphibians. Water features and native plants line the trails around the exhibits, attracting kaleidoscopes of butterflies. And while the classes and many exhibits are kid-focused, there's plenty for adults to see too – like a bobcat named Moxie and a live honeybee hive. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? That's something to buzz about.

2389 Stratford Dr.

Best Smile in the Face of Adversity

Earlier this year, UT pre-med student Beth English survived a harrowing nightmare. While riding her bicycle home, she was hit by a truck and dragged for half a mile. The trauma cost English her right leg, and the subsequent medical treatment has already eclipsed the million-dollar mark. Yet she still resolves to get back on her bicycle, flashing a seven-figure smile, and inspiring the entire cycling community.;

Jana Birchum

Best Sports Hybrid

The name footgolf may sound a little goofy, but they could have called it "folf" or "goccer" or some other equally terrible portmanteau. Whatever the name, it has been our 2016 obsession. Combining the precision of golf with the athleticism of soccer, it's one of the healthiest (and most affordable) ways to while away the weekend.

Harvey Penick Golf Campus
5501 Ed Bluestein

Best Sportsmen

Austin is a perfect fit for the high-flying sport of ultimate (Frisbee) and the Sol received a warm welcome from the ATX in their inaugural season. SportsCenter-worthy highlights, self-imposed penalties, and high fives represent the spirit and integrity of the game.

Best Team You've Never Heard Of

We wouldn't blame the Austin Crows for feeling a bit like Rodney Dangerfield. While dealing with broken-down buses and near anonymity in their own hometown, they have quietly racked up back-to-back national titles in the United States Australian Rules Football League with four titles overall, and remain mainstays on the top of national polls. If that's not something to, er, crow about, we don't know what is.

Critics: Shopping
2016 Intro

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