Sports & Recreation
2021 Readers Poll
2021 Critics Picks

courtesy of Sanctuary Yoga

Best Inclusive Yoga Under an Ancient Oak

This nonprofit yoga studio works to intentionally create space for wellness with a clear focus on humanity through many styles of yoga, plus workshops like restorative yoga and writing, sound bath meditations, Greenbelt hikes, White Fragility training in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and more. Their canopy of giant ancient oak trees makes a uniquely beautiful outdoor setting, one that proved particularly helpful during the difficult year of pandemic protocols that forced a pivot to virtual classes. Even more, proceeds from each yoga class benefit the Amala Foundation’s youth programs.

Sanctuary Yoga
1006 S. Eighth

Best Green Thumb Inspiration

In March of 2020 – you know, one of the most terrifying months on record – Jennymarie Jemison sought to soothe her own nerves while also creating some much-needed positivity and human/Earth connection during the long monotony of quarantine and shelter-in-place orders. So, she launched an offshoot of her gardening website Joy Max Jardín to help folks in need of mental health-boosting nature photos and gardening pro-tips. The Stay Home Garden Club offers friendly information for all types of gardeners about flowers and food crops, container gardening how-tos, critter and soil knowledge, and seed options. With Texas opening back up, and the sunshine months upon us, Jemison and her growing online community are still going strong, one rainbow-soaked seedling at a time.

courtesy of Stay Home Garden Club

photo by Tom Hausler

Best Place to Take a Plunge With Your Pod

If you’re looking for a place to get some sun on a rocky shore, Tom Hughes Park offers ample room to bask, and it’s only a 30-minute drive from Downtown Austin. For folks who prefer to tread water in more tepid temperatures than Barton Springs, Lake Travis will feel like a delightful douse. However, reaching the lakefront requires navigating some steep and tricky terrain, so you’ll definitely want to ditch the flip-flops for more substantial footwear. But trust us – your sunset swim will be well worth the climb.

Tom Hughes Park
12714 Hughes Park Rd.

Best Horse Stables With an Equity Mindset

Opting for a hands-on curriculum over standardized education, Idylwood Stables believes in the power of lifelong skill-building through horsemanship, such as physical and emotional balance, understanding, compassion, perseverance, and self-reflection and self-kindness. Idylwood Stables has strived to increase equity in horsemanship, and now offers a youth-of-color scholarship for young persons to participate in a sport historically lacking diversity. "This should not be a sport of kings" is how founder Sydney Kornman puts it, and that spirit of inclusivity has been a defining feature of Idylwood Stables since it first opened in 2002.

Idylwood Stables
12608 Harris Branch Pkwy.

photo by Kevin Curtin

Best Eastside Vista

The western perspective of Mount Bonnell receives understandable hype as the finest vantage point of Downtown Austin, but on the other side of town, Red Bluff offers a comparably stunning panorama of the city center. A low-key vista, the cactus-lined hilltop clearing contains only a wood platform and a couple of pieces of donated patio furniture, but remains a magical environment for an eagle-eyed glimpse of the Eastside. The high-point of a 57-acre natural area bordered by Springdale and Highway 183, Red Bluff used to be littered with tires, scrap lumber, and plastic containers, but has been cleaned up in recent years by the yeoman's work of community groups, notably led by Springdale-Airport Neighborhood Association President Pete Rivera. The green space is easily accessible from Harold Court, but parking where Ledesma Road ends offers a more scenic, short uphill hike. You can also reach it via unofficial trails historically used by mountain bikers, connecting to the East Boggy Creek Greenbelt and the Southern Walnut Creek Trail.

Red Bluff Neighborhood Park
5808 Harold Ct.

Best Unbeaten Path

Just past the county line, by the rustic little hamlet of Smithwick, lies this pleasantly rough-edged LCRA park fronting the very northwest tip of Lake Travis. It's more than 500 acres of semi-developed open space, with more than 5 miles of interlocking trails for foot, hoof, or bike tire, some very challenging, plus room to sprawl out and get your feet wet. While the RV-ready camping areas are usually occupied, in most places most of the time you'll not be lacking in solitude.

Shaffer Bend Recreation Area
706 CR 343A
Marble Falls

courtesy of Stock Tank Social Club

Best Way to Upgrade the Backyard

Not everyone has access to a swimming pool even in a good year, but when coronavirus snatched away public pools on top of everything else, Kelly Francis West and Michelle Daly joined the select group of brave humans that launched a business during a global pandemic. This “women, veteran, LGBT owned biz” offers turnkey service for folks seeking a little backyard oasis via a stock tank pool. That’s right: Huge galvanized steel tubs full of water aren’t just for livestock anymore. Add professional installation and guidance, a filtration system, and maybe an inflatable pink flamingo, and start living your best life.

Stock Tank Social Club

Best Outdoor Workout

Staying healthy in the pandemic has been tougher than ever, and the team at Fuerte does everything they can to keep you well while you're getting fit, including outdoor group classes with small caps and 8 feet minimum between you and the nearest workout buddy, plus no shared equipment. If being around people seems too much, they offer online courses too. Fuerte understands that staying healthy is about a lot more than how much you can bench.

Fuerte Fitness
4631 Airport, Ste. 110-A

photo by John Anderson

courtesy of Comedor Run Club

Best Group Activity for Hospitality Folks

The pandemic dumped a tremendous amount of additional stress on the food and beverage industry, but this running group, established in early 2019, provided much relief to its members, many of whom found themselves suddenly furloughed. Comedor Run Club strategically makes space for health and healing in their beloved but demanding industry, one rife with addiction and burnout. Focused on offering an alternative lifestyle for hospitality workers, the group is open to all paces. They meet several times a week for a casual 5K run, and follow the workout with community-building camaraderie, plus treats like tacos and biscuits. Connection and decompression are just part of their great work to “shift post-shift culture."

Best Pleasant Walk in the Shade

When you need to be outside, getting your steps, taking a stroll, but it's also Texas' endless summer, don't forget this friendly green space by Onion Creek, directly south of the airport. With 2 miles of well-groomed trails looping through old pecan groves and under the century-old Moore's Crossing Bridge (that was once the Congress Avenue Bridge), you won't be alone but it won't feel crowded – a not-so-easy thing to come by in our bustling city.

Richard Moya Park
10001 Burleson

courtesy of Travis County Parks

Best Quick Detour Into the Wilderness

You'd think a trail that starts at Trailhead Park wouldn't be much of a mystery, but this 4.5-mile out-and-back in Northwest Austin is surprisingly untamed. Good for runs and dogs (but on-leash only) but also for lazy wandering, communing with nature, and getting lost, without ever losing your cell phone signal or worrying about being rousted by the HOA.

Best Nonfunctioning Windmill

Homesteaders Wylie and Effie Bennett are commemorated along the Johnson Creek Trailhead by a useless windmill constructed with stone. Apparently they used to live there. That's about all the information you'll find about this strange landmark tucked under the shadow of MoPac. Despite its proximity to Downtown and the six-lane highway, this stretch of the Hike & Bike Trail is a surprisingly quiet green space. You can find the windmill easily enough on a map, but better to stumble onto it as if in a dream on a long aimless walk around the city.

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake

photo by Zeke Barbaro

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2021 Intro

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