This resort is associated with four private courses, including two of the top-ranked courses in Texas, Fazio Foothills and Fazio Canyons. Unfortunately, you either have to be a member or a hotel guest to play here. Greens fees vary widely by season, day of the week, and time of day, but for resort guests the Fazio Canyons and Fazio Foothills courses run from $80 (twilight) to $250 per person, including a forecaddie (but not gratuity). The Crenshaw Cliffside course runs from $60 to $180 (forecaddie not required) and the Palmer Lakeside course from $45 to $155 (forecaddie not required). Various golf packages are also available throughout the year; check website for details.
The likes of Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, and Ben Hogan are among those who have played at this affordable 6,001-yard, par-71 public course in West Austin. It was originally built by the Lions Club in 1928 and taken over by the city six years later. It is open daily, dawn to dusk. Greens fees run $7–$20. Cart fees are $22.
Named for a legendary local golf instructor, Harvey Penick opened in 2005 in northeast Austin as a "First Tee" course for the specific purpose of teaching golf to young people (though golfers of all ages and abilities can play). The 112-acre, 9-hole, par-30, PGA Tour–designed course is next door to the East Communities YMCA. Lessons are offered. There's also a driving range and short course. Greens fees are $12 for 9 holes, $18 for 18 holes. Youth pay less. Cart fees are $8.75 for 9 holes, and $13.50 for 18 holes.
Austin Nature and Science Center. Adjacent to the Zilker Botanical Gardens, this complex has an 80-acre preserve trail, interactive exhibits in the Discovery Lab that teach about the ecology of the Austin area, and animal exhibits focusing on subjects such as bees and birds of prey. 301 Nature Center Dr., Austin, TX. 512/327–8180. www.ci.austin.tx.us/ansc. Suggested donation of $2 per adult and $1 per child. Mon.–Sat. 9–5, Sun. 12–5.
Mount Bonnell. Rising to a height of 785 feet, Mount Bonnell offers the best views of Austin. Stop by during the day for a glimpse of the sweeping panorama of rolling hills, the Colorado River and the 360 Bridge, and the downtown skyline in the distance. It's an easy climb up from a parking area near the road (more of a diversion than a serious hike); you'll find students, lovers, families, picnickers and just plain old tourists here. Mount Bonnell Rd., off E. 35th St., Austin, TX. 817/265–7721 or 800/433–5374. Free. Daily, dawn to dusk.
West Austin/Zilker Park
Zilker Park. The former site of temporary Franciscan missions in 1730 and a former American Indian gathering place is now Austin's everyday backyard park. The 351-acre site along the shores of Lady Bird Lake includes Barton Springs Pool, numerous gardens, a meditation trail, and a Swedish log cabin dating from the 1840s. In March, the park hosts a kite festival (2008 saw the 80th edition). During spring months, concerts are held in the park's Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater, a natural outdoor amphitheater beneath a grove of century-old pecan trees; in July and August, musicals and plays take over. Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, at the park's southern end, displays 130 or more works by sculptor and former UT art professor Charles Umlauf. Art workshops for both kids and adults are occasionally offered. 2201 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX. 512/974–6700 (Parks Dept.); 512/477–5335 (theater); 512/445–5582 (museum). www.ci.austin.tx.us/zilker. Free (main park), parking $3 per vehicle; $3.50 (museum). Daily, dawn to dusk (park); Wed.–Fri. 10–4:30, Sat.–Sun. 1–4:30 (museum).
Canoe rentals are available for the hour or day. www.zilkerboats.com
Canoe rentals are available for the hour or day.
Barton Creek Greenbelt. This park follows the contour of Barton Creek and the canyon it created west along a 7.9 mile-long area from Zilker Park to west of Loop 360. It has a trail for hiking and biking, plus swimming holes when the creek is full (very rain-dependent, it's usually in spring and fall). Access points: Zilker Park, Loop 360, Twin Falls, and Scottish Woods Trail Falls (near the intersection of MoPac and Loop 360), and Scottish Woods Trail (at the trail's northern border off Loop 360), Austin, TX. 512/499–6700 or 512/472–1267. www.austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=206. Free. 5am–10pm.
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. Stunning contrasting views of the Hill Country and the Austin skyline make it worth the trip to this area near the 360 Bridge. You can wander along 227 acres of walking trails (there are 10 different ones); guided tours are offered on weekends. The cool folks at Wild Basin offer numerous outdoor-oriented classes, nighttime stargazing sessions, even concerts by well-known touring musicians. 805 N. Capitol of Texas Hwy., Austin, TX. 512/327–7622. www.wildbasin.org. $3 suggested donation, $4 guided hikes (weekends and by reservation only). Daily, dawn to dusk (park); daily 9–4 (office), Tues.–Sun. 9–4 (gift shop).
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This 43-acre complex, founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes, has extensive plantings of native Texas wildflowers that bloom year-round (although spring is an especially attractive time). The grounds include a visitor center, nature trail, observation tower, elaborate stone terraces, and flower-filled meadows. 4801 LaCrosse Ave., Austin, TX. 512/292–4100. www.wildflower.org. $7. Tues.–Sun. 9–5:30.
McKinney Falls State Park. This 744-acre state park is 13 mi southeast of downtown Austin. Per the name, the park has two waterfalls (visitors should exercise extreme caution near the water, as people have drowned here). A 4.5-mi nature trail is used for hiking and biking. Other popular activities in the park are fishing, picnicking, camping, and wildlife-viewing (including bird-watching and sightings of white-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels, and armadillos). 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy., off U.S. 183, Austin, TX. 512/243–1643. www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/mckinney_falls. $2. Daily, dawn to dusk.