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Best Of 2012


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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Campground
Huntsville State Park

Huntsville State Park is only about 90 miles north of downtown, but a world away in terms of the pace of life. Skyscrapers are replaced by towering pines, and the sound of traffic gives way to birds and the rustling of leaves. This fairly small, heavily wooded state park is heaven in the warmer months, thanks to the swimming area at Lake Raven (named after Sam Houston, whose nearby likeness almost resembles a skyscraper) and the tree cover, which gives plenty of shade. The park offers activities such as horseback riding, paddle boating, canoeing and hiking — the trails often play host to Houston-area footraces. Facilities range from primitive to screened shelters with electricity and are offered on a sliding scale, starting at $15, plus the daily entrance fee of $20. That may seem high, but camping at Huntsville State Park also puts you in close proximity to the 130 miles worth of the Lone Star Hiking Trail, Sam Houston National Forest and several other nearby outdoor delights.

40 Park Lane, Huntsville, 77320
Best Aero

Houston is really going to miss Aero Jon DiSalvatore, who was team captain and a top offensive player who did tons of charity work and loved interacting with fans. He's left to play with a team closer to his home in Connecticut. We'll remember him as a coach's dream who sacrificed the best parts of his game — including his scoring ability — to help set up the younger players so they'd fit into the team.

Best Weekend Getaway
Neal's Lodges

A lot has changed at the 86-year-old resort village on the rim of one of the Frio River's most scenic canyons. Sure, the boulder-strewn, aquamarine-watered old swimming hole is still one of the finest in Texas, the dining hall's still offering up chicken-frieds to die for (or kill over), and all ten million of those Mexican free-tailed bats are still boiling nightly from that guano-reeking Hades of a hole in the ground a few miles down the road. The Frio's still a pleasant float through some of the most breathtaking of wild western Hill Country terrain, if a little shallow and light on rapids most of the time. Skunks, 'coons and white-tailed deer will raid your campsite for scraps once the moon rises, and mama mockingbirds will still harass nest-plundering roadrunners from scraggly ancient hillside oaks. Those are the eternal verities of this angel-kissed Eden on the Edwards Plateau. What's new? More amenities. There's a family-friendly icehouse now on the premises in Joe Jimmy's, where bands play country and classic rock hits under Milky Way skies to two-steppers and tricyclists alike on the large outdoor dance slab. There's a catch-and-release fishing pond, and a return to the Neal's Lodges of old in guided horseback rides in and around the Frio. It's Texas distilled, and it's only about five hours away: a little more if you take the gorgeous route over the roof of the Hill Country through either Tarpley or Vanderpool.

20970 TX-127, Concan, 78838
Best Sports Talk Host

In an industry becoming increasingly cluttered with boisterous blowhards who want to be Jim Rome, stat geeks who worship at the Moneyball altar, and seriously unfunny wannabe comedians, Lance Zierlein is a rare triple threat. He is equally comfortable asserting his opinion, dissecting complex statistical analysis or creating funny characters. His ability to be both informative and entertaining is the radio equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball. Now that he has a partner in Charlie Pallilo, who is his equal in terms of experience and sports intellect, the two could dominate sports talk radio in Houston.

Best Swimming Hole
Quintana Beach County Park

When Galveston Island gets overrun with tourists, one of the best and easiest things to do is hop on over the San Luis Pass to the tiny hamlet of Quintana, a wonderful summertime Gulf haunt. Just south of Freeport and its factories, Quintana Beach Park has picnic facilities, hook-ups for RVs, cabins, camping facilities and other amenities, but it's the swimming you're here for. The beach is "unmaintained," meaning the park officials don't comb the sand other than to remove trash, so you'll often find small shells, driftwood and more along the water. Speaking of the water, for some reason it always seems bluer here than in Galveston. That's not to say it's clear — but it is more private, more quiet and more convenient than nearly any place else along the "Houston coast."

330 5th St., Quintana, 77541
Best Athlete Tweeter

No, he doesn't get this award for tweeting a picture of his MRI when he suffered a hamstring injury. Although that's certainly an indication of the freewheeling content on Texan running back Arian Foster's Twitter account, which can range from philosophical observations ("There is life outside of your beliefs") to random WTFs ("Even though it isn't an accurate rumor, I may go Einstein on y'all and wear one suit this whole year") to talkin' smack with fans about other sports ("Lol, I'm done. I'm arguing with highlight watchers"). Hands-down the best tweeter among Houston athletes.


Best Campground: Huntsville State Park


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