IN AUSTIN AND the surrounding Texas Hill Country, pickleball is having a moment. The sport has been integrated into multiple facets of community life, and getting a game is easy as pie: You can play at resorts, restaurants, breweries, and wineries, and there will be even more options when Austin Pickle Ranch—the new home of the Pickleball Hall of Fame—opens later this year, adding a whopping 33 courts.
Here’s our guide to the best little paddle sport in Texas, with the latest on where to play, stay, dine, drink, and shop in and around the state capital.
WHERE TO PLAY
The municipal parks and rec department has more than a dozen pickleball courts on its roster, and the Austin Tennis and Pickleball Center is perhaps the most impressive. Located in the city’s northeast, it’s the only public outdoor pickleball venue in town where you can reserve in advance, offering eight permanent lighted courts for evening games, plus clinics for beginners and intermediate players, summer camps and development programs for kids, tournaments for singles and doubles, and an on-site pro shop selling new equipment. On top of all that, court fees are minimal, just $3 a person for 90 minutes. playatctennis.com
Less than 30 miles west of Austin in Dripping Springs, Dreamland is a brand-new complex with two mini-golf courses, a free sculpture garden, and two stages for live music. For the less pickleball-focused members of your party, there’s also a kid-friendly playground and lawn games, such as cornhole and croquet, but let’s be real: The courts are the main attraction here. Protected from the elements and featuring overhead lighting and tall fences to keep rogue balls from going astray, Dreamland’s four courts can be reserved by the hour and accommodate unlimited players for a three-hour maximum. dreamlanddstx.com
Slightly closer to the downtown action is Hill Country Indoor, a 140,000-square-foot behemoth in Bee Cave that offers a variety of fitness classes, an indoor track, basketball and volleyball courts, two turf fields, and even a “playscape” for kids 10 and under. It’s a members-only club, but you can purchase a day pass for the entire facility or opt for the pickleball-only option: A mere $7 will get you on the court for open play. Private lessons are also available. hillcountryindoor.com
WHERE TO CROSS-TRAIN
Near the center of Austin is Lady Bird Lake, a 468-acre reservoir on the Colorado River. It’s surrounded by the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, a loop that hits some of the city’s highlights, serving as a recreational hub for locals and visitors alike—some 2.6 million of whom put it to use annually.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF PADDLE
Walk or run along the boardwalk and pedestrian bridge for epic views of the skyline; or for some serious cardio and a waterside perspective, rent a kayak, a canoe, or a stand-up paddleboard from one of the seven companies operating on or near park grounds. You can also pop into Zilker Park for a little fun in the sun, or detour to Barton Springs to cool down with a swim. austintexas.gov
WHERE TO EAT
When Bouldin Acres opened in January 2020, it brought a much-needed dose of cool to the capital city’s pickleball scene. A dog- and kid-friendly restaurant and beer garden in South Austin, it sits on the former site of a car dealership, and its two-acre lot features two courts for customers’ use only, reservable for 30 minutes at a time. (You can rent paddles or bring your own.)
The restaurant’s kitchen turns out the kind of fare that goes well with a cocktail, whether it’s a pitcher of sangria, a Texas Peach Fuzz, or a glass of hibiscus tea spiked with 12-year-old rum—think cauliflower “wings,” brisket tacos, and barbecue Frito pie, complete with pulled pork and salsa verde. bouldinacres.com
WHERE TO DRINK
Between Frontyard Brewing and 5 Soul Wine—both about 20 miles west of Austin in Spicewood—there are five wine varietals, 16 craft beers (plus house-made root beer), and six pickleball courts across a scant nine acres. On the brewery side, you can try coffee milk stout, coriander-and-orange-peel-infused Belgian blonde ale, or crisp, simple Kölsch; on the winery side there’s rosé, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon, all from California’s Central Coast.
DINK & DRINK
Pickleball-wise, there are social events, clinics, and lessons, and the courts are available for open play at $20 an hour; book a time slot via the Court Reserve app, or take your chances and just drop by—but reservations are strongly recommended. frontyardbrewing.com; 5soulwine.com
WHERE TO STAY
A luxe retreat on the outskirts of Austin, just 10 miles away from the city center, the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa sprawls across 4,000 acres of bucolic Hill Country, and its generous grounds include four swimming pools, four championship golf courses, a mile-long running path, and 10 tennis courts that can be set up for pickleball if you book as a group and make the request at least a few weeks in advance. (If you’re there solo, brush up on your tennis skills instead with a private lesson or group clinic.) Reserve a court—they’re open daily and cost $60 an hour per court, and there’s a minimum of two courts for three hours—then make an appointment for a postgame massage. Among other treatments, the spa offers rubdowns targeted to sports recovery and pain relief. omnihotels.com
HEAD FOR THE HILLS
WHERE TO SHOP
If the Austin Tennis Center’s store doesn’t have what you need, head to The Tennis Shop in Davenport Village for the latest gear, including pickleballs from Onix and Wilson and paddles from Head, Selkirk, and Babolat. The shop’s focus may be tennis, but the folks there are more than familiar with the pickleball phenomenon; as their website proclaims, “It’s all over Austin like cedar and pigweed pollen!” thetennisshopaustin.com