One of Austin’s  overlooked recreational gems is Emma Long Metropolitan Park (at the end of City Park Road, 6.2 miles south of FM 2222 at Loop 360, 512/346-1831, www.ci.austin.tx.us , 7 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, $5–8). Named for an early member of the Austin City Council, the park is a massive expanse of natural Hill Country  beauty, highlighted by a 350-foot-long sandy beach on the north bank of the Colorado River.
Visitors bask in the sun or play beach volleyball while ski boats and jet skis zoom by. Emma Long is one of the few parks offering a somewhat cool respite on a scorching summer day thanks to the breeze from the water’s surface and plentiful shade provided by the row of cypress trees along the riverbank.
Incidentally, you’ll find some of the tastiest burgers in town along with live music on weekends at the adjacent Ski Shores Waterfront Cafe (512/346-5915, www.skishores.com ).