Austin is full of sprawling green spaces and beautiful scenery, but no destination compares to the mecca of outdoor fun: Zilker Park. It’s comprised of 351 acres that were donated to the city in three parts by a local banker named Andrew Jackson Zilker. This included the surrounding spring-fed pool now known as Barton Springs. These days the park is regularly bustling with festivals, performances, and holiday celebrations. For locals, it’s an essential part of living the good life in Austin. Here are the things you don’t want to miss.
For the Kids
Do you have kids? Kids love trains, trees, and kites. If it’s the first Sunday in March you’ll want to take your little one to visit the Zilker Kite Festival where you’ll revel in hundreds of colorful kites dotting the big Texas sky. If you find yourself looking for an activity on a December evening, take the tykes to see the magnificent 155-foot-tall Zilker Tree, lit up bright with more than 3,000 lights. If it’s literally any other time of the year between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., take a ride on the Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train that takes a 20-minute tour of the park.
Do you enjoy plants and outdoor sculptures? It sounds like the Zilker Botanical Garden and Umlauf Sculpture Garden are for you. At the botanical garden, check out the rose, cactus, and herb gardens, plus the butterfly and escarpment trails. Opened in 1991 with pieces donated by sculptor Charles Umlauf, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum is a xeriscaped garden filled with a waterfall, streams, and, of course, dozens of bronze and stone sculptures at which to look at and ponder life peacefully.
Do you like to swim? This is a trick question, because everyone likes to swim. Barton Springs Pool is a three-acre, spring-fed pool that is consistently between 68-70 degrees. Now this may seem frigid, but if there’s a better cure for a hangover in 100-degree weather than a dip in the springs, we haven’t found it yet. It’s open most days, except for a large chunk of Thursday, when this federally protected habitat is methodically cleaned. The endangered Barton Springs Salamander is thankful for this.
Lastly, there’s some recent good news and bad news in regards to Zilker Park. Bad news first? You know those parking meters that have sprung up all over the East Side in the past year? They’ve made their way to Lou Neff Road at the northeast end of the park as of March 5. The good news is, these meters are seasonal, meaning they’ll coincide with festival season, and turned off after Labor Day, according to KLBJ.