Zilker Park: A Metropolitan Oasis in Austin

It’s a lazy, hazy, hot July day in Austin and I’m outside. In the heat. In the humidity. I usually try to visit air-conditioned venues at this time of year for obvious reasons. But there are some places worth a bit of sweat and Zilker Park is one of them.  Settling into a spot under a shady tree to write this blog, I’m watching plenty of people riding bikes, picnicking, walking dogs and searching for Pokémon, and I know that even the hot Texas sun can’t keep folks away from a good time in a beautiful spot.

640px-Zilker_trainWith over 350 acres, situated at the junction of Barton Creek and the Colorado River, Zilker Park is one of the largest and most beautiful urban recreation spaces in the country. In addition to its lush, grassy expanses and tree-lined paths, the park has many unique amenities and attractions. If you have kids with you, you’ll want to hop aboard the Zilker Zephyr Miniature Train for a leisurely ride around a section of the park. After that, your options are endless!

24135154234_ac11f386ef_zZilker Botanical Garden: scope out a tranquil spot to relax while admiring the scenery, or take a leisurely stroll among the beautiful plants, koi ponds and waterfalls in the botanical gardens. You can also get your history fix at the Pioneer Village, complete with a blacksmith shop, an 1866 school house, and one of the best-preserved log cabins in the country, and the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, where you’ll encounter recreations of dinosaur habitats, tracks, and a life-sized sculpture of the type of dinosaur believed to have left some of the tracks.

Nature and Science Center: with fun, educational activities and hands-on exhibits, the center encourages kids (and adults) to get outside and explore nature.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum: a beautiful, peaceful spot where you can experience amazing works of art by artist Charles Umlauf and others, scattered throughout an idyllic, garden setting.

If you’re looking for a little more activity, Zilker Park has got you covered! There are ball fields, sand volleyball courts, playgrounds, a nine-hole disc golf course (like golf, but you toss Frisbees into baskets instead of hitting balls into holes), and numerous trails for hiking, biking, and jogging. The park also offers fun on, and in, the water:

8059497009_80d1ec9c56_zBarton Springs Pool is one of Austin’s famous landmarks and easily the most popular swimming hole in the city. Spring fed, Barton Springs Pool is over 3 acres and around 900 feet long. The pool was formed when Barton Creek was dammed up, so it has a natural rock and gravel bottom. There are varying depths, diving boards, and stairs and ladders for entry.

One of my favorite activities is renting a kayak and doing some paddling on Lady Bird Lake. You’ll also see people canoeing or skimming the lake on a stand-up paddle board. Looks like fun…maybe next time!

Zilker Park is a great destination any time of the year. It’s s a hotspot for concerts, festivals, and even live theater!  If you can get there by August 13, you’ll get to see an incredible performance of “Shrek the Musical” at the Zilker Hillside Theatre…for free! And every October, Zilker hosts the world-renowned “Austin City Limits” music festival.

There are so many features to this amazing park, but I’ve finished my iced tea and the afternoon’s rising temperature is telling me it’s time for a dip in Barton’s cooling waters so I’ll stop here.  Next time you’re in Austin, make some time to visit this truly amazing urban oasis with something for everyone!

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