Zilker Park

Zilker Park is an excellent place to escape to when you need a break from the urban side of bustling Austin Texas. Found near the Downtown District on the banks of Lady Bird Lake, this 350-acre park is home to a range of tempting attractions, including the lovely Zilker Park Botanical Gardens. It is also here where you will find the renowned Barton Springs Pool, and for kids, a ride on the miniature train is bound to please. These are just some of the things that help to make Zilker Park such a great place to hang out, and if nothing else, finding a spot to relax near the water can be a rewarding way to pass the time.

The Barton Springs Pool is one of the best attractions in Austin, especially when the hot summer weather sets in. This spring-fed pool at Zilker Park maintains a relatively chilly temperature of around 68 degrees throughout the year. The Barton Springs Pool was "built" by park founder Andrew Jackson Zilker in 1901, and it didn't take long for it to become popular with Austin residents. When the park that surrounds the pool was officially founded in 1917, the pool itself only became more popular, and it hasn't lost its popularity over the years. Interestingly enough, topless sunbathing is permitted at the pool and in the park in general. The Barton Springs Pool is part natural and part manmade, making it one of the more interesting pools in the entire state.

In addition to swimming at Zilker Park, visitors can also canoe or kayak on Lady Bird Lake. More than 100 kayaks and canoes are available for rent at the park, and while the kayaks are suited for only one person, the canoes can accommodate three adults or two adults and two small kids. You can rent a canoe or kayak by the hour or by the day at Zilker Park, and the rates are relatively reasonable. It is worth noting that fishing on Lady Bird Lake is also an option, with sunfish, catfish, carp, and largemouth bass as the most common catches.

Numerous recreational activities can be enjoyed on a visit to Austin's favorite park, and for those who prefer staying on dry land, hiking and biking are just two of the options. The renowned Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail winds its way around the lake, and it can be used for light hiking. The trail can also be used for jogging and biking and is extremely popular with residents and tourists alike. For visitors who just want to relax at Zilker Park, other options for things to do on land include having a picnic, playing some sand volleyball, or seeing what the nine-hole disc golf course has to offer. The park offers a healthy collection of full-service picnic areas. Six of these areas can be reserved for private parties.

Exploring the Zilker Park Botanical Gardens is one of the top things to do in Austin's best park, and for good reason. This 33-acre garden area is very affordable, costing only $3.00 for adults ($2.00 for Austin residents) and $1.00 for children 3-12 years old and seniors, and it offers excellent pathways that can be a joy to wander. A butterfly trail and an especially fragrant rose garden are just some of the things that can be examined during a visit to the Zilker Park Botanical Gardens, and especially worthy of note are the Hartman Prehistoric Garden and the Isamu Taniguchil Oriental Garden. The former revolves around a prehistoric theme, as the name would imply, and the plants that are on display are largely those that are considered to have been around when dinosaurs roamed the planet. As for the Taniguchil Oriental Garden, it is a fine example of a traditional Japanese garden. Anyone who enjoys the Zilker Park Botanical Gardens might also enjoy a visit to the Wildflower Center during their Austin trip. This center can be found on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.

The list of things to do at Zilker Park is a long one. Also found at the park are the Austin Nature and Science Center and the Zilker Hillside Theatre. The former offers some fantastic interactive exhibits, not to mention some animal displays, while the latter plays host to any number of special events, including outdoor theater performances. Zilker Park is, after all, where the renowned Austin City Limits Music Festival is held. The park also plays host to the long-running Zilker Park Kite Festival, which is an excellent family event. Homemade kites of all kinds fill the sky during the March kite festival, and various kite competitions figure among the festivities.

Zilker Park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., though it is important to note that access might be limited by special events or any kind of maintenance issues that might arise. For visitors who wish to ride the Zilker Park Train or swim in the park's largely natural pool, there are reasonable fees. A parking fee is charged between mid-March and Labor Day, and it too is reasonable. On Thursdays, the Barton Springs Pool closes between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. so that it can be cleaned.

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