Zilker Park is known as the "jewel in the heart of Austin," and it's easy to see why. It features an enormous, natural spring-fed swimming pool, sculpture garden, stand-up paddle boarding, dinosaurs (at the prehistoric gardens in the botanical garden), and unbeatable views of the Austin skyline. What more could you want?
Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park. Credit Charles Reagan Hackleman, courtesy ACL.
Zilker has an unmatched view of downtown Austin and is a great place to escape the heat. Here you can go for a dip in Barton Springs Pool, walk around the Hike and Bike Trail, or attend a concert. The park is home to the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Zilker Park Kite Festival, and a massive holiday celebration with a giant tree, all lit up in festive colors. There are playgrounds, picnic spots, disc golf, sand volleyball, and tons of other activities here, so spend a day exploring all of the possibilities! Pro tip: this is a great place to ride a bike. Pedestrian traffic can mean slow going in some spots, but it's easy to bypass if you rent a bike!
Barton Springs Pool. Courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
Barton Springs Pool
Zilker Park’s Barton Springs Pool is a massive 3-acre swimming pool fed by three natural, underground springs that have been dammed up. It has actually been keeping Texans from overheating since before Texas was even a thing! In the 1730s, the springs were revered by the Tonkawa tribe, who used the pools for sacred rituals. Spanish explorers to the area built temporary missions around it, and in the 1830s, the land was purchased by "Uncle" Billy Barton, who saw the area's potential as an attraction. He also named the three springs after his daughters- Parthenia, Eliza and Zenobia (those definitely sound like mermaid names...just sayin'). In the '20s, the city of Austin obtained the property and built the dams to create the one huge pool we see today. It only costs $3 for adults ($2 for kids), and a portion of that money goes to a fund to help research and protect the Barton Springs Salamander, so you can cool off for a cause.
Whether you’re looking for a dose of art and culture, you want to work up a sweat on the trails, you’re searching for a way to cool off, you want to check out a cool local event, or you just want to see a really great view of the Austin city skyline, there’s no better place than Zilker Park. Make sure to leave plenty of time to fully explore everything this gem has to offer.
Contributed by Roadtrippers.