UPDATED OCT 14, 2019
There's no substitute for a day spent in the sunshine and fresh air, and one of the things we love most about Austin is that we've got an impressive array of green space. So, when you need to take a break from the daily grind, pack a picnic or go for a stroll through one of these parks — they're among the best in the city.
Get out there and smell the roses! The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a peaceful and educational way to enjoy nature. Each flower or plant has its named displayed and the sanctuary also has a windmill, tiny ponds, and a butterfly garden. The center hosts events throughout the year such as yoga, midnight strolls, photography lessons, and plant sales. Oh, and no matter how old you are, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a rush from one of the many tree swings!
Ah, Zilker. The crown jewel of the Austin parks system. A large expanse of grass crawling with pick-up soccer games, cute lil’ dogs, picnics, and people reading books under trees. Zilker also is the host of some of Austin’s most famous festivals throughout the year: Austin City Limits, Kite Festival, Trail of Lights, Zilker Relays, and Blues on the Green.
Nestled right between the Lamar and Congress bridges is a grassy patch on the bank of Town Lake. This is Auditorium Shores, one of the most accessible entrances to the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. There’s also a splash pad for the little ones and a dog park for the furry ones. Be sure to pay your respects to the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue as well as one of the rarest sites in the city — free parking.
Domain Central Park is the perfect place to take a break from a bunch of luxury stores. It’s a favorite spot amongst Domain residents and regularly hosts themed 5ks for charity. Plus, the well-manicured landscape and sand volleyball courts make the park the home of multiple volleyball and ultimate frisbee leagues.
With over 12 miles of forested trails, Walnut Creek is a mountain biker’s heaven. Because it’s an off-leash park, it’s also a great place to visit with your four-legged friends. The trails wind through mesquite trees, streams, and fields of wildflowers. And, for all that, you walnut regret spending a day here.
This beltway might be considered mainstream (pun intended), but it is well worth a visit. The space covered by the Barton Creek Greenbelt is vast and includes multiple points of interest. Take a nice hike from Zilker Park to get to Gus Fruh, a popular watering hole lined with rope swings. Or you can opt for a quick dip at Barking Springs — the dog friendly side of Barton Springs Pool. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even take the trail to Seismic Wall and try your hand(s) at outdoor rock climbing. If it wasn’t clear, the Barton Greenbelt has something to offer for everyone.
Want a weekend getaway without actually getting away? Pitch your tent at Emma Long for a few nights. Or just stop in and throw a beach towel down on the lawn of the day use area. The beach offers a prime view and entrance to Lake Austin. Oh, and the grills? Hope you’re competitive — the barbeque pits are some of the most coveted in the city.
Mueller Lake Park — a man-made park breaking down suburban stereotypes. This area has everything you could possibly want out of a green space in 2017: food trucks, sci-fiesque play structures, catch and release fishing, and a farmers market every Sunday.
Walter Long is just far enough away from downtown Austin that it truly gives you the sense of getting away from it all. An eclectic mix of Austinites frequent this park, including triathletes, bass fishermen, dog enthusiasts, and boaters. The fish may regret their bites, but the picnickers sure do look happy!
You wouldn’t know it by the name, but Festival Beach Park is a generally quiet and calm area. Sitting on the shore of Lady Bird Lake in East Austin, runners often take a break from their training to watch the boats glide past the cityscape during one of the Austin Rowing Club’s regattas.
The island getaway you want without needing a plane ticket! Red Bud Isle is a 13-acre off-leash dog park right in the middle of Lake Austin. But don’t worry: dogs not required. There is plenty to do here, so take your pick: canoeing, hiking, picnicking, or just enjoying being surrounded by lots of waggin’ tails.
Have you heard the rumors of a secret beach in Austin? A short hike through the Guerrero Colorado River Park will take you to this elusive place. But that’s not all — the park also has one of the top-rated disc golf courses in the state of Texas.
Mayfield Park delivers the offbeat charm that Austin is famous for. A magical place at the foot of Mount Bonnell, the gardens are a mine of botanical beauty. But the real reason people come to Mayfield Park? The peacocks! Walk around and observe them chilling in trees, perching on top of houses, or just strutting their stuff.
Northwest District Park is a great green space not far from the bustle of Burnet. To us, it ranks pretty high on the list of neighborhood parks in the area. Probably because it’s shady (in a good way) and has so much to offer — a pool, basketball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts, and a small fishing pond!
Tom Hughes Park is a rocky outcropping overlooking Lake Travis that takes the cake for the best place to watch a sunset. The hike down to the water is short, but steep and rocky. At the bottom, the cove is a popular place to throw in a floaty and drift around for a few hours.
Don’t go chasing waterfalls — or do, that’s fine too! Bull Creek, off of 360, is a wonderful area for hiking, swimming, and exploring. In the springtime, water levels are highest and make the beltway a good spot to stop and splash around. Fitt tip: bring waterproof shoes! The trails follow the stream and often force you to walk through tide pools.
If home is North Austin for you, the fun of visiting one of the more popular parks can be dampened by the battle in traffic to get there. Fortunately, Brushy Creek is just one of the many nature oases of the North! Here you can cool off in the splash pad (be a kid again), go for a run, or rent a canoe and row around. Bonus: the bluebonnets take over in the springtime and make for some great old-fashioned Texas family photos!