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Best Parks in Austin

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This creek winds through Central and South Austin, featuring beautiful hiking and bike trails as well as many choice swimming holes. The natural surroundings have been left to flourish as only the Texas countryside can. One of the more popular areas is at the far north end of the park—the Scottish Woods Trails, a rocky path leading to a gorgeous private swimming hole at the base of a small waterfall. Barton Creek Greenbelt runs west and north from Zilker Park for nearly eight miles. Contact the Austin Parks and Recreation Department for a map of the greenbelt and access areas.

Patrons will enjoy a huge variety of activities at Zilker Park. You can check out the hike and bike trails, picnic facilities, Zilker Botanical Garden, canoe rentals, soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, riverboat rides on Town Lake, concerts, festivals and even a miniature train. The wide-open stretches of grass in this park are just minutes from the downtown area. There is plenty of room and various diversions for the kids, so you can get a suntan, take long walks by the river or just curl up with a book down by the river.

Mayfield Park Cottage and Gardens is open to the public but is a favorite among the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department facilities rental division. The historic 1870s cottage is perfect for a small group. The cottage holds 65 people, while the grounds hold up to 200. Enjoy the landscaped gardens, lily ponds, peacocks and palms in this picturesque environment. Pack up the family or reserve it for your event and enjoy this 23-acre estate in central Austin.

Set along the eastern banks of the restful Colorado River, Mount Bonnell's verdant headlands dominate Austin's western topography from an elevation of approximately 775 feet (236 meters) above sea level. Also known as Covert Park, the location is a stunning progression of luxuriant grasslands, scenic waterfronts, peaceful picnic spots and breathtaking vista points. Inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in the year 2015, the forelands are home to the Mount Bonnell's Indian Trail, one of the cornerstones of the American War of Independence. Legend has it that the final 99 steps to the mount's top hold enchanting qualities; if a couple climbs the mount once, they fall in love; twice, they become engaged; and three times, they are destined to be married.

From challenging trails for mountain bikes to scenic paths along a lovely creek to an off-leash spot where dogs can run free, you'll find something for everyone at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park! Bring the family during the summer to take a dip in the public pool. For a memorable day date bring a picnic and have lunch beside the water. And of course adrenaline seekers will love biking over hills or playing a game on one of the softball fields.

As part of the Pedernales River and Hamilton Creek, this old-fashioned swimming hole is perfect for the nature lover in all of us. A shaded walk through the canyon opens to the limestone outcroppings that create a 50-foot waterfall landing in the pool. A picnic on the banks of the pool, a swim in the cool water or a quick hike through the canyon will wash away city-accumulated stress. The trail to the pool is fairly short (1/4 of a mile) but does include a series of rock steps. Good hiking shoes are recommended. Visitors with physical disabilities should call ahead to pre-arrange assistance. Parking is limited, and the pool is very popular so go early and stay late.

These 22 amazing acres overlook the Zilker Park fields bordering Barton Springs Road. The garden is actually comprised of several different gardens, including the Cactus and Succulent, Xeriscape, Herb and Fragrance, Rose, Azalea, Butterfly and Taniguchi Gardens. Taniguchi is a beautiful Japanese landscape with a waterfall, running stream, lily ponds and wooden bridges. The lush, peaceful grounds are commonly perused by artists and writers searching for inspiration, and by others just looking for solitude amid the city. See their website for further information.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center was established by Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States from 1963-1969. This fabulous garden bearing her name brims with native Texas plants in courtyards, terraces, arbors and meadows. Along with a fantastic children's center, visitors can explore a visitors gallery, observation tower, café, gift store and nature trails. Enjoy award-winning architecture and fabulous scenery in this wonderful garden spot. Tours by appointment.

The McKinney Falls State Park, located in southeast Austin, at a short distance from the downtown area, is the ideal spot for a fun day out with family and friends. Whether you're into fitness and recreational sports, or just want to lounge about and have a leisurely day, this park is for you. This day park offers a number of activities such as hiking, biking, picnicking, as well as fishing and swimming in the Onion Creek. The park also has a 500 year old cypress tree that is worth a visit. The park visitor center can provide you with all the required information.

Charles Umlauf (1911-1994), one of the more famous Austin artists, was a prolific sculptor. This museum displays many of his works in a fantastic garden spot located close to Zilker Park and just minutes from downtown. His sculptures range from realism to abstraction and include families, religious figures, animals and mythological characters.

This park offers over 1,000 acres of land with nearly a mile of lakefront. Visitors can go boating and utilize the park's two boat ramps. Skiing, fishing and relaxing on the sandy waterfront are also options. There is a swimming area that employs lifeguards on summer weekends. Be sure to notice the ash, oak and juniper trees throughout the park. Sixty-six campsites are available, some along the waterfront, and pets on a leash are welcome.

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