Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Update: As of October 2011, Zilker Botanical Garden is no longer free. Admission is now $1 for children (ages 3 - 12) and seniors (age 62 and up), $2 for adults (ages 13 - 61). Admission is an additional dollar for non-residents.
I was recently asked for a list of fun free spots around Austin. So, I've decided to revisit some of our favorites over the next few weeks, and compile a list to post right before Spring Break. That way, if you find yourself having an "Ack! What do I do with these kids?!" moment during Spring Break, you will have options.
Yesterday, my little boys and I headed to Zilker Botanical Garden, which is located in Zilker Park, just south of Town Lake and east of MoPac. Admission to the Botanical Garden is free. Weekday parking is also free. (Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, March 8 through Labor Day weekend, there is a $3 fee per car to park in the Zilker Botanical Garden parking lot).
Although February is the off-season at Zilker Botanical Garden, and nothing is blooming, it is still a beautiful place to meander the trails through seven themed gardens and a Pioneer Village. For pictures of each, you can follow these links:
- City of Austin's Green Garden
- Cactus and Succulent Garden
- Hartman Prehistoric Garden
- Herb and Fragrance Garden
- Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden
- Mabel Davis Rose Garden
- Doug Blachly Butterfly Trail and Garden
- Pioneer Village
The nicest thing about visiting in February is the 70 degree weather! In March, flowers will start to bloom and everything will be even more beautiful. You can visit here to see the Botanical Gardens blooming schedule, month by month. Later in the summer the lotus flowers will bloom and in late summer to early fall the butterflies will come to visit the Butterfly Garden.
If you are a fan of koi fish, you may be sad to learn that there seems to be only one left. After the koi were stolen last spring, someone donated more, but they did not survive.
There is currently no water (or waterfall) in the Japanese Garden, so it's not quite as gorgeous as usual. But, it is considerably less stressful to visit with small children! You don't have to worry about them taking a tumble in the water with the fish (and snakes). The water will not return until the pond has been sealed, but there is no known timeline for this. It may be awhile.
The Japanese Garden is my favorite part of the Botanical Gardens, but it is not stroller friendly. If you plan to visit with a stroller, bear in mind that you may need to abandon it for this section.
The boys enjoyed following dinosaur tracks to find a dino statue in the Prehistoric Garden.
To see a map of the Zilker Botanical Garden, click here. You will notice on the map that there is only one restroom, located in the parking lot. Make sure your kids use it when you arrive because it is no fun if your 2 year old has a pee-mergency when you are in the Japanese Garden and you have to run uphill all the way back to the parking lot. Just sayin'. It's also helpful to know that you cannot bring food or drink into the gardens, so plan to head across the street to the Zilker Playground if you'd like a picnic.
FROM MOPAC (LOOP 1):
take the exit for FM 2244 / Rollingwood, following the signs for Zilker Park. Watch for the dark green Zilker Botanical Garden signs. The garden is on the left at 2220 Barton Springs Drive.
FROM INTERSTATE 35:
take the Riverside Drive exit and go west. At Barton Springs Drive, turn left and follow it along until you reach Zilker Botanical Garden on your right, just past Stratford Drive.