Article Contributor: Ben Burton, Austin Community College | Journalism Major
Austin is a beautiful city that radiates good health with its rolling landscape, its celebrated lakes and rivers, its numerous parks, its unique neighborhoods, its miles of bustling hike and bike trails, and the 50+ public swimming pools within the city limits. Outdoor activities are extremely popular and vital components of Austin’s lifestyle alongside work, shelter, family and friends, education, food, live music, theater (drama), and other performing arts. Residents spend beneficial amounts of their time on physical fitness activities including hiking, jogging, cycling, camping, boating, fishing, swimming and other water sports, skateboarding, rock- climbing, gym workouts (free-weights and machines), and ball sports (tennis, baseball, soccer, football, volleyball, basketball, golfing, and others).
Here are some of the locations for outdoor recreational activities in Austin, Texas:
2207 Lou Neff Rd.
350+acre metropolitan park
Recreational area with a diverse selection of events/activities (A-I below), and access to the miles of hike and bike trails along the shores of Lady Bird Lake.
a. Barton Springs Pool
2131 William Barton Dr.
3 acre spring-water fed pool
b. Zilker Zephyr Miniature Train
Station next to Barton Springs Pool (west-side)
A scenic slow ride around Zilker Park for kids and adults.
c. Zilker Hillside Theater
2206 William Barton Dr.
Events, shows, movies, and concerts
d. Zilker Botanical Gardens
2220 Barton Springs Rd.
Luxuriant nature reserve with koi ponds, live oaks, and various types of cactuses. Multiple theme gardens include The Taniguchi Japanese Garden, The Riparian Streambed, The Hartman Prehistoric Garden, and The Mabel Davis Rose Garden. An urban oasis of pathways, streams, koi-filled ponds, shaded and sunny areas, and thousands of native and imported plants.
e. Austin Nature and Science Center
2389 Stratford Dr.
80-acre nature center providing hands-on exhibits, educational programs, and recreation activities. Explore the natural world.
f. Lady Bird Lake
The river-like reservoir on the Colorado River (in between downtown & south Austin). The hike and bike trail goes around its shores. Rentals for kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards available at:
Zilker Park Boat Rentals
2101 Andrew Zilker Rd.
2418 Stratford Dr.
g. Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum
605 Azie Morton Rd. (& Barton Springs Rd.)
Museum and outdoor sculpture garden centered on the artistic works of American sculptor Charles Umlauf. A collection of 2000+ drawings and 273 sculptures, 59 of which are displayed outside in the garden for viewing while strolling in a natural setting.
h. Austin Trail of Lights
(Drive-thru X-mas event with over 2 million lights)
Nov. 27th-Dec.31 2021
i. Zilker Holiday Tree
155 ft. tall, 39 streamers each one holding 81 multicolored 25-watt bulbs.
3,309 lights in total.
Urban park west of downtown, paralleling Shoal Creek that features 84 acres of green space for the public. Enjoy the miles of tree-shaded trails for walking, running, cycling, and dog walking. Pease Park also has magnificent limestone cliffs, a playscape, a splash pad, two basketball courts, three volleyball courts, and lots of picnic tables. A recent addition to the front of the park “the Kingsbury Commons“ has an interactive water feature, a tree-house observation pod, a nature play area, a playground with state-of-the-art equipment, and a high school regulation-size basketball court.
Butler Metro Park
1000 Barton Springs Rd.
Butler Park has distinct and interesting features, such as, an Observation Hill overlooking Lady Bird Lake, the Alliance Children’s Garden ( a 2-acre multi-generational recreational and cultural space), golfing, splash pad, the Dougherty Art Center, walking, running, cycling, and it’s a good spot to have a picnic.
Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail
Hike the 3.2-mile trail to a secluded swimming spot with a waterfall. The trail is used year-round for hiking, walking, running, and dogs on leash are welcome.
Onion Creek Metropolitan Park
8652 Nuckols Crossing Rd. 4550 Mueller Blvd. 1600 City Park Rd.
Onion Creek Park’s 390-acres of land is mostly wooded flat terrain to hike and explore. The park has a special 106-acre area where dogs can run off-leash that’s called “Dog Park Blue” and it’s close to the creek if you want to swim or just relax and cool down. There are many ponds in the park, a good amount of Picnic areas are provided, and so are public bathrooms.
Mueller Lake Park
A one of a kind park (30 acres) with a lake (6.5 acres) that is home to many ducks, geese, and swans. The park has an open-air amphitheater and stage for live music, plays, movies, and other events. There is a dedicated peninsula area for picnics with state-of-the-art picnic tables. Purchase food at Mueller Trailer Eats food court located at 4209 Airport Blvd. across from Lake Park and the Historic Browning Hangar. Every Sunday under the hangar there is a public farmer’s market with nearly 50 vendors selling a wide variety of products. Mueller Lake Park’s Interactive playscape has many activities for kids from slides to jungle gyms to monkey bars. There is a seating area for adults to relax and take a break as their children play and exercise. Take a walking tour along the park’s pathways to view wacky unofficial public works of art. A great flat, half gravel, half paved trail is a 2.6-mile-long loop specially made for walking and running around the lake. Dogs on leash are welcome in the park.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park
On the shores of Lake Austin. Features of the park: open space, swimming area, picnic table sites, grills, camp sites, boat ramps, a small sandy beach playing area for kids, and hiking trails. Dogs on leash are welcome in the park but dogs are not allowed in the swimming area. The park has public bathrooms.
4550 Mueller Blvd.
1600 City Park Rd.