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Austin Parks & Outdoor Spaces

published on June 7, 2013

mckinney falls austinWhether home is a modern condo in downtown Austin or an Austin luxury home with sweeping landscaping, public parks and outdoor centers offer a peaceful retreat for all Austinites. Most parks offer picnic areas, wide fields to fly kites or kick a soccer ball, and playground areas, and some parks also feature trails, bbq grills, and volleyball nets. Below are a few of the larger parks available for those who want to get outside and enjoy Austin:

McKinney Falls State Park

McKinney Falls State Park is located at the southeastern edge of Austin, not far from the Shady Hollow neighborhood, and is managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The park opened to the public in 1976 and is named after Thomas F. McKinney, who lived on the land in the 19th century. McKinney originally built a stone house, barns, and a gristmill on the property, and the ruins of his homestead and horse trainer’s cabin are still preserved in the park. Visitors can hike several designated trails, including the scenic upper and lower falls along Onion Creek. The park also offers camping, mountain biking, picnicking, fishing, creek swimming, wildlife observation, group facilities, and an amphitheatre. McKinney Falls is home to “Old Baldy,” which at an estimated age of over 500 years, is one of the oldest bald cypress trees in Texas. The park is open seven days a week year round and charges a $6 admission for visitors over 12 years of age.

Zilker Park

zilker park austinZilker Metropolitan Park is a large public park in south Austin, close to homes in Barton Springs, the Zilker Botanical Gardens, Zilker Hillside Theatre, Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and Lady Bird Lake. The park offers over 350 acres of green space for sports, picnics, and outdoor naps, as well a miniature train, access to canoe rentals on Town Lake, playscapes, a disc golf course, and volleyball courts. The Town Lake hike and bike trail has several entrances within Zilker Park, and the trail runs around a majority of the park’s borders. Named after Andrew Jackson Zilker, the land was donated to the city of Austin in 1917 and was developed into a park during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Several large events are held in the park, including the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the Zilker Park Kite Festival, and the Zilker Holiday Tree lighting ceremony.

Mayfield Park

Mayfield Park and Preserve, located in the middle of Austin, was gifted to the city of Austin in 1971 by Mary Mayfield Gutsch for use as a public park. The grounds and accompanying historic Mayfield Cottage and Gardens are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The two-acre cottage gardens delight visitors with towering palm trees, free roaming peacocks, and a vibrant display of water lilies. Mayfield Preserve is the 21-acre open space around the cottage and gardens, featuring walking trails and wildlife viewing. The park is a favorite spot for weddings and small events, with the cottage and garden available for reservation.

Mueller Park

Mueller Park is part of a large development project in central Austin, a short drive from West Lake Hills homes, which includes open space, retail and restaurant space, condominiums, apartments, houses, and community gathering space. The park offers trails and open space that weave through the community, with the intention of establishing a native ecosystem and providing outdoor recreation for residents and neighbors. Features of the 140 acre park include a five mile hike and bike trail, shade trees, connections to Bartholomew Park and Patterson Park, picnic areas, playscapes, and educational areas for children.

Emma Long Metropolitan Park

The Emma Long Metropolitan Park is located in the hill country of Austin, close to upscale neighborhoods such as Steiner Ranch, and situated alongside Lake Austin. The park is one of the only city properties that offers camping (66 sites available) and has a lakeside beach and adjacent boat docks. Entering the park can be difficult, as the main gate is located deep in the wood at 1706 City Park Road. In addition to camping, the park offers RV parking, fishing, hiking, volleyball, basketball, swimming, and lake access for boats. There is also a 9.5-mile long motorcycle trail and facilities available for rent for group activities.

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