Zilker Park simply just is.
We went to Zilker Park this weekend for our littlest one to ride the miniature Zilker Zephyr train for the first time. This is one of the rites of passage for little Austinites. The train runs on the hour (10 am – 6 pm) on weekdays and every 30-40 minutes on the weekends (10 am – 7 pm), weather permitting. The tickets for the train rides sell quickly, especially on the weekends. We had forgotten that this was cash only, and after giving up $3 for parking, we were $1 short to get tickets for the entire family. In the time that hubby spent getting cash at the ATM inside the train depot, the tickets sold out. We were unable to purchase tickets for the next ride until the conductor returned to the station since there are no “advanced” tickets sold. The train ride lasts about 25 minutes. and it takes one around Zilker Park, along Lady Bird Lake, through the playscapes and tunnel. The ride is leisurely, and with some popcorn and sno-cones that we picked up at the concession stand across from the train depot, the kids were in heaven. Bring a hat! The train cars do not have covers.
While we awaited the return of the train to buy tickets, the kids ran around the three playscapes at the playground, a short walk from the train depot. The largest of the playscapes has two bridges which straddle the train tracks, and kids can stand on the bridge to watch the train pass underneath. This playscape is nearly fully shaded. The smaller playscape with an antique fire engine is easily accessible to toddlers, and this too is relatively shaded. The third playscape has a marine life park theme with seal statues and a raised middle area with a large sand pit. This area has no shade, and with all the concrete of this structure, it gets blazing hot in the heat that we’ve been getting around here of late. The wall of percussion instruments line this area.
Though the many trees (and sno-cones) helped to keep us comfortable, it was nice to be able to escape the heat, in the exhibit that looks like Dr. Evil’s lair. The “Splash” environmental exhibit about the Edwards Aquifer is an indoors, air-conditioned space that is dark with some interactive displays, and even if our kids don’t quite understand the concept of runoff, they enjoyed pushing the buttons. The fish tanks were a plus too.
Zilker is a day trip unto itself. Families can spend an entire day here, not just at the train and playground area but to explore everything like the Umlauf sculpture garden, the botanical garden, the science and nature center, rent kayaks or canoes, and swim in the infamous Barton Springs pool. Zilker is often the location for sponsored activities like the kite festival, but we’ll review that when the next kite festival rolls around. The Zilker Hillside Theater is currently performing “The Music Man” musical.
There is so much to do at Zilker, especially for kids.
Zilker Metropolitan Park
2100 Barton Springs Road
Austin. TX 78746
Train: (512) 478-8286