Located in the heart of South Austin, the 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park is sometimes called “Austin’s most-loved park.” Its position between Barton Creek and the Colorado River makes it a popular site for kayaking, and it draws Austin natives with its walking trails, volleyball courts, and grassy spaces.
Zilker also attracts thousands of locals and visitors thanks to the cultural attractions located inside it, like the Barton Springs Pool, the Zilker Botanical Garden, and the Zilker Hillside Theater. So if you’re visiting Austin with a group, it’s very likely that at some point you’ll end up at Zilker Metropolitan Park. The problem? Because Zilker is trying to preserve its status as a green space, it has limited parking.
National Charter Bus Austin can offer one solution. Don’t bother with parking at Zilker at all. Instead, have your charter bus drop you off near the part of the park you want to explore and then come pick you up when you’re done. If this sounds like a good solution, call us at 512-546-6019 to book your motorcoach. And keep reading to discover all the amazing things to do at Zilker Metropolitan Park.
Zilker Metropolitan Park is typically open from 5 a.m. - 10 p.m. If you just want to explore, you can get dropped off along one of the roads that surround the park, like S. Mopac Expy, Stratford Dr., Lou Neff Rd., Barton Springs Rd., and Columbus Dr. Many of these roads also lead to parking lots, although, as mentioned above, parking can be limited. Check out this map to get a better idea of the layout of the park.
If you or someone in your group has a disability, there is an accessible entrance to the trails near Barton Creek at Barton Hills Dr. This entrance is good if you just want to wander through the park and along the river. You can also get dropped off at a specific attraction, like the Austin Nature & Science Center, the Zilker Hillside Theater or the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden. Here’s a list of accessible entrances to various Zilker attractions:
Austin Nature & Science Center
The ADA-compliant entrance is located near the main site entrance off of 2389 Stratford Dr.
UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum
Accessible parking spots and space to drop off is available just outside the museum at 605 Azie Morton Rd.
Zilker Botanical Garden
Accessible parking spots and a drop-off area can be found at the garden entrance at 2220 Barton Springs Road.
Zilker Hillside Theater
A limited number of handicapped parking spaces are available in the lower parking lot near the stage and to the immediate left and right of the backstage area. If all these spots are taken, your bus can drop you off there and then park elsewhere. The address is 2206 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746.
There’s also a parking lot near Zilker Hillside Theater and Barton Springs Pool at 2201-2209 Andrew Zilker Rd, Austin, TX 78746. This parking lot is a bit farther away, so those with disabilities may want to get dropped off closer to the attraction. In fact, you can often request to be dropped off near the attraction whether or not you have a disability, as long as your driver parks elsewhere. With that in mind, it’s time to explore what you can do at Zilker’s attractions.
Zilker Metropolitan Park attracts scouting groups, after-school theatre classes, and senior travel groups with the many attractions located inside its 351 acres. Check out some of the best things to do in the park year-round:
Learn more about your surroundings at the Austin Nature & Science Center
If you run an outdoors group at your college or lead a scouting troop, this one’s for you. The Austin Nature & Science Center offers activities like The Forest Trail, where you can learn about different types of trees and what environments they thrive in, small sculpture gardens, and On Your Own Tours.
The center’s primary attraction, the On Your Own Tours only cost $1 a person, and 1 chaperone is free with every 12 participants. These tours let you see all 18 acres of the nature center, including all of the center’s plants and its ambassador animals.
Where: 2389 Stratford Dr, Austin, TX 78746
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon-Sat; 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun
Go for a swim at Barton Springs Pool
This 3-acre pool is fed by underground hot springs, which means it’s 68-70 degrees all year round. Admission is free from the end of October until the end of February. The rest of the year the pool costs $9 for adults who aren’t from Austin and $5 for those who are, with discounts for seniors, teenagers, and children. You can’t say you know Austin until you’ve been to this iconic spot.
Where: 2131 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746
When: 5 a.m.-10 p.m. everyday except Thu; Thu 5 a.m.-9 a.m. and 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
See sculptures at UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum
This is the only museum dedicated to the work of Charles Umlauf as well as that of the sculptors who influenced him and the sculptors he inspired. One of the coolest features about this museum? All of the bronze sculptures in the garden have a protective wax coating so that visitors can touch them freely. This makes the garden more exciting for children while also allowing visually impaired guests to experience the art.
Where: 605 Azie Morton Rd, Austin, TX 78704
When: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tue through Fri; 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sat and Sun
Stroll through Zilker Botanical Garden
The 26-acre Zilker Botanical Garden includes the serene Taniguchi Japanese Garden filled with koi ponds, the Rose Garden with its dozens of varieties of rose, and the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, which holds herbs that date back to the Cretaceous period. A great place to spend an afternoon, the garden charges adult Austin residents $6 for entrance and adult non-residents $8, with discounts for seniors and youth.
Where: 2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Watch a play at Zilker Hillside Theater
See a show in the middle of Zilker Metropolitan Park. The Hillside Theater hosts Shakespeare in the Park each spring, a musical each summer, and symphonic and dance performances throughout the year. Bring your blankets and settle down on the hillside for plays like Much Ado About Nothing and The Little Mermaid.
Where: 2206 William Barton Dr, Austin, TX 78746
When: Hours vary
Although Zilker Metropolitan Park offers fun attractions all year round, it becomes an especially exciting place to visit during its seasonal festivals. The three biggest are the ABC Kite Fest in the spring, Austin City Limits Festival in the fall, and the Zilker Holiday Tree and Trail of Lights during the winter holiday season. You’ll probably want to check on the dates of the festivals even if you’re not attending them, since you won’t want to attempt a peaceful stroll in the park during the middle of ACL.
If you are attending one of the festivals, make sure you mention that when you call to book your charter bus. Parking will be limited or non-existent during these events, and drop-off areas may be located farther away than usual from the location you’re trying to reach. Luckily, a charter bus can still get you there and pick you up without you having to worry about parking, but the driver will need to know so they can plan ahead.
ABC Kite Fest
The ABC Kite Fest, usually held in March, features a variety of contests for homemade kites, including Steadiest Kite, Strongest Pulling Kite, Smallest Kite, Largest Kite, and Most Unusual Kite. If you’re not into construction, you can just watch the colorful kites float through the air while you listen to live music.
Austin City Limits Festival
Austin City Limits Festival takes over the park for two weekends every October. In the past, the lineup has included acts like Childish Gambino, Mumford & Sons, The Cure, Cardi B, and Billie Eilish. A minibus is a great way to get all your 21+ friends to the festival without anyone needing to DD, so everyone can fully enjoy the music and craft beer.
Trail of Lights and Zilker Holiday Tree
The Trail of Lights calls itself “Austin’s largest holiday tradition.” Held for two weeks every December, the Trail includes hundreds of holiday light displays, live music, food booths, and a tree made entirely out of Christmas lights. If you’re in Austin during the holidays, you won’t want to miss this beautiful event.
There are a lot of reasons to take your group to Zilker Metropolitan Park--the festivals, the gardens, the swimming and running and kayaking. But Zilker Metropolitan Park is a big area with limited parking, making it difficult to get around by car.
A charter bus is one of the easiest ways to travel throughout the park. Ask your driver to drop your sightseeing group off at the Austin Nature & Science Center and then pick you up a few hours later to take you to the Zilker Hillside Theater, or book a minibus to drop you and your friends off and pick you up from ACL each day. No matter why you want to visit the park or which part you want to go to, National Charter Bus can help. Call us at 512-546-6019 so we can find the transportation that fits your needs.