Reviewing Austin’s Parks

Megan Aune | May 1, 2021

It’s springtime, y’all! For most of Texas, the window in which we can be outside without either (a) bringing a jacket or (b) passing out from heat exhaustion is a brief one. Because of this, we all know we have to enjoy the great outdoors while we can. For you, that could be taking on a five-mile hike, going on a picnic with friends, or even just bringing your laptop a few feet from your home to do some work in the sunshine. There’s one place, though, where everyone–groups and individuals, young and old, adventurous and reclusive–can go to enjoy a day in nature. (It’s parks, in case that wasn’t obvious from the title.) Keep scrolling for my take on some of Austin’s most popular parks.

Zilker Metropolitan Park

Crowds of people in Zilker Park, Austin's largest park.

This one was predictable, huh? Zilker is probably the most well-known park in Austin, and rightfully so. The vast lawn, incredible cityscape, botanical gardens, and natural spring-fed pool aren’t even half of the amenities this local hub offers to the public, making it perfect for anyone and everyone. Plus, dogs! They’re everywhere, and sometimes their owners will let you pet them, so that joyous experience speaks for itself.

That said, the park can get a bit crowded (I once spent over 45 minutes trying to find parking). If you go for a relaxing picnic, you’ll have loose dogs running over to sample your food, other people will probably be in your space, and the odds of getting hit by a frisbee are pretty high. I’m a firm believer that everyone has to go to Zilker at least once–it’s just too cool to miss. But if you’re just trying to have a chill afternoon, we’ve got some more options below. 

Best for: Playing frisbee, volleyball, or other sporty activities

Mueller Lake Park

A view of Mueller Lake park's lake.

If you are, in fact, looking for a place to sit and relax, this should be right up your alley. Mueller Lake Park features sprawling lawns with lots of shady spots, lots of cool art, and (you guessed it) a lake! The open amphitheater is also a popular setting for pictures. You can oftentimes see cool photoshoots happening while you’re there (I once saw a group dressed all in nineteenth-century teatime garb–it was ninety degrees out!). Overall, Mueller is usually a bit less crowded than Zilker. A combination of the shade and the breeze from the lake create a cool, relaxing atmosphere for you to lounge, jog, or whatever you feel. 

Best for: Lying down with a book or biking around the lake

Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve

Mayfield's ponds studded with lily-pads. Arguably one of Austin's most beautiful parks.

One word: Peacocks. The first thing to come up when you look Mayfield up, the main attraction of most of its visitors, and definitely what this park is best known for. The actual park is composed of a historic cottage and its two gardens, which include gorgeous landscaping, water lily-filled ponds, and several vibrant peacocks. You definitely don’t want to miss the nature preserve either, though. Twenty-one acres of wilderness and trails that lead to cool docks, lookout points, and other amazing spots! And because Mayfield is also the natural habitat to a lot of wildlife, be sure to keep an eye out for animals and birds while you explore. 

Best for: Exploring

Butler Metro Park

If you’re looking for a city view without the crowd, Butler may be your place. This park has a children’s garden, a meadow, a fountain that lights up at night, and an observation hill overlooking Lady Bird Lake. Between the multlicolored fountain, bright Austin skyline, and general peaceful atmosphere, I’m excited to come back here at night, but it also makes for an excellent daytime excursion. 

Best for: Picnic dates!

Bonus: Eastwoods Neighborhood Park

Sometimes, you just want a classic, nostalgic park. If like me, you live on or near UT campus, Eastwood is a short walk away. It’s an amazing place to study sitting on shaded picnic tables, people-watch, or relive some fond childhood memories (I may have indulged in a few minutes on the swings, and 10/10 would recommend). This park has also been there since 1930, so you know it’s time-tested and well loved by the neighborhood. Also, pro tip: if you’re taking a car, parking is free on Sundays.