While Zilker Park is the city’s most popular weekend destination, it can get extremely crowded at the height of summer. Smaller parks and sprawling greenbelts around town are often better choices when all you want is a lazy afternoon in the sun. Whatever you desire in your park day, Austin can deliver. Read on for our picks of the best parks in the city.
The gem of Austin’s parks system, Zilker Park is 350 acres of forested areas, open spaces and trails. If you’re bringing a dog with you, head to the 46-acre Great Lawn near the western edge of the park along the MoPac highway. You and your dog may have to share the space with soccer players, picnickers and Frisbee hurlers. Located on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, the area offers lush grass and just a few trees. If your dog is part billy goat, it may enjoy climbing the solitary rock formation in the middle of the lawn.
Vic Mathias Shores
Located next to Lady Bird Lake, Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores) is mostly open space dotted with a few trees. Every evening, the 5-acre park is overrun by dozens of playful pooches and their owners. The leash-free area includes part of the lake, giving dogs easy access to a quick cool-down. Situated on a gradual slope, the park has three terraced levels that are each bordered by 2-foot-high limestone rocks. The rocks serve as seating for humans and as launching pads for doggy surprise attacks.
Mueller Lake Park
As part of one of Austin’s first master-planned developments, Mueller Lake Park may give Zilker a run for its money at some point. The 30-acre park has a 6-acre lake, 5 miles of trails and the most extravagant playscape most kids have ever seen. The park’s amphitheater is a community meeting place, hosting concerts and festivals. An old restored airplane hangar is used for the weekly farmer’s market at the park.
A green space that meanders along a creek, Little Stacy Park is located in the uber-hip Travis Heights neighborhood. The park features two tennis courts, five picnic tables, a volleyball court, a baseball/kickball field and a well-equipped playground. A community swimming pool anchors the northern end of the park.
The full name is Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park, but locals know it simply as Northwest Park. Tucked away inside the Allandale neighborhood, the park has a large swimming pool, four tennis courts, two basketball courts, a fishing pier and 47 picnic tables. The scenic pond attracts ducks and also plays a valuable role as a flood-control reservoir.
Located in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood, Shipe Park covers only 2 acres, but the site is revered and well cared for by longtime residents. It has two tennis courts, a small swimming pool and plenty of shade trees. The playground area has a soft surface to protect rambunctious kiddos.
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