Zilker Metropolitan Park is Austin’s main recreational park and is located directly across Lady Bird Lake from downtown. There are enough activities here to entertain you and your family for a whole day.
You can easily spend a half-day exploring the area. Start by getting your bearings on the the Zilker Zephyr, a miniature train that runs through the park. Hiking and bike riding trails are scenic and mostly flat. They extend for about seven miles (11 kilometers) through the park and along Lady Bird Lake, the 470-acre (190-hectare) lake that runs through Austin’s center. Rent a family-size canoe from Zilker Park Boat Rentals. The hourly charges aren’t cheap but it is a fun activity for an hour or two and no reservation is necessary. Take a dip in Barton Springs Pool, fed by underground springs with a year-round temperature of 68 degrees (20 degrees Celsius). According to local legend, actor Robert Redford took swimming lessons here as a kid. There’s a small entry fee, but the pool is huge and a great place to escape the heat.
There are many attractions and live entertainment to keep you busy year-round. The Zilker Holiday Tree is a particularly special sight during the holiday season. This 155-foot (47-meter) "tree" is actually a collection of 39 streamers holding more than 3,000 multicolored light bulbs. This stunning spectacle has been an Austin tradition for decades.
The Austin City Limits music festival is held in the park, usually in October, and features more than 100 national and international acts. You can hear everything from contemporary pop and rock to Texas blues and swing. The Zilker Hillside Theatre stages plays as well as the Zilker Summer Musical. There's also the Zilker Park Kite Festival, held on the first Sunday in March, which has been entertaining families since 1929.
Zilker Metropolitan Park is about a half an hour walk from downtown. There isn’t much food available in the park grounds, so bring a packed lunch.