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There are 100 million year old dinosaur tracks in Zilker Park, but not far away on Barton Springs Road, the road that runs through the park, is Flipnotics Cafe where you can buy a cup of coffee and a recycled vintage Hawaiian shirt. Zilker has been a hangout for several millennia for a variety of reasons.
Located South of Town Lake, East of MoPac and West of South Lamar Boulevard, the park is named after Col. A.J. Zilker who gave the land to the city in 1917. The 351 acre park is literally the heart of Austin, the home of Barton Springs, the natural spring-fed pool charged by the waters of Barton Creek and the aquifer that lies under much of Southwest Austin. The springs are not only a symbol of the city's lifestyle, but also a hallowed spot where laps in the spring-fed pool are a daily ritual for some. Just down from the pool is where you can rent kayaks or canoes and explore Town Lake. Zilker Park is also a political rallying point for those who want to keep Austin unique -- just Google "Barton Creek salamander" and you will get the whole, long history.
From leash free dog walks on the soccer fields, to wedding photographs in the Rose Garden, to zen exercises in the Japanese Garden, weekend rugby games and family barbecues under the trees Zilker is a moving tableau of Austin daily life. Then there are the special events -- summer musicals in the park, Austin City Limits Music festival, the lighting of the Zilker Christmas tree, the Barton Springs diving championships (wacky costumes welcome) and on and on.
The area around Zilker offers Austin residents daily access to the park and the Town Lake hike and bike trails, plus it boasts that quirky South Austin lifestyle symbolized by the bumper sticker "78704" - the zip code that embraces the South Austin neighborhoods sometimes called "Austin del Sur," a place where laid back was defined. The closest neighborhood is Barton Hills just to the south of the park.
Austin residents visiting or living near Zilker can enjoy local restaurants like Chuy's (yes, this is where the Bush twins got busted for drinking margaritas) and Shady Grove, part of the Barton Springs Road "restaurant row" scene. They can shop at funky stores along South Lamar Boulevard for junque furniture, retro clothing and ethnic imports.
The Central Design District with its coffee shops, home furnishings and bookstores, plus Whole Foods Market is just a short drive from Zilker, over the Lamar Bridge where the side-by-side pedestrian bridge links the Town Lake hike and bike trail.
Just East of Zilker, is filled with little Austin secrets. Matthew McConaughey is said to keep a reservation for his Airstream trailer in Pecan Grove, the old pecan-shaded trailer park that is home to an array of Austin eccentrics and creative types on Barton Springs Road. Another area secret is the nine hole Butler Park Pitch and Putt Golf Course on Riverside Drive, just East of Lamar, a tiny haven where would-be golfers can try their hand at the sport without embarrassment.
Zilker Park is another part of the colorful jigsaw that makes up South Austin, each part with its own particular flavor and style.
City of Austin link for Zilker Park