It's that time of year. Despite the occasional rainy day, the random morning you might need a jacket and the sporadic hot afternoons, this is the weather we wish we had in Austin all year long. What better time to explore a few new parks? Check out our list—visit one, visit them all—just make sure to take advantage of the sunshine, cool breezes, and breathe in the fresh air. Feels good, huh?
Play for All Abilities Park
Opened in March 2012, this park truly has something for everyone. From a shaded playscape accessible to wheelchairs to a miniature city perfect for pretend play to a stage with instruments, most of the equipment is unlike any you and your children have seen at other parks. The park is enclosed, yet with ample space to accommodate crowds. A mature oak tree and several other trees provide considerable shade, especially for a new park. Perhaps the best thing about the park is that all kids can enjoy it.
Dick Nichols Park
Located in south Austin, Dick Nichols has a lot to offer. In the summer, you can enjoy the pool. The playground can accommodate quite a few kids between multiple playscapes, and the walking trails can provide a great excuse to take a break or get out of the sun. Speaking of heat, a water feature (a seal that spits out cool water) is a great place to cool off. In the heat of the summer, shade can be scarce, so don't forget your water and sunscreen. If the volleyball court is not in use, kids love to pretend they are at the beach and make sandcastles and other interesting creations.
Nestled in the heart of West Austin, Reed Park is a great find. It is virtually hidden from the street and is rarely crowded. In the summer, it can be hard to find a spot to park while the pool is open, but in other times of the year, you may have the park to yourself. The playscape is similar to others in the area (with perhaps a highlight being the piano-like scale underneath a slide) and there are both bucket and "big kid" swings. Outside of the playground are several spots ripe for exploration. A creek that bisects the park offers great opportunities for tadpole catching, nature watching, and pretend fishing. A large field can be a place to fly a kite, stage a race or play catch. A historic structure opposite the playground can provoke discussion about times past. A bamboo grove on the west side of the park and a trail frequented by dog owners can provide other chances to get adventurous.
Mueller Lake Park
Lake Park is expansive and offers a lot of ways for families to have fun. A trail surrounding the park can give parents a chance to burn off some calories while pushing a stroller or give kids the chance to run off some energy. Toss those stale Goldfish to the ducks and fish that live in the lake and check out the enclosed playground. Enjoy the playground equipment designed for older children while younger kids have fun digging in the sandbox. Kids old and young will love the merry-go-round and swinging bowls, which can accommodate a crowd. One thing to keep in mind is that Lake Park can get windy, so if you are going when it's a bit chilly out, be sure to dress accordingly.
The grandaddy of them all, Zilker Park has been enthralling kids for generations. Located next to the Hike and Bike Trail, the Nature and Science Center, the Botanical Gardens, Barton Springs, Ladybird Lake and countless restaurant options, it's no surprise that Zilker is a popular spot for families. Of course, the Zilker Zephyr miniature train is a great draw for children and out of town guests. The slides are a big hit—you may find yourself amazed at how many times your child insists on going down. There are both bucket and "big kid" swings and the xylophones may be as much fun for adults as for kids. The playscape is great for all ages (although if you have multiple children in the "running away" stage, it can be easy to get separated, so Zilker might be best with backup). Of course, if you get too hot and sweaty, there is always Barton Springs!
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