This year marks the 100th anniversary of Zilker Park — that's a century's worth of Barton Springs swims, rides on the Zilker Zephyr, grooving at Blues on the Green, and enjoying the great lawn.
To celebrate, the Austin Parks Foundation and a host of other local organizations have organized a Free Day on Sunday, April 9, to kick off a year of honoring Zilker Park. All of the usual activities, such as Barton Springs Pool entry and the Zilker Zephyr train rides, will be absolutely free.
To make it official, city council members will read a proclamation at the Zilker Caretaker's Cottage. On top of all that, JuiceLand, Sno-Beach, SquareRut Kava Bar, and Juliet Ristorante will donate a portion of the day's proceeds to the Zilker 100 campaign.
"It's a great way to highlight how important parks are to Austin, and Zilker Park is the crown jewel of all our parks," Colin Wallis, CEO at Austin Parks Foundation, tells CultureMap. "It's a birthday party for Zilker, really, to bring awareness to all of the great stuff that happens at the park all year — and how lucky we are to have a space like this in the city."
It all began in 1917 when local businessman Andrew Zilker donated 350 acres of his land to the City of Austin in a series gifts. The final parcel was handed over in 1934, and the park was named after its generous benefactor.
Over the past 100 years, Zilker Park has become home to several attractions, including the Zilker Botanical Gardens, Austin Nature & Science Center, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum. The massive lawn also hosts Austin City Limits Music Festival, Blues on the Green, and the annual Trail of Lights.
These signature soirees and more will be part of Zilker Park's centennial celebration. In between the "big ones," the Zilker Park calendar will be filled with fun, family-friendly reasons to visit, such as educational sessions with Austin Park Rangers. Austinites can also look forward to an anniversary beer from Zilker Brewing Company later this spring and a bash celebrating the Barton Springs Bathhouse's 70th birthday.
Looking ahead to the next century, Wallis says the Austin Parks Foundation is committed to "making sure that, in 100 years, when there are 100 more skyscrapers in Austin, Zilker Park remains a green oasis."
For more information about upcoming events, head to the Zilker Park 100 website. In the meantime, here's a quick look back at 100 years of Zilker Park:
1917: Andrew Zilker gifts the first piece of what will be known as Zilker Park
1918: The parcel containing Barton Springs becomes public property (but the pool area wasn't developed until the 1920s)
1928: Young Men's Business League launches Summer Sunshine Camps
1947: Barton Springs Bathhouse opens
1955: Zilker Botanical Gardens is established as a nonprofit
1959: Zilker Summer Musicals begin
1960: Austin Nature & Science Center opens
1964: Trail of Lights celebrates its first year
1990: KGSR's Blues on the Green kicks off
1991: Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum opens
2002: Austin City Limits Music Festival launches
2014: The boardwalk portion of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail opens, completing the Lady Bird Lake loop
2017: Zilker Park celebrates 100 years