Lady Bird Lake, the physical and metaphorical center of Austin, provides shady spots to sit and relax and grassy slopes for picnicking or tossing a Frisbee. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail encircles the lake, a loop of roughly 10 miles stretching east to west from the Longhorn Dam to the MoPac bridge.
The trail is a fantastic place to walk, run, or bike, and it also boasts artwork, restaurants, shops, and more nearby. Enjoy these top 10 stops on the trail, starting on the south shore at South First Street and heading clockwise.
Stevie Ray Vaughan statue
This bronze, larger-than-life statue by Ralph Helmick depicts the musician in his signature flat-brimmed hat and poncho, and of course, holding a guitar. The statue includes a bronze shadow, which Helmick calls a metaphor for Vaughan’s musical legacy. Commissioned by the Stevie Ray Vaughan Memorial Fund, the work was installed in 1993 at Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores) where the blues guitarist played a number of concerts. Vaughan died in a plane crash in 1990, and fans often leave flowers here.
B-cycle stations provide on-demand rental of snappy red bikes with baskets and gears. Austin boasts dozens of locations, including a handful on or near the trail. One of the handiest sits near the intersection of Riverside Drive and South Lamar Boulevard. Buy 24-hour access to a bike at any B-cycle kiosk for $8, which grants you unlimited 30-minute rides (you must check your bike in and out every 30 minutest to avoid additional charges). This pricing structure makes B-cycles best for leapfrogging from one place to another; if you want to ride all day, check out Barton Springs Bike Rentals a few blocks away.
Hartman Prehistoric Garden
Dinosaurs left more than 100 tracks at what is now the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, found within the Zilker Botanical Garden. This garden features examples of primitive plants such as magnolias, dogwoods, witch hazel, laurel, palms, and birches along with plants originating from the Jurassic Period. A moat stocked with gar, a still-extant prehistoric fish, surrounds an island bearing a sculpture of an Ornithomimus, a three-toed dinosaur that made some of the Zilker tracks. Enter through the rose gate on Stratford Drive across from parking under the MoPac Bridge.
Deep Eddy Pool
A short walk west and under MoPac to the north side of the lake sits the oldest swimming pool in Texas. Deep Eddy began life as a swimming hole where springs flowed from the bank of the Colorado River, anchored a resort in the 1920s, and has a bathhouse built by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration. The 600,000-gallon freshwater pool is refilled daily and open year-round, with a designated lap swimming area and grassy areas for sunbathing.
Pfluger Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge
This stop starts at the Pfluger Bridge Circle, where native plants surround stone blocks perfect for resting and people watching. Access the bridge via a circular ramp or a set of steps; on the latter, look for one marked with the level of floodwaters in June 2001. On any given day, you’ll likely see musicians or performers on the bridge, and there are benches and several well-tended gardens. The bridge offers great sunset views as well.
The sunny deck of this tiny cafe bearing Lady Bird Johnson’s middle name overlooks Waller Creek's entry point to the lake. Come for sustainable wine and craft beers at happy hour from 4 to 6 pm on weekdays, coffee drinks at the espresso bar, breakfast tacos, or sandwiches and salads. The Waller Creek Boathouse rents kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, and teaches rowing below the cafe.
Tejano Walking and Music Legends Trails
Part of the Tejano Walking Trail and a project of the Austin Latino Music Association, this trail between I-35 and Pleasant Valley Road on the north shore commemorates Austin's Latino music legends from the 1940s and '50s. Three of five planned sites have been completed, with public artworks by Connie Arismendi commissioned by the city’s Art in Public Places program.
Live Love Paddle
Rent kayaks, canoes, or paddle boards by the hour at Live Love Paddle on the boardwalk east of I-35. Paddle around the quieter east end of the lake, or sign up for guided bat tours or full moon paddles. The office is on the ground floor of the Amli apartments on Riverside Drive, with the boats and gear at a dock on the trail.
Bat observation area
On the east side of the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, a grassy knoll provides front-row seating for the emergence of Mexican free-tailed bats that live beneath the bridge. From April to October, millions of bats leave the colony at dusk to spend the night eating their weight in insects, creating a smoke-like, pulsating plume that can last for hours. Volunteers from Bat Conservation International are usually on hand to inform and educate about these often-misunderstood flying mammals.
On the trail just west of Congress Avenue by the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Capital Cruises rents swan pedal boats (romantic!) and has a fleet of various boats for bat emergence cruises, lunch and dinner trips for parties of all sizes, and sightseeing tours.