Photo by Ryan Kyte

The controversial Zilker Park Vision Plan is not moving forward. Austin Mayor Kirk Watson said he and the city council no longer have plans to consider the “Zilker Metropolitan Park Vision Plan,” and the city manager has stopped the process.

The council was set to discuss the plan later this month.

The proposal included some major changes at Zilker Park, including new parking garages, a pedestrian bridge and an amphitheater.

Council members heard feedback from the public on the plan. Those who were against it said they did not want to see Austin's iconic park change.

In a joint statement on Monday, Council members Ryan Alter, Zo Qadri and Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis said they “do not see a path forward” for the plan and cannot support it.

“We know that the Zilker Park Vision Plan proposes many improvements that have community consensus, such as additional green space, shade trees, erosion control and bathrooms,” they said. “Other elements, however, seem to be flash points of irreconcilable differences.”

Alter, Qadri and Ellis said they believe it is their responsibility as council members to protect the park for “many generations to come.”


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Photo by Daydreamer Creative on Unsplash

New poll reveals Austinites' opposition to new Zilker Park Vision Plan


A new poll has revealed hundreds of Austinites' stark opposition to the City's Zilker Park Vision Plan, which proposed $150 million in construction to develop new bike trails, pedestrian bridges, parking garages, and other amenities in the city's most prominent park.

Rewild Zilker Park asked over 630 residents across every Council District for their opinions regarding the 50-year development plan, with a majority of those responses opposing most aspects.

Major findings include 76 percent of participants have a "favorable view" of the beloved park as it stands, and 82 percent believe it should remain "a natural area with recreation." Only six percent of responses said Zilker should have more accommodations "for concerts, theater productions and large events."

On the topic of developing an amphitheater on the Great Lawn, 83 percent of polltakers oppose the idea, and believe the area should be left as is. Similarly, a vast majority of responders oppose the Vision Plan's proposed parking garage construction.

Regarding the overall cost of the 50-year plan, 71 percent of the responses believe the $150 million price tag is "too much for one park."

"When it comes to making decisions about the future of Zilker Park, Austin residents believe those decisions should be mainly controlled by the City of Austin and PARD – not commercial interests such as ACL Festival, the Trail of Lights and others who conduct business in the park," the poll summary stated.

The full results from Rewild Zilker Park's poll can be found on their website.

Photo courtesy of Austin Shakespeare/Nell Carroll

Experience 4 Shakespearean plays at Zilker Park in Austin


As Polonius said in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "Brevity is the soul of wit." And that is the goal behind this upcoming one-weekend only show at Zilker Park.

On May 18-21, Austin Shakespeare will put on their local favorite Short Shakespeare at Zilker Hillside Theater. The performances are directed by Gwendolyn Kelso and include four abbreviated renditions of classic Shakespeare comedies: A Midsummer Night's Dream; The Tempest; Twelfth Night; and Hamlet.

“If you’ve never seen Shakespeare, these four abbreviated plays with their comedic spirit will be a great introduction,” Austin Shakespeare Artistic Director Ann Cicccolella said in a press release. “And those who love The Bard will have a wonderful time with these talented actors and the creative interpretations.”

The 20-minute plays will be highlighted by the small cast, only five members, and two musicians. Isaac Howell is a recurring Austin Shakespeare actor, cast alongside Texas State University theatre students Wallis Brown and Schaeffer Certenberg.

The remaining two actors are making their Austin Shakespeare debut: Luke Ellis and Isabelle Dickey. Ellis was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, also known as Shakespeare's birthplace, and trained at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in London. Dickey studied at Ithaca College and received her BFA in Acting.

Sets and lighting are by resident designer Patrick Anthony, costumes are by Kristin Knipp, and properties are by Tressa Gilmer.

Short Shakespeare is free to the public, and will be performed at 8 pm on May 18-21. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own blankets or low chairs to the event.

Photos courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department

New cooperative nonprofit will "honor, preserve, and enhance" every acre of Austin's Zilker Park

351-acre caretaker

The Zilker Area is one of Austin’s largest, most central treasures, and many people have been tasked with taking care of it. Those ranks now include a brand-new nonprofit called Zilker 351 (named for the number of acres in the park), announced on April 3 by a community board of directors.

The organization exists to “honor, preserve, and enhance the natural, cultural, and recreational treasures of [the] 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park for all,” according to an exclusive release sent to CultureMap. As most protectors of the park emphasize, this is a matter of long term preservation for “current and future generations.”

Zilker 351 makes its contributions through organizing: addressing needs in advocacy, fundraising, volunteering, and “streamlining communications among the Zilker groups.”

“Our ultimate focus is balancing equitable access for all park visitors with environmental stewardship to ensure an ecologically healthy park for Austin,” said Zilker 351 board member Mike Cannatti, also president of the Barton Springs Conservancy.

Although Austinites may see the park as an open space with minimal infrastructure, it is much larger than many realize. Beyond the Great Lawn and the Barton Springs swimming areas, it also includes the Austin Nature and Science Center, a theater, a nature preserve, fields specifically dedicated to different sports like rugby and baseball, the Violet Crown Trailhead, several parking areas, and more. Annual events that require planning include festivals like Austin City Limits, Blues on the Green, the Trail of Lights, and ABC Kite Festival.

There are many organizations that already work within the park, like the Austin Parks Foundation, the Barton Springs Conservancy, and the city’s own Parks and Recreation Department (PARD). Zilker 351 aims to smooth out communications — not between these specific organizations, but in general across and next to the park — to improve the visitor experience.

PARD heads these communications, but Zilker 351 "intends to establish a PARKnership" with the department to help implementation. Decisions also must go through the Austin City Council before the city can pass off any projects.

“Andrew Zilker said that Zilker Park 'ought to belong to all the people of Austin,'" said Zilker 351 interim executive director Karen Blizzard. “Zilker 351 envisions a park that welcomes all visitors to experience its natural beauty, vibrant programs and recreational opportunities, for years to come. We are thrilled to formally come together as Zilker 351 and be advocates of our city’s crown jewel.”

More information about Zilker 351 is available at zilker351.org, and listed below.

Board Members:

  • Jesús Aguirre - CEO, Waterloo Greenway
  • Heidi Anderson - CEO, The Trail Conservancy
  • Karen Brimble - Cofounder, One Skye Foundation
  • Mike Cannatti - Partner, Terrile, Cannatti & Chambers, LLP
  • Jason Cheng - Director, DTJ DESIGN, Inc.
  • Deena Estrada Salinas - Producer, DeepWell DTX
  • Rich Garza - Partner, Giant Noise
  • Rachel Green - Global Diversity and Recognition Program Manager, Cloud Go-To-Market
  • Evan Taniguchi - Principal/Owner, Taniguchi Architects
  • Colin Wallis - CEO, Austin Parks Foundation

Advisory Board-affiliated organizations:

  • ABC Kite Festival
  • Austin Parks Foundation
  • Austin Sunshine Camps
  • Barton Springs Conservancy
  • Friends of the Austin Nature and Science Center
  • Friends of Barton Springs Pool
  • Girl Scouts Zilker Cabin
  • Hill Country Conservancy
  • Rowing DockThe Trail Conservancy
  • Trail of Lights Foundation
  • UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum
  • Waterloo Disc Golf Club
  • Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy
  • Zilker Park Boat Rentals
  • Zilker Theatre Productions
Photo by Daydreamer Creative on Unsplash

City of Austin spikes weekend parking rates at Zilker Park

pay to play

Starting May 1, one of Austin's most popular parks will be increasing parking prices and start charging for parking in lots that were previously free.

At Zilker Park, the parking lots that currently charge $5 for parking will be increased to $7 from May 1 through Labor Day.

The parking lot off of Stratford Road, just north of the Zilker Botanical Garden, and the South Barton Springs Pool parking lot, near Azie Morton Road, will start charging $7 on the weekends and holidays.

Both of these parking lots were havens for visitors and residents alike, as they were free to park. Park visitors like P.K. Luangsingotha liked that parking was free at the lot off Stratford. Luangsingotha said he is not happy that he will have to start paying to park.

"I believe people should be out enjoying the parks, the sunlight, et. cetera, and not have to [pay]. I mean, the City is already making so much money as it [is]. Now trying to tax people more on parking — I think it’s kind of unfair. Just my opinion," Luangsingotha said.

Hailey Adams, an Austin resident, also enjoys coming to Zilker and the free parking near Stratford with her dog. Come May, Adams may adjust the activities she participates in at Zilker due to the cost of parking.

“I definitely want more of a [full-day] activity, versus sometimes [coming] for 30 minutes," Adams said.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said it hopes charging at the parking lots will help with traffic issues.


Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Getting into Austin's next immaculate speakeasy is actually a secret — for now


Speakeasies have an interesting reputation in Austin. Residents of this "weird" city love a secret. They want to avoid the crowds and the newcomers, but "they" includes the crowds and the newcomers. It's complicated.

There is yet another new speakeasy in Austin, and fans of mystery and exclusivity may be pleased to hear that this time, it's not just a dimly-lit bar in a nondescript building. Visitors will have to follow word of mouth (and perhaps the bar, on social media) to learn a secret phone number, which they can then text to make a reservation.

So-called Trona, after a desert town in Death Valley and the mineral that serves as the base for baking soda, is hidden in plain sight. The colorful graffiti marks the spot for people who know what to look for, making this speakeasy one of the more attention-grabbing secret locales in the city, yet obscuring it nonetheless. An alley entrance (1812 E. 12th St.) ensures that few will be spotted entering.

Although it looks small, it's not tiny: There's enough seating for 49 guests in the "former shotgun bar" renovated under the artsy gaze of Tatanka Guerrero, a Chilean Marfa transplant whose other local triumphs include El Tigre Coffee Roasters, Camp East, and Cork & Screw.

Details are (naturally) sparse, but a release describes what awaits as an "intimate multi-part mixological journey that can't be fully experienced in one visit." The journey will be made in five portions, merging modern Japanese and traditional Oaxacan styles. It seems like these are meant to be juxtaposed rather than seamlessly combined, for air or fantasy or at least a little mystique.

The full bar and cocktail menu will highlight tequilas, mezcals, rare Japanese whiskeys, and "a plethora of natural wines," which will be announced soon.

There is already a phone number on Trona's website, but it does not connect when called. Sending a text leads to an automatic reply that the number is a landline. (Hey, those are mysterious nowadays.)

Trona is the most recent effort of the newly formed Doers and Dreamers Hospitality Group, which includes Guerrero's achievements listed above, as well as Arbor Food Park, which hosts some of Austin's best food trucks including the acclaimed Cuantos Tacos. If Trona matches the tone of its sibling concepts, Austinites can expect meticulous curation behind a slightly punky facade.

Trona is set to open sometime in October. An opening party will be announced soon (and probably covered by CultureMap in that week's food news column).

Hold that beer stein all month at these 10 Austin-area Oktoberfest events


It’s that wonderful time of the year when drinking German beer, eating brats, and shouting Prost with strangers is almost mandatory. Oktoberfest is back with its annual beer-filled festivities and Austin is ready for it.

Although the festival started in Munich, Germany, around 200 years ago, it has spread throughout the world as a way to celebrate German culture. Over the next few weeks, there will be Oktoberfest celebrations with all kinds of events for adults and kids alike with fun competitions, live music, and traditional German food and drinks.

Here’s a roundup of the best festivities in town, in October and beyond.

Banger’s Oktoberfest
September 28-30
Expect all-day fun at Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden, for the famous German restaurant's Oktoberfest celebrations. There will be special Texan and German beers on tap, live music, ceremonial firkin tapping, and stein-hoisting competitions. Food specials will include Schweinebraten (pork roast), warm German potato salad, Schnitzel sausage, and German potato cake. No reservations needed.

Easy Tiger's Oktoberfest (Weekend Two)
September 29 - October 1
Easy Tiger is offering a weekend full of celebrations with Oktoberfest-themed food, and limited-edition beers from Real Ale Brewing Company, Live Oak Brewing Company, and St. Elmo Brewing Co., among others. Each location will feature special events like a pretzel-eating contest (the winner gets free pretzels for one year!) plus stein-hoisting contest, polka bands, face painting, trivia, screen printing, and live music. No reservations needed.

Oktoberfest at Celis Brewery
September 30
For folks in North Austin, Celis Brewery will be celebrating Oktoberfest with beer and food specials — including German sausages and pretzels — face-painting, and stein-holding contests. The live music lineup starts with a DJ at 1 pm, followed by Polka band, The Hot Peppers, from 4-7 pm. No reservations needed.

Meanwhile Brewing
September 29 - October 1
Meanwhile Brewing has a packed weekend schedule with fun activities for all ages. There will be live music, Oktoberfest lager on draft all weekend, and exciting limited-edition food pairings such Bratwurst & Sauerkraut Pizza, pretzel ice cream, and Koji-brined pork schnitzel, among others. On Sunday, kids can enjoy their own stein-hoisting contest with prizes. Reserve on Eventbrite.

Loro's Oktoberfest pop-up
October 1
Loro is turning things up a notch by hosting an Oktoberfest pop-up on its patio featuring local breweries such as 512 Brewing Company, Vacancy Brewing, Meanwhile Brewing Co., and Live Oak Brewing Company. Attendees can expect Oktoberfest-inspired bites in addition to Loro’s regular Asian-inspired barbecue. Reserve on Eventbrite.

Locktoberfest (Downtown Lockhart)
October 6-8
The city of Lockhart is having an exciting Oktoberfest celebration with the launch of its first annual Locktobertfest. The weekend-long events will take place in participating shops, bars, and restaurants in the downtown area with live music, authentic German cuisine, and crafted drinks among other activities for those looking to explore the town. No reservations needed.

Austin Oktoberfest 2023
October 14
The German Texan Heritage Society is back with what the Austin Chronicle calls the “most authentic Oktoberfest in town.” The family-friendly event will feature fun activities such as pumpkin painting and bounce houses, plus live music all day at the historic German Free School. Tickets ($15, free for kids under 12) are available via Eventbrite.

Scholz Garten's Old World Wednesday series
Every Wednesday, October 25 - November 15
Another historic German spot since 1866, Scholz Garten, will have its own kind of celebration with Old World Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, patrons can expect live music from polka bands starting at 5:30 pm, plus German food and drink specials. No reservation needed.

The Loren's Oktoberfest BBQ with Brad Davis of Moody Tongue
October 26
For those who want a more upscale culinary experience, The Loren at Lady Bird Lake is hosting an Oktoberfest barbecue with renowned brewer Brad Davis of Moody Tongue as part of the hotel's ongoing Chef Series. Davis will be bringing a taste of the Michelin-starred Chicago brewery to the luxe rooftop restaurant. Reserve ($85, pre-paid) on OpenTable.

Wurstfest (New Braunfels)
November 3-12
Wurstfest will be closing the festivities with a bang — or many oom-pahs. This unique festival in New Braunfels will be honoring German culture all week long with music, carnival rides, German Texan beer, and of course, all the wurst you can eat! Admission (starting at $18) and drink tickets will be sold at the gates, but can also be purchased on Etix.

'90s country icon Tim McGraw adds Austin as only Texas tour stop in 2024

Standing Room Only

In case there were any doubt that Austin is a country music destination, superstar Tim McGraw has blessed the Texas capital with his only appearance in the state during his "Standing Room Only" tour. He'll perform at Moody Center on April 11, 2024.

Austin was one of 11 cities that saw new tour dates on McGraw's touring calendar, which is good news since Texas was about to miss out entirely. McGraw will be visiting at least 40 other cities in other states.

McGraw is touring in support of his very recent album, Standing Room Only, released on August 25, 2023. Newer country singer-songwriter Carly Pearce will open the show. He has previously toured Texas with his wife, fellow country superstar Faith Hill; but it does not appear that Hill will be joining the tour this time around.

There's much more on McGraw's plate, though, than new music. The '90s trailblazer just received the ACM Icon Award at the 16th Annual Academy of Country Music Honors, and on September 26, the Nashville Songwriters Association International will honor him with the President’s Keystone Award.

Fans know McGraw for slick, bright instrumentals and a contemporary take on country without abandoning the more traditional elements like twangy vocals, fiddle, and honky-tonk piano. A release promises a high-energy live show with a "huge production" value and plenty of old and new hits.

It's not surprising that McGraw has a strong stage presence, given his acting in films like The Blind Side and the iconic Austin-filmed TV series Friday Night Lights.

Ticket sales begin Friday, September 29, at 10 am on Ticketmaster.

The 11 new dates on the tour are as follows:

  • March 22, 2024 – St. Louis, MO — Enterprise Center
  • March 23, 2024 – Columbus, OH — Nationwide Arena
  • April 11, 2024 – Austin, TX — Moody Center
  • April 27, 2024 – Pittsburgh, PA — PPG Paints Arena
  • May 2, 2024– Montreal, QC — Bell Centre
  • May 3, 2024 – Ottawa, ON — Canadian Tire Centre
  • May 4, 2024 – Buffalo, NY — KeyBank Center
  • May 10, 2024 – Boston, MA — TD Garden
  • June 14, 2024 – Atlanta, GA — State Farm Arena
  • June 28, 2024 – Los Angeles, CA — The Kia Forum
  • June 29, 2024 – Sacramento, CA — Golden 1 Center