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Dog Friendly: Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin

One of the things we love about Austin is that it’s so dog friendly! It’s really easy to include Buster and Ty in the things we like to do, and a great example is Zilker Botanical Garden. We’ve had a pretty chilly winter, so when Spring finally arrived last week, Buster and I were just about at our wits end. An afternoon in the sunshine, surrounded by the new buds and a few brave flowers, sounded like the perfect cure for our cabin fever … so we took off for Zilker.

Zilker Park is a 350-acre park just southwest of downtown Austin. You’ll find all kinds of activities here, from kite flying, to volleyball courts, to disc golf, and a  huge off-leash area for the pups to play. It’s a great place to wile away an afternoon – and that’s exactly what Buster and I had in mind!

Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX Buster at Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

Our first stop was the garden center. Buster waited patiently by the bench while I ran in to quick pick up a map and get a bit of history on the garden. It turns out the garden was officially established in 1955, covers 31 acres, and has half a million visitors each year. There are eight individual garden areas, all connected by meandering paths and trails. And a host of volunteers work year-round to keep all of this bright and beautiful.

Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

Buster and I settled into a counter-clockwise wander from the parking area, and the first area we came to was the “Green Garden.” I’m sure this spot is absolutely stunning when the plants are blooming! There’s a sign describing each of the different flowers that grow here, though we were a little early for the splashy show.

Buster at Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

The next stop was the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden. Mr. Tanigucki spent 18 months transforming  three acres of shady hillside into a tranquil, water-woven oasis when he was 70 years old! The thoughtful design is astounding, including the ponds in the first part of the garden that spell “AUSTIN,” since this was Tanigucki’s gift to the city, and the “Bridge to Walk Over the Moon,” built so that, when the moon is high, it’s reflection follows you as you cross the bridge.

Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX Buster at Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX Buster at Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

This is also where you’ll find the best views of downtown Austin, with plenty of benches to relax and relish the city from a different perspective.

Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

The rose garden had the attention of the grounds keepers, so Buster and I detoured down the “Walk of Friends” toward what turned out to be our favorite corner of the garden.

Buster at Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

In 1992, amateur paleontologists discovered more than 100 tracks made by six or seven dinosaurs that once roamed the here. Because of the location and accessibility, it was a particularly significant find – but exposing the tracks  was causing them to deteriorate rapidly. Researchers decided the best method of preservation was to map and make casts of the prints, and then rebury them. Now this area has been developed to resemble what it might have looked like during the Cretaceous period, 144 – 65 million years ago.

Buster particularly enjoyed the life-sized sculpture of an Ornithomimus – the dinosaur that left the three-toed foot prints in the garden – on Dino Island.

Buster at Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

We actually found a few little flowers blooming in the butterfly garden, but the residents for whom this area was created hadn’t yet returned from their winter vacation.

Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

Just up the way was Pioneer Village, a collection of three buildings set around the Pioneer Garden, where plants producing food, fiber and other essentials for early settlers are grown using traditional methods. One of the best preserved log cabins in the U.S. is located here – built in the late 1840’s by S. M. Swenson, a Swedish immigrant. The cabin was moved here in 1965 and is furnished with authentic pioneer accouterments.

Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

The red blacksmith’s shop in the background is a replica that was built in the 1980’s from structural timbers that are almost 150-years old. The siding used on the shop is from a 100-year old barn and many of the antique tools inside were donated by members of the Texas Swedish Pioneer Association. It’s definitely a neat place to spend some time poking around.

Our last stop was the Herb Garden and the daylily beds before we headed out the gate towards home.

Zilker Botanical Garden - Austin, TX

Though we didn’t find a lot of plants in bloom, Buster and I still had a great time at the botanical garden. We practically had the place to ourselves, and listening to the birds chirp and watching the squirrels scamper around in the warm sunshine was just what we both needed.

Sniffing Around: There’s a $3 admission fee for human visitors, and dogs get in free. Dogs must stay on the leash while they tour the garden, and please pickup after them.

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