There’s no better place to soak in some Texas Sunshine other than LadyBird Lake. In the heart of downtown, you literally can’t miss it!
I can already hear the questions. Yes, it did have another name. From 1960-2007, this beautiful body of water was known as Town Lake. Why did it change, you ask? It was re-named after First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. She spent much of her time making this lake the beauty that it is today. She is the reason we have the hiking and biking trails that we’ll talk about here today. This section of the Colorado was created through the building of the Longhorn Damn in 1960 (so yes, it does look like a river!) It assists in Flood Control and has been a staple for kayaking and hiking for Austinites ever since.
Now that we’ve dug into the details, let’s get to the fun stuff: What to do at LadyBird Lake.
1. Hiking/Walking along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike & Bike trail. This ~10 mile loop is a local hot spot for walking dogs, taking a stroll with a baby stroller, or to get some cardio in. This well-groomed trail is mostly crushed granite so locals even use it for biking. If you want to avoid the crowds, I’d suggest going before noon to take a stroll. It can get quite crowded on Weekdays around lunch or after 5pm.
2. Take your dog to walk/run/visit a dog park! My favorite dog park in Austin is Auditorium Shores. You’ll find it on Riverside Drive, bordering LadyBird Lake. Although it is advised to keep your pups out of the lake, you’ll see many local pups diving into the water on a hot summer day. To get in, they would have to cross the fence and hop over the trail to reach the water.
3. Paddle boarding or Kayaking: If you don’t own a kayak, don’t fret. There are plenty places to rent single and tandem kayaks or paddle boards. One of my favorites is located right next to Zilker Park. To give you an estimate, Zilker Park Boat Rentals will charge $18 an hour or $54 for all day and they only accept cash (there is an ATM onsite.) They’ll hold your ID as you kayak and you will pay when you return. They supply you with paddles, a kayak, and two life jackets. My other favorite option is The Rowing Dock or Epic SUP if you’re on the East side of I-35.
4. Lay out in in Zilker Park and after, go for a swim. In the summer months, you’ll see plenty of people bringing their towels and mats out to Zilker to tan in the Austin sun. After you lay out for a while, you can head to LadyBird to find a rope swing and go for a swim.
5. River Cruises and Boat Rides: There are 2 boat touring companies that offer a variety of cruise options. Some offer food, some offer drinks and some just offer the ride. My favorites are Lone Star Riverboat (just the ride) and Capital Cruises (food options.) There are separate site seeing cruise companies that are perfect for people who want to see more.
6. Bat Watching: You can see the bats from the SE side of the I-35 Bridge where you can bring chairs or a blanket to watch the sun set and see the bats fly out. If you’re looking for a paid option, you can opt-in for a bat river cruise. My personal favorite is Austin Bat Tours. They are very knowledgeable about the Bats and will give you an educational experience. Be sure to know when you’re going and if it is during the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat season (March-November.) These bats will *usually* emerge from under the bridge during these months. This is by far one of my favorite Austin activities to do for tourists.