Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Barton Springs Pool and the Zilker Zephyr

Barton Springs is on most peoples must see list when visiting Austin.  

I have been wanting to go.  And when a friend from out of town came to visit in July we packed up the minivan on a hot Saturday afternoon and headed to Zilker Park to check out Barton Springs. Parking is limited and on a busy Saturday there was a bit of a wait to get into the parking lot in front of the entrance.  But we scored a spot right in front.   Don't be fooled if you don't see a sign or meter. You do have to pay $5 to park and to do so find the meter. The line to get was long, but moving. There was actually 2 lines: one for credit cards in a machine and one cash line at the entrance.  We realized the cash line was the better option because the credit card ticket holders needed to get back into the cash line to get in the park.   At $11 total for 3 adults and 2 kids I thought the price was just right.  NO FOOD is allowed but water is and is a good idea to keep hydrated in the heat.   After finding a spot on the grassy hill, we were off to the water.  By we I mean my kids and their dad.   We had a lot of stuff (wallets & phones) and didn't want to leave it unattended.   A few recommendations if you are thinking of heading out to Barton Springs:
1) Sun screen there is not a lot of shade
2) Bug spray
3) Water shoes the bottom is quite slippery and the cement surrounding the pool gets very hot
4) Goggles
5) Floats / like jackets for small kids
6) A waterproof iPhone case (good for keeping cash dry and photos near the pool as well as let your leave no valuables unattended)  I have this one I should have brought.

I found out after we went that topless sunbathing is permitted at Barton Springs and in the rest of Austin.  But I did not seen any loose tatas when we were there, not that there is anything wrong with that.  Next time I'll be on the lookout.

With a quick google search you can see that Barton Springs is a public pool, but not just any public pool.  It is huge.  It is over three acres in size.  It is also cool year round.  Because it's fed from underground springs, it's average temperature ranges from 68-70 degrees, good on a hot day.  Careful not to slip on the algae and pull your child in to the very cold water! You have been warned.  (don't forget the water shoes)

It's open every day except Thursdays when it is closed for cleaning.  The hours are 5:00am to 10:00pm.  Admission to the pool is free from November through mid-March, from mid-March to October a small fee ($1 to $3) depending on if you are an Austin Resident.  There are lifeguards and there is 1 diving board which had a bit of a wait. The water depth is 0 -18 feet.   At the far end there is a beach entry and shallow section for little ones and non-swimmers.   

NOT ALLOWED:  Food, coolers, glass containers, alcohol, loud speakers, pets other than service animals, bicycles. Flotation devices in the middle of the pool.

Fun Fact: in the 1970s. Robert Redford learned to swim at the pool when he was five years old while visiting family in Austin.
Since no food is allowed I recommend eating before you go or bringing a picnic to have elsewhere in Zilker Park before or after you leave in your car.   Right outside the entrance is a Goodpops popsicle stand that only takes credit card.   It is in front out the now closed food stand that once serviced Barton Springs. They were very refreshing. I enjoyed the watermelon agave while my kids made a mess of the chocolate ones.

Once out of the pool and ready to head home a must see stop is the Zilker Zephyr.    You can see the train station from the entrance of Barton Springs.  The Zephyr is a mini train that goes on a 20-25 minute train ride around the park.  It is CASH ONLY.  Also there is no shade on the train so sun glasses and a hat are a must.  This train was fun and very reasonable.   My other kid train experiences are usually at a mall like Tyson's Corner in VA where the mini mall train is $5 per person and they charge for accompanying adults.  These types of train rides make 2 laps around the food court maybe a five minute ride definitely not worth it but with kids we did it.  This one is legit and I would do it again.  The only thing wrong with the train is that it literally goes through a playground at Zilker so make time to stop there after or set expectations up front.   We were hot and ready to go eat so no time for the playground today but next time in ZIlker we will have to check it out.   The train is $2.00 for kids and $3.00 for adults.  Children under one years old are free.  The train leaves every hour on the hour through the week and departs every 30-40 minutes on the weekends.  

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