One of the best memberships we have ever purchased has been for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin. We have received so much enjoyment that we have renewed the membership each year.
Maybe we are unusual in that a drive to South Austin doesn’t seem like a big deal. I have friends who rarely venture outside their neighborhood, much less into Austin. Personally, I would go bonkers. We truly enjoy exploring Austin and the surrounding Hill Country towns and backroads.
No matter which time of year you go to the Wildflower Center, there is always something new to see. Whether it’s the changing art exhibits, new merchandise in the store or the ever changing seasonal displays of over 650 Texas native plant species, there is always something new to discover.
Of course one of the best times of year to visit the Wildflower Center is Spring during wildflower season. You are guaranteed to see the largest variety of Texas wildflowers all over the park. It’s also the perfect place for family photos. Really any time of the year, you will find people taking family photos.
Visiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is one of the most family friendly activities in the Austin area. The adults will enjoy strolling though the perfectly manicured gardens and the kids will enjoy exploring all of the fun areas around the park, especially the Children’s Garden. Here are some suggested activities from the Wildflower Center for the kids to enjoy.
- Scouts can check out backpacks from the Visitors Gallery to fulfill several badge requirements.
- Visit the Little House and scavenge for “bugs” in the courtyard containers.
- Catch a breeze on the swings in the Arboretum.
- Have a picnic. There are many picnic areas with tables and benches.
- Look for caterpillars in the insectary in spring and summer.
- Count the turtles and fish in the Wetland Pond.
- Walk on the trails and see native birds, wildflowers and more.
- Look for butterflies in the Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden.
- Check out the interactive exhibits in the Visitors Gallery and the gallery cart for what’s blooming outdoors.
- Climb the San Antonio Tower to get an eagle’s eye view for miles.
On our adventures, we always see wildlife. We have seen a snake, tadpoles, frogs, lizards, butterflies, caterpillars and a roadrunner, just to name a few. There is an owl who makes her nest every year in the same spot at the entrance. Sometimes you can see her owlets peaking over the top of the wall.
Every good Day Trip for us involves food. For a Day Trip to the Wildflower Center, we usually pack a picnic. There are shaded picnic tables in the parking area, but there are also many wonderful spots all around the grounds for a picnic. You can also bring a wagon in if you don’t want to carry everything. It’s fun to discover a new spot each time we go. Sometimes when we aren’t as prepared, we just grab sandwiches at the Jersey Mike’s on William Cannon or have lunch at the on-site Cafe. There are also a few good restaurants we have discovered nearby such as Guantanamera Cuban Cuisine or the North By Northwest Restaurant & Brewery on Slaughter or District Kitchen in Circle C. Sometimes we even swing by Central Market on S. Lamar and picked up some goodies for a picnic. And if we don’t go on the way there, we definitely go on the way home!
You can also bring your bikes and ride the 3.1 mile Veloway. There is an entrance just outside the Center.
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and drinks too. The Wildflower Center is huge! You could spend several hours or more walking the grounds, if everyone is in the mood. Since we are members and go often, we tend to just spend more time in one area each time. The Children’s Garden itself has enough to occupy the kids for an hour at least. My kids also like to propel the windmill. I’m not sure the equipment actually turns the windmill, but they sure work hard thinking that it does!
On the other side of the Center you will find the 16 acre Arboretum. Follow the trail and eventually you will reach the giant swings under majestic oaks. This is one of our favorite picnic spots and the kids love the swings.
If you wanted to check it out, visit on September 18, 2016 for Austin’s Free Museum Day. They also have many special Events throughout the year for both members and non-members. My favorite event is the semi-annual plant sale held each Spring and Fall. I am growing many Texas natives in my yard that were purchased at the plant sales. The Fall sale this year will be on Saturday, October 15th and is open to the public. The Members only sale starts on Friday the 14th at 9am. It’s quite a madhouse though, but very fun if you are a plant lover. Membership is well worth it for all you get in return. Read more about Membership.
Not only are the grounds fascinating, but also the history and the current research and preservation programs are worth taking time to learn more about through their various lectures and exhibits. Former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, and actress Helen Hayes founded an organization in 1982 to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscapes. Over the years the Center has developed to become one of the country’s most credible research institutions and effective advocates for native plants.The Wildflower Center is closed on Mondays. Admission is $10 for adults and $4 for children under 12. Under four is free.
Hopefully this post inspires you to hop in the car and take a drive down to the Wildflower Center. You can take 183 to MoPac South, but if you want to take the scenic route from Cedar Park, I suggest taking Anderson Mill to 2769 to Bullick Hollow which turns into 2222. Then take 360 to MoPac. A little out of the way, but the scenery is totally worth it. You can even make a pit stop at the Pennybacker Bridge and take a quick hike for a photo op.