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Monthly Archives: January 2013

For over 50 years, the Austin Nature and Science Center has educated Central Texas youth about the natural world around us. This wonderful facility–a favorite of ours–is located on the western edge of Zilker Park, at 301 Nature Center Drive. The Austin Nature and Science Center’s parking lot is located off of Stratford Drive, under Loop 1 (Mopac).

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You are welcomed in style by this beautiful arch, Arboreal Passage by Colin McIntyre, which was part of the City of Austin’s Art in Public Places Program.

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A trail takes you to the top of a hill, where you will find the Ashford McGill House, which was built in the 1870s and is now the home of Nature’s Way Preschool.

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We were excited to be back at the Austin Nature and Science Center!

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There used to be a bee hive near the front door to the Austin Nature and Science Center, but it looks like the bees have “moved out!”

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The first stop was the Naturalist Workshop: our kind of place!

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This handy board tells you what creatures have recently been spotted at the Austin Nature and Science Center.

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My sons’ favorite part of the Naturalist Workshop is the Trade Counter. You can bring special items like rocks, seashells, or seed pods to trade in for points that you can then use to select a new treasure. The Trade Counter is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday – Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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We went outside to see the wildlife exhibits.

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Most of these animals have been orphaned or injured and could not survive in the wild. This opossum was very cute but I couldn’t get a good photo of him through the fence.

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We were amazed by the size of this raven!

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The bobcat’s name is Conan. He is an ex-pet who arrived at Austin Nature and Science Center in 2003.

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The wildlife exhibit has helpful signs to teach you about each animal.

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We were sad to see that Martha the coyote had passed away. We always stopped by to see her when we visited in the past.

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The next area is my favorite: Birds of Prey! This exhibit features owls, hawks, and vultures.

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My 10-year-old son felt like the Great Horned Owl was watching him.

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At the back of the Birds of Prey area, you can access the Zilker Nature Preserve and Trails.

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The trails have been improved and expanded since we last visited.

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Time to explore!

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We crossed the dry creek bed (Medicine Wheel Creek according to the map above).

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We weren’t sure what Lookout Point was but it sounded fun. Up we went!

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The climb to Lookout Point was pretty steep! It began as a trail and then was rocky toward the top.

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This is how we felt when we made it to the top: exhausted.

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The view was worth it!

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After enjoying the view from Lookout Point, we returned to the trail entrance since the gate to the nature trails closes at 4:30 p.m. We definitely want to come back again and spend more time on the trails! Next, we checked out the Small Wonders exhibit, which includes all sorts of tiny creatures.

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Don’t miss the realistic bat sculptures by sculptor Chris Levack on your way in!

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Inside the Small Wonders exhibit, you will find birds, snakes, fish, and more! This Gulf Coast Toad was pretty serene.

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We went back outside to look at the pond.

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After that, we stopped at the Dino Pit, an outdoor paleontology exhibit.

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The shovels were irresistible and so was the sand!

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My youngest son had a big find: this Hot Wheel!

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After a lot of digging excitement, we passed this beautiful stream and relaxed for a few moments before we went home.

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THE RUNDOWN:
Austin Active Kids Opinion: A good mix of indoor and outdoor fun for nature lovers of all ages!
Outing Time: 1.5 hours
Outing Distance: On the nature trail, we probably walked about 3/4 mile (total) to Lookout Point and back.
Reminders: The Austin Nature and Science Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. Sundays. This facility has no admission charge but donations are appreciated. The trail to Lookout Point is very steep and could be treacherous for very young children or those new to hiking. Use caution.

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