While Auditorium Shores is usually in the news as a concert or festival venue, it’s also a great spot for a family outing with a fantastic view of downtown.
Under the South 1st Street Bridge (also called the Drake Bridge) is a beach-like area where children can explore among the rocks, shells, and knobby cypress knees (cypress tree roots).
There is a parking lot entrance for Auditorium Shores at 676 W Riverside Drive, just west of the S. 1st Street Bridge. If that lot is full, head west on Riverside Drive and look for street parking or a couple of small parking lots on the north and south sides of the street before you reach S. Lamar.
The entire Auditorium Shores area received a major facelift beginning in Fall 2013, including an improved, 4.5-acre off-leash dog area that is between the street and the trail, a bit farther west of S. 1st. Keep in mind that the rest of Auditorium Shores is for dogs on leashes; people whose canines break the rule are subject to citations and fines of up to $500. Still, you’re sure to see lots of happy canines playing, running, and jumping into the lake to fetch balls!
We enjoyed wandering around the lakeshore, including walking west along the trail to the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. There was a lot to look at along the shore!
We walked less than 1/4 mile on the trail and crossed Riverside Drive to get to Butler Park. The kids immediately ran straight up Doug Sahm Hill without bothering to follow the leisurely spiraling sidewalk.
At the top of the hill, you will find a stunning view as well as benches so you can rest and take it all in. There also is a huge map of Texas on the ground, which kids love to run around.
Looking southeast from the top of the hill, you can see Palmer Events Center and a huge field that’s ready for playtime.
To the west is a pond, where you can stroll along and look for fish or turtles.
Directly south of the hill is the Liz Carpenter Fountain and splash pad, with its jets of water in full force; this fountain was closed for renovation from September through December 2019 but is set to reopen in January 2020. Even during the chilly months of winter, the appeal of the fountain is impossible to resist!
THE RUNDOWN: Location, Hours, Prices and More
Austin Active Kids Opinion: Unbeatable fun in the city!
Outing Time and Distance: Two hours, and less than one mile
Auditorium Shores is open daily from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. There are restrooms and a water fountain available, and several picnic tables, but it’s also a great idea to bring snacks, drinks, and a picnic blanket if you plan to stay awhile. The regular schedule for the Liz Carpenter Fountain is 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.; you can also call Austin 3-1-1 to check the splash pad schedule ahead of time (so you can pack towels and an extra change of clothes).
In case your kids still have some energy left, there is a great, short 1.5-mile-loop on the Hike and Bike Trail. From Auditorium Shores, head west on the trail past the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue. Take the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge over the lake and then turn right once you’re on the north side of the lake. The South 1st Street Bridge will then take you back to Auditorium Shores.
If you want to try out some other routes, check out this map for ideas. You can also check a calendar like this one before you head to Auditorium Shores to make sure there are no major events booked on the day you plan to go.