austin landmarks

We visited two incredible places in East Austin that are rich in history and fun for kids, too: the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center and Rosewood Park.

The Carver Museum, located at 1165 Angelina Street, is dedicated to the collection, preservation, research, and exhibition of African-American historical and cultural material.


The 40,000 sq. ft. facility opened in 2005 and is named after George Washington Carver, prominent African-American scientist and inventor.


The museum is very inviting and easy to navigate. The Juneteenth and Austin African American Families Galleries, as well as a small art gallery, were right behind these doors.


I wasn’t able to take pictures in the main gallery. The kids were interested in the Austin African American Families exhibit, specifically a map of Austin with overlays of where freed slave communities (like Kincheonville in Southwest Austin) developed after the Civil War.


The boys’ favorite part of the museum was the Children’s Gallery, which features African American inventors and scientists.


The museum’s namesake George Washington Carver is highlighted, including this quote, “It has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of people.”


Several other well-known and pioneering African-Americans are featured, like astronaut Mae Jemison.


The Wall of Inventors was a big hit!


The top of each diamond-shaped flap shows the design sketch of an invention. When the flap is opened, you see a brief profile of the inventor.


Another interesting area of the Carver Museum is the section dedicated to the original L.C. Anderson High School, which served Austin’s African American students for decades until it was closed in 1971 during desegregation.


The vintage trophies and other memorabilia are beautifully displayed.


Next, we went outside to find out more about this historic structure adjacent to the museum.


This humble building was Austin’s first main library and it was originally located at Guadalupe and 9th Street. In 1933, it was moved to its present location on Angelina Street and was named the George Washington Carver Library, which served as Austin’s first branch library. You can read more about the library’s history here.


This building is currently not open to the public because it’s being renovated to serve as genealogy center.


While Kealing Park is right next to the Carver Museum, we wanted to check out Rosewood Park since it has a splash pad. We drove less than 1 mile east to 2300 Rosewood Avenue and parked in the Doris Miller Auditorium lot.

As you can see by this description of Rosewood Park when it was “park of the month” in 2012, this park has something for everyone: splash pad, playscape, historic structures, beautiful trees, swimming pool, picnic tables, athletic fields, and more! We headed straight for this shady area by the Rosewood Recreation Center to relax for a few minutes. The recreation center building includes the Bertram-Huppertz house, built circa 1875.


Very close to the recreation center is the Henry G. Madison Cabin, which was built around 1863 on East 11th Street, donated to the City of Austin in 1968, and moved to this site in 1973.


From our shady spot, we could see the Rosewood Pool, which was renovated in 2012. Here are the pool hours and pool fees.


We walked around to the northern section of the park (toward N. Pleasant Valley Road). The boys enjoyed running around and exploring the pavilion area.


We thought this was a really beautiful picnic spot. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a picnic lunch with us!


This sign explained why we saw such a variety of trees. The Catherine Lamkin Arboretum Trail of Trees was dedicated in 1995. It consists of 35 trees total along the Boggy Creek Greenbelt, with 19 trees located in Rosewood Park.


In the summer sun, the playscape looked a little too sweltering for us.


But the splash pad was just right!


Austin Active Kids Opinion: We had fun and learned a lot….what a great combination!
Outing Time: About 2 hours for both the Carver Museum and Rosewood Park back-to-back.
Reminders: Bring a change of clothes and towels if you plan to enjoy the splash pad at Rosewood Park. Your kids will work up an appetite running around, so also pack drinks and snacks.
Both of these locations are venues for Juneteenth celebrations in mid-June so if you are visiting in that timeframe, check community calendars like the Austin Chronicle’s in advance.
Both facilities have free parking. The Carver Museum has free admission and operating hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. It’s closed on Sundays. Rosewood Park is open to the public 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and the splash pad is in operation May 18 – September 8, 2013.
There is a public library, the Carver Branch, at 1161 Angelina if you would like to add a library visit to your outing. has also visited Rosewood Park; read their post here.


The LBJ Presidential Library (2313 Red River Street) on the UT-Austin campus opened in 1971 and has been a popular Austin attraction since then.


We have visited many, many times over the years and we were excited to see what it was like after the recent major renovation. The LBJ Presidential Library re-opened to the public on December 22.


The re-design has added “new exhibits for a new generation” and incorporates features like touch screens, films, and audio recordings.


One of the major goals of the re-design is to show visitors how issues, events, and achievements from Johnson’s administration still impact our lives today.


We were glad to see that our favorite presidential limo had earned its place in the re-designed library!


The new exhibits are visually appealing and informative.


Many interesting items from the library collection are on display.


The “Lyndon Johnson and His Times” exhibit on Level 3 (entry level where the lobby is located) has a timeline spanning LBJ’s life that includes all sorts of events (not just those related to LBJ) and provides helpful historical context.


Also on Level 3 is the “LBJ’s Humor” exhibit, which features an animatronic President Johnson telling stories. My six year old said this was his favorite thing at the library!


We went up the massive staircase to the Great Hall on Level 4. From the staircase, you have a four-story view of the LBJ Presidential Library’s official archives collection, which holds 45 million pages of documents.


This touch-screen exhibit below describes the civil rights movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Also on Level 4, you will find the Presidents and First Ladies Exhibit, which displays the official portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies from George and Martha Washington to the present.


The LBJ’s Presidency Exhibit brings history to life with photos, films, recordings, artifacts, and interactive features.


Important events as well as LBJ’s roles are clearly explained.


This exhibit includes a display regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There is not anything graphic shown but it’s probably a good idea to be prepared to answer your children’s questions regarding this tragic historical event.


Many fascinating historic documents were on display: like this telegram to President Johnson from Martin Luther King, Jr.


Important issues of the day are highlighted and explained.


My six year old enjoyed listening to the recordings on these “phones.”


1960s culture was showcased as part of the LBJ’s Presidency Exhibit.


We took the elevator up to Level 10, which is the only other floor of public exhibits in addition to Levels 3 and 4. It includes a couple of things you would recognize from the original library: the Oval Office replica and Mrs. Johnson’s office.

Oval Office replica (7/8 scale)

Mrs. Johnson’s Office

This is the view from the 10th floor of the library.


Level 10 also has the First Family in the White House Exhibit, which describes the family’s life during Johnson’s presidency.


The boys liked this film which featured commentary about living in the White House from Lady Bird Johnson and her daughters Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson.


The Life in the White House Exhibit includes examples of gifts given to President and Mrs. Johnson. There are quite a few treasures to investigate!


We covered all three floors of exhibits in about an hour. (Without kids, it would probably take at least twice as long.) On our way out, we stopped at The Store at LBJ gift shop. We headed to the outdoor plaza, which obviously lends itself to a game of stepping only on the black rectangles.


We went down the stairs on the south side of the library, which is beautiful even without the fountain running.


The kids ran up and down a big hill.


We rested at this nice little spot at the top of the hill until it was time to go home. We were all glad we took the opportunity to visit the new and improved LBJ Presidential Library!


Austin Active Kids Opinion: Interactive history covering an important and tumultuous era….just remember to build in some time for outdoor fun, too!
Outing Time: 1.5 hours (1 hour for the museum and 1/2 hour for running around outside afterward)
Reminders: In the past, admission to the LBJ Presidential Library was free. After the re-design, small admission fees will be charged: $8 adults, $5 seniors, $3 kids 13-17, and still free for children 12 and under. Operating hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily (except Christmas Day). The library has its own parking lot (Lot 38), located on the east side of the library off of Red River. The entrance to this parking lot has LBJ Presidential Library flags posted. Please note that if you park anywhere other than Lot 38 you will be subject to UT parking fines if you park in a restricted area. The library has restrooms and water fountains. No food or drink is allowed in the museum. No flash photography.

We wanted to take advantage of this afternoon’s “cool” weather (only 90 degrees!), so we headed to Mount Bonnell and Mayfield Park, historic and beautiful public parks located off of 35th Street in West Austin.

Mount Bonnell provides stunning views of Lake Austin, the 360 bridge, and downtown. It is located at 3851 Mount Bonnell Drive, where you will find street parking. Mount Bonnell is a true Austin landmark. This much-beloved spot has won dozens of “Best of Austin” awards from the Austin Chronicle. Interestingly, there is dissension about who the scenic location is named after: George W. Bonnell or First Lt. Joseph Bonnell. For now, the historical marker still recognizes George W. Bonnell.


The park is officially known as Covert Park at Mount Bonnell, thanks to the generous donation of the summit of Mt. Bonnell to the City of Austin by the Covert Family in the 1930s.


My kids practically raced up the stairs! They could not wait to get to the top.


As you can see, the main viewing area has stonework you can sit on as a well as a fence for safety.


Here is the amazing view of the 360 bridge.


We went over to a lonely little picnic table. Just as I was wondering why this particular spot without any shade had been singled out for picnics, I looked east and saw this view.


The kids followed a trail down the hill and we easily found our way back up.


We went to the northern side of the park where, as you can see, there is no more wrought iron fence! Make sure your kids understand that the bluff is dangerous and that they should be cautious.


This section of the trail had a small rope fencing off the bluff but you can see how close the edge is.


After surviving our “walk on the edge,” the boys had fun hopping along these big rocks.


We then drove less than five minutes to Mayfield Park (3505 West 35th Street), where you will find an enchanted place populated by peacocks and surrounded by beautiful gardens.


My sons were intrigued from the moment we parked the car. They couldn’t wait to go explore the grounds.


The property was originally purchased by Allison Mayfield in 1909 as a summer and weekend retreat. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Mayfield Park was donated to the City of Austin in 1971 by Mary Mayfield Gutsch. The park includes this historic cottage, gardens, lily ponds, and a 21-acre nature preserve. (We did try to go in the cottage, but all of the doors were locked.)


There were many beautiful peacocks on the Mayfield Park grounds, which is a popular spot for weddings and outdoor photography. Amazingly, these peacocks are descended from peacocks given as a gift to the Mayfield-Gutsch family in 1935!


My youngest son had hopes of finding a frog in the lily ponds but he didn’t have any luck.


We had many creative ideas about what this curious stone building might be but we did not guess “pigeon cote.”


I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to photograph this beautiful water lily!


After we thoroughly investigated the gardens and lily ponds, we headed to the nature preserve’s trails.


While there were several trail markers, we were not successful in figuring out our location on the trails so we just wandered around. Because the nature preserve is only 21 acres, we did not get lost. It was very quiet and relaxing.


This creek must be amazing when the water is flowing! We are already planning to return after we get some rain.


This bluff area was very beautiful. My 6-year-old son really liked this tree growing out of a rock.


As we got ready to leave, we saw this chimney swift tower, a nesting and roosting site for chimney swift birds. What will they think of next?


Austin Active Kids Opinion: A great “duet” of fun outdoor activities!
Outing Time: About 1.5 hours to visit both Mount Bonnell and Mayfield Park.
Reminders: If you have children under age 5, you might want to have at least one other adult with you to help you monitor the kids at Mt. Bonnell due to the high bluff. Also, Mt. Bonnell is not stroller-friendly so the only way to get up that hill is leg power. Mayfield Park is a much easier outing for young children, although the trails in the nature preserve are a little rough and might have some spots that are tough for a stroller. Both Mt. Bonnell and Mayfield Park had quite a few visitors on the Saturday afternoon we were there. It was certainly not overcrowded but you will encounter plenty of other people. There are no restroom facilities at Mt. Bonnell and Mayfield Park has a port-o-potty.
This article in the Handbook of Texas Online has an interesting historical sketch of Mount Bonnell. Our friends at Free Fun in Austin have visited Mt. Bonnell, too.

Barton Springs Pool is sometimes referred to as the “soul” of Austin and a visit to this delightful 3-acre natural swimming pool will definitely show you why! The cool 68-degree water fed by underground springs is utterly refreshing and draws a wide assortment of Austin’s citizenry.

The pool is located inside Zilker Park at 2201 Barton Springs Road. There is a parking lot on the west side of the pool (accessible from Barton Springs Road) that is free unless a special event is underway. Another entrance is located near the baseball fields on Robert E. Lee Road (near the intersection with Barton Springs Road) where parking is always free.

If you enter from within Zilker Park, you are welcomed to the pool by Philospher’s Rock, representing celebrated writers J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, and Roy Bedicheck, who in years’ past met frequently near the pool for literary and philosophical discussions.


Barton Springs has a colorful history. The area was first settled in 1837 by William “Uncle Billy” Barton and it has attracted visitors craving its cool waters since then. The land was later purchased by Andrew Zilker, who deeded it to the City of Austin in 1918 and 1931. You can read more about Barton Springs Pool’s history and ecological significance on this web site.


Pool admission prices are very reasonable. It’s important to note ahead of time that dogs, food, drinks, glass objects, and coolers are not allowed. You can bring in water bottles with a re-sealable lid in your pool bag. If you want to pack a picnic to enjoy after swimming, you can leave it in your vehicle or just outside the gates of the pool.


While referred to as a “pool”–which might bring to mind a rectangular, chlorinated swimming pool with a level cement bottom–Barton Springs is a natural body of water. The rock surface on the bottom can be slippery! Water shoes will help you stay steady.


In keeping with the natural state of the water, you will see plants and fish in Barton Springs.


Nothing you can tell your kids (or yourself) will adequately prepare them (or you) for the chill you encounter when you step into the springs! You will hear lots of squeals of people acclimating to the water if you stand near the pool entry areas.


These ramps help you get used to the water slowly if you are not the “jump in and get it over with” type.


The southern end of the pool is shallow and a bit warmer. This is where younger children like to play and explore.


My son and I decided this looked a lot like a Bigfoot print in the limestone near the shallow end.


We also found this fossil that had a pearly shell.


This is the view looking north across the pool toward downtown. It does not do justice to the size of the pool!


In addition to being cold, the water is amazingly clear.


Unfortunately, we did not see any Barton Springs Salamanders.


The eastern bank of Barton Springs Pool is a popular spot for relaxing and getting some sun.


On the northern edge of the pool, you can see Barton Creek Spillway, an area that is accessible without an admission fee. It’s a popular place for wading and bringing along pets.


After our poolside walk, we relaxed in the cool shade of this magnificent pecan tree.


All of the swimming and walking worked up our appetites, so we capped off our visit with a stop at the Zilker Cafe for drinks and snacks.


Visiting Barton Springs is a great way to spend a summer afternoon (or really any of our hot Austin days that last well into the fall). Like many Austinites before them, your children will be dazzled by the waters of Barton Springs Pool.

Austin Active Kids Opinion: An afternoon at Barton Springs Pool is an unforgettable and essential part of any Austin childhood.
Outing Time: About 2.5 hours
Reminders: Bring sunscreen, towels, floats, rafts, balls, and water bottles with re-sealable lids. Remember, you cannot take in food, glass containers, or coolers.
The pool is closed Thursdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for maintenance and it can also close due to water quality or safety issues if there has been significant rainfall. Check the City of Austin’s Barton Springs Pool web site for hours or other announcements.
It’s always a good idea to check event listings for festivals or other activities that might be going on in the Zilker Park area that will cause traffic headaches or limit access to Barton Springs Pool. The Austin Chronicle calendar and the Austin 360 calendar are good starting points.

Of Note: Many community groups work to improve and protect Barton Springs Pool. This includes Friends of Barton Springs Pool (which conducts monthly cleanings and advocates for the pool) and Austin Heritage Tree Foundation and Barton Springs Tree Stewards (which help care for the extraordinary trees around the pool).

If you have driven by or walked by Austin City Hall and wondered what it was like inside, you should plan a visit soon. Completed in 2004, Austin City Hall (301 West 2nd Street) is a truly stunning building that will fascinate your kids.


City Hall is open to the public Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. There is plentiful parking in the underground parking garage (entered from Lavaca Street). Visitors to City Hall can get their parking stub validated.

We went to City Hall on a Thursday, when the City Council typically meets. We sat in Council Chambers for a few minutes to get a glimpse of our city leaders in action. My kids did not seem to think it was very exciting but they kindly humored me in my attempt to enhance their civic education. There were other children in attendance, visiting with a summer camp or meeting boy scout requirements.

My children were really excited about all of the artwork in The People’s Gallery, a year-long display of more than 150 artworks from Austin-area artists, galleries, museums, and art organizations. It was fun to be surrounded by so much amazing and original art, not just on the walls but on the ceiling above us, too!

Heaven Positive, Jennifer Chenoweth

I was touched by the memorial exhibition honoring 42 city employees who lost their lives or were killed in the line of duty. It’s an unusual but moving tribute, with little carved figures representing the profession of each individual.


The painting below might look like just empty pots, but according to the artist’s statement, it’s quite profound: “Throughout history and literature, the idea of the empty vessel appears as a theme based on the human condition, and often refers to the human potential to be filled with knowledge, nourishment, or spirituality. For me, the empty vessel simply signifies the intrinsic framework of possibility.” Wow!

Empty Vessels II, Hollis Hammonds

After the kids fully investigated the snack vending machine options near the Empty Vessels II painting, we checked out “Austin Past & Present,” a multimedia history of the city of Austin. This display included a timeline of Austin’s history as well as an interactive map of interesting landmarks to explore throughout the city.


The boys ran up the stairs to the 2nd floor to see what awaited us. They were not disappointed!


They were pretty much left speechless by these two ladies.

Blue Mama: Laugh and Blue Mama: Cringe, Claudia Reese

Viewed from the 2nd floor, the plastic caps structure was one of the kids’ favorites! You have to see it in person to believe how tall it is. The shape is designed to resemble bulrushes or cattails (plants that grow around the edges of ponds and lakes).

Plastic Caps Sculpture, George Sabra

This artwork, Of Earth and Sky, was another favorite. I was not able to get a good photograph, but this piece was so incredible, I did not want to leave it out. It is an angel made out of an old piano!

Of Earth and Sky, John Sager

After visiting three floors of City Hall (out of four), we went outside to City Hall Plaza. These steps are known for being a live music venue but the kids thought climbing and jumping were the best activities for this final part of our visit!


Austin Active Kids Opinion: The whole family will be impressed by Austin City Hall and it’s likely you’ll all learn something, too!
Outing Time: About 1.5 hours
Reminders: If you want to stop by a City Council meeting when you visit City Hall, check their meeting schedule first. Talk to your kids about behavior expectations ahead of time. For a council meeting, children will need to be able to sit still and speak quietly. The artwork is very appealing to kids, but they will not be able to touch or handle it.

Craving cool water in the summer heat, we visited Deep Eddy Pool (401 Deep Eddy Avenue) this afternoon. This famous pool is a true Austin landmark: it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.


The land around Deep Eddy Pool was settled by Swedish immigrant Charles Johnson in the 1850s. In 1902, his children opened Deep Eddy Resort, named for a deep hole in the limestone bed of the Colorado River that caused the water’s current to form an eddy. The land was sold to A.J. Eilers in 1915 and he built the concrete pool. The City of Austin purchased the site in 1935. The Deep Eddy Bathhouse was constructed in 1936 and was the first Works Progress Administration project in Austin.

Today, Deep Eddy Pool beckons visitors from all walks of life. Deep Eddy Bathhouse serves as the entrance to the pool. You go down a flight of stone steps to the pool, where you can look for some shade to stow your pool bag. There is not any shade over the pool itself, so be prepared for full sun with swimming shirts, hats, and sunscreen.

This pool literally has something for everyone! There is a shallow wading area for very young children, a section that is about 4 feet deep for older children, another section that is 8 feet deep for the truly adventurous, and swimming lanes. The pool’s water source is a well that provides cold, clear water, which is not chlorinated. Even on the hottest days, you will feel refreshed!


My 6-year-old enjoyed watching the bigger kids explore the deep side of the pool.


As part of Austin’s Art in Public Places project, an incredible mosaic mural was installed at Deep Eddy Pool in 2011.


The mural includes a timeline detailing Deep Eddy’s history.


My children enjoyed examining the unique tiles that make up the mural.


The pool seemed noticeably less crowded around 4 p.m., when we were getting ready to leave. Next time we visit, we will plan to arrive then!

Austin Active Kids Opinion: Deep Eddy Pool has something for everyone. Jump in soon!
Outing Time: About 2 hours
Reminders: Check the pool’s web site for schedules and events like Splash Party Movie Nights before you go. Admission to the pool is free for infants, $1 for children ages 1 – 11, $2 for kids 12 – 17, $3 for ages 18 – 61, and $1 for ages 62 and up. Coolers and food are not allowed in the pool area. There is a snack shop on site that offers a variety of treats, including Jim-Jim’s Water Ice.

Today we explored one of our city’s incomparable treasures: the historic Texas Capitol. Since we are “Austin Active Kids,” this was not merely a stroll through the Capitol building but rather an indoor/outdoor extravaganza!

We arrived at 10 a.m. and parked in the Capitol Visitor’s Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto. We crossed San Jacinto at 12th Street and walked toward the Capitol. The Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building was directly on our right so we decided to take a peek. The front of the building has beautiful mosaics like this for each the six flags of Texas.


Look at the amazing front door!


We went inside for a few minutes to see the lobby area, specifically this striking mural entitled, “Texas Moves Toward Statehood.”


From the Archives and Library Building, we had a short walk to the east doors of the Capitol. Visitors to the Capitol are required to go through a metal detector. There was not a line and we moved through the security area quickly.

We walked through the east wing of the Capitol toward the rotunda and appreciated this famous view.


Many tourists were visiting the Capitol and taking advantage of the tours provided by the Capitol Information and Guide Service, which is located in the restored Treasurer’s Business Office on the first floor of the Capitol. Tours were being offered about every 20 minutes. We preferred the self-tour option so we picked up a self-guided tour brochure. (“Slow down” is not always in the boys’ vocabulary!)

We took the stairs to the second floor to view the House of Representatives chamber, in the west wing of the Capitol. Since I saw the kids’ eyes glaze over during my explanation of how Texas government works, I encouraged them to entertain themselves by looking for examples of unique, detailed craftsmanship that can be found throughout the Capitol. When we entered the Texas Senate chamber, we found a perfect example: this chandelier in which the lights spell out T-E-X-A-S.


We returned to the first floor and took these stairs down to the ground level (basement) of the Capitol.


Although included in the official Capitol tour, the ground floor of the Capitol has an off-the-beaten-path feel. It is a neat place to find some unusual views, like this one looking up and out toward an exterior wall of the Capitol.


Or this one, where you can see the limestone foundation of the Capitol, under the “sunset red” granite.


From the ground floor, we took the steps down into the Capitol Extension. We walked through the extension, took an elevator up, and came out on the north grounds of the Capitol. The Capitol grounds contain many historic monuments as well as this beautiful rose garden in bloom.


We walked toward the west side of the Capitol to take a break and have a snack. The kids really knew how to enjoy the luxurious landscape, primarily by rolling down these little hills.


The children loved all of the extraordinary trees on the Capitol grounds, which we later learned is called the Trail of Trees.

We walked around to the south side of the Capitol, to take in this classic sight.


On our way across the south grounds to the Capitol Complex Visitors Center, we saw the new Tejano Monument that was just completed in March.


I was pleasantly surprised by how much the boys liked the Visitors Center.


My 13-year-old son was intrigued by the Voices of Veterans exhibit. My 6-year-old son loved this “cut away” of the Capitol Dome.


The building was fun to explore.


The multimedia exhibits on the second floor grabbed the kids’ attention and so did this telescope where you can get a closer look at the Goddess of Liberty on top of the Capitol.


We had an interesting and educational visit to the Texas Capitol. What a magnificent place!


Austin Active Kids Opinion: This outing will get your kids moving (indoors and outdoors) and it has an important educational aspect, too!
Outing Time: About 2 1/2 hours
Reminders: You might want to review these maps ahead of time if you are not familiar with the Capitol Complex. Talk to your kids about not wandering off too far: the Capitol is a big place with a lot of people! When the Texas Legislature is in session, you should plan to visit the 3rd Floor Visitor’s Gallery of the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate (instead of House Floor and Senate Floor on the 2nd Level).