We visited the Austin Nature and Science Center in February and it’s truly a hidden gem of the Texas capital.
Located inside Zilker Park, the center has indoor specimens and exhibitions, a marshy waterway, animal rehab, and a dinosaur digging pit. So yeah, we’ve got a lot to cover!
I had looked up the Nature and Science Center online but was surprised when we drove up and I saw that parking was in this awkward space below the MoPac overpass. There were plenty of people around, but I was a bit unsure. It’s ok to park there and you just walk across the street and up the winding path to the center. Just go with it.
On your way up, there are plenty of trees to observe. We compared the bark of the smooth persimmon, delicate juniper, and gnarly cedar elm trees. Throughout our trip we were fascinated by the difference in trees compared to the maples, oaks and pines we see in Maryland!
At the top of the path is a small building decorated with this incredible mosaic. The famous Austin bats were not in town but we will try to catch them in the summertime.
The building contains some exhibition spaces with the expected collection of skulls, minerals, shells, pelts, rocks, and taxidermy. They have visiting exhibits and we were quite surprised to see the Nano display that was previously at our library!
Exiting out the back of the building, there’s a path that will take you around a little pond. There’s also a section with more classrooms and animals that are being cared for like an awesome bobcat. She was carefully listening for any shenanigans and quickly climbed up the branch pile to get a good look at us.
The marshy pond bends into a couple of curvy, cool streams that are perfect for splashing and wading. We didn’t know it was there but plenty of folks were armed with swimwear and water shoes. We still had fun.
M is such a water bug. As soon as she spots it, she points and shouts “wa wa!” She wants to splash in anything and doesn’t mind a little dirt and mud either. Future naturalist, perhaps?
The dinosaur digging pit was a great time too. They have several imitation skeletons built into the ground and covered with the same Texas Hill Country gravely sand that I remember digging in as a kid. Shovels and brushes are available to “discover” the hidden bones.
We spent a fantastic afternoon at the Austin Nature and Science Center and will most definitely plan to go back the next time we’re in town. They have events and classes (homeschool classes!) so check that out if you’re local.