Take a Day Trip from San Antonio to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center!
Just outside of Austin is a sanctuary for plants. The Lady Bird Wildflower Center is so close to Austin it has an Austin address but far enough away from the city that you only hear the sounds of nature (and other visitors).
If you live in Austin, a trip to the Center can easily be done in less than half a day, but I recommend turning it into a day trip for those living in or visiting San Antonio. I went with my parents (I knew my mom would enjoy it) early in the morning, arrived around 10 AM, and was back home before rush hour in San Antonio. We drove up I-35 and on the return trip drove down HWY 281 for a more scenic route. On the return trip we ate lunch at a cafe in Dripping Springs. Another suggestion is to visit Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch afterwards which is located near Fredericksburg. I decided to tackle that on another day.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Wildflower Center!
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Parking: There is a decent-sized parking lot close to the entrance and overflow parking along the road. If you arrive after 11 AM and find parking on the road, take it. The center was busy by the time I left around noon and a lot of the parking was full.
Best time to visit: Spring (March to May) – before it’s too hot and when bluebonnets are blooming!
Although founded in 1982, it was in 2017 that the Wildflower Center was designated as the state’s official botanic garden and arboretum. There are more than 800 species of native plants growing at the center, and only native plants are grown on the 284 acres.
There are several sections to the Center. The Central Complex is where you’ll find the Cafe, Gift Shop, and a resident owl. The Central Gardens display small garden beds with a variety of plants. There are themed gardens, too: color garden, nector and pollinator gardens where you can spot butterflies, homeowner gardens, and more. During spring, when the bluebonnets are blooming, there is an area almost hidden behind the Central Gardens that has a wonderful spot for a photo op with bluebonnets! Don’t miss it!
Behind the Central Complex and at the end of the Central Gardens are where you’ll find trail heads leading to other sections of the Center. The Arboretum Trail was closed when I visited (March 2018), which is the longest of the trails at the Center. The others are very short and not strenuous. But, unless you’re visiting for a photo shoot, I recommend wearing shoes you don’t mind getting dirty and that are comfortable.
We started with the Savanna Trail, behind the Central Complex. You’ll see a bridge which will lead you to the trail, but I recommend starting towards your right. There’s a map at the end of this post (borrowed from the Center’s website) to help you plan your day. If you start at the other end of the trail you can continue on to the Luci and Ian Family Garden without having to repeat any steps. The Savanna Trail is exactly what it sounds like — a lot of prairie grasses and some trees. I was expecting fields of flowers, but there were only patches of bluebonnets.
The Luci and Ian Family Garden is a popular spot for those with children. There are learning opportunities and hands-on activities available throughout this section. If you have children, head straight to this area to keep them entertained before unpacking a picnic on a bench somewhere.
There’s a maze, a play lawn, a building area, and several other areas I didn’t venture into because there were a lot of kids running around playing. But there’s also fun benches and animal statues that I enjoyed taking pictures with. We followed the Woodland Trail back to the Central Gardens, before ending our day at the Center.
Tips for Visiting the Center:
- Bring a picnic – There are designated areas where you can eat a picnic lunch. Just remember to clean up after yourself.
- Water is available – I carried a water bottle but there are water fountains throughout the Center
- Bring the Kids – There are tours, activity areas, and learning opportunities perfect for a family with young kids. So if you’re looking for something to do to get your kids outside, this place should be on your list.
- Bluebonnet Photo Op Location – Nestled behind the Homeowner Gardens and Woodland Gardens is a small enclosed area full of bluebonnets. There’s a small stone in the middle perfect for sitting on for your photo.
- What to wear – When visiting in the Spring and Summer months you’ll want a hat, sunglasses, and cool clothing. Don some sunscreen and bug spray, too, or you may regret it later. There are a lot of dirt trails so where comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
- Take nothing but pictures; Leave nothing but footprints; Kill nothing but time
What’s your favorite day trip from San Antonio? Share in the comments!
If you’re looking for flowers without ever leaving San Antonio, check out my post on the Botanical and Japanese Tea Gardens!