Free Fun at the UT Turtle Pond


Winter break is coming! What are your plans? Since the winter weather here in Austin is usually somewhat bearable, a visit to the University of Texas Turtle Pond is a fun way to get out of the house and explore one of the university’s oldest and most unique features. And since the university will also be on break, it will be less crowded, and you may even find a parking spot!

The Turtle Ponds reside just north of the UT Tower, nestled between the biological greenhouse and biology buildings (check out a map of the area here). As a little background history, the ponds were built from 1934 – 1939, during the construction of the tower, and are overseen by the College of Natural Sciences. In 2003 the area was dedicated to the victims of the 1966 tower shootings and renamed the Tower Garden Memorial.

We (Leigh Ann here!) took a weekend trip to the Turtle Pond recently, and it was a perfect little outing for my trio, ages 4, 4, and 2, who are way into turtles. It was a warmish, sunny day, and we found several turtles of all sizes and species out sunning themselves on the rocks, plants, and stacked on top of one another. I admittedly don’t know much about turtles, but I was able to explain some basics to my kids and read a little about them on the nearby sign.

We watched them swim around the pond, and some of them came very close to the edge. In fact, a few were sunning around the rim of the pond, but quickly dashed into the water when my noisy crew approached, screaming, “TURTLES!!!!!” Sometimes excitement just can’t be contained, you know?

The School of Biological Sciences has a helpful list of FAQs for those visiting the pond, most notably are the turtles allowed out of the pond (yes), can I feed them (yes, turtle food from a pet shop, in moderation), and do you want my turtle that I’m tired of caring for (NO)? The FAQs are definitely worth a read if you are planning a trip to the pond. I wish we had thought to stop and get some turtle food before we went! Another time…

Parking is notoriously difficult on campus. Any parking spots near the tower and the Turtle Pond are restricted access and require permits at all times. We parked in a garage off of 20th and Whitis Ave, across from Dobie Mall (mainly because our first stop that day was the Harry Ransom Center), but there’s also a garage behind the University Co-Op, at San Antonio and 23rd. Other nearby garages shown on this parking map are the San Antonio Garage and the Brazos Garage, both about equidistant from the area, but still a bit of a hike. Prices vary at different garages.

The Turtle Pond is a great outing for the family. It’s especially fun to meander around the beautiful campus a bit and explore, if you have young ones who can tolerate a walk. The nearby Architecture Library at Battle Hall is gorgeous (but not too good for my inside voice challenged children). The Texas Union is always fun to check out, and they have FOOD, although I can’t guarantee what will be open during winter break. But as long as this gorgeous weather holds up, we will definitely be back, hopefully armed with some turtle food.

University of Texas Tower Memorial Gardens (Turtle Pond)
North of UT Tower, between biological greenhouse and Biology building

Leigh Ann Torres is a freelance writer and blogger living in Austin with her husband and three girls. She’s a pretty good cook, a mediocre photographer, and a horrible housekeeper. She writes about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous of life with twins plus one at Genie in a Blog. You can also find her on Twitter and at This Blogger Makes Fun of Stuff.

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