When planning family activities, I am always drawn to anything that sounds semi-peaceful — art museums, cultural events, gardens, wide-open spaces, etc. Of course, I have to keep in mind that my high energy kiddos have a really hard time refraining from wrestling and poking each other at all times of the day. If they cannot run and wiggle, they don’t last too long without complaint. So the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum is kind of a perfect mix of something for mama and something for the boys: a pretty, peaceful garden where kids have a welcome invitation to explore and roam (and even touch the outdoor sculptures!).The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, just steps from Barton Springs and Zilker Park, is dedicated to the work of 20th century American sculptor Charles Umlauf. Thanks to generous donations during Amplify Austin, the museum and garden is providing FREE admission this summer, through August 31, 2014!
If the rules at traditional museums make you nervous, you don’t have to worry here. The bronze sculptures in the garden have been washed and waxed for tours with the visually impaired and other kinesthetic learners, making it the largest “touchable” outdoor collection in Texas. You can choose to tour the garden with a docent or use a self-guided booklet to go through on your own pace.
Free Scavenger Hunts:
It’s the Sculpture Safari scavenger hunts that my kids love best. They adore I Spy books and are always up for any type of seek-and-find challenge. When we checked in at the Visitor Desk, we requested to participate in the Sculpture Safari, and we were handed laminated maps with photographs of sculptures that could be found throughout the garden as well as dry erase markers to check off each item as it’s discovered. Straight forward images are available for young visitors, while more difficult versions are available for more skilled detectives. My kids took it upon themselves to try to do this as fast as possible. (Why does everything have to be a race?) But they had a great time running around the well-shaded garden to find each item on their cards. The boys handed in their cards back at the front desk to show off their fast finding skills, and they were rewarded with a sticker.
Goats in the Garden — No Kidding!
You may have read recently that the Umlauf is home to a very exciting goat grazing pilot program to rid the garden of poison ivy. Goats love poison ivy and will happily nibble away at it and reduce or eliminate the need for harsh plant-killing chemicals. This initiative comes from Austin Parks Foundation as recommended by the Sustainable Sites Initiative, co-developed by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden, and the American Society of Landscape Architects. The goats can be seen nibbling at the sculpture garden twice a week through July, while the poison ivy plants are flowering.
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden is a really pretty escape. It’s well-shaded and lovely for a little rest (if the kids will let you sit). It’s an easy spot to stop in and visit if you are already down in the Zilker Park area and want to pop in for a quick visit, but it’s certainly worthy of an outing on it’s own.
If You Go:
- While the outdoor collection is touchable, the art within the indoor galleries is not. The current indoor installation by Margo Sawyer includes a beautiful arrangement of glass and beads and tiles — all placed on the floor. It is certainly a challenging space for little ones, so you may wish to bypass this room if your youngest kids will be tempted to touch.
- No food is allowed, so if you’re hoping for a picnic, plan to do so at Zilker Park nearby.
- There are several sculptures of nude women, so be prepared if you are planning to go with boys of a certain age who might find this amusing.
- No photography is allowed inside the museum galleries, but it is allowed outside (and is picture-perfect).
- Parking is free in the small lot at the museum, but if it is full, there is also plenty of parking across the street by the baseball fields.
- Note that Umlauf is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Wednesday – Friday
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday
12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Monday – Tuesday
Closed to the public
General – $5.00
Seniors (60+) – $3.00
Students – $1.00
Children 12 & Under – FREE
Members – FREE
Active Military Personnel & Family – FREE
605 Robert E. Lee Rd
Austin, TX 78704
For more information, visit the Umlauf Sculpture Garden website.
Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 4, 6, and 8), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures that she shares on FreeFuninAustin.com.