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South Austin neighborhood Barton Hills is home to one of the top outdoor recreation destinations in the city: the 351-acre Zilker Park and the popular Barton Springs that flows through it. A haven for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, floating, and standup paddleboarding, this feature makes the neighborhood an extremely popular place to visit, but also a much-desired zip code to call home for thousands of Austin’s most active nature enthusiasts. Bordered by East Highway 290 and Capital of Texas Highway to the south, the jagged Stearn’s Lane and South Lamar Boulevard on the western edge, the Colorado River and Lady Bird Lake to the north, and MoPac (Loop 1) Expressway to the east, Barton Hills is primarily a residential neighborhood. Its close proximity to the Zilker Neighborhood and Downtown Austin, both only minutes away by car, keeps it from feeling completely isolated—though it’s easy to find a quiet spot that feels adequately remote if that’s what you need. Established in the 1940s and ’50s, Barton Hills retains some of its historic charm, coexisting well with newer developments for a unique cross-section of styles that give Austin its famous quirky charm.
Despite the proximity to these popular business, cultural, and residential hubs, apartments in Barton Hills can often be found at prices that won't break the bank, at least no more so than in other parts of the city. Many properties line the shores of Barton Creek and the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and most feature desirable amenities such as beautiful pool settings, outdoor Jacuzzis, well-appointed fitness centers, clubhouses, and dog parks. Some even have yoga studios, coffee shops, volleyball courts, remote-office spaces, and yoga studios. Other rental properties in the area include smaller, slightly older apartment complexes, but most have been updated to compete with newer builds.
The most logical and convenient mode of travel around Barton Hills (and most of Austin, for that matter) is by car, truck, or motorcycle—really anything with an engine or rechargeable battery. Though less convenient and far warmer while waiting for a bus outside in the hot summer months, Austin public transportation does make getting around the immediate Barton Hills/Downtown Austin area easier than most other parts of the city. So, if you don’t own a vehicle or bicycle, it’s a decent alternative. Capital Metro offers several bus routes in the immediate area, in addition to newer MetroRapid and currently a small number of MetroRail service lines that serve the city. The MetroRail system is a relatively short 32 miles long with only nine stops along the single line, however expansions continue and will make this a more popular option in coming years. Cycling in Barton Hills is extremely prevalent, more than nearly any other metro area in the United States and especially more than anywhere else in Texas. Many parts of the greater South Austin region, including the recreation-heavy Barton Hills, are very simple to navigate on a bike, whether it’s your own or one rented by the hour from the abundant bikeshare stations or cycle shops throughout the area. In addition to the usual rideshare companies, Austin has other alternatives as well, including one with a fleet of eco-friendly electric vehicles. Austin also boasts a large number of charging stations all over town due to the popularity of BEVs and EVs among residents.
When the need arises to venture away from Austin for a few days, the city is serviced by the well-appointed, traveler-friendly Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which offers nearly 350 daily nonstop flights to 70+ domestic and international destinations. For travel within the state to major Texas cities, Vonlane (a luxury bus service with first-class seating and on-board bus attendant offering food and beverage service) has a pickup/drop-off point in Downtown Austin that gets people between Austin and San Antonio, Houston, or Dallas with far less hassle than the typical airport adventure.
Even though it’s a primarily residential section of Austin, Barton Hills has several convenient restaurants that appeal to both immediate locals and Austinites from other neighborhoods, as well as out-of-town visitors who’ve come to the area for the outdoor activities. Many are located within Barton Hills proper or just across the neighborhood boundaries in nearby Zilker or other adjacent communities. Popular hangouts include Serrano’s Cocina & Cantina for Mexican, Salt Trader’s Coastal Cooking for seafood, Nala’s or Bombay Bistro for Indian, Tacodeli for a variety of creative tacos at breakfast and lunch, Kerbey Lane South for breakfast and late-night eats on weekends, Pinthouse Pizza for casual Italian and beer, Pok-E-Joe’s for juicy Texas BBQ, and Hunan Lion for tasty Chinese.
For socializing with friends over drinks (both boozy and zero proof), Barton Hills residents can be found kicking back at Easy Tiger, a beer garden and a bakery in one, as well as The Park on South Lamar, a sports bar with great Sunday brunch and a Bloody Mary bar. Since 1964, another popular neighborhood destination has been Broken Spoke, a mainstay for live music and line dancing, plus killer chicken fried steak and ice-cold beer. And for a non-alcoholic pick-me-up, Barley Bean Café makes some excellent espresso drinks from early morning to late afternoon.
As for grocery stores in Barton Hills, the shops tend to be on the smaller side but are more than adequate for your immediate needs, with options including Sprouts Farmers Market and Thom’s Market Barton Springs, as well as numerous neighborhood convenience stores. Sam’s Club is also available for those who enjoy shopping in bulk, and Spec’s offers an incredibly vast selection of beer, wine, and spirits.
The Barton Creek Square Mall and The Brodie Oaks Shopping Center are the main shopping areas in Barton Hills. The latter is being redeveloped into a larger, mixed-use development that will bring with it more businesses and two high-rise buildings that are expected to include residential and retail at street level. Several big-box retailers are also easily accessible in the area for a variety of everyday needs.
As you’ve likely gathered by now, Barton Hills’ primary appeal lies in its outdoor spaces, primarily the vast Zilker Park. Within its boundaries are numerous trails for walking, jogging, and cycling, sports fields and parks, Zilker Botanical Garden, and the Barton Springs Municipal Pool for floating and splashing away your summer away. Kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and other non-motorized watersports are major pastimes along Barton Creek, as well. Plus, you can easily rent a variety of water transportation at Zilker Park Boat Rentals if you don’t own your own. Meanwhile, dog owners reward their furry friends at Barkin’ Springs, a canine-friendly watering hole on the creek.
Hikers enjoy the Barton Creek Belt Trailhead and the Gus Fruh Boulder offers rock climbing opportunities. Other areas to get some fresh air and cardio activity include the Barton Creek Trail Violet Crown Trailhead and the Zilker Park Disc Golf Course. For indoor exercise, Barton Hills residents have the McBeth Recreational Center and Studio Barre Austin available for a little sweat session.
Entertainment options include outdoor musicals and other performances at the Zilker Hillside Theater, but when the internationally famous Austin City Limits Festival takes over Zilker Park each fall, Barton Hills becomes the beating heart of the world live music scene.
There aren’t any colleges or universities centered in Barton Hills, but it’s close to several in nearly every direction, making it an ideal neighborhood for students, staff, and faculty to set up residence, especially if a less busy, more outdoorsy vibe appeals. Convenient nearby options include St. Edwards University, Austin Community College’s South Austin Campus, the Ann Richards School for Young Business Leaders, and the US American College of Business and Healthcare. Much of Barton Hills is less than 15 minutes by car from the main University of Texas at Austin campus, too.
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