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Situated to the east of Barton Creek, Zilker is a vibrant neighborhood with many of the same selling points as its neighborhood counterpart to the west, Barton Hills. The neighborhood limits are comprised of the Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake to the north, West Bouldin Creek to the west, South Lamar Boulevard to the south, and Rabb Road to the east, which changes names several times, but shares a border with Barton Hills. This makes the two neighborhoods feel like one continuous district. Even though Zilker is an older neighborhood in Austin, new developments are blending contemporary buildings with the well-established haunts that have defined the neighborhood's eccentric character for decades. It's a prime example of the "Keep Austin Weird" philosophy mixed with all the changes that come with a growing city.
A large percentage of the new construction falls into multi-story residential buildings with retail and restaurants at street level and apartments on the floors above. The newer-build complexes shower apartment residents with amenities, including gorgeous pools, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, and high-end finishes throughout the living spaces. Older, smaller apartment complexes tend to be updated with sometimes fewer perks but typically lower prices. While it's possible to find reasonably priced apartments in Zilker, its proximity to Downtown Austin and the Central Business District means rentals here tend to be higher priced than apartments in neighborhoods further out.
The vibe of the Zilker neighborhood is fun and youthful, with an abundance of restaurants, bars, and outdoor activities in the northern parts along the waterfront and the Butler Shores Park on Lady Bird Lake. Even though it shares a name with this particular neighborhood, the vast 351-acre Zilker Park is technically located within the Barton Hills neighborhood—only a few blocks from the eastern edge of Zilker—so it's often considered part of Zilker simply by default.
The most popular and practical way to travel around South Austin is by car, truck, or motorcycle—really anything with an engine. Though less convenient and more uncomfortable while waiting outside in the hot summer months, Austin public transportation makes getting around the immediate South Austin/Downtown Austin area easy enough if you don't have access to your own vehicle. Capital Metro offers several bus stops along South Lamar Boulevard and allows riders to connect to newer MetroRapid and limited MetroRail services that connect residents with other parts of the city, too. The current stretch is 32 miles long, but only has nine stops along the single line, so it's still in its infancy when it comes to light rail commuting.
Cycling is very popular in Austin, probably more so than most other cities across Texas and the United States in general. Most parts of Zilker and neighborhoods throughout South Austin are very easy to navigate by bike with dedicated bike lanes. Whether you have your own bike or prefer to rent by the hour or day from numerous bikeshare stations and cycling stores throughout the region, you'll be set for pedal-based transport. In addition to nationally known rideshare services, Austin has other rideshare alternatives, including one with a fleet of electric cars. Plus, Austin has charging stations all over town due to a large concentration of BEVs and EVs—helped in no small part because of the Tesla manufacturing facility in town.
When vacation beckons or a work trip is on the agenda, Austin is served by the easy-to-navigate, well-appointed Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The airline providers at this airport offer around 350 nonstop flights to more than 70 domestic and international destinations each day. For travel within Texas to other major Lone Star State cities, Vonlane has a pickup/drop-off point in Downtown Austin that gets people between Austin and San Antonio, Houston, or Dallas with ease. The luxury bus service features all-first-class seating, plus a bus attendant offering food and beverage service to help pass the time and add to the convenience.
Austin's reputation as a food lover's paradise can be proven in every corner of the city, but some of Austin's best restaurants can be found in the smaller neighborhoods. This is definitely true when it comes to restaurants in Zilker where diners can discover a world of flavors within its borders. When in Zilker, head to Juliet Italian Kitchen for pasta and pizza; Maudie's Too, Baby Acapulco and Chuy's for Tex-Mex; Loro for the unique combination of Texas BBQ and Asian ingredients; Chi'Lantro for Korean-Mexican fusion; Uchi for some of the best sushi and modern Japanese anywhere; Odd Duck for food sourced exclusively from local farms; Ramen Tatsu-Ya for hot bowls of brothy noodles; Bouldin Acres for great burgers and tacos; East Side King for globally inspired Japanese; Gordough's Public House for doughnuts and other fried treats late into the night; P. Terry's Burger Stand for fast-food favorites; and Barlata Tapas Bar for Spanish delights. For dessert, definitely check out Tiny Pies for handheld yumminess. Zilker also has Zilker Brewing Company and Tap Room, as well as the Austin Eastciders Barton Springs location of the popular local hard cider company.
As for bars in Zilker, neighborhood watering holes include Eberly, Gibson Street Bar, Tiki Tatsu-Ya, Saxon Pub, Corner Bar, The Golden Goose, Black Sheep Lodge, and Aviary Wine & Kitchen. Almost as prevalent as boozy beverages in Zilker, artisan coffee joints abound. Get your caffeine fix at Merit Coffee, Opa Coffee and Wine Bar (with live music); Patika, Irie Bean Coffee & Wine Bar, Picnik Food and Coffee Trailer, Medici Roasting. Meanwhile, South Pacific-inspired Square Rut Kava Bar serves traditional kava drinks, derived from island plants to induce mental clarity and relaxation.
Zilker is home to a nice collection of local boutiques, consignment stores, and resale shops for a quirky assortment of goods. Discover all sorts of treasures at Moss Designer Consignment or Pavement, as well as locally designed streetwear from Hype Appeal and an abundance of fine leather goods at Noah Marion. More traditional multi-store shopping centers include Lamar Union Plaza, South Lamar Park, and nearby Brodie Oaks in the Barton Hills neighborhood to the west.
Grocery stores in Zilker include local-favorites H-E-B, Whole Foods Market, and Thom's Market-Barton Springs, as well as Trader Joe's and Fresh Plus Grocery. Pop-up farmers markets can be found in Zilker and nearby South Austin neighborhoods most weekends, too.
Outdoor options are forever popular in the Zilker neighborhood, with multiple activities available at Little Zilker Park, Butler Metro Park, the Ann & Roy Butler Trail, Auditorium Shores at Town Lake (now renamed Lady Bird Lake), and the Auditorium Shores Dog Park. Of course, the massive Zilker Park just to the west of the Zilker neighborhood in Barton Hills offers even more fresh-air adventures, including the Zilker Botanical Garden, standup paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing, as well as popular swimming and wading areas along Barton Creek.
For indoor exercise, locals can get memberships or book single classes at a variety of fitness spots, including Austin Simply Fit, Forge Strength, SOLA Fitness, OrangeTheory Fitness, and FIT Austin.
Umlauf Sculpture Garden is a fabulous place to experience art in an outdoor setting, and residents can often be found testing their golfing skills at Peter Pan Mini-Golf and Butler Pitch & Putt. Austin-based dine-in movie theater Alamo Drafthouse has a Zilker outpost, and for live productions, book tickets to the ZACH Theatre or Zilker Hillside Theater. Zilker Park is also home to the world-famous Austin City Limits Music Festival, and being able to walk there from the Zilker neighborhood is an incredible perk of living here.
There are no colleges or universities located within the borders of the Zilker neighborhood, but several can be found nearby throughout South Austin. Educational opportunities await at St. Edwards University, Austin Community College: South Austin Campus, the Ann Richards School for Young Business Leaders, and the US American College of Business and Healthcare. Northern parts of Zilker are also less than a 15-minute drive to the main University of Texas at Austin campus (UT Austin), making it a highly desirable neighborhood for students, staff, and faculty at this massive university.
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