We say it all the time, but we do truly believe it: Austin is an amazing place to raise a family. With this in mind, we’re on a mission to go discover all the things which make our town special. To help get out more without getting overwhelmed, we came up with the Austin Bucket List project. Each year, we pick 10 things we’d like to do in Austin — with or without our kids. That sounds doable, doesn’t it? Then, we document our adventures here, with the idea of getting each of you inspired to do the same.
For about a year now, I’ve been wanting to visit the Bee Cave Sculpture Park. I really enjoy strolling through the grounds of Laguna Gloria in between errands and checking out new-to-me Art in Public Places pieces. I love the idea that art can be everywhere and that it can give us an excuse to get from behind our screens and spend time outside. Lastly, sculpture parks provide parents of children with a more low-stress way to experience art without some of the constraints of a “no touch”, “be quiet” museum setting.
I finally found a date on the calendar that my friend and her toddler were available to meet up on a weekday morning and check it out. It took me about 20 minutes to get there from my house in north central Austin. I should mention that Sculpture Park is located next to the Bee Cave Police Department and the Lake Travis Fire Rescue. I didn’t notice any signage coming west on Highway 71, and my phone’s GPS directed me to a closed-off road just west of the entrance. There is a sign going eastbound on Highway 71 to direct you to the park, but I’m guessing most of us visiting from Austin will be coming from the other direction. I also noticed that you can get to the park by driving to the west side of the Hill Country Galleria and taking the road that leads out of the complex by Ulta.
There is plenty of parking right in front of the 7-acre park and a few picnic tables scattered throughout, mostly located in the shade. The path is made of crushed granite and is best for walking, and the park is not really large enough to worry about bringing a stroller. We were the only ones to visit the park on a weekday morning, with the exception of one person eating his lunch at one of the tables.
I was glad I had printed out the Park brochure at home, because there was only one copy left at the start of the trail and I didn’t want to take the last one. The park opened in November 2013 and is a Certified Wildlife Habitat, with a very picturesque spring-fed pond at the rear, large oak trees and over 20 different species of native plants. There are 17 sculptures scattered across the property. If you want more information about each piece, the Park’s website has a page for most of the installations. A few of the sculptures are for sale. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Bee Cave Arts Foundation, the organization which created the Sculpture Park.
A marker in the park gave me a lot more information about Bee Caves that I hadn’t know previously. Early settlers found hives of Mexican honeybees near the banks of Barton Creek so large that locals began to call them “caves”. Legend was that the hives were so large that a man could stand inside. Early settlers migrated to the area to see the “bee cave area” and for a refuge from the fast-growing city of Austin. In 1987, the Village of Bee Cave was incorporated to prevent the community from being annexed by the city of Austin.
It took about about an hour to leisurely stroll through the park and look at all of the sculptures. The pieces of art were all so different, and I’m not sure what my favorite would be, although “Leap of Faith” and the idyllic background would certainly be among my favorites. We then walked down to the pond to take in the beautiful setting. It was the perfect size for a toddler – not too big, and large enough to explore for a while. Because the Park slopes down from the road, there was plenty of room to roam without the worry of your little one running into the street. As a bonus, since the fire station is located across the street, we got to see one of the shiny fire trucks headed back into the station.
Down by the pond we spotted dragonflies, plenty of itty bitty frogs and a majestic heron. If your littles plan on exploring near the water’s edge, be prepared for some muddy shoes. Although it’s not totally necessary, closed toed shoes might be best in areas where the grass grows longer. It’s also good to know that there are no water fountains nor restrooms at the Park, although there are plenty of restaurants and stores at the Galleria to go before or afterwards.
I went back to town feeling I had definitely gotten my nature fix for the day, glad to have checked another item off my bucket list and glad to know about another fun way to spend a few hours just southwest of Austin. The Bee Cave Sculpture Park is not a place you would spend all day, but it is a perfect spot for a picnic or to enjoy a breezy, cool day. If you are nearby, I definitely recommend checking it out!
I should also mention that the Sculpture Park has an annual celebration around the anniversary of its opening. The 2015 celebration will take place on December 13th and will celebrate the unveiling of 10 new sculptures. To learn more and RSVP, click here.