Sprawling wildflower fields and trails alongside Spanish colonial architecture can make visitors stepping into the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center feel like they have left the Texas capital city.
More than just a scenic place, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, is also nationally recognized for its research, education programs, and projects that focus on protecting the natural environment.
Lady Bird Johnson’s Environmental Mission
Known as Americas’ Environmental First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson’s mission to protect, conserve, and beautify the environment began in Washington D.C. By leading the push for environmental national policy, Lady Bird began creating her legacy.
During her husband Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, “Lady Bird’s Bill” or the Beautification Act of 1965 passed. Lady Bird’s Bill called for many beautification efforts such as the control of outdoor billboards, regulations on junkyards along Interstates or main highways, and the support of roadside development and scenic projects along highways.
Washington D.C. gardens and clean-up efforts were also largely due to Lady Bird Johnson’s actions.
After the Johnsons left the White House, Lady Bird continued her environmental mission in their home state of Texas. In 1982, the former first lady and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center, which was later renamed as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Visiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Explore the various native plant gardens and look out for the creative outdoor sculptures in this 279-acre quiet wonderland. Though there’s a special focus on wildflowers and plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, there are about 650 species of Texas native plants.
Some must-see gardens include:
- Home Owner Inspiration Gardens — learn how to recreate native landscapes in a residential backyard
- Butterfly Garden and Insectary — learn which native plants attract butterflies to gardens
A stunning entrance way and courtyard — complete with a pond and other water features — showcases the beautiful stone walls and aqueduct, with arches designed to resemble Spanish missions.
Don’t miss climbing up the Observation Tower, which has awe-inspiring views of colorful wildflowers among the center’s featured walking trails. Visitors can choose up to four different native plant walking trails, ranging from a mile to a quarter mile long.
For a cool drink, visitors can head to the Wildflower Café. A Visitor’s Gallery includes interactive exhibits and books on native plants. End the tour with a visit to the gift shop, which has everything from recycled jewelry to local foodie treats.
Tips for Visiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
The best time to visit this Austin destination is in the spring, and not just because that’s when everything is blooming. Since there is a fair amount of outdoor walking involved, springtime weather is simply more bearable than Texas summer afternoons.
Closed on Mondays and major holidays. Admission is USD $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $3 for children ages 5 and older. Children under 5 are free.
Visitors checking it out during the summer months should plan on staying hydrated (water bottles are sold in café area and water coolers placed in center’s courtyard). Hats, sunglasses, and comfortable closed shoes are also recommended. And don’t forget the camera.