Visiting Barton Springs: Everything You Need to Know

Barton Springs may be the most quintessentially Austin spot you can visit. It’s been a hot spot for more than 100 years, it’s right in the middle of the city with a cool skyline view, and it hasn’t changed as fast as so many other parts of Austin.

visiting barton springs

It’s definitely worth checking out — we try to go at least once a summer as a family (and sometimes I go solo or with my husband on a staycation). Here’s what you need to know to plan your own trip to Barton Springs Pool.

What is special about Barton Springs?

Barton Springs Pool is a spring-fed pool in the heart of Austin in Zilker Park. It has old Austin vibes, a place where people from all walks of life can visit and enjoy the city’s beauty.

There’s just something special about it — you’ll sometimes come across viral videos of onlookers cheering on little kids who are scared to jump off the diving board. There’s just a lovely community feeling when you’re there.

How cold is Barton Springs?

Because it’s fed by an underground spring, Barton Springs Pool is 68 to 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) year-round. This means it really cools you off in the summer, and is still swimmable in the winter.

Barton Springs Pool

Is Barton Springs free?

Sometimes! It’s free during the colder months — between November and Spring Break.

From Spring Break through the end of October, you have to a pay an admission fee during hours when lifeguards are present (from 5-8 am and late at night, it’s “swim at your own risk” and there’s no admission fee).

Can you bring food into Barton Springs?

No. This is one of the hardest parts about bringing kids to Barton Springs or planning a day there without kids. No food or drink (besides water) is allowed in Barton Springs. It does keep the place cleaner, but it can be a pain to plan around.

If you want to leave to get some food and come back, just make sure to get your hand stamped before exiting.

Do I need water shoes?

Water shoes aren’t necessary for Barton Springs Pool, but I prefer them. If you’re going to spend time on the shallow end, the bottom of the pool is slick with algae.

If you plan to mostly sun bathe and swim in the deep areas, you can probably skip them.

Barton Springs Pool

Is Barton Springs good for kids?

Yes, Barton Springs is good for kids, but they may not last very long in the cold water. The temperature is around 70 degrees, and my kids start to get teeth-chattery and blue-lipped after a short time there, even in the summer.

If you want to bring floaties of any kind, you have to stay on the shallow end. Any inflatable toys are only allowed in 5 feet of water or less.

While you’re in Zilker Park, take a ride on the Zilker Eagle mini train and play on the Zilker playscape.


Parking in Zilker can be a pain, so I prefer to go earlier in the day (especially if I’m going with kids) before more of the fun young adults get out there. There’s a parking lot right by the main entrance of the pool, but if it’s full, you’ll have to circle back around and choose a different Zilker lot. We often use the one by the Zilker playground so we can play afterward.

Note: A lot of the Zilker parking is now paid, so you may be charged $7.

Are there topless women at Barton Springs?

Whenever I’ve posted about Barton Springs on Instagram, I inevitably get someone telling me that it’s not kid-friendly because women can and do go topless here. So fair warning if it’s offensive to you: there’s a chance you and your kids might see topless women at Barton Springs.

We’ve brought kids here (and will continue to bring them), and we haven’t noticed any. But that might be because we tend to go to the shallow end where floaties are allowed and there aren’t quite as many sunbathers as the other end. We’re also probably focused on what we’re doing and in our own little world, so not paying as much attention.

Want to visit another famous swimming hole in the area? Here’s what you need to know about going to Hamilton Pool.

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