Sunday, March 6, 2016, is the 87th annual Zilker Kite Festival. After two years of dreary Kite Fest weather (the 2014 festival was canceled due to rain for the first time in its history, and the 2015 event had poor attendance thanks to cold temps and overcast skies), we are ready for some blue sky over Zilker Park, so we can fill it up with kites!
What to know before you go
Assuming the weather cooperates, you can be sure to expect crowds at Zilker Kite Festival— like, music festival–type crowds. With a kid in a wagon or stroller, it can be a stop-and-start endeavor at best to navigate the grassy field where everyone gathers to fly their kites. (This field is called Peace Grove, and it’s the same open area that accommodates the Trail of Lights, soccer games and other events.) For my family, wearing the kids in baby carriers or frame backpacks seems easier than bringing them in a stroller or wagon, since we take up less space that way.
Like any large event in central Austin, the fun is a given; it’s getting there that can be a chore. If you drive to the event, be sure to plan your route first. If you park at the Toney Burger Center (3200 Jones Road) or the State parking lots on Colorado Street (1604 Colorado), there will be shuttles to take you and your family (and even your dog!) from your car to the park and back again. Expect to pay $5 round-trip per person 12 and older for the shuttle ride; younger kids, dogs and kites ride free.
I’m always looking for ways to avoid driving and parking, which usually means walking or biking instead. Three years ago, when we took our daughter, Pearl, to the festival, we opted to park at my brother’s house in Clarksville and then bike from there to the park. It’s an easy trip from the north side of the river. With the kids in backpacks or a bike trailer, it’s a fun journey down the paths and over the bridges that crisscross the central part of our city.
So, what’s your best bet for getting to the festival as easily as possible and finding a good spot once you’re there? GO EARLY. The event starts at 10 a.m. and the first shuttle departs the lots for the park at 9:45. Get to the park mid-morning to choose a prime spot for laying out your blanket and getting your kite in the air. Going later is great, too; just know that the traffic and crowds only increase throughout the day.
What to bring to the festival
- your kite, if you’re bringing one — though it’s not necessary; you can purchase a kite at the event, make one for free at a workshop on-site, or just enjoy the incredible sight of thousands of kites aloft in the air (or tangled in tree branches, as the case may be!)
- blanket to sit on and/or chairs-in-a-bag
- water bottles and snacks, in a small bag or cooler (large coolers aren’t allowed on the shuttles, and are too heavy and bulky to lug around the crowded park anyway)
- sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat (and maybe a sweatshirt, depending on the weather!)
- comfortable, closed-toed shoes for walking longer distances
- cash for the shuttle, if applicable, and for any food or goodies you might buy at the event
- a few toys or books to keep younger kids occupied, and comfort items like a small pillow or cuddly blanket in case anyone wants to take a nap
- doggie waste bags and a water bowl, if you bring your pup
Kite contest details
- The Kite Contest is open to anyone who wants to compete.
- There is no cost to enter.
- Only homemade single line kites are accepted in the contest.
- Registration is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. the day of the event at the tables next to the sound booth.
- The Kite Contest starts at 1 p.m.
- 1st, 2nd and 3rd place trophies will be awarded in each event. Events that have youth (15 and under) and adult categories will have separate 1st, 2nd and 3rd trophies awarded to youth and adult competitors.
- Find all rules here.
Event information and helpful links
- Zilker Kite Festival, Sunday, March 6, 2016, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is free!
- Rain Date: Sunday, March 13, 2016 (Check the Facebook page for weather updates.)
- Directions and parking/shuttle information
- Note that Barton Springs Road will be closed for the event from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, and Lou Neff Road, the little road running through the park that connects to Barton Springs Road, will be closed starting Saturday afternoon. DO NOT EXIT BARTON SKYWAY OR ROLLINGWOOD/2244. Exiting from Mopac onto Barton Springs Road will probably be next to impossible, and the Lamar/Barton Springs intersection will be congested too. If you aim to drive to the event, be sure to plan your route accordingly!
- For more information, check out the Festival FAQs