- March 13, 2014

Zilker Faerie Homes and Gardens


In fourth grade, I loved making what I called “mouse houses” — little abodes in the sheltered forks of tree roots that I built for my mouse dolls. I would set up ball-moss beds where they could rest their weary little heads, and piles of sticks for firewood and berries for their food, so they wouldn’t go hungry. This was my favorite pastime; I did it every single day, and recruited any friend I could to do it with me.

This morning, my inner nine-year-old squealed with delight as my toddler daughter and I entered the Escarpment trail at the Zilker Botanical Garden, in search of woodland faerie homes.

Entrance to the
Woodland Faerie Trail

The Zilker Faerie Homes and Gardens exhibit is now open daily during regular Botanical Garden hours, and will stay open through Monday, May 26, 2014. This is the 2nd annual Woodland Faerie Trail, where visitors are invited to wander the Escarpment path to “see who is home” in the faerie dwellings.

My daughter is only two-and-a-half, plus she was under the weather today, so she wasn’t as into the exhibit as I was. But boy, was I into it! It really was enchanting — we would be walking along the path and suddenly realize that fallen log off among the trees was actually a little faerie house, complete with wee pine cones and berries and chairs for faeries to sit in. Some little dwellings were more crude and spartan, while others were decorated with colorful bits of fancy. Some were off by themselves, while others were clustered together in little faerie hamlets. There was even one little home with faerie clothes hung up on a line to dry in the breeze.

The entrance to the Escarpment trail, where the Woodland Faerie Trail is located, was a little confusing to find, in my opinion. The signage wasn’t exactly abundant — just one dry-erase board with faded ink announced the entrance to the trail — and I kept having to refer to the little paper map I picked up inside the gift shop. However, the whole area is small enough that even if you lose yourself among the many short trails, you’ll find yourself back where you started before too long. Besides, wandering is a big part of the pleasure of the Botanical Garden in general, and certainly part of the Woodland Faerie Trail.

Parking was easy (I visited at 11:30 AM on a Wednesday morning, and the lot was maybe three-quarters full). Once you’re in the parking lot, you can find the entrance to the trail on the western end of the parking lot — that is, away from the gift shop, toward Mopac. You’ll find the Oak Grove at the trail’s entrance, with a mirrored disco ball in the center of the clearing.

My daughter liked
the mirrored disco ball
in the Oak Grove
A cluster of faerie homes

Admission for my daughter and me cost less than a cup of coffee (since she’s only two, she got in for free). I think it’s safe to say this was the best $2 I spent all day.

There are several upcoming Faerie events that sound really fun — be sure to mark these on your calendar, and prepare to be delighted:

Faeries by Starlight — On Friday, March 14, 2014, from 7–9 PM, visit the Woodland Faerie Trail in the evening, as the sun sinks down below the horizon and the stars begin to pop out one by one. The website promises magic! Entry fee (payable by cash or check only) is $5 per person or $15 per family. Hot cocoa, hot cider, music and entertainers come free with your entry fee.

Faerie Landscaping Workshop — On Saturday, May 17, 2014, from 9–11 AM or 12–2 PM, learn to create your very own miniature faerie garden with live plants and other natural materials. Entry fees are $5 per person plus $25 per garden kit, and your fee gets you hands-on experience with gardeners who can teach you how to keep your faerie landscape thriving. Be sure to register for this event in advance.

These faeries live in tree houses

This faerie lives in a sunny spot

This faerie lives in a spartan abode

This faerie hung her clothes out to dry

Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Rd, 78704; ph. 512-477-8672

7 AM–7 PM daily, with last entry at 6:30 PM (these are the Botanical Garden’s regular extended Daylight Savings hours)

Admission fees, payable by cash or check only:

  • Kids under age 3: FREE
  • Children age 3–12 and seniors 62 and older: $1
  • Adult Austin residents: $2
  • Adult non-residents: $3

Catherine A. Morris is a writer as well as a once-and-future teacher, musician, jogger and triathlete living in southwest Austin, Texas. Yes, most of her former passions and pastimes have given way, at least for now, to her current, main passion and pastime: caring for her two kids, toddler Pearl and baby Zephyr. Pearl and Zeph make Catherine and her husband laugh (and cry) on a daily basis, and give Catherine plenty of good reasons to seek out free, fun activities to keep everyone alive, engaged and happy from one moment to the next.