The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was founded by Lady Bird Johnson, our former first lady, and Helen Hayes, an actress, in 1982 to protect and preserve North American native plants and natural landscapes. The center boasts lavish grounds covered in hardy succulents, flowing greenery, large trees, colorful flowers, winding paths with benches along the way, sparkling ponds and is home to fish, frogs and other unique plants and structures.
Each summer since 2003, the Lady Bird Wildflower Center has hosted Nature Nights, a series of family-oriented educational events on select Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The series includes art projects, games and scavenger hunts related to bats, snakes, birds of prey and other exciting animals that we share this earth with.
I visited the center on a cool evening and entered the grounds with the calming sound of locusts (always a sound that lets you know summer has indeed arrived), the giggle of children, and families smiling and interacting together. The theme that night was Butterflies! There were beautiful butterflies peacefully dancing through the foliage as children hoped a butterfly would land on them.
Guest Roman Manning-White was looking into a pond to find a specimen for his scavenger hunt list. I asked Roman what his favorite part about the night was and he said the crafts he’d made and seeing the beautiful butterflies. Roman created a replica of the life cycle of a butterfly, from egg to full grown butterfly, by integrating different shaped noodles and other craft materials.
The Observation Tower, a huge stone building which overlooks the center, is as incredible as it is unique. Parents and children were exploring the ins and outs of the structure. At one end of the center is a tiny door, just perfect for little ones to walk through. This tiny door led to a large room full of crafts, posters, bright colors, pictures of plants and animals and books! Children were busy working away creating crafts while at the same time learning about nature.
There is also a cafe at the center with panoramic views of the colorful and calming grounds. The cafe will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the Nature Nights series so get to the center early, have a meal with your family and then explore!
The center offers loads of educational programs for families and teachers, tours and exciting events throughout the year.
Also, every year the center partners with
Capital Area Food Bank during the Luminations Event. Admission is free for this event when visitors bring a canned good donation for the food bank. The Lady Bird Wildflower center even donates native plants to Keep Austin Beautiful for school and community projects.
I spoke with the Educational Director of the Wildflower Center, Alice Nance, who is very passionate about the center’s growth and promotion of education and conservation. I asked Alice what inspires her and draws her to work for the organization and she replied, ” The Wildflower Center has always been an organization I have respected and their work and mission is near and dear to my heart as a professional working in conservation education. Over the years I have had the fortunate opportunity to partner with the center on various projects and when the Education Manager position became available I knew the Wildflower Center would be an ideal fit for me and my career interests. Besides being a beautiful place to work I really enjoy reaching people of all ages with our message and educating and inspiring them to learn more about native plants and sustainable landscapes.”
Aside from the Nature Nights series this summer, Alice pointed out that a big event the center has coming up is the Tribute Day on July 29, where the center hosts a full day of education, activities and fun to honor founder Lady Bird Johnson. Admission is free and drinks, snacks and ice cream will be available at the cafe.
The next event during the Nature Nights series is Birds of Prey, July 12, so don’t miss it!
The Lady Bird Wildflower Center is a sanctuary of beauty and serenity which offers many programs and events to promote the appreciation and respect for the plants and animals that we are all so lucky to enjoy.
WHEN: On certain Thursdays beginning July 12 throughout the summer.
6:15 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Ave.
Austin, Texas 78739
Note: Parking is limited for Nature Nights, so get there early or carpool.