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Mayfield Park: Explore This Beautiful Nature Spot in Austin

Image credit: Faina Gurevich/Shutterstock.com

Mayfield Park is known for its peacocks and comparably ornate gardens. But that’s only to those who know.

Although the cottage at Mayfield Park is more than 100 years old, it’s only in the last 50 years that the rest of Austin has been allowed in.

Before Mayfield Park became public, it was the vacation home of Chairman of the Railroad Commission and Texas Secretary of State Allison Mayfield, who bought it in 1909. Mayfield Park’s cottage and gardens were humbler then.

When Mayfield’s daughter and her new husband moved into the cottage in 1922, Mayfield Park and its 21-acre nature preserve began to assume its current form.

The couple, Mary (née Mayfield) and Dr. Milton Gutsch, built three porches on the cottage, making it a classic example of the Bungalow style popular then. In the five decades following, they designed the gardens, ponds, and stone walls that run through the property. They developed their home in long-term collaboration with their live-in gardener Esteban Arredondo.

Traces of these happy years are everywhere. The flock of peacocks that roams the gardens is descended from two peafowl the Gutsches were given in 1935.

Mayfield Park’s frequent weddings use the six ponds arranged in the shape of a flower for a backdrop.

When Mary Gutsch died in 1971 she willed Mayfield Park to Austin, TX. Ever since it’s been a big part of in-the-know Austinites’ lives.

The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Peacocks in Mayfield Park

peacock in mayfield park

Image credit: Faina Gurevich/Shutterstock.com

Most of Mayfield Park’s peacocks descend from a quirky Christmas gift in 1935. Now, over two dozen roam the property today in various moods of whimsy and entitlement.

For the birdspotters out there, there are two types of peafowl in Mayfield Park: the India Blue peacock and grey peahen, and the Black Shouldered peacock and white peahen. The peacocks are the ones with the brightly-colored tailfeathers, although they shed these feathers in the summer. Visitors may take home any feathers they find.

During spring, Mayfield Park’s peacock flock is a favorite among photographers. Some roam as far as the next-door country club Laguna Gloria.

Only service pets are allowed in the park. Irrespective of other possible issues, the peacocks are quite temperamental.

Young children may also be alarmed by their loud mating cries. And it’s definitely a no-no to chase these majestic creatures.

Hiking in Mayfield Park

trail in Mayfield Park

Image credit: cmappleton

Mayfield Preserve is the 21-acre natural area that surrounds the two acres that hold the cottage and gardens. It contains three short, well-marked, and shaded walking trails.

A good amount of non-peafowl wildlife call the preserve home. The lake has fish, while the ponds contain water lilies, lotuses, koi fish, and turtles. All should be treated with respect.

Mayfield Park Lake Trail

This 0.3-mile hike is both short enough to be kid-friendly and surprising enough to stay interesting.

It’s a loop trail that borders Lake Austin. This all-skill-level hike has bird watching and great viewpoints. It’s bordered by steep rock structures that can inject a little adventure and altitude for those looking for something more.

Laguna Gloria Trail

This 0.4-mile trail borders Laguna Gloria, with its own cluster of well-kept gardens and The Contemporary Austin museum.

It’s good for the nature the rest of the trails offer, but the highlight here is the Laguna Gloria property line. Just make sure not to pass the fence line to the tantalizing sculpture park next door or you may be asked to pay admission.

Meadow Loop to Taylor Creek Loop

This is the longest hike in the park — an 0.6-mile sojourn from the main trail to the meadow to Taylor Creek.

Like the other trails, this is an all-skill-level hike with birding and wildlife spotting possibilities.

Private Events at Mayfield Park

Private events are one of Mayfield Park’s biggest draws, both for their relatively cheap cost and the park’s relatively unknown status — which makes the occasions hosted there even more unique and unforgettable.

It regularly holds weddings, birthdays, businesses conferences, workshops, and retreats. With garden rentals starting at $150 for two hours and cottage and garden rentals starting at $850 for seven hours, Mayfield Park is a relatively affordable venue.

As one five-star Yelp review put it, “We call this the ‘poor man’s Laguna Gloria’ because it’s one-tenth of the price to reserve it as a wedding venue.”

There’s a somewhat complicated reservation system. You must enter a lottery to reserve an event you wish to have held at Mayfield nine months in advance. Any open dates can be reserved six months in advance.

There are also a boatload of conditions to be aware of, due to both Mayfield’s status as a city park and a National Register of Historic Places landmark.

There are the usual limits on crawfish boils, fireworks, and margarita machines. Piñatas are permitted outside the gardens only, and should be confetti-less. Make sure to keep your string lights off all railings, chandeliers, and shrubbery. Relay games can’t involve food — so much for that teambuilding favorite, the egg-and-spoon race.

If you have any unusual ideas, you may want to give this list a look. Most of it is workable, if specific.

One thing that Yelp reviewers have taken issue with is the ban on amplified music. As one put it: “The biggest downside is that you can’t have amplified music. We found a band that did either amplified or not, but it’s Austin and you probably want to use your favorite friend’s band or DJ, so know this going in.”

Weddings at Mayfield Park

Despite the many rules, Mayfield Park is a sought-after wedding venue.

The cottage holds 45 people — although you should check ahead for current occupancy guidelines. The wraparound decks are also available for use.

The overflow crowd goes into tents — there’s no shortage of space. The cottage and grounds hold a maximum of 100 people, although some renters have reported greater attendance.

Tents must be rented separately, but Mayfield has six 6’ x 30” tables and 55 padded chairs available for use with cottage rentals (not with garden-only rentals).

Some other things to note include:

  • The rate breakdown includes a use fee, maintenance fee, and damage deposit. The use fee is about 50% more expensive for non-residents and commercial activities.
  • No park attendants will be on duty for garden-only rentals. Garden-only rentals aren’t suggested for weddings.
  • There’s an online booking calendar where you can easily check availability.
  • The cottage kitchen should only be used for heating and serving food — not cooking.
  • The gardens are wheelchair accessible. However, the cottage is not ADA accessible.
  • Dancing is off-limits in the cottage.
  • Alcohol sales require a TABC permit. No glass or Styrofoam is allowed inside the gardens or cottage.
  • The renter is responsible for all set up and clean up duties. There’s even a handy checklist. Don’t do it and risk losing your security deposit.
  • Nails, tacks, staples, and tape are all prohibited. Smoking onsite is a Class C misdemeanor (the parking lot is fair game though).

What to Know Before You Go

The previous list might have given you the wrong impression. Most visitors find Mayfield Park to be a quiet jewel of Austin’s park system.

The park is located at 3505 W 35th Street. It’s free and open daily between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. There’s a small parking lot attached. Leave the pets at home — but feel free to gently approach the peafowl.

The two dozen peacocks show off their brightly-colored feathers in the spring season.

Mayfield Park is next door to Laguna Gloria, and close to Mt. Bonnell.

More information can be found at MayfieldPark.org.