Anyone who has been in central Austin has gazed at the architectural jewel in the heart of our city, the Texas State Capitol Building. Poised atop 22 acres of tree-filled land and elegantly framed by downtown buildings, this historic structure has been expertly maintained and curated by Texans since 1888 and is a lovely place to enjoy a day of learning, strolling and feeling the Lone Star love.
Everything Is Bigger in Texas
I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on the White House in Washington D.C. My first thought would make any non-native Texan cringe: “That’s it?” Compared to my own statehouse, our federal monuments didn’t blow me out of the water.
Growing up in the shadow of the Texas State Capitol, it’s easy to become accustomed to the expansive grandeur of this impressive historic building. Built in 1888 and painstakingly restored in 1996, this monument is a testament to our abounding civic pride. If you aren’t familiar with how the land was obtained, it’s quite a story.
How to Experience the Texas State Capitol
If you find that aimlessly wandering the gently rolling hills and stately chambers is overwhelming, and want to know the ins and outs of the 20 memorials dotting the grounds, or the nitty gritty about the lower level rotunda, snag a self-guided tour pamphlet. You can find one just inside the Capitol building, once you clear security.
Stroll the Great Walk. Peek inside judicial chambers. Remember the heroes of the Alamo and Koreran War. There are so many corners of the Texas State Capitol to explore. Behold the crown molding masterpiece of a dome that spells out T-E-X-A-S or simply rest in the shade of a live oak on a picturesque grassy knoll with a friend and a picnic.
While my favorite way to enjoy the Capitol is with a self-guided tour, guided tours are available for free through the Capitol Information and Guide Service from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. If you have questions or would like to schedule a tour for a group of 10 people or more, call the Visitor Center at 512-305-8402.
Annual Events at the Texas State Capitol
Texas State Book Festival – Started by former first lady Laura Bush, this free, annual festival is the place to indulge in all-things literary. Our go-big-or-go-home spirit attracts an array of beloved national and local authors every year. The dates for 2016 are November 5-6.
- Lunchtime Concerts – If you’d love to catch a Bach concerto on your lunch break, check in regularly with the handy Texas State Events Calendar to find your perfect noontime musical outing (make sure to click the tab for “all upcoming” events).
- Holiday Sing-Along and Tree Lighting – Every December, Austin radio legend John Aielli of KUT leads festive Austinites during the Holiday Sing-Along on the south steps of the Capitol. The festive event concludes with the lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree.
- Experience a Legislative Session – You don’t have to wait for a political rally to make your way to the Capitol building! Get a glimpse into the Texas political scene by wandering the halls during the legislative session. Depending on proceedings, access is limited to the galleries of the chambers, but I think it’s worth it to get a glimpse into the heart of Texas politics. Sessions run for 140 days every odd-numbered year beginning the second Tuesday in January.
@kristinmleigh wants to know:
What’s your favorite memory from the Texas State Capitol?