Whether a longtime resident, a transplant or a visitor just passing through town, Visit Austin insiders highly recommend making time to tour the magnificent Texas Capitol building and grounds. Learn more about the historic statehouse and find out how to explore the Texas State Capitol with these top 5 reasons to visit.
Texas State Capitol, South Facade. Courtesy of the Texas State Preservation Board.
1. Free Tours
The Texas Capitol offers free 30-minute tours which are a great way to learn about the history of the building, walk the historic halls and take pictures. Tours run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, departing every 30 to 45 minutes. Tours run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 3:30 p.m on Sundays.
If you prefer to tour at your own pace, you can pick up a free self-guided tour pamphlet from the Capitol Information and Guide Service room or the Capitol Visitors Center, and enjoy the building and surrounding grounds from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekdays or from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekends.
Also, you’ll find that parking is a breeze - the garage is conveniently located about two blocks from the Texas State Capitol (1201 San Jacinto St.), and the first two hours of parking are free.
2. Ornate Architecture
The massive three-story Sunset Red Texas Granite structure is the largest capitol building in the United States, standing 14 feet higher than the U.S. Capitol building. Keep an eye out for elegant and ornate details, from the giant brass door hinges (so beautiful that people have tried to steal them over the decades!), to the detailed handrails. Look closely at the brass chandeliers in the House of Representatives Chamber to find that the light bulbs spell out T-E-X-A-S.
3. Gorgeous Grounds
Finished with your tour? The Capitol grounds comprise of about 22 acres in the heart of downtown Austin, so there's plenty more to see! Featuring 17 monuments, historic buildings and trees and beautifully landscaped lawns, the grounds are a great place to explore, enjoy a picnic or learn more about the history of Texas. Pick up a free brochure and monuments map from the Capitol Information and Guide Service room or the Capitol Visitors Center.
4. Fun Exhibits
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Texas traditions and the State Capitol, stop by the Visitor’s Center. Their 2018-19 exhibit, "Saddle Up," showcases Texas ranching tradition and the everyday lives of modern cowboys and cowgirls. Explore other permanent exhibits on display about the construction of the Capitol building, Texas Revolution soldiers and more.
5. Good Food
After all the walking you’ve been doing, stop by the Capitol Grill to refuel, located in the Capitol Extension. They offer breakfast, lunch and grab-and-go options, so stop by to try a sweet Texas-sized flapjack or a delicious Capitol Grill burger. Other nearby dining options include the Texas Chili Parlor (seen in Quentin Tarantino's 2007 movie "Death Proof" and serenaded by Guy Clark in his tune, Dublin Blues), the historic Clay Pit for some of the best Indian food in town (built 1853) and more!
Touring the Texas State Capitol is a great, hassle-free way to spend an afternoon in downtown Austin. Whether a tourist or a local, it’s a must see! Looking for more information about historic Austin? Take a guided walking tour with the Austin Visitor Center, explore our free historic brochure or check off these 30 must-see historic destinations from your to do list!
Contributed by Rowen Gregorcyk-Landrey, Visit Austin Marketing Communications Intern.