Today we explored one of our city’s incomparable treasures: the historic Texas Capitol. Since we are “Austin Active Kids,” this was not merely a stroll through the Capitol building but rather an indoor/outdoor extravaganza!
We arrived at 10 a.m. and parked in the Capitol Visitor’s Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto. We crossed San Jacinto at 12th Street and walked toward the Capitol. The Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building was directly on our right so we decided to take a peek. The front of the building has beautiful mosaics like this for each the six flags of Texas.
Look at the amazing front door!
We went inside for a few minutes to see the lobby area, specifically this striking mural entitled, “Texas Moves Toward Statehood.”
From the Archives and Library Building, we had a short walk to the east doors of the Capitol. Visitors to the Capitol are required to go through a metal detector. There was not a line and we moved through the security area quickly.
We walked through the east wing of the Capitol toward the rotunda and appreciated this famous view.
Many tourists were visiting the Capitol and taking advantage of the tours provided by the Capitol Information and Guide Service, which is located in the restored Treasurer’s Business Office on the first floor of the Capitol. Tours were being offered about every 20 minutes. We preferred the self-tour option so we picked up a self-guided tour brochure. (“Slow down” is not always in the boys’ vocabulary!)
We took the stairs to the second floor to view the House of Representatives chamber, in the west wing of the Capitol. Since I saw the kids’ eyes glaze over during my explanation of how Texas government works, I encouraged them to entertain themselves by looking for examples of unique, detailed craftsmanship that can be found throughout the Capitol. When we entered the Texas Senate chamber, we found a perfect example: this chandelier in which the lights spell out T-E-X-A-S.
We returned to the first floor and took these stairs down to the ground level (basement) of the Capitol.
Although included in the official Capitol tour, the ground floor of the Capitol has an off-the-beaten-path feel. It is a neat place to find some unusual views, like this one looking up and out toward an exterior wall of the Capitol.
Or this one, where you can see the limestone foundation of the Capitol, under the “sunset red” granite.
From the ground floor, we took the steps down into the Capitol Extension. We walked through the extension, took an elevator up, and came out on the north grounds of the Capitol. The Capitol grounds contain many historic monuments as well as this beautiful rose garden in bloom.
We walked toward the west side of the Capitol to take a break and have a snack. The kids really knew how to enjoy the luxurious landscape, primarily by rolling down these little hills.
The children loved all of the extraordinary trees on the Capitol grounds, which we later learned is called the Trail of Trees.
We walked around to the south side of the Capitol, to take in this classic sight.
On our way across the south grounds to the Capitol Complex Visitors Center, we saw the new Tejano Monument that was just completed in March.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much the boys liked the Visitors Center.
My 13-year-old son was intrigued by the Voices of Veterans exhibit. My 6-year-old son loved this “cut away” of the Capitol Dome.
The building was fun to explore.
The multimedia exhibits on the second floor grabbed the kids’ attention and so did this telescope where you can get a closer look at the Goddess of Liberty on top of the Capitol.
We had an interesting and educational visit to the Texas Capitol. What a magnificent place!
Austin Active Kids Opinion: This outing will get your kids moving (indoors and outdoors) and it has an important educational aspect, too!
Outing Time: About 2 1/2 hours
Reminders: You might want to review these maps ahead of time if you are not familiar with the Capitol Complex. Talk to your kids about not wandering off too far: the Capitol is a big place with a lot of people! When the Texas Legislature is in session, you should plan to visit the 3rd Floor Visitor’s Gallery of the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate (instead of House Floor and Senate Floor on the 2nd Level).