If you have driven by or walked by Austin City Hall and wondered what it was like inside, you should plan a visit soon. Completed in 2004, Austin City Hall (301 West 2nd Street) is a truly stunning building that will fascinate your kids.
City Hall is open to the public Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. There is plentiful parking in the underground parking garage (entered from Lavaca Street). Visitors to City Hall can get their parking stub validated.
We went to City Hall on a Thursday, when the City Council typically meets. We sat in Council Chambers for a few minutes to get a glimpse of our city leaders in action. My kids did not seem to think it was very exciting but they kindly humored me in my attempt to enhance their civic education. There were other children in attendance, visiting with a summer camp or meeting boy scout requirements.
My children were really excited about all of the artwork in The People’s Gallery, a year-long display of more than 150 artworks from Austin-area artists, galleries, museums, and art organizations. It was fun to be surrounded by so much amazing and original art, not just on the walls but on the ceiling above us, too!
Heaven Positive, Jennifer Chenoweth
I was touched by the memorial exhibition honoring 42 city employees who lost their lives or were killed in the line of duty. It’s an unusual but moving tribute, with little carved figures representing the profession of each individual.
The painting below might look like just empty pots, but according to the artist’s statement, it’s quite profound: “Throughout history and literature, the idea of the empty vessel appears as a theme based on the human condition, and often refers to the human potential to be filled with knowledge, nourishment, or spirituality. For me, the empty vessel simply signifies the intrinsic framework of possibility.” Wow!
Empty Vessels II, Hollis Hammonds
After the kids fully investigated the snack vending machine options near the Empty Vessels II painting, we checked out “Austin Past & Present,” a multimedia history of the city of Austin. This display included a timeline of Austin’s history as well as an interactive map of interesting landmarks to explore throughout the city.
The boys ran up the stairs to the 2nd floor to see what awaited us. They were not disappointed!
They were pretty much left speechless by these two ladies.
Blue Mama: Laugh and Blue Mama: Cringe, Claudia Reese
Viewed from the 2nd floor, the plastic caps structure was one of the kids’ favorites! You have to see it in person to believe how tall it is. The shape is designed to resemble bulrushes or cattails (plants that grow around the edges of ponds and lakes).
Plastic Caps Sculpture, George Sabra
This artwork, Of Earth and Sky, was another favorite. I was not able to get a good photograph, but this piece was so incredible, I did not want to leave it out. It is an angel made out of an old piano!
Of Earth and Sky, John Sager
After visiting three floors of City Hall (out of four), we went outside to City Hall Plaza. These steps are known for being a live music venue but the kids thought climbing and jumping were the best activities for this final part of our visit!
Austin Active Kids Opinion: The whole family will be impressed by Austin City Hall and it’s likely you’ll all learn something, too!
Outing Time: About 1.5 hours
Reminders: If you want to stop by a City Council meeting when you visit City Hall, check their meeting schedule first. Talk to your kids about behavior expectations ahead of time. For a council meeting, children will need to be able to sit still and speak quietly. The artwork is very appealing to kids, but they will not be able to touch or handle it.