university of texas at austin campus

The LBJ Presidential Library (2313 Red River Street) on the UT-Austin campus opened in 1971 and has been a popular Austin attraction since then.


We have visited many, many times over the years and we were excited to see what it was like after the recent major renovation. The LBJ Presidential Library re-opened to the public on December 22.


The re-design has added “new exhibits for a new generation” and incorporates features like touch screens, films, and audio recordings.


One of the major goals of the re-design is to show visitors how issues, events, and achievements from Johnson’s administration still impact our lives today.


We were glad to see that our favorite presidential limo had earned its place in the re-designed library!


The new exhibits are visually appealing and informative.


Many interesting items from the library collection are on display.


The “Lyndon Johnson and His Times” exhibit on Level 3 (entry level where the lobby is located) has a timeline spanning LBJ’s life that includes all sorts of events (not just those related to LBJ) and provides helpful historical context.


Also on Level 3 is the “LBJ’s Humor” exhibit, which features an animatronic President Johnson telling stories. My six year old said this was his favorite thing at the library!


We went up the massive staircase to the Great Hall on Level 4. From the staircase, you have a four-story view of the LBJ Presidential Library’s official archives collection, which holds 45 million pages of documents.


This touch-screen exhibit below describes the civil rights movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Also on Level 4, you will find the Presidents and First Ladies Exhibit, which displays the official portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies from George and Martha Washington to the present.


The LBJ’s Presidency Exhibit brings history to life with photos, films, recordings, artifacts, and interactive features.


Important events as well as LBJ’s roles are clearly explained.


This exhibit includes a display regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There is not anything graphic shown but it’s probably a good idea to be prepared to answer your children’s questions regarding this tragic historical event.


Many fascinating historic documents were on display: like this telegram to President Johnson from Martin Luther King, Jr.


Important issues of the day are highlighted and explained.


My six year old enjoyed listening to the recordings on these “phones.”


1960s culture was showcased as part of the LBJ’s Presidency Exhibit.


We took the elevator up to Level 10, which is the only other floor of public exhibits in addition to Levels 3 and 4. It includes a couple of things you would recognize from the original library: the Oval Office replica and Mrs. Johnson’s office.

Oval Office replica (7/8 scale)

Mrs. Johnson’s Office

This is the view from the 10th floor of the library.


Level 10 also has the First Family in the White House Exhibit, which describes the family’s life during Johnson’s presidency.


The boys liked this film which featured commentary about living in the White House from Lady Bird Johnson and her daughters Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson.


The Life in the White House Exhibit includes examples of gifts given to President and Mrs. Johnson. There are quite a few treasures to investigate!


We covered all three floors of exhibits in about an hour. (Without kids, it would probably take at least twice as long.) On our way out, we stopped at The Store at LBJ gift shop. We headed to the outdoor plaza, which obviously lends itself to a game of stepping only on the black rectangles.


We went down the stairs on the south side of the library, which is beautiful even without the fountain running.


The kids ran up and down a big hill.


We rested at this nice little spot at the top of the hill until it was time to go home. We were all glad we took the opportunity to visit the new and improved LBJ Presidential Library!


Austin Active Kids Opinion: Interactive history covering an important and tumultuous era….just remember to build in some time for outdoor fun, too!
Outing Time: 1.5 hours (1 hour for the museum and 1/2 hour for running around outside afterward)
Reminders: In the past, admission to the LBJ Presidential Library was free. After the re-design, small admission fees will be charged: $8 adults, $5 seniors, $3 kids 13-17, and still free for children 12 and under. Operating hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily (except Christmas Day). The library has its own parking lot (Lot 38), located on the east side of the library off of Red River. The entrance to this parking lot has LBJ Presidential Library flags posted. Please note that if you park anywhere other than Lot 38 you will be subject to UT parking fines if you park in a restricted area. The library has restrooms and water fountains. No food or drink is allowed in the museum. No flash photography.


We celebrated the first “official” day of summer (June 20) by spending the afternoon visiting the cool and inviting Texas Memorial Museum on The University of Texas at Austin campus at 2400 Trinity Street. The museum serves as an “exhibit hall” for the Texas Natural Science Center.

We parked in the San Jacinto Parking Garage and followed the signs to the front of the museum. This mighty saber-toothed cat welcomed us!


The entrance takes you to the Great Hall, featuring the museum’s most valuable specimens like Quetzalcoatalus northropi, the Texas Pterosaur.


Also in the Great Hall, you can view the E.M. Barron Exhibit of Minerals and Gem Collections. You might be surprised by how much your children enjoy looking at these “rocks.”

On the third floor, we saw this beautiful display in the Hall of Texas Wildlife.


The Hall of Texas Wildlife also includes wildlife dioramas, which are models (or examples) of different creatures that live in Texas, from ducks to snakes to fish.

We took the stairs to the fourth floor exhibit, the Hall of Biodiversity, where you will find an interactive learning center focused on the understanding of biological evolution. My 6-year-old son was interested in this computer exhibit about diatoms.


We took the elevator down to the first floor, the Hall of Geology and Paleontology, which holds over 500 dinosaur and fossil specimens. This is our favorite part of the museum!


(You better not hit that armadillo with your car!)

The museum has a cell phone audio tour so you can learn more about featured exhibits, like this giant ground sloth.


Kids love the Discovery Drawers. All sorts of irresistible items are stored within!


A “real life” paleontologist was on hand in the Paleo Lab to talk with visitors about fossils.


The Texas Memorial Museum has a unique history: it was built in celebration of Texas’ centennial in 1936. The University of Texas, the State of Texas, and the Texas American Legion joined forces to establish this state museum. “Erected to commemorate the heroic period of early Texas history and to celebrate a century of the independence and progress of Texas as a republic and state and dedicated to the study of the natural sciences and civic history” is engraved on the western facade of the building.


Architecture aficionados will note the building’s 1930s Art Deco style, exemplified in the bronze front doors.


After exiting the doors on the west side of the building, we walked toward the Mustangs statue, across San Jacinto Boulevard, and down to Waller Creek. The boys spent about 30 minutes exploring around the creek bed and taking a “hands on” approach to their natural science education!


Austin Active Kids Opinion: An educational indoor escape for a sweltering afternoon!
Outing Time: About 2 hours 15 minutes
Reminders: Admission to the museum is free. (Donations accepted.) There is a gift shop on the 2nd floor, adjacent to the Great Hall. The parking garage costs $9 for 2 hours on a weekday. On weekends, you might be able to find street parking and avoid the garage expense.

This afternoon, we had a two-part adventure: something old and something new.

We started with something old: the UT turtle pond, which we have been visiting for over 10 years.

We arrived on the UT campus at 3:15 p.m. There are a few 45-minute parking meters on 24th Street between Guadalupe and Whitis Avenue. This is all the time we needed!

The turtle pond is located in the shadow of the UT Tower, near the intersection of University Avenue and Inner Campus Drive. You can read more about its history and see a map here.

I cannot explain the allure of this humble pond for children! The kids were fascinated by all of the turtles, especially the large snapping turtle. He looks prehistoric!


The other critters in and around the pond–like fish, squirrels, and birds–have absolutely no fear of humans. We are still laughing about this squirrel, who was trying to cool off as he watched us closely.


It looks like the pond might be due for some maintenance: one area had a lot of algae and the turtles were practically on top of each other.


My younger two children did not want to leave this charmed area, but the parking meter was ticking! To get a few minutes of air-conditioning, we walked into the ground floor of the nearby UT Tower, went up the stairs, and exited on the first floor. It is very scenic, with the Capitol dome visible on the horizon.


This view looking south from the UT Tower is one of my favorites in the city.


We raced back to our car to beat the meter and then headed north to try something new: the Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Market at the Triangle.

Market hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Wednesday (March – September). The produce was really beautiful.


I picked up some fresh fruits and vegetables and then we cooled off with Jim-Jim’s water ice. What a great way to end our afternoon!

Austin Active Kids Opinion: Each of these outings is probably substantial enough to stand alone, instead of back-to-back. Because of the afternoon heat, the time we could realistically enjoy the activities was limited.
Outing Time: About 1 hour 45 minutes total for both the UT turtle pond and the farmers’ market
Reminders: Plan ahead for parking any time you visit The University of Texas campus. If you go on a weekend, you might be able to find more available street parking (but always check the signs).