Visit the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas is the Capitol of the State of Texas
My maternal grandfather grew up in Waco, Texas in the 1920s-1930s. Although he lived in Washington State during my entire life, I had always heard about his family in Texas, but I never got to meet my distant cousins until recently.
My mother has told me about the amazing tales her family experienced in this distant state that is still a 3-day drive from the Pacific Northwest. For years, I imaged what it would be like to go to Texas!
In my mid-40s, I finally had the opportunity to travel to Texas in August 2013. Among the various highlights of my trip were seeing an armadillo on the side of the road, watching my cousin's family feed and water their Belted Galloway cattle, and visiting Baylor University, which includes a statue of my great- great- great- grandfather. Oh, and I also tasted some fried alligator!
Our drive to Austin was well worth the trip! It is about a 60-70 minutes northeast of San Antonio along Interstate 35, approximately 60 miles southwest of Waco. It was a relatively easy visit, probably because we kept our expectations low. Because our visit to Texas was pretty much fully scheduled, we barely fit in the four-hour round trip to and from Austin from San Antonio.
Map to the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas
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Self-Guided and Guided Tours of the Texas State Capitol and Grounds
My mother and I visited the Texas State Capitol on a Sunday afternoon in August. We arrived toward the end of the day, so the crowds were light and parking was ample.
Although there are guided tours available, we elected to take our time on the grounds, capturing photographs, and then we followed a self-guided tour of the capitol.
The guided tours are free and scheduled several times daily. Check in the South Foyer of the Capitol building on arrival to plan on a guided tour. The tour should take approximately 45 minutes.
As noted on the Capitol's website, tours are available daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter:
Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Saturday, 9:30 am - 3:30 pm
Sunday, Noon - 3:30 pm
If you choose to go self-guided, as we did, note that you can obtain a brochure in English, as well as eight additional languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, German, Japanese, Russian, Korean and Chinese (Mandarin). If you or your group would like to schedule a guided English or foreign language tour of the Texas State Capitol, you are advised to call 512.463.0063 at least 24 hours in advance.
If you're like me and are interested in both the architecture and history of the campus, as well as the landscaping, you can also refer to a brochure/guide prepared by the Texas Forest Service.
No matter which route you decide to take - guided or self-guided tours, you should visit the Capitol Information and Guide Service in the restored Treasurer's Business Office on the first floor of the Capitol. In the event you are planning on a group tour of 10 or more, please call 512.305.8400. Further, if you are or have a visitor with any special needs, please let them know in advance so appropriate accommodations may be made.
Texas State Capitol Tour
Hours, Parking and Other Information About the Texas State Capitol in Austin
If you travel to, or live in Austin, Texas, you don't want to miss visiting the State Capitol. Although Texas is the second largest state (in area) in the United States, it is relatively easy to reach Austin from the major metropolises of Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.
If you can afford it, take a day or more to visit Austin. The Texas State Capitol is within the heart of the City. We drove past intriguing restaurants and the University of Texas (Longhorns) as we made our way to the Capitol campus from the freeway.
My mother and I were able to find a free parking space on the street, just two blocks away from the Capitol on a Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, metered street parking is relatively inexpensive. In addition, parking is available in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th streets. Parking is free for the first two hours and $1.00 for each 1/2 hour thereafter (the maximum daily charge is $8.00). In addition, accessible parking is available with accessible routes to the Capitol.
ADA accessible elevators, restrooms and water fountains, as well as the Capitol grounds themselves are accessible to persons with disabilities. For visitors looking for sign language tours of the Texas State Capitol, you are advised to call for reservations at 512.463.0063.
Statues on the Texas State Capitol Campus
As with any historical site, you can learn a lot by touring the statues and other sculptures on the campus of State Capitols in the United States.
I was amazed by the sculptural tributes to the Confederate President and other officials that served during the United States Civil War, in which Texas sided with the South/Confederacy. Students or U.S. history buffs can learn much more during a visit to the Texas State Capitol than via a textbook or lectures!
When you visit the Texas State Capitol in Austin, look for the following statues, among others:
- Confederate Soldiers
- Statue of Liberty replica
- Heroes of the Alamo
- Tejano Monument
- WWII Memorial
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- The Hiker
- Texas Cowboy
- Terry's Texas Ranger
- Hood's Texas Brigades
Weather in Southeastern Texas
Austin, Texas is the capitol of the Lone Star State. According to weather.com:
- On average, the warmest month is August.
- The highest recorded temperature was 112°F in 2011.
- January is usually the coolest month.
- The lowest recorded temperature was -2°F in 1949.
- The maximum average precipitation occurs in May
I asked my cousins in Waco, Texas about the weather in this region when we visited in August 2013. They told me that weather is generally consistent. It is not as humid as in the Gulf Coast and less unpredictable than in Dallas. During our week stay, it was nice and comfortable, but a little too humid for my Pacific Northwest blood.
During the Spring season (February through May), the weather is warm during the day and cool at night. Rain may occur, but it is overall a dry and pleasant time of year.
The Summer season is usually hot and dry. Temps may reach 100 degrees during the day, while falling to only the 80s at night.
Fall/Autumn is usually very nice from October into December. Plan on mild temperatures, much like the Spring season.
During winter, the weather is usually variable. Even though more days than not may be considered "nice," know that temperatures can vary from day to day by 40 degrees or more. Ice and snow are rare, but may occur!
The Texas State Capitol
Fast Facts About the Texas State Capitol
- It is the largest State Capitol Building in the United States
- At the time of its construction, in 1885, the capitol building was billed as "The Seventh Largest Building in the World"
- It is modeled on the U.S. Federal Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
- The building was originally designed in 1881 by Elijah E. Myers and was constructed under the direction of civil engineer Reuben Lindsay Walker. A $75 million underground extension was completed in 1993.
- The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
- The Texas State Capitol is 308 feet tall, making it the sixth tallest state capitol and taller than the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C
- The building itself has 360,000 square feet (33,000 square meters) of floor space, more than any other state capitol building, and is on 2.25 acres of land. The building has nearly four hundred rooms and more than nine hundred windows.
- The capitol campus is located a mere four blocks south from the University of Texas at Austin. The Texas Capitol campus is comprised of 22 acres of grounds and monuments and includes 17 surrounding monuments.
- A granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol was the topic of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, Van Orden v. Perry, in which the display was challenged as unconstitutional. In late June 2005, the Court ruled that the display was not unconstitutional.
The Texas State Capitol Building is the Largest in the U.S.
When you Visit the Texas State Capitol
All visitors to the Capitol building in Texas are required to go through a metal detector at entry. Cameras are allowed, as are water bottles. Again, there is no admission fee.
The areas of the capitol building that are accessible to the public are spread out over three levels. Oil painting portraits of each of the Governors of Texas are hung on all three floors of the capitol routuna. Go back in time from the present and trace the pictures over many decades to get a sense of the State's history. In addition, the south foyer includes a portrait of David (Davy) Crockett and sculptures of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, Texas heroes.
The seal of the State (shown to the above right) illustrates the various influences on Texas: Spain, Mexico, France, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America. These represent the five points of the Texas Star.
A visit to the Alamo and/or other historic sites is also recommended. Although I was an excellent student in high school and college, I never truly understood the Texian/Mexican conflict, nor Texas's independent freedom before it was annexed as a state in the U.S.A. - right before the Civil War. I can say that I learned far more in a few days in Texas than I ever did in any prior history class!
So come on down, y'all!
Funny Video Visiting the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas
© 2014 Stephanie Hicks