A famous slogan states that everything is bigger in Texas, and if one views its capitol building, the age-old phrase rings true. Standing a stately 309 feet (94 meters) and modeled after the United States Capitol in Washington D.C., the Texas State Capitol owns the distinction of being the nation's tallest capitol building. Designed by architect Elijah E. Myers and constructed using lustrous red granite, the capitol took more than seven years to complete. It was finished in the year 1888 at a total cost of more than three million dollars, an extravagant price even by today's standards. The perfectly landscaped grounds reflect the languid pace of life under the central Texan sun, inviting passers-by for a quiet stroll or a lazy day under a tree.
Patrons will enjoy a huge variety of activities at Zilker Park. You can check out the hike and bike trails, picnic facilities, Zilker Botanical Garden, canoe rentals, soccer fields, sand volleyball courts, riverboat rides on Town Lake, concerts, festivals and even a miniature train. The wide-open stretches of grass in this park are just minutes from the downtown area. There is plenty of room and various diversions for the kids, so you can get a suntan, take long walks by the river or just curl up with a book down by the river.
As part of the Pedernales River and Hamilton Creek, this old-fashioned swimming hole is perfect for the nature lover in all of us. A shaded walk through the canyon opens to the limestone outcroppings that create a 50-foot waterfall landing in the pool. A picnic on the banks of the pool, a swim in the cool water or a quick hike through the canyon will wash away city-accumulated stress. The trail to the pool is fairly short (1/4 of a mile) but does include a series of rock steps. Good hiking shoes are recommended. Visitors with physical disabilities should call ahead to pre-arrange assistance. Parking is limited, and the pool is very popular so go early.
This museum has grown into one of the most fabulous experiences for children in Austin. Find out about the development of children from birth to adolescence, climb a "time tower," and learn about everything from dinosaurs to computers. Special programs for children and their parents are regular parts of the museum's curriculum. Take tiny tots to the 2-and-under special explore time, or learn about multimedia with your teen. With excellent specialty programs and wonderful exhibits, this is a museum the whole family can enjoy.
The amazing Zilker Botanical Garden overlooks the Zilker Park fields bordering Barton Springs Road. The garden is actually comprised of several different gardens, including the Cactus and Succulent, Xeriscape, Herb and Fragrance, Rose, Azalea, Butterfly and Taniguchi Gardens. Taniguchi is a beautiful Japanese landscape with a waterfall, running stream, lily ponds and wooden bridges. The lush, peaceful grounds are commonly perused by artists and writers searching for inspiration, and by others just looking for solitude amid the city.
One of the most visited presidential libraries in the nation, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum is supplied with information regarding one of the most controversial times in United States history. Peeking inside the life of the 36th President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the LBJ tapes provide listeners the opportunity to learn about former president John F. Kennedy's assassination and the Vietnam War. Along with the famous tapes, visitors can see a to-scale replica of the Oval Office, political memorabilia and more than 39 million pages of historical notes. Plan on a full day at this library and museum, but if you are a real history buff, you will barely scratch the surface of what this fantastic archive has to offer.
A little bit of the Great White Way can be found deep in the heart of Texas. Like the movie studio which shares its name, this theater is grandiose and ambitious with 1250 seats available to host an estimated 160,000 people a year. The calendar features both visiting and local stage productions of musicals and dramatic plays, one-person acts, orchestral performances, children's shows, revivals of great old movies and (because this is Austin) the occasional visiting live-music act. A horn of plenty for theater, music and entertainment fans.
Centrally located in downtown Austin, this museum features works that have a connection to Mexico and Latin America. Exhibits range from art to theater. The permanent collection includes artifacts and photographs relating to Mexican-American culture. Recent exhibits include photographs from the 1910 Mexican Revolution and other works by Mexican artists. Guest artists and performers tackle contemporary issues such as ethnicity, religion and politics. A small gift shop carrying books, artwork and handmade imports is located near the entrance.
Austin Duck Adventures is a one-of-a-kind tour takes you through the city and on Lake Austin on an authentic amphibious military landing vehicle that carries around 20 passengers. The tour goes through downtown, to the State Capitol, the Governor's Mansion, the LBJ Library, East Sixth Street's music district, historic Congress Avenue and area lakes. Meanwhile, the tour guide gives the history of the city, along with little-known insights. Each tour last for around two hours. Check the website or call ahead for further information.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema-Ritz is the downtown branch of the highly successful Alama Drafhouse Cinema chain. The 2-screen venue takes film-viewing to an all new level combining it with excellent dining facilities. In an otherwise traditional theater seating, rows of narrow tables are spread out for the audience to feast on quality food and drinks. The theater screens the latest Hollywood flicks, besides being host to a multitude of live performers. The cozy private balconies offer a great view of the screen and is a hit with audiences. It is is not just movies; it's a wholesome entertainment experience! Call for more information.
Located inside Austin’s Central Fire Station No. 1, this hidden gem is an interesting museum about the history of the Austin fire department. Learn about how the department was once run by volunteers, and see historic artifacts chronicling how firefighting has evolved over the years, including exhibits with old uniforms and a Hook and Ladder No. 1 lantern. Although this small museum doesn't feature interactive displays, it is a fun place to bring the kids if they're interested in learning more about firefighting and want to see part of a working fire station along with a piece of history.