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.
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 35-foot (10.7 meters) bronze Lone Star sculpture greets visitors at the entrance of this epic museum. This place narrates the story of Texas, sharing its rich cultural heritage and traditions. The three floors of the impressive building present interactive exhibits, special effects shows and more. On the first floor, you will find a permanent exhibit called Encounters on the Land, which highlights the first meetings between Native Americans and European explorers. The second and third floors have exhibits that showcase the evolution of Texas from the time of its inception. The museum boasts a total of 17 media installations and over 700 artifacts, not to mention Austin's only IMAX Theater.
Mayfield Park Cottage and Gardens is open to the public but is a favorite among the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department facilities rental division. The historic 1870s cottage is perfect for a small group. The cottage holds 65 people, while the grounds hold up to 200. Enjoy the landscaped gardens, lily ponds, peacocks and palms in this picturesque environment. Pack up the family or reserve it for your event and enjoy this sprawling estate in central Austin.
Standing 27 stories high, the University of Texas Tower (the main administrative building) is a fixture in the Austin skyline. It has been used by the school since 1882 and features stunning Victorian-Gothic architecture. Standing very close to the height of the Capitol, the observation deck provides a beautiful view of the city. A testament to school spirit, the tower shines in burnt orange, and the bells peal to hail the University sports teams' victories. This stunning architectural beauty is a must-see when visiting the campus. History and crime buffs should also take this tour, as it is the site of the notorious actions perpetrated by Charles Whitman on August 1, 1966.
The magnificent building built from Texas limestone is the city's community hall. The Austin City hall is host to a number of community events and programs. Bringing people from across the city together to celebrate and partake of the city's rich culture is one of the aims of the hall. The surrounding nature dispenses a pristine charm to the location. For further information, log on to their website.
The Presbyterian Church has had a presence in the area since 1839, two and a half months prior to the chartership of Austin. Years later, divisions within the church over the issue of the Civil War caused the church to split. It was from this schism that the pro-northern Central Presbyterian Church was formed, though it was then called Southern Presbyterian Church. The title of the church has changed numerous times over the years, but they have been at their present downtown location since 1871. It was finally named the Central Presbyterian Church in 1983, when all conflicts were resolved.
The Governor's Mansion is one of the most significant landmarks in Austin. It was built in the mid 19th Century, giving it a historical status. The mansion is accentuated with elegant furnishings such as Sam Houston's bed, antiques, famous paintings and more. The Governor's Mansion was built using bricks and wood, thus giving a timeless touch to it. There are regular guided tours conducted here, although reservations are a must.
The historic St. David's Episcopal Church was built in 1854. Located in Downtown Austin, the beautiful Gothic structure is one of the oldest buildings in the city and therefore, a part of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). St. David's Episcopal Church is considered one of the most important places of worship in the city and is often sought for events such as baptisms and weddings.
Saint Mary Cathedral, designed by noted Texan architect Nicholas J. Clayton, is one of oldest Catholic churches in Austin. Its construction was completed in 1884, but exquisite French and German stained glass windows were added in much later. A beautiful piece of Gothic Revival architecture, this small cathedral now seems almost dwarfed by the high-rise buildings downtown. Apart from regular Sunday services, weekly masses are also conducted; check website for further information.