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.
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.
Short story writer William Sydney Porter, whose pen name was O. Henry, lived in this home for three years while he spent time in Austin. It was constructed in 1891 and is filled with rare books, O. Henry's writing desk, original furniture, photographs, personal belongings and the chairs that brought The Gift of the Magi to life. Enjoy a guided tour and learn about the history of this home and its famous occupant. The house has been moved twice since from its original location at 308 East Fourth Street. It now features a gift shop with books, videotapes and more. The museum offers writing clubs for Austin children and sponsors many local events such as the Victorian Christmas celebration and the "O. Henry Pun-Off." Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
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.
Wally Workman Gallery showcases different artists every month, covering fine art and contemporary art collections. Be sure to check for opening night receptions and preview showings for each new exhibition. The gallery fills up 2 floors with many different artists' works, and has been on the Austin art scene since 1980.
The Shree Raseshwari Radaha Rani Temple, part of the Barsana Ashram, is the largest Hindu temple in North America. This striking building was constructed by Hindu artisans and is part of a 230-acre property designed to reproduce the holy land of Braj in India. The Barsana Dham is the main U.S. center of the International Society of Divine Love and is designed to allow worshipers to explore the true devotional environment of historical Ashrams. This was the first Hindu temple built in Austin and it serves as both a place of worship and a center for traditional Indian cultural activities.
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.
As one of Austin's most important streets, Congress Avenue's entire district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings that frame the street are full of distinctive beauty. The oldest documented building is the Robinson-Rosner Building at 504 Congress (1856). Starting at the Capitol, the street continues south, passing fabulous little shops and eateries. Stop in at Hickory Street for a quick lunch, check out The State Theater or Paramount Theater to see what fantastic production is going on in the evening, or wander into Star bucks for coffee and treats.
Museum of the Weird is a locally-owned museum in the Sixth Street area of Austin. With its inventory of curios and classic horror charm, Museum of the Weird is worth a visit for those in the area. The walk-through museum doesn't take long but it's packed with the unexplained, freaky and supernatural wonders of the world. The museum has their own house acts with live weird and wonderful attractions that will definitely keep your attention. There's a gift shop that is free to enter.
Legend has it that while serving in the Capitol, Sam Houston stopped on the corner of West 10th and Colorado, drove a peg into the ground and proclaimed, "I am a Baptist and right here we will build a Baptist church." While there is little evidence to support this statement, Sam Houston was a member of the church later built at that site, the First Baptist Church. Founded in 1847, the structure was complete by 1857. The Women's Missionary Union was formed during a prayer meeting held in the basement of the church in 1880. The mighty bell, which hung from its steeple, sounded for church meetings, town meetings, fire alarms and during the 1960s, for peace during protest marches. When the church relocated in the 1960s to its present location at Ninth and Trinity, the bell was given a special home on the grounds. The new church features a suspended cross hanging from the arches of the ceiling before a background of fishing nets.