- February 29, 2024

10 Reasons To Spend A Day At The Texas Capitol


The Texas Capitol building is the crown jewel of downtown Austin. All Texans can find enjoyment in the expansive grounds, numerous monuments and striking Italian Renaissance Revival architecture. A pilgrimage to this pink granite building is a must for all Texans, native and newbies alike. And while you shouldn’t need any convincing to make the trip, here are 10 reasons to visit the Texas Capitol.

10.) The Texas Capitol’s ornate hardware will stop you in your tracks

Designed by architect Elijah E. Myers in 1881, the building is ornate and elegant. Carved door-knobs on the heavy exterior doors welcome those arriving, transporting them in time to a European city. Doorknobs, handrails and kick plates are just a few of the hardware pieces that decorate the Texas Capitol. You may think you look silly bending over to stare at the end of a handrail, but we promise you’re not the first person to do that. Texans have been doing it since construction was completed in 1888.

9.) The Texas Capitol Visitors Center has much more than brochures

Yes, you can get brochures at the Capitol Visitors Center, but they also have exhibits. Learn about the history of the Center’s construction which was the original headquarters for the General Land Office in 1854. You can also peruse old photographs, see a miniature replica of the Capitol’s dome, examine materials that make up the Capitol building and much more.

Right now, you can see a sword dating back to the days of the Republic of Texas. It was owned by Ashbel Smith who served as surgeon general of the Republic of Texas Army. How cool is that!?

8.) Free Texas Capitol tours start every half hour

The Texas State Preservation Board tour guides conduct Capitol tours every day of the year except Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Tours depart from the South Foyer roughly every 30 to 45 minutes and last for 30 minutes. Weekdays, tours run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On Saturdays, tours go from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Sundays, tours are scheduled from noon to 3:30 p.m. Tours are completely free, and you’re able to take photographs all along the way.

These tours are a perfect way to orient yourself to the building. Plus, you will hit the highlights of the building and will be able to make mental notes about which parts to revisit later that day.

7.) The outdoor rotunda is almost as cool as the one inside

Everyone knows about the Capitol’s rotunda. The circular center chamber of the Capitol sits beneath a double-walled dome with inner wall peaking at 218 feet above the floor. The rotunda is a common feature among historic government buildings. But did you know there’s another one on the Capitol grounds?

The Capitol Extension is an underground building directly north of the Capitol beneath the northern grounds. Windows allow abundant natural light to fill the Extension’s central corridor and arterial hallways. The outdoor rotunda sits at the middle of the central corridor. If you look straight up, you’ll see nothing but the beautiful Texas sky.

6.) Nearby restaurants are Austin classics

Since you’re already taking in one of Austin’s most visited landmarks, you might as well eat some food you can only get in Austin. Texas Chili Parlor is a famous dive where you can sample a wide variety of chili recipes and wash them down with a Mad Dog Margarita. You’ve heard about flights of beer and wine? Well, have you tried flights of chili?

Scholz Garten is a German restaurant with good barbecue as well. And on days when the Texas Longhorn football team plays at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, they’re packed with fans getting their fill of beer and heavy food.

5.) The Texas Capitol’s architecture is awe inspiring

Both inside and out, the Texas Capitol is beautiful. The grandness and the attention to detail combine to make a building attractive when beheld as a whole and when inspected in parts. It seems as though nothing escaped the attention of Detroit architect Elijah E. Myers in 1881.

4.) The Cloak Room is where the movers and shakers take their drinks

If you hang around with people who make the Texas Capitol their workplace, you’re bound to hear stories about happenings in The Cloak Room — deals negotiated, words exchanged in anger, legislative victories celebrated and the like. This bar adjacent to the Capitol grounds’ western edge is where legislators, staffers and lobbyists go after a long day of business. Even though the Texas legislative session only lasts for 140 days every other year, this place is so full of history, it’s worth a stop any night.

3.) The Bullock Museum is a short walk away

After you’re done walking through the Texas Capitol, get ready to soak up more history at the Bullock Museum. Texas’s official state history museum has exhibit after exhibit of wonders that will make you proud to be a Texan. And it’s just three blocks north of the Capitol grounds, an easy walk if you’ve taken the Capitol’s free tour!

2.) The immaculate grounds are filled with monuments

Speaking of the Capitol grounds, this 22-acre expanse is filled with monuments waiting for your discovery. More than 20 monuments are scattered about the grounds. They honor a wide range of people and events including peace officers, disabled veterans, Texas pioneer women and heroes of the Alamo-just to name a few. The latest addition is a monument to African-American history unveiled in 2016.

1.) Whisper across the rotunda to your friends

If you stand in the across the Capitol’s rotunda from your friend and speak in a normal voice, an acoustic phenomenon amplifies your voice so that it can be heard across the room. The curved ceiling and walls increase your sound enabling it to carry so far. Testing this phenomenon is fun for adults and kids alike!

While you’re throwing your voice, make sure to examine the floor. Underneath your shoes you’ll find the six seals of the sovereign nations that have governed Texas: the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the United Mexican States, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

Feature photo by Flickr user Stuart Seeger, creative commons licensed.