Do512 Family is happy to announce a new series we have cooked up with the lovely people from Bright Horizons, a leading provider of early education and preschool, employer-sponsored childcare, back-up care, educational advisory services and other work/life solutions. They have five locations in the Austin metro area, including a brand new center in Round Rock. Bright Horizons encourages families to get out and learn together, so we came up with the Learning in Austin Series, which will feature places and events in Austin where you and your kids can learn and grow!
A visit to the Texas State Capitol Building offers not only a great opportunity to get a crash course on the inner workings of Texas politics, it also provides a close-up look at the pink granite structure during an architectural tour of one of the most distinct buildings in Texas. The Capitol sits on wonderful park-like grounds that demand you relax on the grass for some people watching. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness a wedding party posing for photos.
The Visitors Center is the first thing you’ll encounter when you enter the Capitol. It contains a gift shop and many exhibits, including photos, videos and artifacts. There are travel counselors from the Texas Department of Transportation there who can provide free maps, literature, and information about destinations around Texas.
While the Visitors Center can give you plenty of background on state history, you should also be sure to explore the Capitol itself. Self-guided tours of the grounds and Capitol building are available during business hours. If you’d rather be shown around, there are free daily tours of the Capitol, which teach you about the building, the Texas legislature, and some Texas history. Tours last about 45 minutes; they start in the Main Foyer and end in the Capitol Extension building.
Free Capitol tours are available during these times:
Monday-Friday: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Saturday: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Sunday: Noon – 3:30 pm
For those with very young children, don’t shy away from taking them to the Capitol for a visit. My son was three years old his first visit, and still very much a mini version of the Tasmanian Devil from those Warner Brothers cartoons– not the best candidate for a calm tour of the Capitol Building. His favorite part of the day was likely getting an up close look at the monuments on the grounds, chasing squirrels around and running up the grassy hills just to roll down them again.
When he was four he enjoyed all the same running around on the lawn, but was most intrigued by the lady on top of the building–The Goddess of Liberty. He was so full of questions about the six flags built into the Capitol and thought the lady on top was the Statue of Liberty. His follow-up response to my inability to answer his questions to his satisfaction was to ask me to Google the lady and the flags, which I did. We actually never set foot inside the building (fortunately for everyone inside), but we both ended up learning quite a lot about the six flags and The Goddess of Liberty. We also scored and got to watch a “princess” bride and groom pose for pictures. If you’re interested, you should check out the site we found which gives extremely succinct summaries about the six flags and not only The Goddess of Liberty, but all the female statues that top all our state capitol buildings here.
Parking at the Capitol
There are many street parking meters available around the Capitol area. There is also the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto (between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th Streets). For the first two hours, parking is free; after that, it costs 75 cents for every 30 minutes (up to $6).