Have you ever wondered what’s inside the big white building on the corner of the Capitol grounds? It houses the Capitol Visitors Center and it is filled with kid-friendly activities and exhibits!
I have to admit that before I started researching for the book, I thought the Capitol Visitors Center was for . . . well, visitors to Austin and maybe even just the grown-up kind. Boy, was I wrong!
When I visited, I was greeted by a museum-full of students on a field trip from a nearby school. My kids jumped right in and loved dressing up like cowboys and ranchers, exploring the secret staircase, peering through telescopes to see the Goddess that tops the Capitol building, and playing on the exhibit computers at star-shaped kiosks. There was something new to discover at every turn.
Here’s the entry from Exploring Austin with Kids:
Originally the Texas General Land Office, pristinely restored, this 3-story white building located on the edge of the Capitol grounds houses several interactive, hands-on exhibits as well as a tourist information desk and gift shop. It’s a great place for kids (and adults) to learn about Texas history.
Upon entering, begin your tour with a quick left into the O. Henry Room to pick up old-timey telephones and listen to the life of the famous short story writer who also worked as a draftsman in the building. The fun, twisting staircase just outside this room leads to the second floor with several exhibit spaces and short film showings. In the main room, children can test their Texas knowledge at one of the star-shaped computer kiosks, dress like a cowboy or cowgirl to learn about the role of ranching in the state’s history, and explore the construction of the Capitol building. A favorite among young visitors is The Hero’s Reward exhibit. Here, kids can walk through a covered wagon and learn about Texas’ road from a republic to statehood, peer through telescopes to get a closer glimpse of the Goddess of Liberty atop the Capitol building, and visit recreated scenes of early settler life.
Tours are self-guided with docents on hand to answer questions. Large groups can also arrange guided field trips. While you’re there, be sure to pack a picnic to enjoy on the Capitol lawn.
Location: 112 E. 11th St. (on the southeast end of the Capitol grounds)
Parking: Two hours of free public parking are available at the Visitor Parking Garage (barring any special events). Enter from either 12th or 13th Sts. between San Jacinto Blvd. and Trinity St. Meter parking is also available along surrounding streets.
Phone: (512) 305-8400
Mon. – Sat. 9 am – 5 pm; Sun. noon – 5 pm
Come celebrate the first day of summer at the Capitol! (It's nice and air-conditioned in the Visitors Center after exploring the grounds too.)