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This is no dusty historical museum. Big and glitzy, it shows off the Lone Star State's history, from when it used to be part of Mexico up to the present, with high-tech interactive exhibits and fun theatrics. A new permanent exhibit on the 1st floor showcases the history – and the recovered hull – of La Belle, a French ship that sank off the Gulf Coast in the 1680s, changing the course of the Texas region's story. Allow a few hours for your visit.
Upstairs, visitors trace the revolutionary years of the Republic of Texas, its rise to statehood and its economic expansion into oil drilling and space exploration; you can even explore Western movies and home-grown music from Bob Wills to Buddy Holly to the Big Bopper.
The museum also houses Austin's first IMAX theater (check website for listings; adult/child four to 17 years $9/7) and the Texas Spirit Theater (adult/child four to 17 years $5/4), both of which offer discounted combination tickets when bought with a museum admission. The Texas Spirit Theater is where you can see The Star of Destiny, a 15-minute special-effects film that's simultaneously high-tech and hokey fun.
Museum parking is $8.