Texas State Capitol

Historic Building in Downtown

Image by Amy Balfour Lonely Planet

Completed in 1888 using sunset-red granite, Texas’ state capitol is the largest in the US, backing up the familiar claim that everything’s bigger hereabouts. Drop in even if only to take a peek at the lovely rotunda – look up at the dome – and try out the whispering gallery created by its curved ceiling.

Self-guided-tour brochures for both building and grounds can be picked up from a ground-floor office that’s also the starting point for interesting 40-minute guided tours (daily, schedules vary). The green sprawl of the capitol grounds and its monuments (which controversially still include a Confederate monument) are worth a stroll. The freestanding visitor center holds an exhibit about the capitol building, while the gift shop sells Texas-themed souvenirs.

Want to see government in action? Take a seat in the 3rd-floor visitors balconies overlooking the House of Representatives and Senate chamber galleries, which are open to the public when the state legislature is in session (odd-numbered years from mid-January through May or June).

There’s free two-hour parking in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage, entered from either 12th St or 13th St, off San Jacinto Blvd.