Amy Balfour Lonely Planet

Built in 1888 from sunset-red granite, this state capitol is the largest in the US, backing up the ubiquitous claim that everything is bigger in Texas. If nothing else, take a peek at the lovely rotunda – be sure to look up at the dome – and try out the whispering gallery created by its curved ceiling.

Self-guided-tour brochures of the capitol building and grounds are available inside the tour guide office on the ground floor. From here you can also take one of the interesting 40-minute guided tours offered daily (schedules vary; call first or show up and try your luck). Stop by the gift shop for Texas-themed gifts. The green sprawl of the capitol grounds and its monuments are worth a stroll before or after your tour. You'll also find an exhibit about the capitol building in the freestanding visitor center.

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).

Free two-hour parking is available inside the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage, entered from either 12th St or 13th St, off San Jacinto Blvd.