I have visited a number of state capitol buildings and this is certainly one of the better ones out there. Start your visit at the capitol visitor's center, an entire building that is located across the scenic landscaping southeast of the capitol building off of 11th street in the old General Land Office building. We did not park there, but I was told that the first 2 hours are free, or you can park all day for $8. The visitor's center has a really great little museum up on the second floor and admission is free. There are several films playing, historic clothing for kids to dress up, a whole section dedicated to historic land surveying. If you don't have time (or money) to spend the hours necessary to see the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, then this is a nice little substitute.
Take some time to walk around the beautiful grounds and see the sculptures. Picnics are allowed and encouraged! Then access the capitol building at any one of the four entrances, but the south entrance (closest to the visitor's center) is where the free guided tours start, which last about 30 minutes are were both informative and entertaining. Just be aware that tour groups can be quite large so you may want to (politely) work your way to the front of the crowd to hear what is going on. Their are elevators that take you to each level if you need wheelchair/stroller access. You are welcome to do a self-guided tour if you wish and there are pamphlets available for both the inside of the building and the capitol grounds outside. Note that you will have to go through security, so save yourself some hassle and leave any unnecessary metal (coins, belt buckles, etc) at home or in the car.
The building itself is quite impressive with a storied history, as you'd expect from Texas! And the stunning view up into the rotunda and intricate ceilings even kept my toddler mesmerized as we listened to the tour guide. We only spent about an hour there, which was fortunately early in the morning because as we were leaving, it was really filling up fast! If you want to learn even more about Texas history, and have a few hours to spare, take a nice 10-minute stroll down Congress Avenue and visit the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
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