Saturday, September 17, 2011—Austin, Texas

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

DSC00479I know that I’ve mentioned clean cities, universities, and attractions in other blogs. This may seem strange but we have been to a few places where cleanliness has stood out so much that it was the first thing we noticed. Of these places, Austin, Texas, wins the award for the cleanest of the clean!

We enjoyed everything about Austin. What started out as a somewhat cloudy day turned out to be a beautiful, spring-like day in the 50s. Every now and then we would see a tree still in full color to remind us that it is technically fall. We spent as much time outside as we could.

DSC00482We know that we won’t be able to see everything we would like as we travel the United States. We’ve been in seven states and feel like while we’ve seen some amazing things, we are only scratching the surface. Our goals for each state help us choose which places to visit. The state capitals, National Parks, Presidential Libraries, and major historical highlights of each state top the list.

The Texas State Capitol is amazing! It is very big and is somewhat different that other capitol buildings we’ve visited. Our first stop was the very well done Capitol Visitor Center. It has exhibits on different aspects of the capitol building and Texas history. I was very pleased when we saw exhibits on the very sections of history we had read about last week in school. 

Self-guided tours of the grounds and capitol building are offered but we chose to take a guided tour that gave highlights of the origins of some Texan Christmas traditions. I was a little skeptical about the Christmas part. I wondered what could be so special about Texas Christmas traditions over any other state. It turned out to be very interesting. When we think of Texas, we think of a strong Mexican influence. Our guide and exhibits along the way, pointed out that Texas also had a strong European influence as well. It was interesting to learn how each group had a part in framing Texas Christmas traditions.

Our tour also included a tour of the Senate Chamber, The House Chamber, Rotunda, and Foyer. It was neat to find out that the capitol was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers from Michigan who also designed the State Capitol in Lansing. His original design included skylights in both chambers. The Texas sun made it impossible for the politicians to meet so a roof had to be put over the skylights. We could have taken elevators up to the beautiful Chambers but we choose to take the stairs with their old fashioned banisters. Texans are proud of their history and they show it through the many paintings, statutes, and décor that are found throughout the capitol.

DSC00493The grounds around the building are worth a visit in and of themselves. There are several government buildings that border the manicured lawns and gardens. Statues tell of the bravery and grit of several aspects of Texan history. We were delighted to see Santa ride up to the Capitol on a horse and a wedding party using the beautiful grounds as a backdrop to their special day. None of us wanted to leave so we took the long way to the parking garage.

DSC00503We drove by the University of Texas and Memorial Stadium on the way to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. I highly recommend touring this very fascinating place. Presidential libraries and museums are not only about that particular president but about life in the White House and a history of the time in which that president served. They deal with a very small period of American history in great detail. You not only learn about what that man did as president but get a glimpse into his personal life as well. We found the exhibits that dealt with Lady Bird Johnson, the Kennedy assassination, and a very 60ish oval office to be especially interesting. There is also an actual moon rock and presidential portraits of every president and first lady from Washington to Clinton. If you visit, make sure you leave time to watch the movie on LBJ’s life. 

Before leaving Austin, we drove by the Governor’s Mansion which is under construction due to a very extensive fire in 2008. We couldn’t see very much of it but we did learn quite a bit about it at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Austin, Texas, is worth a visit. There’s so much history and beauty to this great city. We’ve loved Texas and feel like Austin was the icing on the cake!

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