Historic Sites

7. Treaty Oak
Photo courtesy of rutlo

Here's another sad-yet-inspiring Texas tale. This majestic oak, listed in the Hall of Fame of Forestry, is estimated to be between 500 and 600 years old. At one time, it stood three stories high with limbs spanning more than a half acre, but in 1989, a man (later sentenced to nine years in prison) poisoned the mighty tree, which now stands about a third of its original size. It takes its name from a local legend that claims that Stephen F. Austin and Indian leaders signed a treaty beneath its grand canopy. No trip to Austin is complete without paying a visit to this venerable survivor.

6. Governor's Mansion

[Tours have been discontinued due to a June 2008 fire, and renovations are expected to extend till at least the fall of 2011; please call for more information.] Built around 1856, this Greek Revival mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The grand structure, home to Texas governors since its construction, boasts 29-foot fluted columns with Ionic capitals, and its interior is filled with priceless art and antiques. Entertaining tours afford a behind-the-scenes look at the history of Texas politics. Advance reservations and a photo ID are required.

5. The Tower
Photo courtesy of StartAgain

[Tours of the tower have are temporarily suspended until Spring 2011 while the Tower undergoes renovations.] This 307-foot Spanish Renaissance landmark at the heart of campus has four clock faces (each measuring 12 feet in diameter) and chimes on the quarter-hour and hour. After some three decades and following renovations, the Tower's observation deck has been reopened to visitors who want to catch a terrific glimpse of Austin. Previously, the Tower had been closed to thwart attempted suicides and out of respect for those people who were killed by a Tower-ensconced sniper in 1966. Barriers and metal detectors are now installed.

4. Paramount and State Theatres

The historic State and Paramount Theaters merged in 2000, forming the Austin Theatre Alliance. The Paramount shows films in addition to staging plays and concerts, while the State features drama, dance, comedy, and music productions. Both venues have interesting histories and beautiful period details that can be best appreciated by attending a performance.

3. O. Henry Museum

Housed in this museum is memorabilia relating to short-story writer William Sydney Porter, who lived in Austin and took the nom de plume, O. Henry. The cottage in which Porter lived appears much as it did during the time he spent here from 1893 to 1895. Writing workshops are offered regularly for folks who want to hone or develop their creative skills. N.B. Guests to the home are asked to wear flat, soft-soled shoes to protect the interior.

2. Texas State Capitol
Photo courtesy of JD Hancock

A grand, red-granite edifice befitting the Lone Star state, this building was completed in 1888 in Renaissance Revival style. The nation's largest state capitol, Austin's landmark can be seen from throughout the city, and its visual prominence is protected by law. Named to the National Register of Historic Places, the structure also offers lovely grounds and, thanks to major expansions in 1993, still houses a host of government offices. The Texas Capitol Visitors Center is located on the grounds at 112 E 11th Street in a castle-like building dating to 1857.

1. Texas State Cemetery
Photo courtesy of Choose_Freewill

This 22-acre cemetery, a popular place to visit, offers a glimpse into the state's colorful history. Many famous Texas sons and daughters have been laid to rest here, including former Governor John Connelly, Barbara Jordan, and Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas. Beautifully landscaped and shaded, it's an interesting, serene place in which to spend an hour or two. To make reservations for a guided tour, call 512-463-6600.