Museums

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatnot/434650476/sizes/o/
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of the ACVB

Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own distinct characteristics, style, and of course, content. Museum subjects vary greatly from city to city, and can range from firefighter's museums to fine art, to sports. If you need help making a selection, our 10Best list highlights the top spots to visit in Austin.

10. LBJ Presidential Library

This facility – housed in a contemporary, ten-story, travertine-clad structure – is a virtual treasure trove of papers and memorabilia from the often flamboyant and much beloved former president's life. Exhibits include a replica of the Oval Office from LBJ's era, along with gifts of state received by him, displays from his boyhood, and a tribute to Mrs. Johnson's humanitarian and environmental works.

9. Austin Children's Museum
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatnot/434650476/sizes/o/

If you have kids to entertain, don't miss this museum. Exhibits are slyly educational and lots of fun. Austin Kiddie Limits, for example, lets your rising rocker or budding crooner experience the thrill of live performance, while Funstruction Zone encourages problem-solving and hones math skills. The Japan and Nature exhibit offers an impressive look at the country through a child's eyes, and Creation Station stimulates creativity with a variety of multi-media art projects. Rising Star Ranch, geared for the under-two set, includes pint-sized versions of a ranch house and barn.

8. 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.

7. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

This fascinating center features outstanding selections of modern American paintings, including the Mari and James A. Michener Collection of 20th Century Art. It also showcases a Gutenberg Bible, an impressive photography archive (including the first photograph ever produced), and a recreation of the study in which "Perry Mason" author, Erle Stanley Gardner, wrote.

6. Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum

The outdoor garden portion of this complex displays 62 of sculptor Charles Umlauf's works in bronze and cast-stone. The museum, constructed in 1991, contains more than 200 additional pieces. The sculptor also worked in wood, marble, and terra cotta during his career and chose as his subject matter mythology, animals, religion, the human figure, and domestic groupings.

5. Mexic-Arte Museum

Offering a plethora of cultural programs and art exhibitions showcasing the work of Latino and Mexican artists, this downtown museum has become a vital part of the community. In the museum's main gallery, traveling exhibitions and shows curated in-house are both on display, and the back gallery features works by emerging artists not previously shown in Austin. Past exhibitions have included a celebration of El Día de los Muertos and a show of textile works from Oaxaca.

4. Blanton Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of the ACVB

The Blanton ranks as the nation's largest university art museum, and its outstanding permanent collection – the largest in Central Texas – is comprised of more than 17,000 pieces, from priceless antiquities to more modern works. Strong holdings of American, Latin American, and European art, along with prints and drawings, comprise the backbone of the collection, which is also bolstered by new acquisitions of contemporary works.

3. Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria
Photo courtesy of Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria

Housed in a Mediterranean-style villa built in 1916 and surrounded by lush gardens, this branch of AMOA features art by diverse 20th-century artists from Austin and around the world. Among its permanent holdings are works by Robert Rauschenberg, Chuck Close, and Ed Ruscha. Past exhibits have included the presence of modernism in Texas art (traditionally a stronghold of naturalism), the art of Dr. Seuss, and the photography of Annie Leibovitz. The museum also has a downtown branch.

2. Elisabet Ney Museum

This museum is housed in Ney's beautiful studio, a picturesque, castle-like stone structure. The famous sculptor, a charismatic woman devoted to the transformative effects of art and beauty, fashioned the likenesses of European kings and philosphers along with those of notable Texas frontiersmen. Today, fifty portrait busts and full-figure statues are on display.

1. Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
Photo courtesy of Jordan S Hatcher

The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is one of the most visited museums in Austin, TX. Located in the heart of downtown, this educational outlet features three floors full of interactive exhibits detailing the state's history through objects, media programs and recreated environments. Founded as a non-collecting institution, the museum's permanent collection and seasonal displays truly bring the "Story of Texas" to life. The facility also houses the only IMAX theatre in Austin.