One of Austin’s most distinctive landmarks, the striking State Capitol was built in 1988 from sunset-pink Texas granite. You can take one of the 45-minute guided tours offered daily (schedules vary; call first or show up and try your luck) starting from the tour guide office on the ground floor. Or, grab a brochure and take a self-guided tour at your leisure. If you do nothing else, go inside and join the other people staring up at the lovely rotunda, the curved ceilings of which create a whispering gallery that lets you hear the slightest noise from all the way across the room.
Want to see government in action? Take a seat in the third-floor visitors balconies overlooking the House of Representatives and Senate chamber galleries. They’re open to the public when the state legislature is in session (from the 2nd Tuesday of January through May or June, but only of every odd-numbered year). Free two-hour parking is available inside the Capitol Visitors Parking garage, which you can enter from either 12th St or 13th St.