Austin braces for the political event known as the Texas legislative session already in it's 3rd week. Office holders, staff, lobbyists and political observers descend upon the city for a 140 day session that happens once every two years. If you’re living in or around Austin, this is a great time to explore this historical building. The Capitol is open to the public and everyone can participate in the fun that is the 83rd Texas Legislative Session! Here are some tips that will make your trip to the Texas Capitol most enjoyable:
In order to get the most out of the trip, check to see who represents you. You can easily access that information here. In addition, you may want to visit the office once you arrive. Most offices have legislative gift bags and a few have refreshments for their constituents.
The mobile website by the Texas Legislature is a must, www.txlegis.com. Be sure to bookmark the site to your Blackberry, iPhone, or Windows Mobile device. It essentially acts like a multipurpose application, where one is able to find out Session Times, Upcoming Meetings, a searchable database of bills, calendars and everything that is the Texas Legislature. It is also iPad friendly.
Be sure to check Capitol Metro for bus and rail schedules, public transportation is a great way to visit the building. There is metered parking along the street at the capitol, but it is sure to be occupied during the legislative session. Your best bet is to use the capitol visitor’s parking garage.
Arrive at least 15 minutes in advance for security checks. Be prepared to take off your belt and empty out your pockets, unlike airports there is no security pat downs or removal of shoes.
You will no doubt see people going through other entrances and passing through security with impunity. In order to be one of these VIPs, you must show your Capitol Badge, Concealed Handgun License, or $100 Capital Access Pass. If you have the latter, join lobbyists, members of the press, and other movers and shakers as you get waved passed through security.
Once you have gained access, what to do next?
The Capitol Information and Guide Service is located in the restored Treasurer's Business Office on the first floor of the Capitol. Free Capitol tours are conducted daily beginning in the Capitol South Foyer and concluding in the Capitol Extension. This tour features the Capitol, Texas history, and the Texas legislature.
Third-floor access to both the House and Senate galleries are open to the public and are on a first come, first served, basis. There is no food, drinks or photography allowed.
If you are looking to eat be sure to mosey on over to the Capitol Grill. The establishment updates the menu online, and it is located in the Capitol Extension, Room E1.002. It’s a great place to grab a fountain drink, coffee, vitamin water or a bite to eat.
The gift shop is located in the extension, and if you’re looking for Texas flags or Texas cufflinks this is the place for you.
Take a tour, visit your representative, grab a bite to eat, buy a souvenir, and watch the legislature in action during your visit. We hope you enjoy your time at the Texas Capitol!
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