The Best Museums in Austin, Texas

Aerial panorama of downtown Austin and Texas State Capitol from University of Texas Main Building Tower, Austin, Texas, USA.
Aerial panorama of downtown Austin and Texas State Capitol from University of Texas Main Building Tower, Austin, Texas, USA. | © amadeustx / Shutterstock
Ross Walker

In addition to housing prestigious works of art, Austin’s museums tell its story. Taken together, they embody the city’s unofficial slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” which celebrates the city’s eclecticism and quirky spirit.

Go to an intriguing exhibit at the Mexic-Arte Museum

As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to Mexican and Latin American art, as well as the growing Mexican-American art movement. The space itself is only home to a few permanent collections because Mexic-Arte mainly hosts traveling exhibitions. From full-size Day of the Dead sculptures to interactive art, the exhibits at Mexic-Arte Museum are inspired and original. Also, make sure to take a gander at the walls of the museum itself. To keep things fresh, local artists like El Federico paint murals on the walls for everyone to enjoy free of charge.

Step into the past at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Austin is now a city at the forefront of technology, but things used to be very different here. If you’re looking for an insight into the region’s past, take a trip to the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The Bullock is a great place to bring kids, as many exhibits feature live action and storytelling, not to mention the IMAX theater.

Discover the Harry Ransom Center’s literary treasures

The Harry Ransom Center is for the bookworms visiting Austin. It holds one of the largest archives of original manuscripts and other historical documents, which can be viewed in the museum’s upstairs Reading Room. However, if you’re only looking for an engaging diversion and a little bit of air conditioning, don’t pass up this campus museum. With exhibits that include The First Photograph, the actual oldest surviving photograph taken in 1826 in France, and a first edition of the Gutenberg King James Bible, you can only imagine what other treasures are housed in this mid-century structure. Make sure to visit the center’s free, rotating exhibitions throughout the year.

Take a tour of the Blanton Museum of Art

On the University of Texas at Austin campus, and just a short walk from the Harry Ransom Center, is one of the most prominent university art museums in the United States: the Blanton Museum of Art. It features mostly American art, though they have European, Ancient and Latin American collections on display. The Blanton typically has five or six special exhibits, ranging from the American Gothic period to landscapes of the American West. A favorite piece to see is Teresita Fernández’s permanent wall installation, Stacked Waters located on the first floor. The visually appealing museum holds the largest public collection in Central Texas. Tours of the collections are available (check the website for specific times). You can also look at the website for new or upcoming exhibitions. If you love art, check out our guide to the best art galleries in Austin.

Stroll through the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum

Going to the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden feels more like taking a lazy stroll through a beautiful forest than visiting a world-class museum. Originally the home of Charles Umlauf, this suburban gem was donated to the City of Austin, along with 168 of Umlauf’s original sculptures, to encourage art education and sculpture appreciation. Today there are works from other contemporary artists that complement Umlauf’s sculptures, creating a picturesque landscape that plunges you into a world of modern three-dimensional art. UMLAUF hosts several special weekend events, including CRAFT, a program that combines craft cocktails and local art.

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