When Archer M. Huntington donated 4,000 acres of land to The University of Texas at Austin, it was no surprise that the husband to renowned sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington stipulated it be used to support an art museum. Today, The Blanton Museum of Art—named Best Museum in the Austin Chronicle's 2012 Best of Austin Readers' Poll—honors Archer's request by providing access to more than 17,000 works and a variety of rotating exhibitions. The museum's collection of prints, paintings, and sculptures comprises more than 4,000 pieces from America and 1,800 from Latin America, and it even includes the Suida-Manning Collection—a group of 230 paintings and 400 drawings by Baroque and Renaissance masters that was much sought after by other museums, according to Frommer's. With these pieces as backdrop, the museum hosts Third Thursday events such as artist talks and Yoga in the Galleries, the latter of which finds instructors twisting sculptures into poses that will be easier on their spines.
Steve Busti wasn't like the other children in his classroom. While his peers were playing tag and collecting baseball cards, Steve was poring over books on Bermuda Triangle theories and UFOs. He frequented dime museums and sideshow carnivals, fascinated by the strange creatures and characters therein. As Steve grew older, he began to build a collection of oddities—trinkets he picked up from sideshows, props from movie sets, and curiosities he stumbled upon. So when he realized there was plenty of extra room in the back of the novelty shop he owned with his wife, Steve was inspired to open a museum—a shrine to all things odd, unnatural, and eerie.
Today, the Museum of the Weird is a treasure trove of peculiar exhibits, lauded by reporters from The Austin Chronicle as "a remarkable collision of genre film ephemera." Steve's giant pet lizards scuttle about the space, surprising guests who are busy examining bigfoot exhibits or trying to shake an uncomfortable feeling that they recognize one of the shrunken heads. The entire scene is watched over by lifelike wax figures of Dracula and The Wolf Man, as well as a glowering bust of King Kong. After visits, guests pop into Steve and his wife Veronica's shop—Lucky Lizards Curios & Gifts—to peruse an equally unusual collection of action figures, vintage items, and locally made wares.
The Official Mexican and Mexican American Fine Art Museum of Texas, the Mexic-Arte Museum houses a permanent collection and rotating exhibits that display the creative inclinations of Mexican, Latino, and Latin-American artists, contemporary and classic alike. Membership to this cultural collective allows guests to wander the galleries and appreciate the rotating displays for the duration of one year; they also receive free admission to select events, invitations to Member Preview receptions, and a 10% discount on purchases at the museum store, ideal for finding gifts for beloved artist friends and temporally displaced, artistically inclined historical figures.
The tale of the Austin Children's Museum begins in 1983, when a band of parents and teachers started setting up educational exhibits and children's activities throughout the city. This “museum without walls” stretched into schools, parks, and malls, delighting children and families with a sense of whimsy and a place where play was rewarded. In the years that followed, the museum shed its nomadic beginnings and found a permanent home inside the pleasant green walls of the Dell Discovery Center. Firmly rooted, its exhibits have entertained and enlightened more than 800,000 youngsters and their parents while earning praise from the writers of Little Austinite.
Today, the sprawling 12,500-square-foot facility is a kaleidoscope of color and lights, where whippersnappers play with giant building blocks, cobble recycled materials into crafts, and marvel at golf balls as they soar through loops and shoots. Others explore the miniature Global City, where they take on roles such as veterinarians in the pet clinic, cooks in the diner, or stray raccoons hiding in the grocery store.
Throughout the week, a team of educators leads Discovery Time, guiding lads and lasses through kid-friendly science experiments that launch paper helicopters and make slime. The museum also hosts Storytime, where grownups read playful stories aloud to encourage creativity and instill a love of literature in young readers.
For three days in November, the Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas Market brings Olde World Christmas spirit to New Braunfels. Vendors set up cheery red and green booths in the German-style holiday market, where they sell homemade wares such as aromatic roasted nuts, unique toys, vintage cameos, and homemade toffee. Nearby, authors sit ready to discuss their novels or sing their favorite Christmas carols at the on-site book fair and a jolly Santa eats breakfast with kids of all ages. To keep guests warm during the event, Sophie's Cafe serves up warm mugs of soup paired with sandwiches or tempting desserts.
Proceeds from the event benefit The Sophienburg Museum and Archives, which serves as the hub for immigration ship logs, photos, and documents of the first German Americans who found their way to Texas.
The percussive sounds of water drums and rattling gourds echo across limestone bluffs and the grassy banks of a meandering creek. A cedar-post fence creaks in the breeze. An elegant Victorian farmhouse towers over livestock corrals. Pioneer Farms' themed history sites sprawl across 90 wooded acres, immersing visitors of all ages in exhibits and living demonstrations of Texas history. The grounds also serve as a haven for historic 1800s buildings, many of which were transplanted from their original plots throughout the state and reconstructed with rubber cement.
Offering a snapshot of central Texas's Native American population, an authentic Tonkawa encampment dating back to 1841 welcomes guests to visit tepees and dance to tribal music under a centuries-old oak tree. An 1873 Texian farm, which includes a log-and-board cabin on its original site, provides livestock care and tractor-throwing demonstrations, and the restored rural village of Sprinkle Corner introduces visitors to carpenters, blacksmiths, a general store, and a 19th-century stagecoach house from which more than 12 horse-drawn wagons convey passengers across the farm throughout the day. Wild animals raise their heads above lush grasses near Walnut Creek, and the Scarborough Barn allows children to meet their favorite farm animals. Visitors can further connect to history and nature through the farm's many programs and classes, including workshops focused on traditional blacksmithing, cooking in the buildings' original kitchens, and basic photo red-eye correction using squid ink.