Eight must-visit museums and exhibits in Austin, TX

People walking around in rainbow light inside Ellworth Kelly's "Austin."
Ellsworth Kelly's "Austin" is a must-see installation outside of the Blanton Museum of Art. | Photo via @blantonmuseum

Ever wanted to come face-to-face with a nuclear missile, look at never-before-seen photos of Muhammed Ali, or walk in Lady Bird Johnson’s shoes? Well in Austin, you can.

Our city is home to stellar museums across a range of interests, from art and history to just fiddling with things. 

Next time it’s too rainy for your morning run around Zilker Park or you need somewhere to take the kids on their day off, here are the local museums and their specific exhibits — we suggest you check out.

Blanton Museum of Art | Free+

During your visit to the largest art collection in Central Texas, you must set aside time to explore Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin,” a cathedral-like structure outside the museum’s entrance on the University of Texas campus.

Check out: Assembly: New Acquisitions by Contemporary Black Artists 

Bullock Texas State History Museum | $9+

An Austin icon, this Texas-sized museum opened in 2001 as the official history museum for the state. (Pro tip: It’s right across the street from the Blanton, so make it a museum-touring day and hit up both spots back-to-back.)

Check out: Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art

LBJ Presidential Library | Free+

While you’re in the area, you might as well take the short walk from the Bullock Museum to this stately, 50-year-old library named after Central Texas-born former president Lyndon B. Johnson. Permanent exhibitions include a preserved version of Lady Bird Johnson’s office, which she donated to the museum in 1998.

Check out: One Night in Miami: From Photo to Film

A bridge, trees and sculptures in the background at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden.
UMLAUF is a serene setting to take in 100+ sculptures. | Photo via @umlaufsculpture

UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum | Free+

This Barton Springs spot was first purchased in the 1940s by Charles and Angeline Umlauf, who later gifted the property and 168 sculptures to the city. Now, the garden is home to a rotating exhibition of sculptures and other artworks.

Check out: Rebuffed

Thinkery | Free+

While temporarily closed until Jan. 22, this childrens’ museum is a must-visit for families. Your little ones will love learning about + experimenting with kinetics and electricity at the museum’s hands-on exhibits.

Check out: Currents

Texas Military Forces Museum | Free, donations accepted

History junkies will love exploring this museum with 45,000 sqft of military memories, including historic buildings, weapons, and aircraft.

Check out: Great Hall

Harry Ransom Center | Free

Aside from being a major research hub and housing ~1 million books and 42 million manuscripts and artifacts formerly belonging to E.E. Cummings, Robert DeNiro and Jack Kerouac, the Center also displays one of just 20 existing copies of The Gutenberg Bible.

Check out: Women and the Making of Joyce’s Ulysses (Opening Jan. 29)

The Contemporary Austin | Free+

This museum has two locations: The Jones Center downtown and Laguna Gloria, a 14-acre art park on the west side. Meander through sculptures at Laguna Gloria or check out the museum’s current exhibitions featuring Austin artists. (Keep an eye out for a new mural coming to this museum in honor of Daniel Johnston, the “Hi, How Are You” artist, on Jan. 22, his birthday.)

Check out: Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams