The capital of Texas, Austin is quintessentially Texas, yet somehow continues to buck stereotypes of the Lone Star State. Called the “Live Music Capital of the World” it’s more hipster than hillbilly, more cool than cowboy, and unabashedly, delightfully weird. In fact, with a simple look around town you’ll see that pledge – to “keep Austin weird” – on everything from t-shirts to bumper stickers. What makes Austin so weird? In mostly conservative Texas, it’s become a haven for nonconformists, artists and the socially and culturally progressive, a combination that gives the city its unique appeal.
A short drive from the white dome of the capitol building, expansive green spaces offer hiking and biking trails and the refreshing Barton Springs, a spring-fed pool in Zilker Park. Austin boasts more than 800 live music venues playing everything from country and folk to hip-hop and hard rock, and the dining scene is equally diverse, with taco stands and down-home barbecue joints just as popular as upscale restaurants serving cuisine that ranges from New American to Vietnamese. The city also play host to several large events throughout the year: the biggest party of the year is South by Southwest, when more than 1000 musicians perform at venues around the city for four days. There’s also the Austin Wine Festival, the Texas Book Festival, and perhaps the most typically Austin event of all, Eeyore’s Birthday, a festival to celebrate that perpetually depressed donkey of the Winnie the Pooh books.
One of the most unique activities in Austin is to go to see the nightly (from March to November) exodus of the 1.5 million bats that nest under the Congress Avenue Bridge. As twilight falls, hundreds of people gather to watch the swarming black cloud emerge from under the bridge and disappear into the fading light.