Keeping It Weird… in Austin, Texas

Keeping It Weird… in Austin, Texas

05/03/2024 0 By

By Gary Dickson

Keep Austin Weird’; not exactly a moniker you would think a city would embrace to attract visitors, tourists and new residents; but that’s exactly what Austin, Texas calls itself…and they are mighty proud of it. They are also known as the Live Music Capital of the World…but we’ll get to that later.

Texas! 2nd largest by area to Alaska in the entire US of A, and the 2nd most populated state behind California. I’d never been to Texas before, so a road trip starting in Austin, encompassing Fredericksburg (west of Austin), then on to my final destination of San Antonio, seemed like a good start. After all there is no way you can cover everything in this state in a week.

I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on a stormy Texas evening to be welcomed by my driver from Carter Transportation (top notch – use them if you’re in Austin), who was to drive me to my accommodation for my stay at the flash new Thompson Austin Hotel.

My driver picked up on my accent – assumed I was Australian – but then recanted and apologised profusely when I said I was from New Zealand. He then proceeded to wish me and the All Blacks good luck in the Rugby World Cup.

The Thompson Austin Hotel is located just a few metres from historic 6th Street, where you’ll find some of my new favourite bars and restaurants. A load of these places were recommended to me, but I found it extremely satisfying to simply walk the street and if the music (which most of them are playing every night) grabs you…go in. There’s bound to be a friendly smile, cold beer, cocktails and great food – along with visitors and locals alike to chat with.

I found The Blind Pig and Shakespeare’s pubs very enjoyable with great music daily – and just not at night…during the day too. As for food I loved the service and meals at Iron Curtain (a Mexican grill and Margarita Bar) equally as inviting. All three of these are within 100 metres of Thompson Austin.

When most people think of Austin, visions of things like tasty taco and musicians performing all over town come to mind. But the city is also known for its love of certain winged nocturnal animals that appear at sunset. Those are the Mexican Free-Tailed Bats.

A 1980 renovation transformed the Congress Avenue Bridge into an ideal bat cave, soon attracting migrating Mexican free-tailed bats. Decades later, Austin’s bat numbers have swelled and locals have adopted the beloved creatures as neighbours who happily handle the city’s bug mitigation and provide an amazing nightly show.

Starting in late March and continuing through to early Autumn, North America’s largest urban bat population calls Austin home. The bats begin to wake up and start their night flight around sunset. The first few bats begin to trickle out from under the bridge then. After the sun sets, the show really begins, and hundreds to thousands of bats pour out and cascade East over Lady Bird Lake.

The best time to witness the bats is around sunset, but the nightly show can take place anywhere from 7:30 to 9:45 p.m. It can take as long as 45 minutes for all of the bats to exit the bridge for the night. Plan to arrive early in order to find a good spot.

Austin, like a lot of American cities has also had its range of conflicts and history. You can learn a lot if you join Jim Miles from Walking Tours of Austin. His small group, 75-90 minute tours will not only give you an orientation of the City of Austin but will bring you up to speed on some of its history. His evening haunted tours are also a must do.

Take, for example, the statue of a large woman firing a cannon on Congress Avenue. If you weren’t on a short tour like Jim’s you might simply look at it and keep walking – none the wiser as to why it’s there. The statue is of a woman called Angelina Eberly, an innkeeper and a hero of Austin, during the Texas Archive War.

In December 1842, Sam Houston (the Texas city is named after him) ordered the secret removal of the archives of the Republic to safekeeping in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas (close to today’s city of Houston). Wherever the archives resided was seemingly deemed the capital of what was then the Republic of Texas – as it didn’t officially become the 28th state of the US until 1845.

Mrs. Eberly, realising that the symbols of national government were being removed from the city, fired a six-pound cannon into the General Land Office Building, which aroused the town to what it considered to be theft. The ensuing conflict became known as the Archive War, which was won by the Austinites and preserved Austin as capital of Texas and keeper of the archives.

Austin’s history has been largely tied to state politics and in the late 19th century, the establishment of the University of Texas made Austin a regional center for higher education, as well as a hub for state government.

Back in the present day at my hotel and, thankfully, with no cannon pointing towards my room, there are two fine dining restaurants to avail of…Diner Bar (Ground level) and Wax Myrtle’s (Rooftop with outdoor swimming pool).

For my entrée at Diner I chose Foie and Grits, followed by Fish of the Day with turmeric and ginger sauce…with a nip of chilli. Divine! Best of all I was able to wash them both down with a generous pouring (American style) of a very welcome, home grown Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc. All the way to central Texas and I can enjoy the tastes of home as well.

Years ago when people talked about Austin they would quickly mention the music. But that’s just the beginning of what they’re saying these days. Austin is also home to a wonderful ballet, world-class museums, one-of-a-kind shopping and beautiful outdoor spaces.

With so many things to do in Austin, you can just as easily spend your morning paddling the lake as you can strolling through a celebrated history museum. And it’s okay if you don’t have time to fit it all in, you can just come back and visit again.


1 – Music Scene:

Live music is everywhere in Austin. You’ll find musicians performing all over the city, from the airport terminal to grocery stores. They play outdoors at seasonal live music series and at world-famous festivals. Nightly, you’ll find Austin musicians at clubs, coffeehouses, bars, taquerias, sporting events and concert halls – and with hundreds of live music venues, it can be intimidating knowing where to start.


2 – Attractions:

Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World® but that’s just the beginning. Home to unique attractions and world-class museums, Texas’ capital city has a soundtrack all its own. Spend a day exploring sculpture gardens and historic homes, zipline through the Hill Country or give the kids a hands-on experience at a number of STEM museums.


3 – Outdoors:

Austin is a year-round outdoor enthusiast’s playground, offering everything from scenic trails to crystal-clear lakes. Whether you’re a hiker, biker or boater, you’re sure to find your bliss in Austin. And with nearly 300 days of sunshine each year, being active in Austin comes naturally.


4 – Food & Drink:

Much like the live music scene, Austin takes eating and drinking very seriously. While visiting, you should too.

Austin’s culinary and cocktail scene has exploded over the past couple of years, allowing visitors to delight in a diversity of cuisines and experiences.


5 – Hill Country:

Just west of the city limits, you’ll find the rolling hills and clear, running rivers of the Texas Hill Country where historic towns and more than two dozen vineyards meet a laid-back and soulful lifestyle. Explore stunning waterfalls and caves, browse charming shops, chow down on true Texas barbecue, tour historic landmarks and sample local wines, spirits and brews.


6 – Entertainment Districts:

Explore Austin’s diverse entertainment districts, where you’ll find everything from trendy shops and restaurants to cool live music venues, renowned museums and galleries and scenic outdoor destinations. Get to know each unique neighborhood.


7 – Arts:

Art isn’t just a tourist attraction in Austin. It is part of Austin’s soul and creative spirit. So, tour a gallery, take in a local film, marvel at some yard art that you just happened to pass. However you choose to do it, just make sure to experience as much art as you can during your stay.

8 – Nightlife:

Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World® for a good reason. Whether you’re in the mood to two-step at a dance hall, dance the night away with a local DJ or belly up the bar at a dive where the jukebox plays all night long, you’re sure to have a night to remember.


9 – Shopping:

Whether you’re a luxury label lover or a vintage treasure hunter, Austin has just the place for you to shop ‘til you drop. Spend some time at the sprawling outdoor malls, charming retail districts and abundance of vintage and thrift stores. You won’t come home empty handed.


10 – Tours:

From guided walking tours of downtown and a 3-hour walking tour of Austin’s best eateries, to a family- friendly adventure on one of the nearby lakes, there are so many ways to see the city.


11 – Music Festivals:

Everyone knows that Austin is home to some of the most popular festivals in the country. But now people are starting to buzz about the lesser-known gems that are catching on and well worth the trip. But one thing is always certain, no matter which festival you choose, you’re guaranteed to leave an Austin music fan.


12 – Sports Teams:

Ask any Austinite about their favourite sport and you’ll hear about everything from football and futbol, to roller derby and cycling. It’s no secret that this is a sports town. Don’t miss a sporting event during your visit.


13 – History:

Austin is a city with no shortage of history or legend. In fact, both are very much alive throughout Austin. But as you go exploring, take note that history isn’t just found in our architecture, monuments and museums; it’s in the array of people who have called Austin home. From authors to activists, artists to athletes, musicians to politicians, they were all drawn to this unusual oasis.


14 – Motorsports:

Austin’s Circuit of The Americas (COTA) has turned heads as the first purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the U.S. Race fans from far and near head to the state-of-the-art circuit track for some of the most prestigious racing events in the world each year.


15 – Spa Services:

Relax. Unwind. Find a little ‘me time’ at a spa in Austin. From downtown salons to Hill Country day spas, if it’s rejuvenation you’re looking for in Austin, what you hear is true.


So, there you go, a synopsis on what to do in this great city, and with direct flights from NZ into Houston and Dallas/Forth Worth getting to the Texas capital has never been easier.

Austin, Texas…keeping it weird since forever!




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