Austin, Texas is one of the fastest growing cities in the entire U.S., according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. With Austin being home to numerous colleges and universities, and being a major tech center, it’s grown into a popular place for visitors and business people alike. While Austin features some things you’d expect to find in Texas like great BBQ and plenty of southern hospitality, it also features numerous places to catch live music and numerous watering holes to cool off in.
How it Happened
The history of this revitalization is a bit more recent than other cities. Downtown Austin has always been known for great entertainment, and plenty of places to grab a drink or something to eat. During the ’90s, city officials saw a need to reinvent themselves in the face of retailers leaving, despite the presence of students of the University of Texas and the government. The Downtown Austin Alliance was formed and became instrumental in the city’s success today. They worked to help construct pedestrian and bicycle-friendly roadways/walkways, worked with the Austin Police Department to create a safe downtown environment, and helped turn Congress Avenue into one of the best streets in all of Texas.
There’s a reason why “Keep Austin Weird” is the city’s slogan. If you’re in town between March and November, hang around the Congress Bridge. It’s home to one of the largest bat colonies in North America. Hundreds of Mexican free-tailed bats take flight each night. If bats don’t sound appealing, know that they actually help to keep mosquito, cricket, moth, and grasshopper populations down.
For something off the beaten path, schedule a time to see the Cathedral of Junk on Lareina Drive. When you pull up, you’ll be in a residential neighborhood and notice what looks like an abandoned lot with a brick mailbox that’s seen better days. Once you enter, you’ll see various things like vintage signs, automotive parts, and some other unidentified objects wrapped around vegetation. You can even bring your own piece to add to the exhibit if you wish.
Austin is most well-known for the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival every March. It combines film, music, tech, and the latest interactive exhibits and awards some of the most innovative people in each industry. Second to that is the Austin City Limits Music Festival in the fall. This year’s festival features big names like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jay-Z, along with up-and-coming bands like First Aid Kit and The Revivalists. Here’s a list of some other festivals to check out:
Lone Star Jam – Local Texas Country acts, takes place every May
Urban Music Festival – R&B, Jazz, and Gospel, takes place in April
Levitation – Indie festival (formerly Austin Psych Fest), takes place in April or May
Old Settlers Music Festival – Americana, Bluegrass, and Blues, takes place every April