We’re considered the Live Music Capital of the World. The saying “Keep Austin Weird” is known throughout the country. But this barely scratches the surface of all the wild, weird, and wonderful aspects of our city.
As we close out 2015, we take time to reflect on things that make every Austinite proud. We at CultureMap turned to our staff and contributors in an effort to tap into what — in our humble opinion — makes Austin the greatest city on earth.
Here are 17 things that make every Austinite proud.
Music, music everywhere
Duh. We're the Live Music Capital of the World, and we have incredible local talent playing every night of the week — some days there are literally hundreds of options to choose from for where to see live music. We’re home to Austin City Limits TV and a handful of nonprofits working to keep our musicians healthy and happy like HAAM, SIMS, and Black Fret. We love intimate music venues Continental Club, Elephant Room, Hole in the Wall, and Historic Victory Grill. And we can't forget about the musicians who represent Austin like Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Ciara, and Gary Clark Jr.
The "weird" factor
We’re the blue dot in a big red state, the blue island in a sea of red, the lone blueberry in a strawberry dessert. And we are damn proud of it too.
There’s unique fashion found around town, and the cathedral of junk is a top destination. You can play minigolf under a giant green dinosaur on South Lamar Boulevard, and there’s Chicken Shit Bingo every Sunday evening at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. We boast one of the coolest costume stores (Lucy’s in Disguise), and Eeyore’s Birthday party is a hippie’s paradise. We have huge queso and hot sauce competitions, and we have a bar that stays in Christmas decor year-round.
The Congress Avenue Bridge bats
With the world's largest bat colony (approximately 1.5 million) flying out from under Congress Bridge each night, it doesn’t matter how many times you see the enormous black pack swirling through a colorful Austin sunset, it’s still a sight to behold.
Even though we call it “Dirty Sixth” there’s still a sense of pride when Austinites try to explain to an out-of-towner just how dirty “Dirty Sixth” can get on a Friday or Saturday night. Seeing people out in droves, and the fact that the street is open to pedestrians only is a pretty amazing feature of our city. Additionally, East Sixth Street offers a live music, entertainment, and hipster hub just across I-35, and West Sixth Street gives a (slightly) more adult going-out experience, where you might see a bro or two.
We’re a no-kill city
Since 2011, Austin has been the nation’s largest no-kill city, helping to save animals from euthanasia and finding forever homes for our furry friends. We have amazing organizations working for our animals, including the Austin Animal Center, Austin Humane Society, Austin Pets Alive!, Emancipet, and Animal Trustees of Austin.
We’re relatively flat, and the city is making a major effort to put more and more protected bike lanes in the city. We have cycling meet-ups, the Austin Bike Zoo spectacle, and bike shops around every corner. With the 10.1-mile loop of the hike-and-bike trail and beautiful weather year-round, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing people pedaling about town.
There's a festival for everything
No matter your niche, chances are, somebody in Austin has already dedicated an entire festival to celebrating that specific hobby, activity, or genre. A few of our favorites include the free Pecan Street Festival, Fun Fun Fun, Austin City Limits, SXSW, Fantastic Fest, MapJam, Kerrville Folk Festival, Austin Film Festival, and Austin Food + Wine Festival.
We’re the capital of Texas — and all of the political action goes down in our backyard. We’re home to some of our nation’s leading politicos, including Lyndon B. Johnson, Ann Richards, George H.W. Bush, and Barbara Jordan. While this is where the bigwigs come to make big decisions about big issues, Austin is also a place where we can voice our opinions. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, there's an event bringing people together. We meet up, discuss, and rally.
University of Texas at Austin
Other cities may have pro teams — we've got our Longhorns. Not only do we possess some of the most diehard sports fans in the country, UT is also frequently found on top 10 lists for its stellar educational offerings. UT was recently ranked the No. 1 public university in the country as well as one of the best college values across the U.S.
There's greenery all around us
Austin has a wide selection of cool parks and natural areas to explore. And when we're aching to escape the city life, we don't have to travel far. A source of local pride is of course Barton Springs, a space so spiritual even Tibetan monks come to bless its waters each year. You can find Austinites in droves at the Lady Bird Lake trail or flocking to the greenbelt after any good rain, and then there’s the plethora of parks nearby like Krause Springs, Hamilton Pool, Jacob’s Well, and Enchanted Rock, keeping us active and connected to nature.
Our craft beer scene is flowing
Craft beer popularity is surging across the nation, and Austin is no different. Housing over 30 breweries and brewpubs that are constantly acquiring national awards and acclaim, our top picks include Jester King, Austin Beerworks, Pinthouse Pizza, Oasis Texas Brewing Company, Live Oak, and Hops & Grain. Bonus: The beer industry is also paving the way for more local wineries and distilleries.
We’re one of the top LGBTQ-friendly cities in the country
With the federal legalization of same-sex marriage, Austinites took to the streets to celebrate. In Austin, 5.3 percent of the population identifies as LGBT and there are many groups like the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Austin Pride working to keep us as one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the U.S.
We're a community of makers
There are multiple fairs, flea markets, shops, and more that prominently feature awesome handmade goods from Austin artists, artisans, and craftsmen. Renegade Craft Fair, First Thursday on South Congress, and SFC’s Farmers Markets are just a few of the amazing options for shopping local crafts.
Other people come here just for the barbecue
Another list we always top: best barbecue city in the country. Although it might mean that our waits at these delicious barbecue joints are long, there's a touch of pride knowing Austin is one of the top destinations for 'cue. People line up as early as 6 or 7 am to get their hands on a taste of Aaron Franklin’s smoked meats, but we also enjoy our Micklethwait, La Barbecue, Kerlin, Freedmen's, Salt Lick, and Black’s.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enough said.
We love our local celebrities
People still reminisce about the days Matthew McConaughey could be found (allegedly) playing bongos naked at Pecan Grove RV Park. Richard Linklater continues to put out great movies and hire local talent that makes us all proud to call Austin home. Robert Rodriguez kicks ass, and Paul Qui’s win on Top Chef helped make him the most recognizable chef in the city. (Keep the restaurants coming, Paul!)
The lack of chain restaurants and stores in Austin is something we can all get behind. And the chains you do see throughout town are oftentimes homegrown. Alamo Drafthouse, P. Terry’s, Amy’s Ice Creams, East Side King, BookPeople, Stubb’s, Kendra Scott Jewelry, High Brew Coffee, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Whole Foods Market, and Birds Barbershop are just some of the favorites. Austinites are proud to support local business simply because something is born and raised in Austin.
Truth is, this list could go on forever, and ever, and ever. If you have other things that are a source of pride for the Capital City, leave a comment below.