In an age where everything we could possibly want is a mere click away — that snazzy kitchen gadget, those funky earrings, that cutting-edge 4K flat screen — retail therapy has never been easier to come by. It feels good, and gives us both an endorphin bump and mail to look forward to.

On March 1-2, instead of dialing in those Visa digits for the next new thing, open your digital wallet and donate to a local cause that’ll make you feel really good.

For 24 hours beginning at 6 pm on Thursday, March 1, I Live Here I Give Here brings back its annual online fundraising event, Amplify Austin — and they’ve set some pretty lofty goals. In the span of one day, ILHIGH hopes to raise $10 million for local nonprofits and charities, a target they nearly hit last year when they reached over $9 million in donations.

Over the last decade, ILHIGH has fostered a community of young and emerging donors to support the causes in which they most believe. Their website aggregates 700-plus Central Texas charities into categories like “Education” and “Environment,” allowing donors to shop for the causes and organizations they want to support.

With Amplify Austin Day, ILHIGH looks to the entire region to give back to their community, urging donors to enlist family and friends to join the donation drive alongside them. The opportunities to give are many with organizations working to support an array of causes like the arts, housing, caring for our children and the elderly, parks and the environment, and more.

“We realize that raising 10 million dollars in one day is a very ambitious goal, but this community has growing needs and important opportunities ahead,” said Celeste Flores, executive director of I Live Here I Give Here, in a release. “Amplify Austin Day is looking to rally the people of Central Texas to take action and support local nonprofit organizations with critical operational dollars for life-changing programs and services, especially when this investment is needed the most.”

The impact of ILHIGH’s fundraising efforts to Central Texas are immediate and tangible. After a milestone Amplify Austin Day in 2017, there were 465 pets saved, 235 new trees planted along hike and bike trails, 1.1 million free meals donated to local families in need, 5,000 backpacks full of nutritious food for kids to avoid weekend hunger, and more than 3,800 swimming lessons for local children, to name just a few of their accomplishments.

On Amplify Austin Day, instead of indulging in a retail fix, consider how good it will feel to know you’re making a meaningful and lasting impact in your own community. Go to AmplifyATX.org to discover the local charities, nonprofits, and causes you’ll help to sustain for the benefit of every Austinite.

Photo by Tyler Schmitt

Mack, Jack, and McConaughey corral stars for legendary Austin fundraiser

Social Scene

What: Mack, Jack & McConaughey 2017

The details: Every year, local legends Mack Brown, Jack Ingram, and Matthew McConaughey combine forces for a two-day fundraising event benefiting Austin nonprofits CureDuchenne, Dell Children’s Medical Center, HeartGift, just keep livin Foundation, and The Rise School of Austin.

On April 20, guests filled ACL Live for the fifth annual gala, which included a red-carpet reception, VIP meet-and-greet, dinner, and live auction. The highlight? Intimate performances by Jack Ingram and fellow country music star Miranda Lambert.

April 21 kicked off with a golf tournament followed by a fashion show hosted by Camila Alves and featuring Jason Wu. The entire affair wrapped up back at ACL Live with a singer/songwriter showcase from Little Big Town, Kris Kristofferson, and more.

Who: Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves, Mack and Sally Brown, Jack and Sally Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jason Wu, Tony Romo, Tim Love, Kris Kristofferson, Todd Snider, Butch Walker, Jessi Alexander, Keith Gattis, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Paul Overstreet, Jon Randall, and Liz Rose.

Mack Brown, Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, and Matthew McConaughey.

Mack, Jack & McConaughey 2017 Mack Brown Miranda Lambert Jack Ingram Matthew McConaughey
Photo by Tyler Schmitt
Mack Brown, Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, and Matthew McConaughey.
Photo courtesy of Well Aware

Austin foundation with global impact wins CultureMap Charity Challenge 2017

Meet Our Charity Partner

The votes have been tallied, and we have a winner in our 2017 CultureMap Charity Challenge. With a sweeping victory of 34 percent of the votes, our 2017 charity partner is Well Aware.

The nonprofit was selected from eight groups making an impact in the Austin community and abroad. Nominees included Austin Film Society; College Forward; E4 Youth; I Live Here, I Give Here; Kids in a New Groove; KLRU Next; and Sims Foundation — all of whom were vying for a CultureMap advertising package valued at $10,000 and bragging rights as our 2017 charity partner, which, of course, is priceless.

Well Aware, which launched in 2010, provides innovative and sustainable solutions to water scarcity and contamination in Africa. The hard-working group funds and implements life-saving water systems to drive economic development and build self-sufficient communities.

For more information about how you can help Well Aware, visit the website.

Photo courtesy of Austin Film Society

Who will be CultureMap's charity partner for 2017? That's up to you.

Charity Challenge Returns

CultureMap's annual Charity Challenge is back, and the power is in your hands to select our nonprofit partner for 2017. Vote in our poll for your favorite of eight organizations making an impact in the Austin community.

The group with the most votes wins big: an advertising package valued at $10,000 and bragging rights as CultureMap's 2017 charity partner — which, of course, is priceless.

We'll announce the winner late January, but now it's time to vote, once a day, every day, through January 18 at 11:59 pm, for your favorite contender. First, get to know the eight participants:

Austin Film Society
Founded by filmmaker Richard Linklater in 1985, the Austin Film Society has been committed to bringing international art house cinema to Austin for over 30 years.

College Forward
College Forward coaches motivated, underserved students to achieve the benefits of higher education and a college degree.

E4 Youth
E4 Youth seeks to bridge the gap between underserved youth and the creative commercial arts. Through training, mentoring, and internships, E4 Youth promotes and cultivates the talents and career goals of participating students.

I Live Here, I Give Here
This organization strives to meet Austin's community needs by ensuring that the culture of giving back is embraced and celebrated throughout our region.

Kids in a New Groove
Kids in a New Groove provides Texas youth in foster care with a committed one-on-one mentoring relationship through weekly private music instruction, giving students the ability to build concrete strategies for life-long success.

The KLRU-TV, Austin PBS young professionals group takes an experiential look at art, music, culture, and more in the greater Austin area.

Sims Foundation
Sims Foundation provides compassionate, reliable mental health and addiction recovery services for Austin musicians, music industry professionals, and their families.

Well Aware
Well Aware provides innovative and sustainable solutions to water scarcity and contamination in Africa. They fund and implement life-saving water systems to drive economic development and build self-sufficient communities.

Austin Film Society.

Austin Film Society
Photo courtesy of Austin Film Society
Austin Film Society.
Courtesy of Austin Pets Alive!

Austin Pets Alive! fetches the win in our CultureMap Charity Challenge

Charity Partner

In mid-December, we launched our first-ever CultureMap Austin Charity Challenge in order to shine a light on the city’s much-needed nonprofits. Highlighting eight local organizations and their impact on Austin, we released a series of mini-profiles to help you, our readers, decide which of them deserved to be our 2016 charity partner.

The poll has been tallied, and the organization that came out on top was Austin Pets Alive! (APA) with over 50 percent of the vote. By winning the 2016 Charity Challenge, APA will receive a CultureMap advertising package worth $10,000.

APA maintains comprehensive, innovative programs designed to save animals most at risk for euthanasia. Since 2008, APA has saved more than 30,000 pets and found them forever homes.

APA has created programs like The PASS Program (Positive Alternative to Shelter Surrender), which provides assistance to pet owners who may be unable to house their pets, significantly reducing the number of animals that enter the shelter system.

Through developing innovative programs for at-risk animals, APA has helped Austin become and maintain its status as the largest no-kill city in the country. We at CultureMap look forward to this Charity Challenge partnership and helping to further the nonprofit’s important work in our community.

For more information on Austin Pets Alive! and how you can get involved, visit the website.

Photo courtesy of Sustainable Food Center

Sustainable Food Center cultivates healthy gardeners and cooks across Austin

Charity Profile

Editor's note: CultureMap is committed to shining a light on Austin-area nonprofits and their impact on our community. So, we're launching the first-ever CultureMap Austin Charity Challenge, highlighting deserving local organizations — one of which will become our charity partner for 2016 based on readers' votes. Get to know one of our eight finalists, Sustainable Food Center.

Since 1993, Austin's Sustainable Food Center (SFC) has provided resources and education to strengthen the local food system and provide access to healthy foods for all. Evolving from its 1975 roots as Austin Community Garden, SFC envisions a healthy future where every adult and child can grow, share, and prepare foods from their own garden.

With programs like Grow Local, which supports home, school, and community gardens through education and training, and the Farm Direct program, which connects local farmers to schools and residents to enrich the economy while keeping families healthy, SFC is a pillar of the Austin food community.

SFC hosts four of the largest farmers markets in Texas, all located in Austin. These markets host more farmers than anywhere else in Austin and are open rain or shine every week, year-round. In addition to vendors offering up fresh, locally grown foods, the markets feature live music, flowers, hand-crafted goods, and more. True to its vision of an empowered, inclusive community of healthy eaters, SNAP and WIC benefits are accepted at the markets.

Donations to SFC help cultivate a community of healthy gardeners and cooks in the Austin area.

Vote now for Sustainable Food Center — or any of the other worthy local nonprofits — in the CultureMap Charity Challenge running through December 30. A winner will be announced January 5, 2016, and will receive a CultureMap advertising package worth $10,000.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Lubbock luminaries on what ignites the Hub City

Faces and Places

In Lubbock, Texas, where locals have been pouring their livelihood into both the city and their craft, the community has created a Texas experience like no other. What sets apart a destination from others is the welcoming faces who meet travelers with open doors and a willingness to share the West Texas way of life with all who wander through.

CultureMap recently checked in with three Lubbock luminaries to learn what drew them to the city, what dreams they're making come true, and how visitors can take part in the magic.

Matt Bostick, sommelier and hospitality director of Llano Estacado Winery
Though his roots are in Texas, Matt Bostick found his passion for wine in Italy. While studying hospitality in Florence in 2011, he met Parisian sommelier Quinton Paillard, who encouraged his budding love of vino and set Bostick on the path toward becoming a sommelier himself.

After earning his degree in restaurant, hotel, and institutional management from Texas Tech University in 2012, Bostick joined Jackson Family Estates in Los Angeles. From there, he further honed his expertise as the lead sommelier for Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, under the mentorship of Sarah Clarke A few years later, Bostick co-founded a restaurant called Baldoria and even developed a line of ready-to-drink cocktails with his business partner, David King.

"When David and I decided to create B&K Cocktail Company, our business venture brought us back to Texas," Bostick says. "With my family residing in Lubbock, it was a natural choice to settle here. Lubbock holds significant personal and professional values for me. It's my hometown, where I was born and raised, and where most of my family continues to live and contribute to this community."

Today, Bostick is the events director and sommelier at Llano Estacado Winery, Texas’ second oldest winery. Bostick guides visitors through a sensory journey, introducing them to the complexities of different wines, regions, and vintages while offering insights into history, production techniques, and the unique characteristics of each varietal.

"I help individuals identify tasting notes, appreciate nuances, and even recommend food pairings that enhance the overall culinary experience," he says.

Grape Day on October 21 is an ideal time to visit the winery to see Bostick in action. To celebrate the end of the harvest, which spans late July to early October, Llano features captivating self-guided tours, diverse art booths, delicious offerings from the finest local vendors, exciting games for kids, and a mesmerizing lineup of live music on the Lubbock Listening Room stage.

Admission is free, but for $35 attendees will receive a commemorative Grape Day wine glass along with two tickets redeemable for a glass of wine. Pre-sale drink tickets will also be available for purchase in a bundle of three tickets for $15 (otherwise each ticket is $8 at the event).

"Grape Day holds immense significance to me. It's a celebration that represents the culmination of hard work and a sense of community," Bostick says. "Llano Estacado Winery has not only been a pioneer in the Texas wine industry but has also contributed to our local community's growth. Events like this shine a light on the rich heritage and traditions of winemaking, connecting our community to a broader narrative of craftsmanship and appreciation for the finer things in life."

Ian Timmons, pitmaster and third-generation owner of Tom & Bingo’s BBQ
It's been called a West Texas legend since 1952, and as soon as you step inside Tom & Bingo's BBQ, you'll understand why. This old-school barbecue joint — and Lubbock’s oldest restaurant — is packed with nostalgia and dishes out authentic barbecue that would make original owners Tom and Bettye Clanton proud, and current owner Ian Timmons intends to keep it that way.

While studying at Texas Tech, Timmons worked under Dwayne Clanton (Tom and Bettye's son, who gained ownership of the restaurant in 1980) and earned hands-on experience as a pitmaster. Upon graduation, he moved to Denver with his wife, Kristi, where he worked at Denver Biscuit Company.

"I’ve always worked in restaurants," says Timmons. "From my first job at Dairy Queen to a local restaurant called Orlando’s, where I was a server and got fired for making pizzas during my shift."

Timmons' wife also happens to be Dwayne and Liz Clanton's daughter, making him the obvious choice to carry on the legacy when the couple was ready to retire in 2017.

Now, Timmons pays homage to Tom & Bingo's 70-year legacy by smoking modern bark-on-brisket, his own coarsely ground smoked beef sausage, and pork spare ribs on the original brick pits the predecessors used for decades. He's also expanded the menu to include scratch-made potato salad and slaw, but one item remains a constant since the early days of the restaurant: the steak burger.

"This fall we are switching from our legendary brick pits to a new Centex offset smoker, so it’s back to square one for us," reveals Timmons. "This fall will be a learning season for us! But we are excited to see what a new smoker can do for us."

You can also catch the eatery's new food truck out and about and look forward to more biscuit collaborations with Monomyth Coffee (inspired by Timmons' time in Denver, of course). "We'll also hopefully open a Biscuit Club location to help grow the breakfast scene in Lubbock," Timmons hints.

But perhaps the tastiest way to experience Tom & Bingo's, besides visiting the restaurant itself, is by sampling its goods at the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in November. Held in Lockhart, November 4-5, the event helps raise funds for Feeding Texas and a network of food banks across the state.

Yung Cry Baby, aka Aaliyah Limon, resident artist with Charles Adams Studio Project
Full-time musician and vocalist Aaliyah Limon was born and raised in Lubbock, but when she was younger, she didn't feel the city had a place for her yet. After graduation, the aspiring talent took off to explore both coasts, working as a model and artist, but after a while realized she wasn’t as fulfilled as she had hoped and missed her family.

"I needed a break from my fast-paced lifestyle," she says. "I came back home to be with family, take a step back, and reassess what I really wanted to do with my life. When I moved back, my music took off much faster than I ever anticipated."

Now Limon is professionally known as Yung Cry Baby and serves as a resident artist with the Charles Adams Studio Project, a nonprofit that supports working artists in Lubbock.

"Because I'm passionate about it and motivated by the people who resonate with what I sing about, I've kind of kept with the momentum of things," Limon says. "I'm excited about what I do, and I love helping people heal through my music. Even if it only helps a little, it gives me a lot of joy knowing I can maybe help someone not feel alone."

Fans can see Yung Cry Baby perform not only at the karaoke bar she hosts at, but also at First Friday Art Trail, a monthly arts festival located in downtown Lubbock with a mission to bring together collectors, artists, and community friends for an evening of art, music, and fun. Participants are ever-changing, offering something for everyone.

"I love doing community-based things, especially when it comes to art," Limon says. "First Friday is always a blast for me."

Yung Cry Baby is currently working on her first full album, following the earlier release of her EP. Follow her on social media for updates.


Experience the people and places of Lubbock yourself by planning your next vacation here.

Llano Estacado Winery wine glass

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock

Matt Bostick helps visitors appreciate the wine at Llano Estacado Winery.

UT Austin rises to the top in new list of best Texas schools for 2024

go longhorns

The University of Texas at Austin continues its streak of high rankings for its high-quality educational experiences. The home of the Longhorns earned a coveted top three spot on U.S. News and World Report's just-released list of the Best Colleges in Texas for 2024.

UT Austin claimed No. 2 in Texas, and ranked No. 32 nationally. The public institution had an undergraduate enrollment of more than 41,300 students in fall 2022. The school, which costs $11,698 in tuition for in-state students and fees each year, ranks No. 9 for "Top Public Schools" by U.S. News.

In April, UT's Cockrell School of Engineering ranked No. 7 in U.S. News' ranking of the best graduate schools in the country, while McCombs School of Business earned the No. 20 spot among business schools.

UT Austin actually fared similarly in Niche'slist of top public universities, in which it ranked No. 6 nationally.

U.S. News' profile of UT Austin says the university prides itself on being a top-tier research institution.

"UT Austin has been a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities since 1929," the site says. "The university attracts nearly $800 million annually for research. Top accolades include the creation of the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines and the worlds’ fastest supercomputers for open research."

The university also boasts a rich campus culture that encourages students to participate in different organizations and activities.

"Students can participate in more than 1,000 clubs and organizations or in the sizable UT Greek system," the site says. "The university has several student media outlets, and its sports teams are notorious competitors in the Division I Big 12 Conference. UT also offers hundreds of study abroad programs, with the most popular destinations being Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and China."

Ahead of UT Austin in the ranking is Rice University in Houston. The "Ivy League of the South" ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 17 nationally.

Just behind UT Austin is College Station's Texas A&M University, which placed No. 3 in the Texas rankings and No. 47 nationally.

U.S. News' top 10 best colleges in Texas in 2024 are:

  • No. 1 – Rice University, Houston
  • No. 2 – University of Texas at Austin
  • No. 3 – Texas A&M University, College Station
  • No. 4 – Southern Methodist University, Dallas
  • No. 5 – Baylor University, Waco
  • No. 6 – Texas Christian University, Fort Worth
  • No. 7 – The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson
  • No. 8 – University of Houston
  • No. 9 – Texas Tech University, Lubbock
  • No. 10 – University of St. Thomas, Houston

The full rankings can be found on usnews.com.

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck says hi to Austin on cross-country tour

in her tour era

The famously pink Hello Kitty Cafe Truck is making its way down to Austin in October for a special day of treats and cartoon cat collectibles.

The cutesy vehicle will bring a horde of new Hello Kitty clothing, plushies, and accessories to The Domain from 10 am to 7 pm on October 14.

Among the new items is a bright pink tote bag with rainbow straps and desserts decorating the front, an assortment of Hello Kitty baked goods, and a transparent coffee mug with sprinkles in the handle and different desserts printed on the glass body. Visitors can also snag an adorable lunchbox and a 18-ounce or 32-ounce stainless steel rainbow thermos.

Hello Kitty rainbow tote bagThe bright pink reusable tote bag has rainbow straps.Photo courtesy of Sanrio

As for the hand-decorated baked goods, guests can expect to see Hello Kitty's classic friends Keroppi the frog and Chococat appear on petit fours. The leading lady appears on miniature cakes, a giant sugar cookie, small box sets of madeleines, and French macarons.

The popular attraction has been touring around the country for nearly a decade, drawing crowds of thousands of people every year. Austin will be its third Texas stop on the tour, before it visits San Antonio's North Star Mall on Tuesday, October 21.

As a note, the cafe truck only accepts debit or credit cards, and not cash.

Other Texas cities on the tour route include:

  • September 30 – Arlington
  • October 7 – Houston
  • October 21 — San Antonio
  • October 28 – El Paso