Only in Austin

10 Things That Make Our City One of a Kind

Article by Deborah Hamilton-Lynne

Photography by Jared Tennant, Deborah Hamilton-Lynne, Annie Ray, Wyatt McSpadden

Originally published in East Austin Lifestyle

People don’t live in Austin to work, they work to live here. - Robert Rodriguez

Austin is consistently named the best place to live in the U.S. by various prestigious publications such as U.S. News and World Report.  And chances are that you may be among the 184 people who move to the fastest growing city in the nation every day.  So why is everyone flocking to this boomtown? What makes Austin so desirable and different? It could be the rolling hills and lakes,  the wealth, the technology, the start-up scene, the sunshine, the abundance of things to do or the availability of jobs boosted by the large corporations relocating or building hubs here. You could have come to SXSW or ACL and decided to stay.  It could be the friendly people who will support almost any idea or venture no matter how crazy it seems. Whatever the reason and however you got here just thank your lucky stars that you ended up in our piece of paradise. We are grateful for you and grateful for the things that give Austin its big personality and make it one of a kind. As the t-shirts and bumper stickers say, “Keep Austin Weird.”

1. The Live Music Capital of the World

LIve music can be heard every day and every night. I have heard live music in the parking lots of dry cleaners, thrift stores and pizza joints. From state of the art venues like the ACL Moody Theater to iconic clubs like the Continental Club, Saxon Pub, Broken Spoke, Antone’s and the Elephant Room to grocery store patios at Central Market live music is everywhere.

2. El Arroyo Signs

Since 1975 El Arroyo has been serving up Tex-Mex with a side of laughs.  The signs are so clever and popular that an entire array of merchandise, books, cards and stickers have been created from them.

3. Historic Landmarks

From the State Capitol (circa 1888, purposefully built to be taller than the nation’s Capitol)  to the Driskill Hotel (circa 1887) to the Paramount Theater (circa 1915) to the only remaining Moonlight Towers (circa 1894) in the world, Austin is steeped in history.

4. The Food

From gourmet James Beard award winning establishments to local favorites to food trucks, Austin is a foodie’s dream and we love our local restaurants and chefs. And yes, Franklin’s Barbecue is worth the wait.

5. Festival City

Although the two best known - ACL Music Festival and SXSW - are the big draws and the reason many people come to Austin and never leave, you can find a festival every month of the year in Austin. From BBQ to books to film to hot sauce to comedy to politics to SPAM, there is a festival for everyone.

6.  Mexican Free-Tailed Bats

The world’s largest urban bat population, estimated at 1.5 million, lives under the Congress Avenue bridge.  Nightly from May to October the sky turns black as they emerge to feast on insects to the delight of onlookers stationed on the bridge and in the water on Ladybird Lake. Bat Fest held in August is the largest bat watching party celebrating Austin’s unofficial furry mascots.

7. Circuit of the Americas

Although COTA is host to many races, events and concerts it is the only place in the U.S. where you can see the MOTO and Formula One Grand Prix races.

8. University of Texas at Austin

The original 40 acres has now become a whopping 431 acres and is the home to 51,000+ students each year.  Austinites are fortunate to take advantage of collegiate sports, a world-class performing arts center and line-up, renowned speakers at the LBJ Presidential Library, an outstanding art collection at the Blanton that includes a one of a kind installation by Ellsworth Kelly and one of the most extensive humanities collections in the world housed at the Ransom Center. 

9. Natural Paradise

If spending time in the great outdoors is your thing there is no better place to be than Austin. From Zilker Park and Barton Springs to the Butler Hike and Bike Trail to Ladybird Lake and Lake Travis to Barton Creek and Bull Creek greenbelts to Mount Bonnell to Hamilton Pool whether you walk, bike, run, row, kayak, swim, or practice yoga or Tai-Chi outdoors you are in the right place.

10. Going Local.

There is just something about the people who call Austin home. They are warm and welcoming, supportive of any and all endeavors, creative and artistic, innovative and entrepreneurial. Austin has inspired the likes of Michael Dell, Amy’s IceCream, Tito’s, Kendra Scott, Whole Foods and the Alamo Draft House, Keller Williams and Origin. If you can dream it you can do it in Austin. 

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