While seeming incredibly unrealistic to me, today, I celebrate a whopping 39 years on this amazing carnival ride we call life.
Considering I still feel like a kid at heart, continue to live life to the fullest (as best I can) and, honestly, have no immediate plans of “growing up” anytime soon, I felt it appropriate to compile a list of my “39 favorite things” about this incredible city of Austin that, since moving here nearly five years ago, maintains its ability to bring me feelings of youth and out-of-the-ordinary experiences that make living here such a thrill.
So, without further adieu, extensive and lengthy, I realize, but here ya have’em, nonetheless…all 39…in no particular order, but each and every one well worth checking out for yourself…
1) Running along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail – a 10-mile recreation area meandering its way around our beautiful Town Lake/Lady Bird Lake in the heart of downtown Austin.
2) Eeyore’s Birthday Party – Since 1963, an annual festival held at Austin’s Pease Park, typically on the last Saturday of April, celebrating Eeyore’s birthday, the downtrodden donkey from Winnie the Pooh, filled with the outrageous and hysterical, as well as live music, drum circles and so much more.
4) Water, water, everywhere – Town Lake/Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, Lake Travis, Barton Springs Pool, Deep Eddy Pool, Hamilton Pool…no shortage of excellent locales to take a dip and cool off in this town.
5) “Keep Austin Weird” – Overwhelming support for local, independently-owned businesses, aka “the little guy,” and tendency to shun “big box” stores, especially in downtown Austin.
6) Sunday Hippie Church at Maria’s Taco X-Press - A weekly celebration of the weird, the liberal, the free at a South Austin landmark. Live music included, naturally.
7) Waterloo Records – The best record store in the United States…and, hopefully, will always be. Owner, John Kunz, and his staff are spot-on and the selection can’t be beat!
8) Birds Barbershop – Honestly, no other place in Austin where I would consider getting my hairs cut…defines cool and the music is always rockin’…not to mention, in nearly five years as a resident, I’ve yet to go anywhere else…and the free Shiner Beer doesn’t suck.
9) Mount Bonnell – One of the highest points in all of Austin providing panoramic vistas in every direction – Lake Austin and the surrounding Texas Hill Country, downtown Austin skyline, University of Texas and more.
10) South By Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film & Interactive Conference – Among the best 10 days, annually, in Austin. Every March, this town becomes the epicenter of media, technology, cinema and tunes for the entire world. More or less, an adult playground and my best comparison to living in Atlanta during the Summer Olympics of 1996…every year. Need I say more?
11) Rainey Street District – among Austin’s newest and most popular hubs of nightlife, in the heart of downtown…one neighborhood street chock full of unique bars and watering holes, all built into historic homes and priceless, previous residential properties. Options abound: Lustre Pearl, Bar 96, Bungalow, Clive Bar, Icenhauer’s, The Blackheart, Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden, Javelina, etc.
12) Willie Nelson – The Red Headed Stranger. Austin legend. American hero. A true classic. The namesake of 2nd Street running through downtown ATX, now affectionately called “Willie Nelson Boulevard,” and, above all else, one of my favorite people on the planet.
13) Our blossoming local Austin craft brewing scene – Name it and, chances are, I’ve got a fave beer of theirs. More and more to choose from seemingly like every week. However, I do have those companies who top the list – Thirsty Planet Brewing Company, (512) Brewing Company, Austin Beerworks, Independence Brewing Company. Great, great stuff. Each excellent in their own right.
14) Alamo Drafthouse – Quite simply, no other place to catch a movie in Austin (multiple locations). Stellar beer, wine and liquor selections. Brilliant food offerings. Crazy fun, unique events and promotions. The entire concept is, in a word, genius. They’ve got a great thing goin’.
15) The University of Texas Tower – I’ve been fixated by this iconic Austin building since I was a child and to this day, I still am. When illuminated burnt orange after a big Longhorns athletic victory, there’s hardly a better sight after dark in the entire town.
16) Stand-up Paddleboarding on Town Lake/Lady Bird Lake – If you have yet to experience “SUP,” move’er to the top of your list. Really cool experience, a heck of a good workout and great views of our downtown skyline throughout. Well worth every second. Austin Paddle Sports is where it’s at!
17) Dive bars aplenty – A huge fan of the “lesser-than-glamorous, more unique and character-filled” watering holes, most of which have outstanding jukes to boot. Lord knows Austin’s got a wealth of priceless options. The Horseshoe Lounge, Deep Eddy Cabaret, The Poodle Dog Lounge, Barfly’s, Lala’s Little Nugget. I’ll stop there. So much greatness to be had.
18) The Driskill Hotel – No finer lodging option in all of Austin, Texas. My favorite. And oh so historic. Built in 1886, y’all. The Driskill Bar, alone, right off the lobby and up the grand staircase, is such an excellent scene in itself. Love is not a strong enough word here.
19) Zilker Park – Considered “Austin’s most-loved park.” What Zilker is to Austin, Central Park is to NYC and Piedmont Park is to Atlanta. 351-acres of fun and home to a wealth of recreation opportunities and special events throughout the year, including, but not limited to, Austin City Limits Music Festival, KGSR’s “Blues on the Green,” Zilker Park Kite Festival, Zilker Holiday Tree and The Trail of Lights.
20) Shiner Dog’s paradise – Austin is an extremely dog-friendly and pet-loving city, so Shiner Dog and I couldn’t be happier! Dog parks, “Yappy Hours,” dog-welcoming watering holes and restaurants, countless canine-minded events, including the Mighty Texas Dog Walk and Dogapalooza, not to mention, excellent outdoor leash-free areas like Red Bud Isle, Auditorium Shores and Turkey Creek.
21) The Mean Eyed Cat – Absolute favorite bar in Austin, entirely dedicated to “The Man in Black,” Mr. Johnny Cash. This one’s a must for anyone who would “Walk The Line.” A true gem.
22) Sunsets from The Oasis on Lake Travis – Aptly dubbed the “Sunset Capital of Texas,” The Oasis is a massive, terraced restaurant and entertainment venue situated roughly 450 feet above the shores of Lake Travis, offering views of the westward Texas Hill Country and beyond. Truly a sight to behold, especially at dusk.
23) The Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue – Dedicated, sculpted brilliance to Austin’s favorite local son and a true guitar legend. Located along the Hike and Bike Trail, near Auditorium Shores in downtown, the SRV Statue remains an inspirational site every time I’m near.
24) Chicken Sh*t Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon – Yes, you read that right. Sunday afternoons. Live music. Free chili dogs. Cheap brews. And, yep, a chicken pecking it’s way around a makeshift bingo board on top of a pool table with a crowded bar of Austin’s beer-swilling finest screaming for said walking “poultry” to do’er business on just the right spot on the board in exchange for a wad of cash winnings. Epic.
25) Austin City Limits Music Festival - Best weekend of the year in Austin (and now TWO weekends for 2013!). Annually, a tremendous lineup of music artists performing within the friendly, spacious and beautiful grounds of Zilker Park to the cheering thousands in attendance.
26) The “religion” of Breakfast Tacos and Migas – If you’ve spent any time in Austin, you know this fact is true. We love our breakfast tacos and migas here. No better in ATX than at Cisco’s Restaurant & Bakery, Maria’s Taco X-Press and Tacodeli.
27) Texas State Capitol – Set on one of Austin’s highest points, the Texas State Capitol has captivated me since I first set my eyes on’er as a little guy. An absolutely extraordinary example of late 19th century public architecture and widely recognized as one of the nation’s most distinguished state capitols.
28) Patio and Rooftop Bars – We’re fortunate to have an abundance of’em all around town. Nothin’ better to me than sittin’ outside, sun on the face, drink in the hand and tunes in the ears. Rattle Inn, Abel’s on the Lake, Hangar Lounge and Red’s Porch among my very best.
29) More festivals than you can possibly comprehend…and I love’em all…well, most of’em, anyway. Aside from those I’ve already mentioned, big fan of the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, Texas Monthly BBQ Festival, Old Pecan Street Festival, Austin Food & Wine Festival…name it, we got it!
30) The Broken Spoke – One of the last true great Texas dance halls and a helluva tremendous honky tonk located in the heart of Austin on South Lamar. Two-steppin’ at its finest, along with a damn good chicken fried steak.
31) Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) – An organization after my own heart…solely focused on providing access to affordable health care for Austin’s low-income, uninsured working musicians, with a focus on prevention and wellness. HAAM and its partners improve and save musicians’ health and lives and enhance Austin’s economy and quality of life. Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and they aim to keep it that way.
32) Texas Longhorns Football & Baseball – Don’t really think this needs much explanation. I love college football. I love college baseball. I can never get enough tailgating. And, yes, I am ecstatic to be living in a college town, once again. HOOK’EM!
33) Austin’s Food Trailer/Food Truck Culture – The number is now well over 1,000…close to 1,800, actually, last I heard, and now, apparently, only second to Portland, Oregon for quantity of food trailers and trucks in one metro area. Quite proud, actually. I love’em! The entire concept is brilliant to me. Not only that, a good friend of mine, Tiffany Harelik, is the “queen” of the Austin trailer food scene. Check’er out – www.trailerfooddiaries.com.
34) Green space…and plenty of it! Barton Creek Greenbelt might typically be enough for one city (simply awesome in its own right), but, no, we’re blessed with a wealth of excellent natural spaces in and around Austin, in addition to the aforementioned Greenbelt, Hike & Bike Trail, Zilker Park, etc., we’ve also got Bull Creek Preserve, Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Mayfield Preserve and so much more. Still, amazing to me. Need to get outdoors even more than I do!
35) Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) – Honestly, name another airport – anywhere – that offers live music from local artists throughout each day, top independently-owned restaurants, bars and retailers from elsewhere in Austin (Salt Lick BBQ, Saxon Pub, Waterloo Records), on-site, and our trademark artistic guitars surrounding baggage claim to welcome visitors to Austin and residents back home. Tremendous!
36) Amazing and growing local Austin spirits brands – Over the past few years, the spirits scene here in Central Texas has exploded and while certainly not limited to’em, these are my absolute favorites…Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Garrison Brothers Texas Bourbon Whiskey and Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka.
37) Downtown Austin Skyline – While I admit it’s constantly changing and growing faster than many of us wish, I am still enamored with the beauty of the views of Downtown Austin on a daily basis.
38) Congress Avenue – Our city’s most notable thoroughfare – not to mention, one of the most picturesque, funky, unique and, well, awesome streets in Austin. I love every inch of it, north to south, State Capitol all the way down beyond Ben White.
39) “Live Music Capital of the World” – Was it any surprise that the last reason I listed as to “why I love Austin, Texas” is due to the overwhelming support we have for the local music community? In going on five years of living here, I cannot say enough for my love of the music scene in this town…on so many levels. While I realize the scene has changed a great deal from years past (from what I know and have been told), it’s still such a huge part of my life, big reason why I moved here in the first place and I am extremely thankful to live in such a musically blessed town!