I travel a lot, and as I roam I tell everyone I meet about Austin. But until they get here, they have trouble understanding it. So I thought the best place to kick off this column was to give ya’ll a little introductory tour of this city. I’ll fill it with all sorts of facts and such like so you get the basics into your head before we delve into deeper craziness later on.
First the facts; Austin is the capital of Texas and home to the University of Texas (at Austin) and their beautiful bovine mascot Bevo the Longhorn. The city’s population is over 1.75 million people making it #18 on the national list. As a general rule the cost of living here is 5 to 10 points lower than the national average while per capita household income is slightly higher, making Austin one of the most affordable big cities in the country to live in. We enjoy over 300 days of sunshine each year and if we’re lucky we’ll squeeze in around 32 inches of rain. We don’t do snow! Most days are warm, and even when they’re not it ain’t all that bad. We’re famous for live music, bats, and independent films. Dell Computers also calls Austin home.
As for Austin being the live music capital of the world. I didn’t know what that meant till I got here, but girl it’s A-mazing! Street musicians with tired feet burning on the asphalt; pouring their soul into an instrument, desperately trying to share a moment of their human experience with you; just makes my heart pound. It’s all about passion.
You’ve probably heard of Austin City Limits, I remember my father watching it when I was a kid on PBS. It’s a real event loaded with talent that draws a lot of people, and it’s not Hank Williams. Our other giant festival is South by Southwest (SXSW); all about independent film and music.
This was my first year being home for it, and while I didn’t have a single ticket for any event, I was exhausted after 10 days. There are just so many people, so many free things, free parties, free beer (yum), and live music everywhere in the streets. I was awestruck and I’ll probably make plans to get myself a full ticket next year --because if the alley is this much fun to hang out in the theaters got to be great! Dressing up, feeling good, feeling sexy, and feeling confident is a must. I was someone different every day I attended SXSW, either in jeans and T-shirt or dressed to the nines after 3 hours of hair and make-up work at my favorite salon (I’ll tell you about that little gem soon).
The Important areas to know are: 6th street which is live music and bar central offering over 10 blocks of diversions. I recommend you park and walk the night away feeling younger than you’ve felt in years as you party is up with the very best UT has to offer. 4th street is the place for LGBT, not quite as long as 6th street, but every bit as lively and exciting. It’s packed with dance clubs, coffee shops, restaurants, and great people. When I go out, I head to 4th street and get my night started (and usually finished) right. The university area is also downtown and features a more subdued array of hangouts but a lot of great eats and art. South Congress is just a bit further out (if you’re walking) and it’s akin to a permanent hippy street festival. SOCO, as we call it, has great shops (think vintage) for clothes and jewelry. Finally I would throw in South Lamar, a bit harder to describe and a bit more spread out, but still a very cool district to hang out in were you can feel comfortable and accepted no matter what you’re wearing or how you look. There are a few traditional TG/Gay bars just outside of downtown, your Cheers type places where you can get to know the bar-tender and be a regular. When I first started hitting Austin this is where I went. Great places, great people, but for me it wasn’t enough, I had to get out and explore the city. I wanted to see everything through girlish eyes and I felt it was finally time for the world to see me.
One last quick note about food and restaurants, I’ll list Spider-house, Kirby Lane, and Ruta Maya as some of my more comfortable hangouts for just going out and eating, but I’ve tried many other places and have plans to keep expanding that list. If you’re coming to Austin you must know that the very best food is served from those little Airstream trailers you’ll find parked on every vacant lot in the city. People these are world class chef’s who didn’t want the hassle and overhead of a full sized restaurant. They just wanted a small place to create. So if you pass; one try it out. I’ve tried the fried chicken donut, and can’t wait to see what I discover next.
Please know that every district I’ve talked about, I’ve traveled in heels and a smile. I’ve had some words whispered behind my back, been dry humped by a drunken Irishman, and gotten more cat-calls and high fives than I could have ever imagined. Hell I was even called a Diva one night as I stood waiting for the light to change (which reminds me that I need more leather in my wardrobe).
Austin is a great place to be you.