Now That is Weird –
The mantra “Keep Austin Weird” can be seen throughout the city. It is on billboards, business marquees, bumper stickers, and T-shirts. A city that not only flies its freak flag but embraces it tightly. While only here for 48 hours, I see a number of men (my assumption) walking various streets wearing evening gowns, rompers and a pantsuit that would make Hillary envious. Except for maybe some tribal villages outside of Africa, Austin has to lead the planet in nose rings per capita. Weird, perhaps, but expressing oneself is certainly common, encouraged and celebrated here.
No place is this as evident as Graffiti park at Castle Hill. The park is home to and provides a canvas for local artists to spray paint their way into infamy. Castle Hill is the result of a failed building development that was supposed to happen in the ‘80s. This three-story outdoor tiered walls started out as a place artists would sneak away to visit so that they could tag, paint and graffiti the walls. While some interpret this as vandalism, the owners of the property see it as an opportunity to ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ The name Castle Hill is given due to the castle found above it.
Just I I step out of the car, the smell of paint fumes wafts over. While not my preferred artistic medium, I do see some very impressive displays of artistic talent on display. Especially considering they came from a spray can. It seems that anyone with a can of paint can join in, but technically would be painters require permission from the Hope Campaign. The current park is slated for demolition soon. A new location yet to be announced is anticipated.
From Weird to Down Right Batty
Each night around dusk thousands of folks descend upon the banks and bridges of the Colorado River at Congress Avenue. Some even boating, canoeing, kayaking or paddle boarding to get a premium view. Like clockwork, right at dusk, from spring through fall thousands if not a million or more Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the crevices of the Congress Avenue Bridge. The 30-45 minute “show” features a seemingly unending parade of bats swarming up and out into the night skies of Austin. The colony doubles in August when the babies, pups, are ready to fledge the nest. The swarm can be so thick at times, the local TV weather forecast includes a disclaimer about perceived cloud cover.
Estimates indicate, that the nocturnal hunters consume about 30,000 pounds of insects per night. In such, the crowds cheer with much adoration as they fly off to work.
Even Bigger Appetites
Austin is a foodie town. As a community, they lead the way in street food. Starting in the 90’s, chefs have been bringing inexpensive and creative foods of every type imaginable to the masses. With over 1,000 food trucks and trailers around town, they have mapping services to help you find your favorite mobile eateries. Many food trucks have a semi-permanent location at designated food truck parks within the city.
To compete traditional sit-down eateries have had to up their games. The local favorite restaurants I sampled elevated the standards such as tacos, and hamburger. Menu’s include locally sourced and locally ground, baked and prepared goods.
Torchy’s Taco’s The ‘Independent” is a fajita taco of chicken, roasted corn, green chilis and freshly grated cheese was knocked out of the park with the bacon bourbon marmalade.
Hopdoddys – The Magic shroom burger with is freshly baked bun, mushrooms, pesto, and goat cheese was fantastic in its own right. But pare with the parmesan truffle fries with the truffle oil aioli and you’ve got a winner.
Fit for a dog
To have so many indulgent food options, Austin is an active and fit community. The trails around town, namely Zilker Memorial park are abuzz with runners and cyclists. I particularly enjoy the rocks and water of the Gus Fruh Trail, a part of the larger Barton Springs Greenbelt. Those that aren’t keeping fit on land are taking to the Colorado River in canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. What I find really refreshing is the dog friendliness of the town. Most restaurants with patio dining allow pets, even encouraging them, with water bowls just for their use. It is a treat to have Murphy join me at Torchy’s.
Keep it Weird, Austin
Austin is a unique place with a little something for everyone. 6th street offers some of the grungier bars and music venues while South Congress, SoCo, has a more hipster vibe. SoCo is where I found the trendier eateries, vintage candy store, galleries featuring local artists and much more. Regardless of where you go, don’t get in a hurry, traffic is mess throughout the day.