Welcome to Austin

Do you picture cowboys, cattle, and cactus when you think about Austin, Texas? If so, consider instead how we Austinites see our hometown:

Live Music Capital of the World and home to PBS’s long-running “Austin City Limits” concert series. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, Spoon, Shawn Colvin, Fastball, Janis Joplin and many other musicians have called Austin home, and great live music can be heard any night of the week in the clubs downtown.

Gateway to the beautiful Texas Hill Country, a rolling landscape of oaks and junipers, carpeted in the spring with bluebonnets and other native wildflowers. Its picturesque towns founded in the 1800s by German and Czech immigrants attract day-trippers from Austin and elsewhere.

Home to the largest urban bat colony in the world. 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats make their home under the Congress Avenue Bridge downtown, attracting hundreds of human visitors who congregate on summer evenings to watch the bats emerge over Lady Bird Lake.

The capital city, with a conservative state leadership often at odds with a liberal city government and citizenry.

Keep Austin Weird. What began as a slogan to encourage people to patronize local businesses instead of national chain stores has been adopted by Austin’s citizens to sum up the city’s quirky festivals, fun-loving attitude, and casual ambience. Annual festivals like Batfest, Spamarama (a celebration of potted pork), and Eeyore’s Birthday Party (hippie celebration) keep the weirdness alive.

Eco-minded city dedicated to protecting one of its greatest assets, its natural beauty, as it undergoes tremendous growth. Citizens and (usually) City Hall are always ready for battle to protect Austin’s spring-fed swimming holes like Barton Springs Pool, its limestone aquifer, endangered animal species, and extensive urban tree canopy.

University of Texas Tower. Photo by mikekinol, courtesy of morgueFile.
“Silicon Hills,” home to numerous high-tech companies including Dell (and its lucky employee-stockholders, the Dellionaires) as well as the University of Texas, where 50,000 students descend on the city each fall and whose Saturday football games draw thousands of burnt-orange-clad Longhorn fans.

Known as the River City thanks to the Colorado River, which flows through Austin on the southern edge of downtown. Called Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake), it still looks like a river and has a pretty good current even though it is dammed and therefore technically a lake. Just west of town is Lake Austin, and a little farther west is Lake Travis, a deep, green lake edged with limestone bluffs that attracts throngs of summer visitors. These are all part of the chain of Highland Lakes, a series of man-made lakes winding through the Hill Country.

Home to a small but thriving film industry and South by Southwest (SXSW), a hugely popular music, film, and interactive conference and festival that takes over Austin each March. Movies are frequently filmed here, and star sightings are common on funky, newly hip South Congress Avenue and in downtown bars, clubs, and restaurants, including sometime residents Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Quaid.

Photo by Cynthia P.
Last but not least, Austin is home to a large number of garden bloggers (20 by my count), who invite you to their hometown on April 5 for the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling. All garden bloggers are welcome. We’d love to show you some of our favorite places in Austin.

This is my post about Austin for Jodi’s Garden Bloggers Geography Project. Check back with her for other bloggers’ posts about their hometowns.

All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

19 Responses

  1. jodi says:

    MOst excellent, Pam! I met a couple from Austin two summers ago, travelling through Nova Scotia. Gave them some suggestions about what to do while they were in the Annapolis Valley, and gave them my card. A month or so later, got an email from John T. and Betty, thanking me for my help and “If you’re ever in Austin…” Really fine people, even if they weren’t garden boggers. I so wish I could make the logistics work, but maybe next year I’ll get there. Meanwhile, as soon as I get the way figured out, I’ll post a set of links on the sidebar for those of you who have already done your posts. Thanks for playing!

    Austinites are friendly folks. I’m glad we were well represented by John T. and Betty. Thanks for a fun meme idea. I look forward to learning about other garden bloggers’ hometowns. —Pam

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Pam, great post about Austin. We were there several years ago chasing a Blue-footed Booby that the locals named Bobby. I got to see very little of the city but enjoyed it. I was also there another time to see the bats come out. Awesome sight.

    Blue-footed boobies and bats, eh? Sounds like you’ve had some fun visits, Lisa. I’m guessing you passed through Austin on the way to South Texas (the Valley) to chase the booby? That’s the big bird-watching locale. —Pam

  3. carolyn says:

    Great post on Austin, Pam. I love the Austin City Limits show. You’ve got a lot of great country singers from Texas (Clint Black, George Strait, Neal McCoy, Willie Nelson, etc., etc., etc. )

    I hope to visit one day soon. Sorry I’m not able to this year.

    Yes, if you count all of Texas, the list of musicians grows very large indeed. But Austin’s not just for country-music fans, nor is “Austin City Limits.” All types of music can be heard here, including pop, rock, blues, jazz, reggae, etc. I hope you are able to make it down for a visit one day, Carolyn. —Pam

  4. Frances says:

    Wonderful tour of your fine city, Pam! The Chamber of Commerce should hire you, or at least use your blog, with permission and gratuity of course, in their brochures. Still trying to figure out the number of bloggers from one spot, does Austin hold the record on that?
    Frances at Faire Garden

    We certainly believe Austin holds the record. If any city can beat us in number of garden bloggers, we’ve yet to hear about it. Please excuse the Texas bragging, Frances. ;-) —Pam

  5. Carol says:

    You should definitely be hired by the tourism board. Look how many of us garden bloggers are coming to Austin this spring?

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens (Indianapolis)

    Thirty-five, as of this writing! I am a bit of an Austin booster, aren’t I? But the Spring Fling is really just an excuse to meet other garden bloggers. Can’t wait! —Pam

  6. irena says:

    austin looks beautiful and seems like great fun. music and film festivals, bats, natural beauty and garden bloggers galore — sounds like my kind of city.

    Except for blazing summers (see how I left that out?), it’s my kind of city too. From mid-October through May, I’m loving it. —Pam

  7. Diana Kirby says:

    You’re a great ambassador! I’d come if I didn’t already live here!!!! What a treat for our visitors or those thinking of some future trip to our wonderful city.

    I fell in love with Austin 18 years ago and love it still. I do get whiny about the heat (see comment above), but no place is perfect. The friendly people are one of the best things about Austin, wouldn’t you agree? —Pam

  8. Brianna says:

    Ditto what the others have already said. This is an awesome portrait of the city. Nature, music, movies, (government) and garden bloggers–what more could you want, honestly?

    I’m glad you liked my portrayal of Austin, Brianna. But I hope you or some of the other Austin bloggers will make your own portraits. I’d enjoy seeing the city from another’s point of view.

    By the way, the URL you are leaving for your blog is directing me to a commercial site. You might want to doublecheck your URL so other readers can find you. I’m changing it for you on this comment. Cheers! —Pam

  9. Layanee says:


    I have been dragging my feet about getting out the map to see just where in TX I will be going. RI is so very small one can cover the state in a few hours. In TX, it takes days! Glad to see the dot on the map and I think you need a bit of a stipend from the Tourism Board for all your (and our other hosts’) work! I am counting the days ’til we all meet and share our love of gardening! Also, I am very excited about Carol and Kathy’s added lectures! Lots to learn!

    Re: a stipend—I wish! The Spring Fling is not that far off, and I am excited about meeting so many bloggers, including many I read regularly, like you, Layanee. I’m glad to hear you’re looking forward to Carol and Kathy’s blogging conversations. Be sure to send them discussion topics if you think of any. —Pam

  10. wiseacre says:

    Wonderful post. I didn’t realize Austin was so nice. I might consider taking a detour the next time I go to town. What’s an extra 1000 miles when the destination is a little piece of paradise. Well at least looking though frost covered glasses makes it look that way right now.

    I’m so glad jodi started this. It’s nice to see where everyone is coming from :)

    Thanks, Wiseacre. I’m glad you stopped by. Yes, Austin is very nice, which is why so many people live here, with more coming every minute, it seems. You should definitely take a detour. Maybe the Spring Fling would tempt you? There are two other New Yorkers coming : Kathy Purdy (Cold Climate Gardening) and Elizabeth Licata (Garden Rant and Gardening While Intoxicated). We’d love to meet you too. —Pam

  11. Thanks for the tour Pam, I feel I know Austin much better now although I’ve come to know it bit by bit from reading your blog and those of Annie and MSS too! And I’ve known a quite a while now that you Austinites are completely batty. ;-)

    Aren’t we, though? ;-) I’m glad you enjoyed the tour, YE. I look forward to reading about your village in the Netherlands. —Pam

  12. It was fun to see your post, Pam! You didn’t have to tell us you fell in love with Austin – that’s apparent to those who know you!
    Philo and I put together print documents about Austin because we kept getting tapped for Flat Stanley. We wrote about some of the same places but you went for Barton Springs and the UT tower while we had the Elisabet Ney Museum and the Pennybacker Bridge and took Flat Stanley to the Farmers Market.

    Wonderful photos, as always!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Thanks, Annie. Flat Stanley does get around, doesn’t he? My youngest child’s class just mailed him out this year. What a great idea to print up an Austin handout for such times. —Pam

  13. Love those bluebonnets. Can’t wait to meet you guys.~~Dee

    Looking forward to meeting you too, Dee. Do you have bluebonnets in Oklahoma? I know you have Indian paintbrush because I’ve been to OK a lot ; I have family in Tulsa and OK City. But I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing about bluebonnets up there. —Pam

  14. I’ve always thought that if ever I were to live in Texas, the only place I would consider would be Austin. Your post confirms that belief. How could I not like a place that has “Weird” as part of its slogan? Now I really can’t wait for Spring Fling!

    I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit to Austin, MMD. April is a great month to come and be weird with us. ;-) —Pam

  15. Nicole says:

    Lovely post on your city, Pam. It certainly makes me want to visit, and to regret I can’t make it for the Spring Fling!

    Thanks, Nicole. I’m sorry you can’t make it, but perhaps another time. —Pam

  16. guild-rez says:

    What a wonderful post, pictures and story about your city.
    One more city to visit ..
    Where do I live??
    Please take a look,

    Thanks for “visiting” Austin, Gisela. I just visited your blog and enjoyed learning more about your hometown. —Pam

  17. Robin says:

    How in the world did I miss your Austin geography post? Glad I saw on Jodi’s blog.

  18. What a batty, I mean lovely, city! I love bats, by the way. One of my colleagues did graduate school time in Austin and is always raving about the city. Thank you so much for a very enjoyable tour!

    Austin’s an easy-going, fun town. Bats, margaritas, the lake, lots of garden bloggers—what more do you need? ;-) Thanks for dropping by, WWA. —Pam

  19. kerri says:

    It does sound like Austin has just about everything Pam…a well rounded city she is!
    And with all you Austin garden bloggers to add sparkle, she’s a stand out in any crowd :)
    Loved seeing your photos and reading more about your corner of the world.
    I’m looking forward to hearing all about the exciting adventures of the Spring Flingers! It won’t be long now. I sure would love to be there to meet you all.

    Thanks, Kerri. I’m happy to have ended up here—except during the last two months of summer (Aug. & Sept.), when I grumble terribly. :-) Other than that, it’s a great place. And I wish you could make it to the Fling too. Maybe at a future date? —Pam