Growing up in Texas as a dual citizen means that I face a certain question frequently: do you ride horses to school and work in Texas? I always chuckle and then struggle to express the unprecedented diversity that exists in my home state. “I wish,” I respond.
Many people outside of the U.S. maintain a fixed idea of Texas as conservative cowboy territory, where everything is bigger—especially the people. These stereotypes have only intensified as news stories of shootings and abortion restrictions gain international attention. But what much of the world does not understand is that Texas cannot be labeled. Austin is to Houston as California is to Texas and Denmark is to the U.S. If you are ever drawn to visit this state that outsizes France and Spain (or if you are dragged against your own will), look no further than Austin. Even as the capital of Texas, Austin is liberal, young, and weird: it seems as though nothing is off limits and nothing is surprising. The city is constantly growing. Many Americans—some attempting to escape high income taxes—are moving to Austin from California and New York. Austin maintains the attractive blend of country and city, as seen by the corporate buildings that overlook lakes and rolling hills. If you find yourself in Austin, here are some recommendations to keep yourself busy, happy, and full. There is something for everyone, so take your pick…
Another fall activity includes Austin City Limits (ACL), a world-renowned music festival that takes place around early October. Zilker Park, which is normally flooded with frisbee-catching dogs and shirtless meditating men, is transformed into the ideal festival venue with over five stages. This past year, headliners included Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus, Megan Thee Stallion, and Rufus du Sol. While many people view the Texas music scene as limited to the country genre, Austin is known for its diverse and eclectic sounds. ACL features just about every type of artist you could ask for, making it well worth the trip.
Barton Springs is a magical, natural swimming pool placed right next to Zilker Park. The water temperature rests at 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit (20-21 in Celsius) year-round, making it the ideal spot for managing unpredictable Texas weather. You never know what you’re going to see at Barton Springs, and a large part of the attraction is the people-watching. When you look over one shoulder, you might see an 80-year-old man in a tie dye G-string bathing suit. When you look over the other shoulder, there might stand a young, conservative family with children. If you do anything in Austin, this would be my top recommendation.
Texas is a state with its own mind, but it accommodates everyone. You just have to find your spot! Austin is a special place that carries a unique energy. Please do pay a visit, and as they say, keep Austin weird.