So apparently it is, in fact, possible to fall in love with a city. Don’t believe me? You’ve probably never been to Austin.
I suppose it’s possible what we’re experiencing is just infatuation, but whatever the emotion is it’s strong enough that we’ll be coming back. I doubt we’d set up a permanent residence here – then we’d have to call ourselves Texans! (*shudder*) – but Austin does have a handful of unique characteristics that have propelled it to the top of our shockingly-short list of “U.S. cities we’d like to spend at least three months getting to know in a more intimate fashion.”
1. Keep Austin Weird
This is Austin’s motto. For realz.
Austinites deliberately cultivate an open and accepting culture of creativity and individual expression. Home to a thriving LGBTQ community – as well as communities of naturalists, environmentalists, and social justice activists – Austin is a haven for people and subcultures that remain (unfortunately) non-mainstream.
Which means it’s really easy to feel comfortable here.
I imagine there are a lot of folks who would be deeply disturbed by this kind of atmosphere, but it’s just the type of environment that makes us feel most at home. Austin has the same vibe that draws us to cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle – it’s eccentric and artistic and brazenly unconventional!
We need more cities like this, in my humble opinion.
2. Food Cart Culture
Austin is well-known as a food-lover’s paradise, but the real culinary attractions are in old airstream trailers… or refurbished school buses… or trucks that sometimes randomly change location or run out of food in the middle of the day.
There’s an entire culture of food carts here, and we’re talking fine dining with exquisitely crafted edibles in a fun and relaxed environment — we didn’t come across any of the highly suspicious, overly-greasy meals you might expect from a cart under other circumstances.
Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere from a couple hundred to over one thousand carts spread across the city, with some of them grouped together around shared outdoor patios. Folks bring their own beer or the makings for a morning mimosa and gather around the tables with groups of friends to nosh in the sun.
We’ve eaten everything from crepes to mochi and sushi to kabobs and frozen bananas…. and we haven’t even scratched the surface of the options available.
3. Dog Friendly
Most cities have at least one off-leash dog park, but Austin seems to have a zillion… and they aren’t dusty little patches of unwanted public land, either. Even the locations not designated as off-leash are still used as such, and no one really seems to mind.
A number of restaurants actively advertise as dog friendly, and on multiple occasions we’ve seen pups accompanying their owners on a kayak or paddleboard for a leisurely float down the river. At one point we saw a group of kayaks with three of the most adorable border collies ever standing at the bow. It’s embarassing to admit, but we very nearly fell in the water chasing after them to get a better look.
A dog-friendly city means a very happy Koa, and a very happy Koa results in two much happier dog owners. This is obviously a very good thing.
4. Outdoorsy Options
Austin has been selected as one of the “Best Places to Live” in the U.S. and as the “Greenest City in America” (connected, perhaps?). There’s a large environmentalist movement, with activists working on issues of preservation, as well as a thriving naturalist movement, with locals doing their best to enjoy some natural nekkid fun.
There are more than fifty public swimming pools (including Barton Springs, which is fed by natural spring water and was a five-minute walk from our RV park), local bike shops on practically every block, and a large number of running trails.
If you like the aesthetic of a city environment with a thriving downtown area but don’t want to limit your outdoor recreation options, then Austin should be at the top of your list.
5. Techie Haven
I was rather surprised that Austin is regarded as one of the nation’s centers for technology, but I suppose I should have been clued in by the fact that the wildly popular South by Southwest technology (and film and music) conference is held here every year.
While we’re not fond of labels, we’d be the first to acknowledge that we probably fall squarely into the “yuppie” category. We dig technology like whoa and are very career-oriented, but we also have quite the affinity for hippies. (Seriously, after spending most of our childhoods in the wilds of Southern Oregon it would’ve been impossible NOT to have emerged a little bit granola).
Austin really is a great place for the yuppie aesthetic to thrive, though. Techie web startups and organic juice bars with cute tattoo-covered girls behind the counter?
What’s not to love?!?
Stay weird, Austin. Or get weirder, if you can. That would be cool too.
We’ll be back.