Built in 1888, the pink-granite Texas Capitol building in Austin is the largest state capitol in the country and even taller than the US Capitol in Washington,
DC—proof that everything is, indeed, bigger in Texas. Yet Austin stands apart from the rest of the state politically and culturally, a fact that locals seem to revel in. “Keep Austin Weird” is a popular motto here, appearing on bumper stickers and T-shirts. The weirdness manifests itself all over town, where you’ll find a death-metal-themed pizza place, a cathedral made of garbage, and the Museum of Natural & Artificial Ephemerata, which displays an 1893 World’s Fair stereograph and one of Marilyn Monroe’s cigarette butts. Even nature plays along: each night at dusk (from mid-March to November), an estimated 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge to go hunting for food.
Austin has been dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World thanks to the city’s nearly 200 venues, where bands play everything from blues to punk rock. In fact, Travel + Leisure magazine named Austin one of America’s Best Music Cities, calling it the “mother ship for indie rock and alternative-country types.” Stubb’s Bar-B-Q books some of the bigger acts that come to town, including the White Stripes, Johnny Cash, and Snoop Dogg. In addition to the live entertainment taking place on a nightly basis, two massively popular music festivals—South by Southwest and Austin City Limits—draw in huge crowds each year.