Over the years, other cities have tried to claim the slogan as their own (we see you, Portland), but ‘Keep Austin Weird’ remains uniquely Austin.
With an ever-growing influx of visitors and a growing tech scene, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Live Music Capital of the World might be losing its weird edge. Fortunately, however, Austinites are not backing down from the fight to retain the spirit that Leslie Cochran best embodied, and which the city has refused to let die with him. Here are 10 traditions that keep Austin weird.
Things to do
Since 1963, Eeyore, the melancholy donkey in AA Milne’s children’s classic Winnie the Pooh, has been the guest of honor as thousands of Austinites flock to Pease Park to celebrate his birthday. The event resembles a cross between a hallucinatory dream and a field day at your local elementary school. Drum circles, drugs and a fair amount of nudity dominate one side of the park, and families, maypoles and children’s games the other. In another city it would be a recipe for disaster, but Austin makes it seem downright wholesome.
It’s Christmas all year round at Lala’s. Elaborate Christmas decorations, including a roof with a reindeer and festive Christmas lights, transform this bar into a Central Texas North Pole. Since its founding in 1972, the bar has served classic Texan fare. On its current menu you’ll find barbecue and Tex-Mex cuisine.
Tamales for Christmas and Thanksgiving
Mexican food is at the heart of Texan cuisine. From late November through the end of the year, homemade tamales are a hot commodity, with local favorites like Tamale House East and Curra’s Grill cranking out thousands of them for customers.
Maudie’s Moonlight Margarita Run
The run, now in its 15th year, raises money for The Trail Foundation to help protect and enhance the trails around Lady Bird Lake and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. The runners don’t actually drink margaritas before the run; they just join the guests for food and libations following the race.
One day, a guy in his 20s starts collecting junk in his backyard. Years later he has created a ‘cathedral’ made out of several tons of bric-a-brac, and instead of ending up on Hoarders, his family calling an intervention or his neighbors running him out of town, it becomes a beloved attraction. That’s the Vince Hannemann story, folks! Only in Austin…
Regular bingo might be good enough for your grandma and the folks down at the VA, but in Austin it’s for the birds – literally. Every Sunday at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, kids and adults line up to face off in a battle of chicken shit bingo. It’s $2 to buy in, winner takes all, and a chili dog is the consolation prize.
“Lend us an ear and we’ll give you more corn,” was how those who attended the first OHenry Museum Pun-Off World Championships were welcomed in 1977. The annual event celebrates the life of O Henry, the short-story writer formerly known as William Sydney Porter, who was an Austinite by way of North Carolina. In the past, the event has included live-music performances, a book sale and pun-offs in which contestants deliver their wittiest puns in response to a prompt. The event’s 40th anniversary was celebrated in 2017.
Every summer at the Zilker Botanical Garden, families and individuals build faerie homes out of native materials and plants to place along the Woodland Faerie Trail. Later, others are encouraged to look for the faeries in the exhibit. The children who participate are told that litter is faerie kryptonite.
Once condemned by the Austin American-Statesmanas “rabid flying rodents,” Austin’s bats have since become a source of local pride. Watching the largest urban bat colony emerge from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge to feed at night from under the Congress has become a must-do for locals and visitors alike. Austinites have been known to paddle a boat under the bridge to get the best view. It’s a little batty, but that’s Austin for you.
In 1894, Austin purchased 34 Moonlight Towers, and they have shed their light on the city ever since. (The only exception was from 1993 to 1995, when they were dismantled and restored, bolt by bolt.) Now, only 15 remain. Over the years they have starred in a number of movies, including appearing alongside Mathew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused (1993).