Native Texan’s first experience in Austin: a non-touristy visit



By Linda Smith
A & E Editor






I am a Texas native, but I visited Austin for the first time this November. When fellow Texans and others heard that I had not been to the iconic city, they felt as though I had disregarded a critical Texan duty for over 21 years. Even with all I had heard about this city, I still did not know fully what to expect.

The drive from Dallas was uneventful at best, speckled with random small suburbs and fields that reminded me of my small East Texas town, Troup, TX, that has a population of about 5,000.

As we kept going, the city kept getting weirder. Little dives covered in artful graffiti and the classy establishments near the capitol all fit together seamlessly, modern urbanism mingling with the large expanse that was this interesting city.

The editor crossed the Congress Avenue Bridge without seeing its  famous Austin bats.  -Photo courtesy of Allan Block
The editor crossed the Congress Avenue Bridge without seeing its famous Austin bats.
-Photo courtesy of Allan Block

I went for the Fun Fun Fun Fest, but other than that, I did not really do the “typical” things that visitors of Austin do. I did not try to take pictures at every piece of famous Austin graffiti. I did not watch for the bats off of the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. I did not spend all night, any night amongst the many establishments of Sixth Street. I did not eat zany variations of tacos at any meal and I did not make my way to UT Austin or the Alamo Drafthouse.

However, I did frequent Auditorium Shores, a large public park along Lady Bird Lake, and walked across the Congress Avenue Bridge with other pedestrians leaving the festival grounds. I went to several of the hundreds of live music venues all with such different but appealing characters, such as the ethereal yet grounded Belmont, grungy yet bright Mohawk and plush yet inviting Parish. I went to Turntable Records, a place so packed with records, crates, T-shirts and CDs that I barely found the Tom Petty shirt and Simon & Garfunkel CD I now own. I mixed and mingled with festival folks, and at the end of the night, slept gloriously at HI-Austin hostel.

This trip was wonderful for two big reasons. First, Austin was reminiscent of some of my smaller European excursions from my Rome semester. The city is divided by a beautiful lake, and reminded me of the beauty of rivers all over Europe, including the Tiber in Rome, the Thames in London, the Seine in Paris and, my personal favorite, the Danube in Budapest. I stayed in a hostel, a small place that was just the right size to fit all of us festival goers and general travelers. It was diverse; I met at least two British people in town for the British-based Judas Priest show at the festival, and a few Australian women there to see Courtney Barnett.

The second reason that convinced me that my Austin excursion was the best, though, was that I was able to enjoy the city my way. While Austin boasts a beautiful dichotomy that unites varying groups of people and is marked by its famous landmarks, I believe approaching a city with so much hype without bias or expectations also allows for the optimal experience. By doing this, you can find out for yourself that breakfast nachos are the best thing to have graced this planet, that the small bar you go to at night can change your whole perspective on a familiar band, and that every city has its hidden greatness that is not featured on a touristy webpage.


  1. This city is overrated and one of the most racist cities in America, 1-35 delineates lower income black families from the rich whites dominating west campus. The patriarchy and much of the other social inequality problems in America are epitomized in Austin If you don’t believe me, do some research yourself.

    Traveling to austin and spending money there only supports the completely unfair and quite frankly pompous system that the powerful upper class whites have so eagerly established

    And don’t even get me started on the hipsters and wannabes that flock from all over the country. Or the dinky two lane highways system designed for a much smaller city.

    To conclude,

    Austin sucks

  2. Big Mike,
    I sorry that you have experience the worst of Austin.
    IH35 no longer divides the white and Black — the rich and the poor.. Many of those poorer people are seeling the smaller depression era 2-1 houses for over $200,000 to young professionals moving to Austin.. Austin has been experiencing a renaissance the last 5-7 years…
    You are correct when you talk about Austins insufficient roadways! Since the 80’s city politicians have discourge growth by refusing to invest in infrastructure!
    That trend has turned around … we now havea commuter rail that is small compared to Dallas’ system. We have built toll-roads and are adding a toll lane to Loop1 and a new water treatment plant is being built…

    Mike? If you look at the membership of the Austin city council or the TRavis County Commisioners, then you will see men and women from many different ethnic backgrounds serving the public in leadership roles.

    Linda? Nicely written and dense article!
    The bats are Mexican free-tail bats that spend the winter in Mexico, so they may have left before you came to town. I hope that you did not miss St. Mary’s Cathedral?,_Texas)
    and to remind yourself of Rome visit La Traviata on Congress. It is one of the only truly Italian bistros in Austin!


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