Austin may be the capital of the Lone Star State, but it couldn't be more different from the stereotype most people have of Texas. The city's unofficial motto, proclaimed everywhere, is "Keep Austin weird," and the prominent local gay population, wildly embraced by the entire city, is happily a prominent part of the joyous weirdness in this cosmopolitan center.
As the gateway to Texas Hill Country and home to the massive University of Texas, Austin's vibe definitely veers much closer to hipsters and hippies than Bible-thumping politicians, who are greatly outnumbered here. Long before South by Southwest made the city a destination for progressive rockers and even more progressive techies, the long-running PBS show Austin City Limits introduced Americans to the on-fire music scene.
Did we say "hippies"? Every summer, queers from across the Southwest converge in Hippie Hollow for the highlight of Splash Days, a Circuit weekend unlike any other: to get to the party, you have to swim there, no exceptions.
Any weekend, however, locals love to show visitors the ropes (literally; this is cow country). A smile will probably earn you a Texas-sized margarita in one hand, pit-smoked BBQ in the other.
Because we're such an integral part of the city's fabric, there's no gayborhood along the lines of Hell's Kitchen or the Castro. Most of the bars are downtown, but there are many all over town, just like us.
While there are plenty of bars and clubs to enjoy, leave time to explore the spectacular natural scenery, including three million resident bats that hang out under the Congress Avenue bridge at sunset. And be sure to take a look at the statues of the local heroes. They'll give you some idea of why Austin is so unique: Angelina Eberly, who set off a cannon to alert the city to some varmints from Houston who were trying to steal official documents and so move the capital; post-loving Willie Nelson; Barbara Jordan, the eloquent black congresswoman who took Nixon down in the Watergate hearings.