On the drive north-west from Austin-Bergstrom international airport you will see vehicles peppered with bumper stickers pledging to “Keep Austin Weird”. This is not difficult in a city with an entire museum devoted to “natural and artificial ephemerata” or one that holds a festival to celebrate the birthday of Eeyore, the depressed donkey from the Winnie-the-Pooh books.
But it is also a hive of start-up technology companies and independent businesses: keeping Austin weird is as much about nurturing enterprise as it is about maintaining the city’s eccentricities.
Live music capital
Austin’s live-music scene has flourished over the past six decades. Many a musician has gained fame at venues such as the Vulcan Gas Company, where open-minded audiences in the late 1960s perched on old church pews and homemade benches. Today, Austin calls itself “The Live Music Capital of the World”. Each autumn the Austin City Limits Music Festival takes place over two consecutive three-day weekends.
A skyline on the up
Construction work in recent years has given Austin more of a high-rise skyline. House prices, too, are rising fast, in concert with a swiftly growing population. No matter where you live in Austin, the sun still shines 300 days a year, but sought-after residential neighbourhoods include those to the west along the Colorado River and in the city centre.
High-tech start-up hub
The South by Southwest interactive festival, with its focus on emerging technologies, attracts tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, inventors and technologists. Even Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower, delivered a talk in 2014 via video link from his exile in Russia.
Related article: Lunch with the FT — Edward Snowden
Shop till late
On the first Thursday of each month, the shops and cafés on Austin’s South Congress Avenue stay open until about 10pm.
Austinites stroll between the strip’s live-music events and its eclectic boutiques, antique stores and galleries.
Photographs: Tammy Perez/Getty Images for SXSW; Peter Tsai Photography/Alamy; Dreamstime