Did you know Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World?
Nah, just kidding. If you know us, you know we’re here for the deep cuts — and there’s plenty of interesting factoids to go around. As connoisseurs of the quirky and unconventional, we put together a list of Austin’s history, oddest characteristics, and more. Maybe you’ve lived here your whole life and know some of this, or maybe you’ll learn something new.
Either way, test your local knowledge with these 21 interesting facts.
- The Austin area is the sole home to the Barton Springs salamander, an endangered species that dwells in the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer. Likewise, the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, only nests in juniper-oak woodlands found in Central Texas.
- Ever wondered why so many places around town use the name Waterloo? The city was named Waterloo up until March 1839, when it was named after Stephen F. Austin. Back then, Austin only had ~856 residents.
- More than 30 million domestic travelers visit Austin annually, and events like ACL Music Festival, SXSW, and the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix contribute millions of dollars to the economy each year.
- Everything really is bigger in Texas — Austin’s capitol building is the largest in the United States, including the US capitol.
- Speaking of the Capitol, the building is made from pink granite sourced from the nearby town of Marble Falls in the 1880s.
- The exact origin of the humble breakfast taco is unknown, most sources trace the invention of the phrase “breakfast taco” to Austin. Regardless of whether the original creator lived within city limits, it is certain that the Austin staple was created by marrying Mexican culture with Anglo-Germanic ingredients in Texas.
- Austin is the only place you can still see moontowers, or, 165-ft-tall predecessors to street lamps that emitted a 3,000 ft diameter of light. The towers were erected in the late 19th century, when less than 50% of Austinites had electricity in their homes, so moontowers gave residents freedom to roam at night for the first time.
- One of Austin’s most famous moontowers — also called moonlight towers — is the centerpiece for Zilker Park’s annual Christmas Tree.
- Austinites are all about feeling free, which is probably why the city is home to the only nude beach in the state of Texas: Hippie Hollow. Actually, there are no laws in Texas that prohibit women from being topless in public, but be wary, as you could still catch an indecent exposure charge.
- In 1978, the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center acquired one of only 20 complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible — the first book in Europe to be printed using a moveable type system in 1455. The Latin bible is always available for viewing in person or online in its entirety.
- As of 2022, the city of Austin is the 11th most populous city in the US, ranking smaller than Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
- It’s illegal for construction obstruct the view of the Texas Capitol in 31 “view corridors” downtown, which all offer views of the famous dome.
- Austin is home to a ton of celebrities. You already know about Matthew McConaughey and Willie Nelson, but did you know Emma Stone, James Van Der Beek, Sandra Bullock, Jensen Ackles, Andy Roddick, Brooklyn Decker, Chris Harrison, and Dan Rather have properties in Austin?
- Though Sandra Bullock splits her time between Austin and Los Angeles, she proudly owns local restaurant Walton’s Fancy and Staple.
- Austin — er, Round Rock — has its own version of Bigfoot called “the Hairy Man” who allegedly lived on Hairy Man road. Today, the Hairy Man’s legend is celebrated at the annual Round Rock Hairy Man Festival.
- The current Bevo — UT’s real-life longhorn mascot — is the fifteenth of his name.
- Scholz Garten is regarded as the oldest currently running business in Austin, having been opened by a German immigrant in 1866.
- The debut performer on Austin City Limits — the country’s longest-running live music TV show — was none other than Willie Nelson.
- At 298 square miles, Austin is only about five square miles smaller than New York City.
- Austin has a lot of local holidays, including “Leslie Day” on March 8, “Black Pumas Day” on May 7, and “Texas Reading Day” on Sept. 30.
- One of Austin’s nicknames is the “Violet Crown City,” a reference to the purple colors cast over the hills in the winter.