Austin might be the capital of conservative Texas, but this liberal haven is one of America’s most gay-friendly cities.
Texans are mighty proud to call the Lone Star State home; one of the best ways to understand why is with a visit to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. State of the art, interactive exhibitions offer a glimpse of Texas’ time-honoured past, from its early days as part of Mexico to becoming an independent nation and, later, part of the Union. Whether or not you walk away agreeing with Sam Houston’s quote etched at the entrance (“Texas is the finest portion of the globe that has ever blessed my vision”) you’ll undoubtedly leave with a newfound appreciation towards what it means to be Texan. Another must-visit Austin museum is the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, a fascinating showcase of contemporary sculptures by renowned American sculptor Charles Umlauf. Throughout the six acres of serene gardens, discover representations that cross a broad range of styles, with everything from whimsical animals to striking nudes on display.
Austin’s sweltering heat can be a smack in the face to those of us not accustomed to a subtropical climate. The solution for any sweaty situation? The Barton Springs Municipal Pool, a 3-acre spring-fed haven that promises ~70-degree water all year long. Spend a day here cooling off and people watching before a riveting evening of epic entertainment. Austin is the live music capital of the world, after all, and we would be remiss not to mention The Continental Club, a historic landmark and one of the oldest continually running clubs in Austin, with over 60 years of performances—including the likes of Bill Carter and Stevie Ray. Grab a seat at one of the intimate tables nestled alongside restored ‘50s murals and discover a premier country, blues and rock act as they hit up the stage. Then there’s the Paramount Theatre, a 1915 building that serves as both a live music venue and a movie theatre. Of particular note is Bye! Felicia, a celebration of LGBTQ comedy pride delivered by first-rate comedians.
You’ve tried fashionable mezcal and tried-and-true tequila, but what about the cousin to the beloved agave spirits: sotol? America’s only sotol distillery, Desert Door produces world-class sotol from the native West Texas desert spoon plant, delivering a one-of-a-kind imbibing experience that is also 100% Texan. Desert Door distillery offers expert-led tours, along with a cosy tasting room complete with a working fireplace, comfy couches, and art exhibitions from regional talent. We suggest sipping their signature Desert Paloma, a sumptuous mix of sotol and grapefruit juice.
As one of America’s most gay-friendly cities, it comes an as little surprise that Austin offers a medley of gay festivals throughout the year. Always a fan favourite is Splash Days, a nonstop, nonprofit gay party held over Labor Day weekend at Hippie Hallow Park—the only clothing-optional beach in Texas. OUTsider Festival showcases spectacular queer art, while aGliff is a long-standing LGBTQ film festival. QueerBomb, a glittery parade down Austin’s “straightest” street, and the Austin International Drag Festival are also worth checking out, as is the obvious go-to: Austin Pride.
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