Austin City Culture

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Austin City Culture
Austin has always been known for three things: government, the University of Texas (and its football team) and music. But the city has so much more to offer, from world-class libraries to a strong film culture and quality shopping.
By Matthew Odam, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Kenny Braun/Texas Tourism
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    Wanna Learn? Dig In
    Austin isn't just a playground for kids of all ages, it is home to a world-class academic institution and a wealth of culture. Get lost inside the LBJ Library, as you learn about the fascinating man who served as the 36h President of the United States of America. The Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus houses a wealth of literary collections, such as the works of David Foster Wallace; and the Mexican American Cultural Center celebrates the great contributions and influences of our neighbor to the south.
    Photo courtesy of Kenny Braun/Texas Tourism
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    High Art in Austin
    Austin may not have the world-class reputation in the art world shared by Fort Worth and Houston, but the city still cultivates and promotes a wide array of visual arts, exhibiting both local and worldwide talent. The Blanton Museum is the centerpiece of Austin'sart world, with over 18,000 pieces in its collection and exhibits that range from ancient India to modern American. The Contemporary Austin's Laguna Gloria campus gives art lovers a chance to peruse artwork and sculpture al fresco with its outdoor, lakeside exhibits. If you visit in the fall, you might catch the East Austin Studio Tour, a two-weekend event where hundreds of artists open their studios for the public to tour and purchase art.
    Photo courtesy of Aaron Polinard/Art on 5th Gallery
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    Texana
    Maybe you have heard that Texas is kind of like a country all its own. Citizens of the former republic take great pride in their state, and the city of Austin gives visitors the chance to see and touch much of the state's amazing history. The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum showcases the state's history and highlights some of its modern cultural phenomenons like high school football. The museum, named after a late liutenant governor, is just up the road from the impressive Texas State Capitol, the denizens of which will happily tell you is taller than the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. For stunning views and a glimpse into one of the darkest chapters of the state's history, visit the Observation Deck at the University of Texas Tower


    Photo by Vania Lanas
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    Performing Arts
    Austin's performing arts scene is full of productions put on by national touring companies and local groups. The Austin Ballet and Austin Symphony both perform regularly at the Long Center for the Performing Arts near Lady Bird Lake, and the Zach Scott Theater is home to a variety of localand national plays and musicals. Austin is now a popular Third Coast for comedy and the ColdTowne Theater has been an incubator for improvisational and stand-up comedians for more than a decade.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Fashion Sense
    You may not find major fashion shows or streets packes with models in Austin like you do in other international hot spots, but the city has its own distinguishing sense of fashion. From boho chic to cosmopolitan, there are retail shops and vintage stores throughout the city that cater to the residents' unique fashion sense. Stag Provisions for Men and Service Men's Wear have everything the modern man needs to complete a look for a night on the town or a weekend hanging with friends by the lake, and the hip By George carries designs for discerning women and men, along with upmarket home goods. 


    Photo by Bill Oriani
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    Treat Yourself
    When you're on the road, it's nice to pamper yourself between an afternoon of shopping and a night of drinking or dancing. Austin's independently owned massage studios and spas can help you relax, whether you want the kind of therapeutic massages offered at Austin Deep or the high-end relaxation that comes with a trip to Milk + Honey. Added a facial or manicure to your package post-massage and make an afternoon of it. 


    Photo by Susan E. Pease/age fotostock
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    Austin's Movie Scene
    Home to Richard Linklater, Matthew McConaughey, and Robert Rodriguez, Austin cultivates a vibrant film culture. And the city's film scene isn't just about stars. In addition to world-class film festivals like the Austin Film Festival, South by Southwest and Fantastic Fest, Austin is also home to several independent movie theaters. The Austin Film Society, co-founded by Linklater, has its own  theater that hosts indie and repertory screenings. The Violet Crown Cinema downtown, with its small salons, feels like your own private screening room, and the Alamo Drafthouse wrote the book on the dinner-and-a-movie concept that has spread across the country. 

    Photo courtesy of Kenny Braun/Texas Tourism
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    Entertaining Retail
    Austin's unofficial slogan of "Keep Austin Weird" started as a mantra that encouraged people to support the city's local businesses. At the hub of that movement were Waterloo Records and BookPeople. In the digital age, where hundreds of albums and books can be carried on the phone in your pocket, these two stalwarts promote the enjoyment and importance of the analog world. Knowledgable employees offer friendly service and informed recommendations, and the layouts and cultures of the stores invite you to stay and explore.  


    Photo by Chun-Hung Eric Cheng