The Texas capital is famous for its "Keep Austin Weird" slogan, its quirky music venues and shops, and its laid back vibe. It also has a history populated with interesting characters, from gunslingers to celebrities and sports stars, and a rich natural environment.
Here we consider some of the lesser known fun or quirky facts about Austin and its residents, now and in the past.
Did you know that an average of 20 million people visit Austin, Texas every year? That's more visitors than Rome (which attracts 4.2 million), Hawaii (8.3 million), or even London (17.4 million)!
Also, did you know that...
- Austin is famous for its bats. Between March and October, an estimated 1.5 million bats emerge from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge just before sunset. This is the largest bat colony in North America.
- The Circuit of Americas in Austin is the only Formula One race track in the United States. It has hosted the United States Grand Prix since 2012.
- Famous actor Matthew McConaughey hails from Austin. So does Sandra Bullock – she runs the downtown restaurant, Bess Bistro.
- Known throughout Austin, Leslie Cochrane was a homeless man who regularly wore women's clothes. He campaigned for the rights of the homeless and even ran for mayor, three times.
Fun (and bizarre) facts about Austin's history
No fewer than six sites served as temporary capitals to Texas, prior to Austin claiming the crown. They included Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco, Columbia, and Houston.
The Queen of Psychedelic Soul, Janis Joplin, was voted "Ugliest Man on Campus" by her fraternity at the University of Texas in 1963.
Also, Austin has attracted its fair share of gunslingers and killers. Did you know that...
- In the late 1800s, a serial killer known as "The Servant Girl Annihilator" terrorized Austin. The killer has been compared to England's notorious Jack the Ripper. Some even postulate it was the very same man.
- Notorious bank robber and ‘Texas’ Beloved Bandit’, Sam Bass was gunned down by Texas Rangers, and later died of his injuries, in Austin’s Round Rock.
- The father of notorious outlaw and assassin, "Killin’ Jim", was a stonemason and part of the construction team that built the first Capitol building in Austin.
- Mass murderer, Charles Whitman, was pinned down by gun touting Austinites, who fired at him systematically until authorities took control of the situation.
Fun facts about people in Austin
More than 10% of Austinites are of German ancestry.
When it comes to wealthy inhabitants, Austin pales in significance when compared to Dallas or Houston. Nonetheless, it is home to two of the richest men in Texas – John Paul deJoria, who's a purveyor of mobile phones and fine spirits, and Robert Smith, a private equity manager and newcomer to the annual Forbes "rich list."
Andy Roddick is the first Austin resident to have won a Grand Slam singles title in tennis, having defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero in the 2013 US Open.
In 2015, Austin ranked fifth on America’s Drunkest Cities List, published in Men’s Health magazine.
Fun facts about Austin's natural attractions
Hippie Hollow at Lake Travis is the only legal nude beach in Texas. Also, if you fancy topless rather than tethered up, Austin is the only city in the state that doesn't have legislation preventing ladies from "hanging it out" for all to see.
Tornado activity in Austin is 38% percent greater than the national average.
A type of salamander that bucks convention by retaining its aquatic characteristics for life is found only in the watery caves of Austin's Barton Springs water system.