Only In Austin Archives - 365 Things to Do in Austin, TX

If you’re looking for an authentic slice of Austin, almost completely untouched by the new, surrounding mixed-use buildings and retail stores, look no further than the Broken Spoke.

An Austin institution since 1964, the current iteration of the honky tonk came together two years later, when, in 1966, owner James White expanded the space to include a now-famous dance floor. It turns out that when White opened the Broken Spoke (named so after the Jimmy Stewart movie Broken Arrow and his kinship with wagon wheels) as a café and pool hall, people kept two-stepping to the country music playing from the jukebox. There was barely any room, so patrons would, according to the stories, dance wherever they could: in-between tables and even out in the parking lot. Sensing he had something big on his hands, White made the Broken Spoke what it is today, what he calls, “the last of the true Texas dance halls.”

Since then, some of country music’s biggest stars have graced the stage at the Broken Spoke, including Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, George Jones, Bob Wills, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, and George Strait. Local legends Asleep at the Wheel are regulars at the Broken Spoke to this day. Films such as Wild Texas Nights and Honeysuckle Rose and the television show Friday Night Lights have filmed scenes at the honky tonk. In 2016, a documentary about the historic venue and restaurant, called Honky Tonk Heaven, premiered at SXSW.

Inside, the checkered tablecloths and neon lights are just as they were 50 years ago, and everyone from city slicker tourists to longtime locals spend their time and money at the Broken Spoke. Tuesday through Saturday, visitors to the 2010 inductee to the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame can dance to live music, gulp down a couple of cold Lone Stars, or sample the Broken Spoke’s famous chicken fried steak. Whatever you do, don’t just stand on the dancefloor.

Photo by Makenzie Harrison. 

A new year means new adventures. Sometimes it’s easier to attack the year with gusto when you have a list of things to do, so here are 10 special resolutions just for us Austinites. Do your best to complete them by year’s end, and tag us in your photos along the way!

1. Eat pizza and do yoga in the same day.

We live in the land of endless pizza AND yoga. Why not make yourself feel less guilty about indulging by taking a yoga class before or after (but preferably before)?

Pizza joints we love include Via 313, Home Slice, East Side Pies, and Pinthouse Pizza. For yoga, try Wanderlust, Black Swan Yoga or Practice Yoga

Detroit Style Pizza from VIA 313

2. Don’t complain about the ACL lineup.

Every year there is a wrath of backlash when ACL announces the lineup for the city’s biggest music festival. We get it, it’s impossible to create a lineup that pleases everyone—but let’s focus on the positive, please.

Also, rest assured that alt-new-age-grass-metal band you were hoping for will still come to Austin at some point this year … they all do.

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3. Welcome the outsiders.

We know, we know, “Don’t Move Here” has replaced “Keep Austin Weird” as our city’s unofficial slogan.  It’s a side-effect of living in the greatest city on Earth. But let’s welcome newcomers and be good hosts.

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4. Do more night swimming at Barton Springs.

Swimming in Barton Springs is a rite of passage for every Austinite. Do it right and dive into a full moon swim after dark. 

barton springs

5. Step out of your taco comfort zone.

Do you get the same tacos from that same place every week? We admire your loyalty, but this city has too many great purveyors (and styles of tacos) to play it safe.

Check these ones off your list first: Veracruz, Violet Taco, Rosita’sJoe’s Bakery, Marcelino Pan y Vino, and Porfirio’s.

violet taco

6. Volunteer, and save money while doing it.

Replace one happy hour a week with taking dogs for walks at the Animal Shelter. Your heart and your wallet will thank you. 

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7. Watch less Netflix and more sunsets.

For a real challenge, watch the sunrise from Mount Bonnell and the sunset from the 360 Overlook in the same day.

Photo By: Alison Owen

Photo By: Alison Owen

8. Be outdoorsy—brunch on patios.

You wanted to get outside more, well who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Try L ‘Estelle House, Perla’s, Josephine House, Weather Up and Irene’s.

Dan's Hippy Tonk at Irene's

9. Take a UT Tower tour.

Regardless of whether you went to UT or not, this is one of the coolest views in town.

ProTip: Go for the sunset tour.

tower tour

10. See more live music.

This is the “Live Music Capital of the World,” after all. Embrace it. Check out venues like The Mohawk, Stubb’s, Emo’s, and ACL Live for their upcoming shows.

During the summer, be sure to check out free music at Blues on the Green and Unplugged at The Grove

Photo by: Greg Noire

Photo by: Greg Noire

Happy 2017, y’all!

Tonight is the night, the famous Zilker Tree will be lit for the first time of the season..

I am so excited about the Tree Lighting this year as it is also a reminder that the Trail of Lights will be back this year as well. The Trail Of Lights will run December 10th – 23rd.

This 155-foot tall “tree” is composed of 39 streamers, each holding 81 multicolored, 25-watt bulbs totaling 3,309 lights. It’s really something to be seen and an absolute icon as you go past the park in December.

The Zilker Tree lighting dates back to December 10th, 1967.

The Zilker Tree will be lit every night from now – December 31st, 6 p.m. – midnight.

When: today, November 27th

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Location:
2100 Barton Springs Road
Austin, Texas 78704

http://austintexas.gov/zilkerholidaytree

Driving down Lamar Boulevard near 11th Street, you might notice what many locals call “the foundation,” which is the colorful ruins of an old commercial construction project that never got off the ground. Decades ago, it was the start of condo building that was abruptly abandoned and over the years it became a destination for partying teens and neophyte street artists. As the murals and graffiti accumulated on the foundation walls, the collective project became known as The Baylor Street Art Wall, and it has slowly become an iconic piece of Austin lore.

But what was once a free-for-all is now regulated by the nonprofit HOPE Events. Rechristened as the HOPE Outdoor Gallery in 2011 with the help of famous contemporary artist Shepherd Fairey, the wall is now an educational project, serving as a destination for school field trips, live art projects, and gardening classes, among many other benefits to the community. It’s also a popular spot to take maternity and engagement photos, and to host children’s birthday parties.

Though the days of wandering up the steps to the old foundation to throw a tag up while drinking a six pack of Lone Star with friends are gone, the proprietors of the land and the folks at HOPE are still proponents of local artists. You can receive a paint pass to HOPE Outdoor Gallery with proof of ID, a submitted questionnaire, and a mock-up of your design.

To participate in the mural project, or to learn more, email murals@hopecampaign.org.

 

Living in Central Texas has its perks, including but not limited to incredible weather and access to the best barbecue in the country. But if one were to nitpick, we don’t have an ocean. Namely, there’s nowhere near here to surf. Well, those days are almost over. NLand Surf Park is coming to Austin!

Opening sometime this year in Del Valle, NLand purports to be the most inclusive inland surfing spot in North America, featuring 11 surfing areas at four levels of expertise, from beginner to pro.

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Created by engineer and surfer Doug Coors and using technology from Spanish firm Wavegarden, NLand is the product of 15 years of trial and error to create seamless waves that break just as perfectly as the real thing. The waves will be one, three, and six feet, breaking every 60 seconds and will allow riders up to 35 seconds on each one. Never surfed before, or looking to simply perfect your skills? NLand promises a “surf school,” where pros will share tips and give hands-on advice.

Perhaps most importantly, NLand Surf Park wants to create a ski-slope-like atmosphere, but for surfing. Everyone knows that après-ski is the reward at the end of a long day on the slopes, and NLand hopes to provide that same type of experience, for riders and those who just want to lay on a beach and watch.

Pricing hasn’t been posted yet, but in an interview late last year, Coors said, “We are still tinkering with our pricing models, but it will be similar to a day of skiing or snowboarding.” At press time there were reports that the park is having permitting issues and the wave machine is being repaired. We may have to wait a bit longer for the grand opening (it was originally scheduled to open this spring) but we are going to stay optimistic. Study up on your surfer slang people, it’s almost time to catch a wave.

Above: A rendering of NLand Surf Park. Image courtesy of NLand Surf Park.

 

 

“There’s a new fiesta in the making as we speak,” drawls a blonde, mustachioed Matthew McConaughey in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. “It’s out at the moon tower. Full kegs, everyone’s gonna be there.”

From that point in the classic stoner comedy, a boring night shooting pool and running from a sadistic Ben Affleck is transformed into a picturesque snapshot of teenage debauchery. A gaggle of high schoolers mingle on a patch of land surrounded by a single, monolithic structure: a moonlight tower.

It’s one of those quirky and famous features of Austin that most people actually know very little about. So what is this thing? Where did it come from? Are there more?

moontower-rio-grande_480

One rumored reason for the moonlight towers’ construction is a response to the yearlong terror inflicted between Christmas of 1884-85 by the Servant Girl Annihilator, a serial killer who brutally murdered seven women and one man before disappearing completely. However, the moonlight towers were actually installed a decade after the murders ended. In fact, they weren’t constructed in the city at all.

The Fort Wayne Electric Company erected moonlight towers in Indiana, as a way to illuminate large areas of town in a time when street lamps were prohibitively expensive. In 1894, the city of Austin got in on the action and purchased 31 of them, each 165 feet tall, with a 15 foot base and weighting approximately 5,000 pounds. They were connected to electric generators at the newly completed Austin Dam, until the dam collapsed in 1900, killing dozens of residents.

The original source of light came from carbon arc lamps, which shed a blue-white light up to 3,000 feet in diameter. Later these lamps were replaced with incandescent bulbs with individual switches on each tower. World War II necessitated potential citywide blackouts, leading to the creation of a central city switch for all moonlight towers. The lights are now automated, using mercury vapor bulbs.

In the years since their installation, 15 of the 31 moonlight towers have been lost, mostly due to new construction. Still, the 17 remaining towers, listed here (along with the former locations of towers) have since been recognized both as Texas State Landmarks (in 1970) and on the National Register of Historic Places (1976). Austin is believed the only place in the entire world where they still exist.

In 1993, the moonlight towers were deconstructed and completely restored, down to the last bolt. Austin Energy celebrated this $1.3 million feat in 1995 with a citywide festival.

Though many of the moonlight towers are now gone or moved from their original locations, and even though Richard Linklater fabricated a moontower for his film so that it would conveniently be surrounded by a field large enough for an epic beer bust, the structures remain an iconic, everlasting piece of Austin history.

So next Christmas, when you’re spinning under the Zilker tree, the most famous moonlight tower of them all, remember just how lucky we are to have that rare beacon of light.

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