Every city has things for which it is known. Green Bay has its cheese, Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell, Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Austin is best known throughout the country as being the capital of Texas (although some would incorrectly identify Dallas or Houston as such) and it’s attempted to define itself as “weird”. “Keep Austin Weird” is the city slogan adopted in 2000. They don’t want to be seen as a typical city, much less a typical Texan city.
As someone who’s lived in the state for a couple of decades, I’d make the case that Houston is more organically weird than Austin, but it’s almost an apples-and-oranges comparison. Houston, the first place I’ve ever seen a combination strip club and day care center (true story) is a place where a junkie might run into a tiger in an abandoned house. Austin is a place where you can see a juggling unicyclist trying to get tips on the side of the road.
But Austin has the bats.
The Congress Bridge bat colony lives underneath the eponymous bridge which spans Lady Bird Lake in Austin. At an estimated one and a half million, it is the largest urban bat colony in North America. Every evening from March through November, the bats depart their home at dusk and begin their repast, keeping the area free from excessive mosquitoes despite the heat and humidity.
They’re Mexican free-tail bats, one of more than thirty species common to North America, and their daily flight has become a common treat for local and tourist alike.
The bats are mid-sized examples of their kind, averaging about a one foot wingspan. They’re among the fastest bats alive. And they eat a lot of insects… dozens of tons of them every night.
Most of all, though, they’re beautiful, particularly when they’re leaving en masse for the night.
Question of the night: What’s a tourist attraction you’ve enjoyed visiting?