Ever proud of its innate weirdness, Austin isn’t just the live music capital of the world… it’s also laid claim to a slightly less famous, if equally notable, title: Bat Capital of the World. Known in some circles as “Bat City,” the town is home to no fewer than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats, many of which congregate under the South Congress bridge over Town Lake and emerge nearly every night just before dark in a spectacular stage show. The simplest way to view them is to stand on one of the bridge’s sidewalk and face east, or head for the lawn southeast of the bridge to the Austin American Statesman’s Bat Observation Center. Although nightly flights take place from spring through fall, the bats are most populous from late July through mid-August. To make sure you head downtown at just the right time, you can rather literally turn your cell into a bat phone and get the latest flight times by calling 512.416.5700 (category 3636).
…And More Bats
To kill two birds with one stone (bad pun… sorry), you can enjoy the wonders of the water while viewing the bats’ emergence display. Live Love Paddle offers a 2-hour kayak tour of Town Lake, conveniently scheduled to coincide with the bats’ nightly sky show and even more conveniently providing kayaks, paddles, personal flotation devices, drinking water, and free appetizer card to Joe’s Crab Shack – not a bad deal for $38.50 per person. Reservations are recommended.
If you want to view the bats from the water but don’t want to break a sweat (from effort, anyway – this summer’s 100-degree temps alone will probably have you glistening no matter what) there’s always a Lonestar Riverboat Cruise. Take a one-hour tour on a 32- or 35-foot cruiser, departing half an hour before sunset from the dock at the southeast corner of the South First Street Bridge. It’s $10 for adults, BYOB, and reservations are recommended.