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'Nothing to do' isn't in our vocabulary

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

It's the quality of life. Not the quantity.

That's what attracts newcomers to Austin.

And yet in the field of entertainment, we enjoy quantity as well as quality.

Music: No matter how many things you've heard about the music scene in Austin, you can't visualize its full depth and breadth. More than 150 venues offer regular musical sets. At any given time, more than 3,000 musical acts navigate this maze, and public places are a magnet for live music. Almost across the board it's a consistently high level of musicianship that twice a year peaks in mammoth festivals: South by Southwest in the spring and Austin City Limits Music Festival in the fall.

Arts: Second only to music, the arts are ubiquitous in Central Texas. In a select group of cities with professional symphony, opera, ballet and theater companies, Austin also has benefited as those offerings improved exponentially during the past decades. There's only one large art museum — the Blanton Museum of Art — but plenty of high-quality galleries and smaller museums. Comedy is red-hot in Austin, with dozens of transient sketch, improv and hybrid comedy troupes winning international fame.

Movies: Austin has been a movie mecca, more or less, for about 20 years. Besides giants like Robert Rodriguez, Mike Judge, Richard Linklater and Elizabeth Avellán, other directors, actors, designers and technicians wander our streets every day. The Alamo Drafthouse phenomenon started here. Depend on the good folks with the Austin Film Society, Austin Film Festival, South by Southwest Film Festival and other hyperactive groups to keep this city cranking out the films.

Nightlife: As money poured into Austin during the past two or three booms, club scenesters multiplied the "going out" options. Ultra-lounges were all the rage a couple of years ago. Now the night tribes follow celebrity party planners, social media mavens and mixologists sparking the next cocktail revolution. Newer entertainment districts include West Sixth Street, East East Sixth Street and Rainey Street.

Sports: In Austin, sports count as entertainment. Especially the University of Texas Longhorns on any field of action. They've been joined recently by superior minor-league teams, such as the Round Rock Express, Austin Toros, Texas Stars and the amazing freshman Austin Aztex. Add to that fast-expanding local sports bar phenoms, such as Third Base, Bikinis and Cover 3.

Style: Not long ago, the only fashion show in town was staged annually by the UT design program. Now it seems models walk the runway every night of the week. The presence of powerful national stores (Neiman Marcus, Saks, etc.) helps, but more influential are the masses of designers and boutiques that make up the backbone of the Austin fashion scene.

Food: When asked what they do for entertainment, Austinites often say: "Eat out." As you will soon discover, dining in Austin often comes with a dash of design, music, comedy or film. Take it all in.

How do you find out about this wealth of potential experiences? Each Thursday, read the Austin360 section in the American-Statesman. Each day, check 360Bets in print and austin360.com online. And, of course, follow my social column, Out & About, in various forms of old and new media.