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Austin 2023 in Review: Memorable Moments in the Capital City

A look back at some of the most notable events in Austin this past year

(photo by James Minchin)

Austin has once again proven to be a dynamic hub of culture, creativity and resilience in 2023. From music and comedy to food, art and extreme weather, the past year in Austin was filled with memorable moments. Join us on a journey through the highlights of Austin’s cultural tapestry in 2023, a year that showcased the city’s unwavering commitment to fostering imagination, diversity and nature conservation.

H-E-B Must-Try Products
Lake Austin Blvd. H-E-B (photo by Holly Cowart)

H-E-B Opened the First Multi-story Store at Lake Austin

H-E-B, synonymous with quality and innovation in the grocery retail sector, unveiled its first multi-story store in Austin in February. The impressive venture, located on Lake Austin Boulevard, has forever altered the grocery shopping landscape in this scenic community. Not only does the new store offer a comprehensive range of top-quality products, dining options and a coffee shop, it also reimagines the shopping experience by maximizing limited urban space. By doing so, H-E-B has made shopping more convenient and enjoyable for Lake Austin residents and visitors.

RELATED: 15 Top Local Food and Drink Brands from H-E-B

Austin, Texas Ice Storm of 2023
Austin, Texas Ice Storm of 2023 (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

We Weathered the Winter Ice Storm

In late January, we found ourselves in the icy grip of a once-in-a-generation ice storm that left the city and its residents facing an unprecedented challenge. As temperatures plummeted to historic lows, freezing rain and sleet coated the vibrant Texan capital in a glistening, treacherous layer of ice. The storm disrupted daily life, causing hundreds of thousands of power outages, icy roadways, fallen trees and widespread closures. Residents and emergency services rallied to weather the cold, demonstrating the resilient spirit of this warm-hearted city in the face of extreme adversity. The ice storm of 2023 served as a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of Mother Nature and the strength of the community that defines Austin.

Barton Springs Pool Austin, Texas
Barton Springs Pool (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Barton Boys Went Viral

The Barton Boys, a group of fun-loving friends, have become local legends for their unique and entertaining hobby of judging dives at Barton Springs Pool. This charismatic crew, whose playful antics have gone viral on platforms like TikTok, have brought even more excitement to Austin’s iconic natural pool. With their laminated scorecards numbered one through 10, they’ve transformed their leisurely poolside hangs into a lively spectacle, offering humorous and lighthearted critiques that have captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike. As divers gracefully (or not so gracefully) leap into the cool, spring-fed waters, the Barton Boys are there with their enthusiastic commentary, infusing a sense of community and camaraderie that Austin is known for.

2023 CMT Music Awards Show hosted in Austin, Texas
CMT Music Awards (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Austin Hosted the CMT Music Awards for the First Time

Austin made history on April 2nd by hosting the prestigious CMT Music Awards for the first time, underscoring our city’s growing influence in the entertainment world. Not only was it the first time this show was done outside CMT’s home of Nashville, but it was also Austin’s first time hosting any major televised awards show. Broadcasted live in the Moody Center on CBS, musical guests included Shania Twain, Gary Clark Jr. and Gwen Stefani. While it’s unclear whether it will continue in Austin, it was undoubtedly a night to remember for the local community and country music enthusiasts worldwide.

Willie Nelson’s Hall of fame Induction (photo by Laura Skelding)

Willie Nelson Celebrated His 90th Birthday & Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Willie Nelson, Austin’s legendary outlaw country musician, marked his 90th birthday on April 29 in a style only he could. The iconic singer-songwriter, famous for his distinctive voice and timeless classics, celebrated this milestone with a star-studded guest list — including Snoop Dogg, the Chicks and George Strait —that paid homage to his illustrious career. The event was a musical extravaganza filled with heartfelt performances and a warm, appreciative audience. But the festivities didn’t stop there. In May, Willie Nelson was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This honor reflects his significant impact on country music and the broader music landscape, proving that his contributions have transcended genre boundaries. Nelson’s 90th birthday and Hall of Fame induction remind us of the remarkable career of a music icon whose songs continue to resonate with generations and whose legacy will endure for years.

Brigitte Bandit Drag Queen
Brigitte Bandit Drag Queen (photo courtesy of Krissy Littlestar Hearn)

Brigitte Bandit Made Headlines

Brigitte Bandit, a captivating drag queen, made headlines in March when she stepped into the political arena with her impassioned testimony before the Texas Senate that raised concerns about legislation to criminalize drag performers and shows. It was a powerful demonstration of the intersection of art and activism. Brigitte Bandit exemplifies the power of using one’s platform to effect positive change, proving that the world of drag is a stage for creativity and self-expression and a powerful voice for social justice and equality.

Broken Spoke Austin, Texas
The Broken Spoke (photo by Matt Conant)

Broken Spoke Received Texas Historical Marker

The iconic Broken Spoke, a cherished honky-tonk dancehall in Austin, received a well-deserved Texas historical marker in April, cementing its status as an historical treasure. For decades, the Broken Spoke has been a revered institution in Texas, steeped in tradition and renowned for its live music, two-stepping and classic Western ambiance. As the Broken Spoke continues to captivate visitors and locals alike with its timeless charm and country spirit, this new historical marker status pays homage to the enduring legacy of this beloved Texan gem.

Dry Creek Bed (photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

It Was the Hottest Summer on Record

In contrast to the ice storm in January, Austin experienced an unprecedented heatwave later in the year, setting a new record as the hottest summer ever recorded in the city’s history. As temperatures soared, the city’s residents sweltered under relentless sun, marking a meteorological milestone that surpassed all previous data dating back to 1942. With a summer that fell just behind 2011’s drought-stricken season, this record-breaking heatwave presented significant challenges to the community, affecting daily life, agriculture and water resources. The blistering temperatures served as a stark reminder of the increasing impact of climate change on the region.

Pecan Springs Austin, Texas
Pecan Springs (photo by Rich Kostecke)

Hill Country Conservancy Received Anonymous Donation of 1,205-acre Nature Preserve

The Hill Country Conservancy was granted an extraordinary gift in the form of a 1,205-acre nature preserve this past summer. Pecan Springs Karst Preserve, valued at millions, is a pristine and ecologically significant land parcel in Williamson County. Within the Edwards Aquifer’s recharge zone, the reserve has several endangered species, such as Salado salamanders, golden-cheeked warblers and tricolored bats. This remarkable donation underscores the power of private citizens and organizations coming together to protect the environment and promote conservation in Texas.

South Congress Austin, Texas
South Congress Ave (photo by Holly Cowart)

Paid Parking Started on South Congress

In September, the city implemented a paid parking system along South Congress, marking a shift in how visitors and locals experience this vibrant district. The move aims to manage congestion and ensure more accessible parking options for those exploring the unique shops, restaurants and attractions that define this iconic thoroughfare. While this change will take some getting used to, it represents Austin’s commitment to addressing the evolving demands of a growing city.

Nau's Enfield Drug Store Austin, Texas
Nau’s Enfield Drug Store (photo courtesy of Nau’s)

We Said “Farewell” to Nau’s Enfield Drug

With a heavy heart, in September, the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin bid farewell to an institution that has been a cornerstone of the community for decades. Nau’s Enfield Drug, a cherished local pharmacy, announced its closure, marking the end of an era. This neighborhood fixture had been a trusted source of health and wellness, serving generations of residents with its personalized care and unique charm. The closure of Nau’s Enfield Drug represents a poignant moment in the changing landscape of Austin. While Clarksville residents will undoubtedly miss the familiar faces and services that Nau’s provided, its legacy as a beloved neighborhood institution will forever hold a special place in the hearts of those it served for so many years.