Where to stay
For Southern hospitality with a modern bent in Austin, the recently renovated InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel (austin.intercontinental.com) is a sound choice. The refurbished rooms and lobby pay tribute to the hotel’s art-deco roots while the rich details such as dark wood bookcases and cattle-hooved stools recall the wild (South) West.
If you’re a history buff and a music fan, stay at The Driskill (www.driskillhotel.com), built in 1886 as the showplace of cattle baron Jesse Driskill. The luxe, old-world landmark is a favourite among musicians such as Jack White, who stays there during SXSW.
Meanwhile, hipster haven South Congress (or SoCo, if you’re a local) houses the Hotel San Jose (www.sanjosehotel.com), a boutique bungalow-style property originally built in 1939 as an urban “motor court.” Both typewriters and Polaroid-camera rentals are on offer.
Where to eat
Austin prides itself on being an offbeat hub in conservative Texas, but like the rest of the state, it loves its barbeque. The Salt Lick (www.saltlickbbq.com) is the legendary pit of choice, renowned for its brisket and sticky beef ribs. Franklin Barbecue (www.franklinbarbecue.com) is another good choice for all things smoked, but go early. The meat sells out by lunchtime.
For fancier fare, try Sway (www.swayaustin.com), a recent addition to the city’s foodie scene. Upmarket Thai dishes by chef Rene Ortiz such as Jungle Curry with Wagyu beef are inventive – and spicy. If you like your fare imaginative with a side of futuristic, try the sushi at Lucky Robot on South Congress (www.luckyrobotrestaurant.com), where orders are placed with a table-side iPad.
Then sate your sweet tooth with a frosted treat at Hey Cupcake (www.heycupcake.com). Wes Hurt’s shop, which opened in an Airstream trailer in 2007, is credited for starting the food-truck craze in Austin (and, as locals will tell you, across North America). For a complete list of Austin’s food trucks, visit www.austinfoodcarts.com.
What to do
In South Congress, just south of the Colorado River, you’ll find Austin’s trendiest shops, including By George (bygeorgeaustin.com), which carries contemporary labels such as Isabel Marant and Rag & Bone. Just up the street is Allens Boots (www.allensboots.com), a purveyor of classic cowboy footwear. For accessories, try local jeweller Kendra Scott (www.kendrascott.com), who specializes in colourful boho bling.
Once you’re sufficiently tricked out, visit Barton Springs Pool, a man-made watering hole atop a natural spring located in Zilker Metropolitan Park, arguably the best scene in the city for peoplewatching.
Microbrews are the city’s latest obsession, so wind down the day with a few at Pinthouse Pizza (www.pinthousepizza.com), a brewpub serving 40 craft beers, including its own. For cocktails, head to Swift’s Attic (www.swiftsattic.com) for an adventure in mixology (try the spicy Cuidado: Pisa Mojado, made with jalapeno and tequila).
The airfare for a related photo shoot was provided by United Airlines. Accommodations were provided by the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel. Neither company reviewed or approved this article.
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