Money's rolling in, traffic's lining up, and life in this laid-back town has come a long way from sipping Shiner Bock at a back-yard barbecue. With high-tech whiz kids and Hollywood heavyweights moving in, the Live Music Capital of the World is turning into a hipster haven and still holding on to its distinctly Texan identity. Between twirls on the dance floor and hefty servings of chicken-fried steak, you can bike around Town Lake, watch the colony of bats do their evening dance, or even shop for classic modern furniture. Whatever you do, be sure to see Austin before its popularity catches up with its success.
WHERE TO STAY
Barton Creek Resort 8212 Barton Club Dr.; 800/336-6158 or 512/329-4000, fax 512/329-4597; doubles from $250. For golfers, there's no other place to stay in Austin. This immaculate 4,000-acre resort could serve as a postcard for the gamewhite golf carts line up like soldiers, waterfalls cleave undulating seas of green. Four courses accommodate high and low handicaps; the new pool, spa, restaurants, and tennis courts take care of just about everything else.
The Driskill 604 Brazos St.; 800/252-9367 or 512/474-5911, fax 512/474-2214; doubles from $205. Saved from the wrecking ball and fresh from a restoration, the haunted (so rumors say) hotel caters to power brokers, presidents, and CEO's. Stay in the historic side, built in 1886, rather than the 1929 addition, and sleep in rooms with 17-foot ceilings, crown moldings, and dimensions that no modern hotelier would allow.
Austin Motel 1220 S. Congress Ave.; 512/441-1157; doubles from $60. Pick an era and check into the Austin Motel to live it. Conga around the fifties kidney-shaped pool, drink a rum-and-Tab beside a photomural of the Great Wall of China (room 253), or settle into one of the snug 1930's-style rooms and tell your friends It Happened One Night.
Hotel San José 1316 S. Congress Ave.; 800/574-8897 or 512/444-7322, fax 512/444-7362; doubles from $125. Austin's trendiest hotel practices a monastic style of edginess. The floors are concrete, the appointments spare; sitting on the suites' ultrafirm couches feels like penance. Naturally, every hipster books a return trip before checking out. Try to reserve a spot at one of the Tuesday Steak Night dinners in the courtyard, and mingle with your stylish social betters.
1888 Miller Crockett House 112 Academy Dr.; 888/441-1641 or 512/441-1600; doubles or cottages $109$169. The original 1888 tin ceiling, breezy veranda, and sheltering live oaks at this B&B give one impression. The quirky 1956 Magnavox TV-aquarium gives another. It's obvious why musical guests like Blues Traveler and Russell Crowe's band have enjoyed this five-room ueen Anne residence.
Getting There and Around
Austin recently debuted a hassle-free airport minutes from the city center. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is off Highway 71 near Highway 183, which leads to I-35 and into downtown. Congress Avenue and Guadalupe Street (which is known as the Drag north of the capitol) cut through downtown Austin. I-35 runs parallel to Congress to the east; the Missouri-Pacific Expressway (the MoPac) is to the west. You can easily do most of the town on foot, calling taxis in order to forgo lengthier walks.