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The best Hotels, Restaurants, Shopping, Art, Cultural Attractions, and just plain Fun Stuff to do and see in Austin, Texas.
The 1939 Hotel San José offers some 40 minimalist-meets-Texas rooms with modular furniture and cowhide rugs. Crushed gravel paths lead to meditation-quality gardens, and the poolside patio sports the hippest bar around. Rooms from $90.1316 S. Congress
Middling: The 189-room InterContinental Stephen F. Austin has a lock on location: within walking distance to the Capitol, museums, and entertainment in the Warehouse District and along 6th Street. Rooms from $169. 701 Congress Ave.
Splurge: The new Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa keys off Austin’s musicality with photos and memorabilia from local legends on the walls and concerts on the Colorado riverbanks. The outdoors-focused resort adjoins a nature preserve and offers hikes and horseback rides. Rooms from $229. 575 Hyatt Lost Pines Rd.
BYO bottle to Salt Lick, the region’s trek-worthy, family-run barbecue stop since 1969. The original slow-cooking hearth caramelizes the vinegar-based BBQ sauce on brisket, pork ribs, and turkey. The eatery serves it all up family style, along with a mess of sides at picnic tables. Save room for the blackberry cobbler. 18001 FM 1826
Slide into a Texas-big vinyl booth at Ranch 616. The Market District eatery is modeled after a big-eatin’, hard-drinkin’ roadhouse (“ice house” in local lingo) with vintage cowboy pictures and mounted deer on the walls. The Black Angus ribeye and chicken fried quail are best washed down with a Ranch margarita. 616 Nueces St.
Duck into Amy’s Ice Cream, whose motto is “Life’s uncertain…eat dessert first.” The cold creamery specializes in “crush’ns,” nuts, candy, and cookie bits that are mixed in by zany counter scoopers. But watch out; they may flip their paddles about as they chop Whoppers into your Mexican vanilla. 600 N. Lamar, Suite 1012-B
Power-breakfast the Austin way at local fave Las Manitas Avenue Café. The simple, folk-art-filled, sister-run diner specializes in Mexican migas (tortilla strips scrambled in with your eggs) and Central American eggs, black beans, and plantains—as well as long waits for weekend tables. Rise and hustle here early. 211 Congress Ave., 512-472-9357
Feast on border-state dishes like tortilla-crusted pork tenderloin and white fish tacos at the Roaring Fork restaurant. Don’t miss the house margarita made with huckleberries and shaken tableside. Antler chandeliers, stone walls, and legislators downing power lunches all underscore this border-meets-sea locale. 701 Congress Ave.
Head for nearby Güero’s Taco Bar when hunger strikes. Housed in a century-old feed store, the sprawling taqueria specializes in Mexican favorites like tacos al pastor (marinated pork) with homemade tortillas, plus a self-serve salsa bar. Wednesday through Sunday, angle for a seat in the garden where a live band plays.1412 S. Congress Ave.
Browse the Market District shops around 6th and Lamar. Begin with the flagship Whole Foods where you can get everything from a mini-massage to a massive chocolate-chipotle bar. Across the street, hit the ultimate music store, Waterloo Records, where staff will open any CD and let you listen before you buy. 600A N. Lamar Blvd.
Explore the tranquil six-acre glade at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. The grounds boast 56 sculptures—of lovers, children, saints, and animals—created by Charles Umlauf, a former University of Texas professor. Umlauf and his wife donated their house, studio, and his sculptures to the city in 1985. 605 Robert E. Lee Rd.
Appreciate the 17,000-work-strong collection at the new Blanton Museum of Art. Housed at the University of Texas, the museum’s galleries cut a broad swath through art history. Works range from a current exhibition of Albrecht Dürer prints to permanent installations of contemporary Latin American artists. 200 East Martin Luther King Blvd.
Keep pace with the local pack of joggers, walkers, and stroller-pushers along the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trails. The paths meander throughout the 10-mile green belt that borders the waterway (not really a lake, but a reservoir on the Colorado River) from the MoPac Expressway to Longhorn Dam.
Honor the history of the blues at legendary club Antone’s. Founded by Clifford Antone in the summer of 1975, the original venue was one of the first clubs on now-legendary 6th Street. Currently located nearby on 5th at Colorado, the smaller venue welcomes touring and local acts and is open to all ages. 213 W. 5th St.
Board a large pontoon boat at Capital Cruise boat dock for a spooky-cool bat-watching trip to the Congress Avenue Bridge. North America’s largest urban bat colony—some 1.5 million Mexican free-tail—roost here March through November and spiral out in massive clouds at sunset to feed. 208 Barton Springs Rd.
Walk up Congress Avenue directly toward the Texas State Capitol and make a beeline for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum behind it. The 4-D Star of Destiny movie provides an entertaining overview of Texas history, including a wind storm and snake scare conjured in the theater—all thanks to a bevy of special effects. 1800 N. Congress Ave.
FUN STUFF: AUSTIN
Cool off with a dip in the year-round-68-degree, three-acre Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park. Some 27 million gallons of water per day issue from the fourth largest spring in Texas. The resulting stone-bordered pool draws everyone from lap-swimming triathletes to flirtatious teens and splash-happy tots. 2101 Barton Springs Rd.
Motor 45 minutes out of town through lush and rolling scenery to reach Texas Wine Country. The self-guided trail starts at Driftwood Vineyards and the Tuscan-looking Mandola Estate Winery. October is Texas Wine Month; avoid the crowds by skipping the wineries along Hwy. 290 and head north or south instead.
Greet the new day with a drive into the western hills of the city to Lake Austin Spa Resort. The therapy is both visual and physical. Book the awakening lemongrass and ginger massage—preferably in an outdoor cabana—and spring for the use of the lap pool. Don’t leave without touring the lushly gardened grounds. 1705 S. Quinlan Park Rd.
Two-step around the fabled Broken Spoke dance hall in Austin’s south side with cowboys of all stripes, be they in 10-gallons or trucker caps. The 1964 roadhouse is famed (see the photo-filled Tourist Trap Room) for booking biggies like Willie Nelson, who still stops by for chicken fried steak. 3201 S. Lamar Blvd.
Catch the free 6:30 p.m. happy hour show at Austin’s classic Continental Club. The 1957 former supper club (witness the vintage European streetscape murals) turned rock, blues, and swing house provides an intimate stage for local favorites like Heybale, Dale Watson, and James McMurtry (son of Larry). 1315 S. Congress
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