The heart of town lies west of Interstate 35, including the state capitol, the Warehouse District, Sixth Street, and the University of Texas. Downtown, which runs from the capitol down to the shore of Town Lake, is increasingly vibrant, with young professionals moving into lofts and high-rise apartments. North of the capitol is the sprawling UT campus; Guadalupe Street, known simply as "the Drag," represents its funky soul, with tattoo parlors, coffee shops, and bookstores. Texas Hill Country stretches west of the city; the land east of I-35 is flatter and less dramatic.
WHEN TO GO
Maybe it's because there's more green space—or maybe it's just the margaritas—but Austin doesn't feel as oppressively hot as Dallas or Houston. Still, summers are sweltering, with average temps above 90 between June and September. It's no accident the two biggest events of the year—South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival—are in the spring and fall, respectively. Even the coldest days of winter rarely require more than long sleeves: January averages 50 degrees.
HOW TO GET THERE
Austin Bergstrom International, ten minutes from downtown. is one of the few airports that accurately reflects the town it serves, with live music and grub from the Salt Lick and other local institutions. (512-530-2242; www.abia.org)
Austin boasts the highest per capita bus ridership in Texas, but it's still very much a car culture. If you're planning to golf or tour the Hill Country, renting a car is probably best, but prepare yourself for nightmarish traffic on the major highways. If you're sticking around downtown, you've got cheaper options: Taxis are plentiful, and free trolleys, called 'Dillos, serve the entertainment districts, even running late on weekend nights.
Austin Visitor Center
209 E. Sixth Street