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Escape Artist: Austin, Texas

BOOTS ON THE GROUND: One music-savvy frequent traveler gives us an intimate tour of this vibrant, fun-loving city

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Musicians at Old Settler's Music Festival
Old Settler’s Music Festival


Food trucks are all the rage during SXSW; try the wraps and fresh strawberry shakes at The Mighty Cone truck (in a lot at 1600 S. Congress Ave.; 512-383-9609, mightycone.com). The low-lit ambiance and half-price happy hour are the draw at Parkside (301 E. Sixth St.; 512-474-9898, parkside-austin.com), which is also famous for its fresh oysters and raw bar. Vegans will love the barbecue tofu at Mother’s Café & Garden (4215 Duval St.; 512-451-3994, motherscafeaustin.com). For creative sushi, go to Uchi (801 S. Lamar Blvd.; 512-916-4808, uchiaustin.com), the upscale sister to chef Paul Qui’s Uchiko (4200 N. Lamar Blvd.; 512-916-4808, uchiaustin.com). Foodies should check out the Austin Food & Wine Festival, April 27 through 29 (austinfoodandwinefestival.com).

Oysters from Parkside

Big-name hotels are easy to find, but I prefer accommodations that reflect the city’s indie streak. The atmospheric Hotel San José (1316 S. Congress Ave., 800-574-8897, sanjosehotel.com; from $175) has a cozy courtyard surrounded by retro bungalows. My favorite place lately is the artist-inspired Hotel Saint Cecilia (112 Academy Dr., 512-852-2400, hotelsaintcecilia.com; from $310), which feels off the beaten path with its lovely garden and sustainable Dwell-like design. For a glam high-rise with a Vegas-style pool deck, stay at the W Austin (200 Lavaca St., 866-961-3327, whotelaustin.com; from $379). An 1886 landmark right downtown, The Driskill (604 Brazos St., 800-252-9367, driskillhotel.com; from $250) is the place to soak in old Texas grandeur.

From April 19 to 22, the Old Settler’s Music Festival (oldsettlersmusicfest.org) brings its Americana celebration to Texas Hill Country. I almost always find myself at Mohawk (912 Red River St.; mohawkaustin.com) to check out emerging indie rock. Down the street, the iconic Stubb’s Bar-B-Q (801 Red River St.; 512-480-8341, stubbsaustin.com) has an immense outdoor venue that fills with everything from quality hip-hop to country. Southern Texas punk and a great beer selection are on tap at Beerland (711.5 Red River St.; 512-479-7625, beerlandtexas.com). Try to get tickets to Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater (310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd.; 512-225-7999, acl-live.com/venue), the legendary PBS music series.

My absolute favorite store is Stag Provisions for Men (1423 S. Congress Ave.; 512-373-7824, stagaustin.com), with its curated collection of American men’s clothing and curio art objects. Friends of Sound Records (1704 S. Congress Ave.; 512-447-1000, friendsofsound.com) is the place to go for collectible LPs. Go legit cowboy at Allens Boots (1522 S. Congress Ave.; 512-447-1413, allensboots.com), where you’ll want to buy pairs for the whole family.


Photography: Jody Horton


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