Blur sang about Parklife – Austinites live the park life. All year round, throngs of locals lay down their picnic blankets beside the lakes in Texas’ sun-drenched capital, which boasts colour, character and kookiness aplenty.
Forget the Wild West, Austin is the mild West, with its relaxed pace of life, barbecue summers and colour-rich hills and parks. Cowboy charm endures, courtesy of honky-tonk bars, plaid-shirt-stuffed stores and Mexican-influenced eateries. For evidence of the city’s modern milieu, take a peek at its skyline: sleek skyscrapers looming in spiky clusters beside the lakes. SoCo, or South Congress Avenue, is now a magnet for cool cats. Austin is a city for the ears as much as the eyes: expect to hear the guitar-twanging, foot-stomping strains of country music, darkened with a dose of blues, wafting from 6th Street’s dance halls and bars. The Texan capital also hosts America’s largest music festival, South by Southwest, which has lured the likes of Bloc Party, Van Morrison, the Killers and the Fratellis. Characterful Austinites are as colourful as the scenery. Their unofficial slogan (plastered across bumpers and T-shirts) is, appropriately enough, ‘Keeping Austin weird’.
March sees the South by Southwest music festival hit the city, so flock here if you love music, or avoid if you don't like crowds.