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  • Cityscape High rise meets rodeo country
  • City life Barbecues and honky-tonk blues

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’.

Do go/Don’t go

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.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Fly with United Airlines, American Airlines or British Airways and change at New York, Houston or Dallas for a connecting flight to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport | or ABIA (www.ci.austin.tx.us/austinairport/). An Airport Flyer Bus Service runs from the airport | along with the Capital Metro | which travels between the airport and downtown | Austin Central and the University of Texas. A taxi from the airport to the city centre costs around $25.
  • Trains Amtrak operates regular rail services to and from Austin station, which is at 250 North Lamar Boulevard (www.amtrak.com).
  • Automobiles ‘Drive friendly’ is a Texas state motto | and exploring Austin by car is generally a stress-free experience. Most major car rental companies are available at ABIA.
  • Taxis Cabs can be flagged in the street, although in this health-conscious, outdoorsy city, bicycles and pedestrians are more common sights. If finding a taxi is proving difficult, try American Yellow Cab (+1 512 452 9999) or Austin Cab (+1 512 478 2222).