Austin, No Limits

Walk through the streets of Austin and find buildings and homes weatherworn to perfection on the outside as the smell of brisket billows from the inside. It’s a place where even grandmas have tattoos and music lovers can find their jam blaring out of one of the many venues and taverns. The Lone Star State capital is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and even with the hot and humid climate, it’s not difficult to understand why.

Places such as Rainey Street, where old houses were converted into bars and restaurants, have quickly become home to new high-rises and tourists. That isn’t to say that tourists should avoid tourist traps. While the sidewalks of South Congress may be crowded, it is lined with shops (Uncommon Objects is a must-see), cafes and taquerias. And it offers what may be the best view of the city skyline with the capitol building sitting dead center.

But more than the music and the barbecue, the best thing about Austin is how relaxed and casual it is, so leave the cocktail dress and high heels at home. You’ll be happy you did.

How to Get There

Austin is a short, cheap flight from Vegas. Look for deals on “unbundled” airlines such as Frontier and Allegiant, which sometimes have roundtrip flights for $100.

Where to Stay

If you’re going with pals, Airbnb is an affordable option. You’ll find places that fit two or three people for $100-$150 a night. For a hotel with an old world charm, the Driskill, built in the 1880s, fits the bill. And you can’t beat the location of the Heywood boutique hotel, a midcentury modern converted bungalow on Cesar Chavez Street.

Where to Eat

Vegans beware. Stepping foot in this haven of barbecue and Tex-Mex will have you questioning, and most likely compromising, your dietary code. One pulled-pork religious experience at Franklin Barbecue or La Barbecue and you’ll be the newest supplicant at the Church of Bacon. Stop by the 24-hour Buzz Mill for a cowboy brunch served on a tin plate and order a shot of house-infused pecan whiskey to feel extra rugged. There are also taco stands aplenty, such as Torchy’s, Joe’s and Mi Madre’s.

What to Do

Whether catching a big-name act at Moody Theater or passing by a cowboy with Bono glasses playing on the street for change, Austin’s music scene is top-notch. There are more than 50 shows on any given night throughout the city. Red River Street is the place for bar shows. If you want to take music home, stop by Waterloo Records. There are plenty of outdoor activities as well. The manmade Barton Springs swimming pool is fed from an underground spring that keeps the temperature around 70 degrees year-round. Barton Creek or Lady Bird Lake, which is fed by the Colorado River, is dotted with swimmers, kayakers and paddle boarders. For hiking, Mount Bonnell is a 15-minute drive west.