There is more to Austin these days than its quirky bumper-sticker slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” The laid-back, central-Texas town has skyrocketed to fame over the past decade, fueled by the ever-popular South by Southwest festival, the state’s business-friendly tax policy and a growing crop of twentysomething Silicon Valley transplants with deep pockets.
“The culture here has changed dramatically,” says Lisa Russell, who moved to Austin 13 years ago and owns a gallery on up-and-coming West Sixth Street. “The city and this area are bustling with an amazing upbeat energy.”
Here, our favorites.
Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Austin
Located in the heart of downtown, with views of Lady Bird Lake and easy access to ten miles of hiking and biking trails, the Four Seasons melds the natural beauty of Texas Hill Country with offbeat Austin culture. A top-notch spa with locally-sourced products, a steak-and-seafood restaurant overlooking the lake and an outdoor saltwater pool round out offerings that more than exceed big-city standards. Rooms start at $400; 98 San Jacinto Blvd.; 512-478-4500; fourseasons.com.
Restaurant: Paggi House
This iconic landmark dates back to the 1840s, but it isn’t nostalgia (or even the gorgeous wraparound porch) that keeps it at the top of locals’ must-dine lists—the food is sublime. Chefs Ruston Richardson and Drew Dunston specialize in farm-to-table dining (including vegetables picked from the restaurant’s own garden) featuring dishes like miso pork belly served with ginger, yuzu-pickled apple and fennel foam and balsamic-braised short ribs with truffle grits, peanuts, radishes and pea tendrils. 200 Lee Barton Dr.; 512-473-3700; paggihouse.com.
Spa: LakeHouse Spa at Lake Austin Spa Resort
In keeping with Austin’s keep-it-local ethos, Lake Austin Spa Resort utilizes fresh herbs harvested from its on-site organic garden, which Trisha Shirey, the director of flora and fauna, has been tending for 28 years, long before organic gardening was trendy. LakeHouse prides itself on being relaxed and comfortable (it feels more like a good friend’s summer home than a stuffy spa) and the signature Gifts of Our Garden treatment ($325)—a 100-minute combination of an herbal exfoliation, shower, full-body massage and ten-minute body wrap—is a delight. Want to really indulge? The resort's three-night package, including meals and fitness classes, starts at $1,720 per person (with double occupancy). 1705 South Quinlan Park Rd.; 512-372-7300; lakeaustin.com.
Art: Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery
At Lisa Russell’s 5,000-square-foot West Sixth Street gallery, it’s not unusual to spot a Picasso, a Chagall, a Dalí or a Lautrec on the wall for sale. Russell, the daughter of an interior-designer mother and an art-collector father, combined her love of masterworks and contemporary art into an eclectic collection—a boon for those who don’t want to commit to one style. In addition to a close relationship with Lelia Pissarro, the great-granddaughter of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro, Russell represents Daniel Maltzman, Rimi Yang and Michael Kessler, as well as Austin natives like Ray Donley. 1137 W. Sixth St.; 512-478-4440; russell-collection.com.
Shopping: West Sixth Street
Florence, Alabama–based menswear outfitter Billy Reid (1122 W. Sixth St.; 512-354-1884; billyreid.com) officially opened its doors in September and has been wooing West Sixth Street ever since. With cowhide-covered floors, a reclaimed barn-wood ceiling and a 14-foot German worktable sourced from a flea market in Atlanta, it has just the right amount of Austin swagger to impress the neighbors. (The shop hosts live music events about once a month.) Should you tire of shopping, fellow newcomer Clark’s Oyster Bar (1200 W. Sixth St.; 512-297-2525; clarksoysterbar.com) opened last fall a stone’s throw away and serves up a mean martini.