What $500 Buys in Austin

Steven Noble

Austin, Texas, has become the top U.S. place to live for twenty- to thirtysomethings—and it’s not hard to see why. The city’s ever-growing music, art and dining scenes have made it a new cultural destination, thanks in large part to the annual South by Southwest festival, which kicks off this year on March 11.

Compiled by Candice Chan and John Wogan

One pair of handmade leather cowboy boots from Heritage Boot, which just moved into roomier digs on vibrant South Congress Street. Its custom designs, intricate details and unique materials like ostrich and sharkskin make this an Austin institution. heritageboot.com.

One night in a corner suite and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Trace, at the W Austin, which opened in downtown Austin’s trendy 2nd Street district in December. The 251 rooms pay homage to the city with guitar strap–bordered mirrors and original concert photography by local artists. The restaurant focuses on sustainable and organic ingredients collected by an on-site food forager. whotels.com.

Four handcrafted recycled glass vases by found-object artist Jason Middlebrook, plus admission for five to the Members Rooftop Lounge at Arthouse at the Jones Center. After a $6.6 million renovation, the contemporary visual arts organization has nearly tripled in size and now features a 5,000-square-foot open-air roof deck. arthousetexas.org.

Two Bamboo Bliss massages in the Bamboo Room, an outdoor treatment suite at Lake Austin Spa Resort, one of the top spas in the States. The new 80-minute massage uses an assortment of bamboo tools that are warmed and infused with lemongrass oil, then rolled and kneaded all over the body. lakeaustin.com.

Four seven-course chef’s tasting menus at Congress followed by three rounds of mint juleps (served in traditional pewter cups) at the adjoining lounge, Bar Congress. These downtown spots were opened last December by top Texas chef David Bull; drinks are by talented mixologist Adam Bryan. congressaustin.com.