There are a few cities that capture your heart the moment you arrive. This is how I felt about Austin, Texas, when I visited for the first time.

Each year, Austin plays host to SXSW, a six-day conference and festival that features the world’s best filmmakers, musicians, multimedia artists, and speakers from around the world. The creative buzz of tens of thousands of people descending on Austin for SXSW is as intense as it is inspiring.  Austin lives up to its reputation as a fun, hip city with a thriving music scene, but I was equally impressed by Austin’s friendly, laid-back style. From the city’s urban hotels to the eclectic neighborhoods adorned with vintage signs and outdoor music venues, Austin is a feast for the artistic senses. There’s something for everyone in the “live music capital of the world.” 

Artful Austin hotels

Austin’s artful hotel scene is diverse. The SXSW conference takes over nearly every one of Austin’s hotels for the event, so when I visited, I had a chance to spend time in many of the city’s properties. If you want a taste of Austin history, consider booking a room at The Driskill hotel, a luxurious icon built in 1886 and located in the heart of the famous party scene of Sixth Street.

If you prefer a more modern alternative, consider the new W Austin (one of my favorites) for its impeccable design detail and close proximity to restaurants and music venues. Looking for some pampering? The Four Seasons Austin sits on the banks of Lady Bird Lake and offers spectacular views of the South Congress Bridge and waterfront.

  • SXSW signs

  • Austin City Limits Music Festival

  • Allen’s Boots in South Congress

  • South Congress shopping district

  • Austin’s vibrant outdoor music scene

Shop South Congress

One visit to South Congress, a vibrant Austin neighborhood otherwise known as “SoCo,” and you will be smitten. This district ioverflows with restaurants, bars, music venues, and boutique shops. My favorite store was Allen’s boots, a family-owned cowboy boot business and Austin tradition since 1977.

If the smell of leather doesn’t get your shopping buzz going, then the sight of hundreds of hand-stitched, Old Gringo boots, handbags, and leather goods just might. Other great shops in South Congress include Uncommon Objects and Tesoros Trading Company, which boasts an eclectic mix of crafts from more than 20 different countries.

Anytime music and festivals

I’m a sucker for great festivals, and Austin, dubbed the “live music capital of the world,” lives up to its reputation. I had a few days to experience the famed music scene of SXSW, but the city also holds countless festivals throughout the year.

Be sure to time your visit to experience the Austin City Limits Music Festival, a two-weekend festival in October that brings together 130 acts from all over the world. Party goers also may want to check out the Euphoria Music and Camping festival, held each spring. In town for the weekend and looking for something to do in Austin? Check out Do512, a crowd-sourced, online calendar for events in Austin.

No matter what your interests, Austin makes a great weekend getaway that will feed your creative senses.  

What is your favorite way to experience the artistic sense of a city?