Travel Lust: Austin
We traveled out to Austin, Texas for SXSW and were blown away — the magnitude of music, excitement and revelry sent us into sensory overload. But what is there to do when the world's biggest music festival is not in session? Actually, a heck of a lot!
Where to stay
Barton Creek Resort & Spa was our home base for much of the week and we were in heaven. It is the number one golf resort in the state and is a favorite among travelers due to its four championship golf courses, great location in the scenic Texas Hill Country and proximity to the liveliness that is downtown Austin.
As the SXSW unofficial headquarters, Four Seasons Hotel Austin was kind of a hotbed of activity — this month they brought back their famed live music broadcasts and stayed in the thick of the action. The luxury hotel is not only in the heart of the festival but also doubles as a relaxing getaway for festival attendees. The live broadcasts with KU-FM 90.5 ran during the music portion of the festival (March 13-16, 2013) and featured several well-known artists performing each morning at the hotel. The event is open to locals and out-of-town visitors for $10 and includes a breakfast snack. To keep music fans looking rested and feeling refreshed, The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Austin also offered complimentary mini-treatments throughout each day's event in addition to the regular spa treatments offered at the hotel.
Hyatt Lost Pines is a fun retreat for girlfriends looking for a day trip or all-out getaway — with options for spa, golf, horseback riding, poolside lounging, a sunset float on the Lower Colorado River, fine dining and wine sipping at Stories, live music and drinks at Shellers, you name it. You choose whether you want to stay in or get out and play, and either option is winsome!
Where to spa
Hiatus Spa + Retreat This gorgeous spa in the middle of the city offers out-of-this-world facials, massages and various other spa treatments. It's a great place to relax and escape the madness of SXSW and any time at all.
Viva Day Spa Viva is another great spot for relaxing spa treatments. The Custom Designer Facial will leave your skin softer than a baby's behind. Book early — they tended to book up quickly during SXSW. However, this can be said for most things in Austin during SXSW!
Birds Barbershop A MUST on your Austin list ... Come on down, have a complimentary Shiner and check out the scene on South Congress all while getting your hair did! What is more fun than that?
Where to eat
South Congress Cafe Located on South Congress Avenue, which is filled with great shops and restaurants, this well-known cafe offers an out-of-this-world brunch. I highly recommend the Migas, a Texas specialty egg scramble of eggs, corn tortillas, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and a three cheese blend. It's served with refried black beans, a smoked gouda potato pancake, choice of salsa and house made tortillas. Delish! Don't forget to wash it down with a mimosa or a bloody mary made with Tito's vodka, which is made in Austin and is the vodka of choice for most Austin-ites.
Hoboken Pie Wait! A Brooklyn girl loves pizza in Texas? Yes! Killing time before Dave Grohl's epic Sound City show at Stubb's BBQ (also, well, epic) we hit Hoboken Pie for a quick slice. My date and I sampled the vegan Margherita — crazy delicious, a regular cheese pizza (which was phenomenal, even rivals some of the best New York City pizza I've had) and The Mission. Henceforth, I now no longer disapprove of pineapple on pizza. Delicious. Every bite.
House Wine Gather your girls, order a bottle of wine, and relax in this charming little house on Josephine Street.
Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill Best Sunday brunch in Austin, but amazing for people watching and delicious food every day of the week. The beer battered asparagus and green chile macaroni was so epic, we returned the very next day.
Looking for a pretty drive and a quick getaway from the SXSW craziness? Get in your car and drive 30 minutes south to visit the famous Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. Or you can visit the gorgeous and super tasty Trattoria Lisina and adjoining Duchman Family Winery, also located in Driftwood. Sit underneath the trees on one of their picnic tables, drink a bottle of their Vermentino, and enjoy the relaxing vibe.
Where to play
SXSW Obviously. But what you may not know is some of the most fun parts of the festival are open to the public — no badge required! There's so much to do, too! Austin School of Film's Community Screenings are free and open to the public. SXSW Auditorium Shores Stage is also free: This year Cafe Tacvba headlined Thursday night, The Flaming Lips were on Friday and Saturday was an all-day Levon Helm tribute and benefit. Here's a map if you want to get your bearings ahead of time.
Still feel like you are missing out?? Check out the Songwriter Showcase at Mozart's (Also free!) or head right into the Austin Convention Center for the Music Gear Expo, where you'll find great opportunities to connect with artists and brands as manufacturers market, promote and connect their latest gear and instrument offerings.
Remember, there are over 2,000 bands playing at SXSW, and most of them are nerds for their instruments, so on any day you hang out at that Expo, you are likely to discover some of the world's best musicians trying out the upcoming gear. Just in one afternoon, I saw Macklemore at the Jam for iPhone exhibit, The Crystal Method and Tom Brislin at Casio, Drummer John Tempesta by JHAudio and 50 Cent at SMS Audio! I spent so much time at the Music Gear Expo, I became the Foursquare mayor.
Driveaway Austin Motorsports Academy and Retreat: Not what you'd expect, right? But so fun! Lexus took us to the Driveway as their guests to test drive (and race!) the new 2014 Lexus IS. The car was everything I wish my behind was — the exterior design now a finer cut, its lines sharper, the spindle grille (a Lexus staple) sexier. OK, we don't have a grille, but you see my point.
We got to play with the IS350, the IS350 F Sport and the IS250, all on the backdrop of the Driveway Austin, a super fun motorsports training and entertainment complex located in the heart of Austin. The Grand Prix Course has elevation changes, signature corners, extensive training facilities and a F1 caliber track that weaves its way through canopies of trees alongside the Colorado River. It was certainly an interesting way to spend the afternoon before heading back to the bacchanalia that is SXSW!