Today, luxury is far more than a five-star hotel and a gourmet meal. It’s blending those traditional elements with the luxury of being able to have authentic experiences that feature local and immersive activities. For upscale travelers looking for unique culture, Austin, Texas, should be on the radar for 2019.
With a city slogan like “Keep Austin Weird,” an incredible music, art, and culture scene, and a growing high-tech base, the Texas capital offers a lot of diversity for travelers to explore. Here, our Austin travel guide shows you the best of the best of this vibrant city.
WHERE TO STAY
The East 11th Street neighborhood is one of the city’s up and coming areas, and boutique Hotel Eleven is ideal for travelers seeking unique accommodations. The 14-room property has post-modern design and incredibly comfortable beds. The owner, Shelly, is often at the front desk ready to offer advice on what to do or where to eat. Guests might see Louie, the resident black cat, roaming the parking lot—there’s even a sign warning you to check your trunk to make sure you aren’t taking Louie home as a souvenir!
Earlier this year, the Austin arts community received a big boost with the unveiling of artist Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin” at the Blanton Museum of Art. It’s the abstract artist’s only freestanding installation, and highlights his use of geometry and color.
Blanton Museum of Art
The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum pays homage to Charles Umlauf, a sculptor and professor at the University of Texas. Farrah Fawcett was both his student and muse. Like Austin itself, the setting is casual and accessible; you’re even encouraged to touch the bronze pieces as you stroll through the garden.
While there are plenty of art galleries and museums to explore, some of the most fun art in Austin is street art. In the tradition of Banksy, the city is filled with murals, with a high concentration conveniently located on and just off iconic South Congress Street (SoCo). The most popular is the “I love you so much” mural. Don’t miss “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”, “Willie for President” and “Smile!” either.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
Austin has been called the best live music city in the world, and no matter what style of music gets you moving you’ll find it here. Being Texas, it’s no surprise country music is popular. To soak up the honky-tonk flavor, scoot down to the Broken Spoke. Locals and tourists have been two-steppin’ here since the 1960s and the club has hosted icons Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. Lessons are offered, so don’t be afraid to unleash your inner cowboy or cowgirl. For a mix of jazz, rock and soul, the former swanky supper club, Continental Club, is a great place to see a show. For a more modern, upscale environment, The Townsend offers eclectic performers and craft cocktails.
When it comes to culinary contributions, Austin is known for its barbecue. Ask five locals what’s the best joint in town and you’ll likely get five different answers. The breadth of barbecue is deep, but the most famous is Franklin’s. It may look like a dive, but appearances are deceiving. Pitmaster Aaron Franklin was the 2015 James Beard Best Chef in the Southwest. The place opens at 11 a.m., but get there well before to secure your spot and order the brisket that put the place on the map.
If you’re looking for a gourmet, unexpected experience, a dinner at Uchi is a must. Sushi in Texas? You bet when it’s prepared by Chef Tyson Cole, also a James Beard Best Chef in the Southwest winner. He trained under master sushi chefs in Tokyo and New York, and that discipline is evident throughout the menu.
Wildly popular jewelry designer Kendra Scott got her start in Austin with $500 and a dream to make timeless pieces. Visit her original store on SoCo. Jewelry lovers also won’t want to miss Eliza Page in downtown Austin. The store features handcrafted collections by local and international artisans. If you’re looking for the best men’s and women’s designer brands, By George on SoCo is an institution. Enjoy browsing the Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga with a glass of rosé in hand. Housed in a cozy bungalow in the Clarksville neighborhood, Outdoor Voices makes technical athletic gear that will give your big box brand a run for its money.
Photo by Lake Austin Spa
Our Austin travel guide wouldn’t be complete without a little R&R, and Austin has plenty of that to offer! For years, Lake Austin Spa Resort has been the best in the area with a 25,000-square-foot spa offering a wide variety of spa services and fitness classes. While Lake Austin is a destination spa, it does have day spa packages.
The just-opened Miraval Austin is the first freestanding location of the venerable Miraval brand outside of Arizona. The resort is known for its mind/body programming and also offers day spa use.