Austin, Texas

Our trip to Austin (my first extended visit) was terrific. The city often gets included in national “Best College Towns To Live In” or “Top Cities in America” lists, and in my view, deserves the recognition. Austin has a real entreprenurial, hip, progressive vibe. Much, much more pronounced than say a Charlottesville. More like Madison, but with much better weather most months out of the year. Takeaways:

  1. Austin is a fast-growing city with many new condos being built downtown along the Colorado River and subdivisions now spread out from the main metro area. City planners really blew the planning of roads during the expansion of the last 15 years, so traffic during busy times is like being in big city like Chicago (or in the case of ‘feeder roads’, like being in Connecticut). It’s a real negative to a terrific city.
  2. The music choices and venues, as expected, were extensive. Even bigger than Nashville. Twenty times 'bigger’ than say other college towns like Charlottesville or Madison. It’s incredible. Not just 'one area’ of town. Two negatives: on a Wednesday night in February, the music scene was dead: and for me it’s a bummer to go to these places where there is live music everywhere with very few people listening. It’s a different story on a Friday. I can only imagine what it’s like during a UT football weekend in the Fall. Highlights: Antones (we got invited to go to the VIP area above and to the side of the stage; the whole time as we watched the North Mississippi All Stars we were thanking our lucky stars that we weren’t in the mass of humanity below. In Austin, music venues don’t have preferred seating; it’s basically standing en masse in front of the stage. If that isn’t your thing, it’s kind of a bummer); Elephant Room (the premiere jazz venue, sort of the Blue Note of Austin, terrific).
  3. Another highlight is world-class restaurants. We went to three that were 28’s for food in Zagats, and they were great: Uchi (Japanese, creative sushi), Vespaiao (Italian, our favorite) and Wink (small portions, tasting menu, wine pairings, reminded us of Binkley’s in Scottsdale). Also, the breadth of hip, boutique shops in Austin is pretty unbeatable, outside of say an LA or Soho.
  4. Very, very cool suburban area is West Lake Hills and areas around Lake Austin. Check it out.
  5. Friday night after dinner, we were walking around downtown and heard what sounded like Barack Obama’s voice coming out of a distant loudspeaker. Sure enough, he was having a rally at the state capital. 15,000 strong. An amazing, memorable event.