USA 36 Hours in Austin

The capital of Texas sheds its sleepy image, transforming into a bustling metropolis bristling with possibilities
USA 36 Hours in Austin

&nbspThe sprawling capital of Texas has welcomed over 100,000 new residents since 2010. Along with all the new Austinites, dozens of new shops, restaurants, bars and hotels have appeared, turning the formerly sleepy city into a thriving metropolis quickly approaching a million inhabit&shyants. The South by Southwest Interac&shytive Festival only adds to the bustle. To catch up on the cool arrivals, you&rsquoll need a rental car or a service like Uber or Lyft, as well as the patience to brave the city&rsquos traffic. If you&rsquore a first-time visitor, take time for the city&rsquos must-sees, like Lady Bird Lake, the State Capitol and the enormous bat colony that lives under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. With all the excitement in Aus&shytin, you might also find yourself consid&shyering moving here for good.

1. Friday 4 p.m.

While South Congress Avenue, aka SoCo, has been a countercultural favourite for generations, new arrivals are refreshing this colourful strip south of the Colorado River. Joining established shops like Service Mens&shywear, the recently opened Revival Cycles stocks cool jeans from Austin&rsquos own Traveller Denim, next to the sleek South Congress Hotel, whose lobby bar has become a destination in and of itself. Across the street, Cove offers casual women&rsquos clothing from Mara Hoffman and other indie designers. Down the street, the well-established Stag Provisions gives its old fans a new reason to shop through its collection of heritage men&rsquos clothing an exclusive collaboration with boot maker Red Wing, finished in the same rough-out Mohave leather used by the United States Marine Corps ($260).

2. Friday 8 p.m.

With a name like Hopfields, it might sound like this place is all about the suds, but locals love this central Austin gastropub for such French-inspired fare as steak frites with Dijon mustard, house-made p&acirct&eacutes and the Pascal burger (with Camembert, cornichons, whole grain mustard and caramelised onions), which many call the city&rsquos best. At just over four years old, Hopfields is nearly a veteran now, but keep an ear out Rumours of a coming second location abound.

3. Friday 930 p.m.

Betting on its hometown&rsquos claim as the Live Music Capital of the World, Ger&shyaldine&rsquos&mdashthe stunning fourth-floor bar and restaurant inside the new Hotel Van Zandt&mdashoffers live concerts 365 days a year. (Geraldine&rsquos is named after a neighbourhood guinea fowl, who moved on to the great farmyard in the sky after being hit by a car in 2014.) Geraldine&rsquos offers killer views of the downtown skyline, as well as up-close views of musicians perform&shying everything from modern indie-rock to traditional blues and country.

4. Friday 11 p.m.

Check out the numerous watering holes on nearby Rainey Street, like 2014&rsquos Container Bar, built out of shipping containers. Many popular Austin destinations were constructed inside Rainey&rsquos historic bun&shygalows, like Javelina, a friendly roadhouse with communal tables and outdoor seats that face the evening parade.

5. Saturday 10 a.m.

Austin&rsquos burgeoning barista scene offers plenty of options for a morning pick-me-up, from old favourites like the original loca&shytion of Caffé Medici on West Lynn Street to newer spots like Radio. Before you explore the shops and restaurants in the South La&shymar neighbourhood, start at Picnik, a coffee trailer that serves high-grade java, including upgraded options with grass-fed butter and medium-chain triglyceride oil. The pastry case includes Paleo-inspired treats &mdash that morning poppy seed muffin might be deli&shycious, but it&rsquos also gluten-free, grain-free and free of refined sugar.

6.  Saturday Noon

The city&rsquos mainstream prefers noodles in their Italian form, but the hottest new arrival on South Lamar is the second location of Ramen Tatsu-Ya, a Japanese noodle bar. With its plywood furniture and Rancid soundtrack, Tatsu-Ya feels like a punk club, albeit one with a popular weekend lunch that brings in a crowd ranging from univer&shysity students to Japanese families and grandparents. Stick with the Ol&rsquo Skool ($9.50), the house take on Tokyo-style clear broth, served with thick ramen noodles, or dig into the richer, almost creamy tonkotsu ($9.50), dressed up with toppings like brussels sprouts, garlic or chile &ldquobombs.&rdquo

7. Saturday 2 p.m.

Take inspiration from local musical talent and shop for instruments as souvenirs. From South Lamar, start out at South Austin Music, a favourite for electric guitars and effects, then head north across the river to Hill Country Guitars, where a gorgeous, Sitka-topped acoustic from the local luthier Collings Guitars will set you back a cool $4,568. A bit farther north, Austin Vintage Guitars offers collectible models from brands like Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker and Danelectro, as well as guitar picks, slides and T-shirts in a spacious new shop.

8. Saturday 3 p.m.

NEW &lsquoCUE
In the old days, lovers of great barbe&shycue knew to leave Austin for smoke pits in nearby towns like Lockhart and Driftwood. Then came East Austin&rsquos Franklin Barbecue in 2009, frequently called the best in the coun&shytry. With the line often stretching for hours, you can get a quicker snack at Micklethwait Craft Meats, which serves fall-apart smoked brisket, massive beef ribs and flavourful spe&shyciality sausages. (The backyard party vibe is another draw.) Afterward, clear the smoke from your palate with a tasting tour at Blue Owl, a brewery specialising in sour ales.

9. Saturday 4 p.m.

Last November&rsquos East Austin Studio Tour included more than 280 artists&rsquo studios&mdashand that was just in rapidly gentrifying East Austin. Catch up on the area&rsquos colourful new venues like Wade ArtRoom, an intimate gallery run by the painter Angela Mathias, or stop by East Aus&shytin&rsquos long-running Pump Project, a warehouse studio space featuring some 35 artists, which was joined by the new Icosa Collective, a group of 20 visual artists, last year. Then cross Inter&shystate 35 into downtown Austin, home to the Jones Center, which merged with the beautiful villa and sculpture park out at Laguna Gloria to form a museum called the Contemporary Austin in 2013. The current exhibition, Moth&shyernism, a nomadic, interactive project created by the artist and writer Lise Haller Baggesen, runs through May 22.

10.  Saturday 7 p.m.

Many of the city&rsquos coolest restaurants &mdashplaces like Wu Chow, Bullfight and Geraldine&rsquos&mdashare less than a year old. Among the best new arrivals is Laun&shyderette, where Rene Ortiz extends contemporary Mediterranean cuisine to include influences from regions like North Africa and the Levant rich beet hummus and crisp flatbreads accom&shypany a creamy labneh appetiser, spicy Aleppo prawns get an aromatic dose of mint, and the juicy house burger arrives on a fluffy challah bun from the acclaimed pastry chef Laura Sawicki. Launderette&rsquos front of the house can&rsquot always keep up with the kitchen, but the excellent cooking and fun-loving crowd in this former laundromat make up for the kitsch soundtrack and hit-or-miss service.

11.  Saturday 10 p.m.

Check out the expanding bar scene in downtown&rsquos Warehouse District, surrounding Republic Square, with a sampling of craft cocktails at the new Roosevelt Room, which lists its mixed drinks by era of origin, from classic &ldquoearly years&rdquo concoctions like the Brandy Crusta (Cognac, orange liqueur, fresh lemon juice, bitters) through Prohibition-era favourites like the Blood & Sand (Scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering). In&shytimate booths and videos projected on the wall give an underground char&shyacter to the long, dark space. Afterward, see how the newcomer compares with an old favourite like P&eacuteché, just two blocks away, where the focus is on high-grade absinthes like Switzerland&rsquos exceptional Clandestine.

12. Sunday 11 a.m

There&rsquos no better morning-after restorative than Valentina&rsquos, which combines classic Texas barbecue with authentic Mexican fare. Fans followed this food trailer&rsquos move from down&shytown to a parking lot in South Austin, lining up for potato-egg-and-cheese breakfast tacos with house-made cho&shyrizo ($3), as well as lunch tacos like the smoked-brisket taco, topped with guacamole and a mild tomato-serrano salsa ($5), and the pulled &ldquopollo&rdquo chicken taco, dressed with spicy tomatillo-habanero sauce ($4).

13. Sunday Noon

There are many reasons to head to Hill Country, the undulating land&shyscape that starts just outside Austin, but for beer fans, ground zero is Jester King Set on a working ranch, this brewery and beer garden is the No. 1 Austin destination for users of After sampling rare drafts like El Cedro, a cedar-aged farmhouse ale, direct your desig&shynated driver to Revolution Spirits, a distillery that makes raspberry, apricot and cherry liqueurs with fruit pulp left over from Jester King&rsquos brews, as well as Austin Reserve, a richly aromatic gin. Then walk across the parking lot to Last Stand, a new microbrewery, where you can sip a pint of bittersweet coffee porter while enjoying a classic Texas pas&shytime a game of chicken-poop bingo.

**This article was first published in The New York Times

Outlook Traveller