By Becca Hensley
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Elite Traveler.
People say that Austin isn’t like the rest of Texas. But the truth is that this capital city, set amid emerald hills and glimmering lakes, is so idiosyncratic it isn’t like any place else—anywhere—period.With a proud outlaw’s outside-the-box vibe, the metropolis harbors hipsters, yogis, sophisticates, tie-wearing business folk, politicos, professors, athletes and artists. Its vibrant downtown straddles a fitness-trail-girded lake, crossed by bridges aplenty. Beneath one, Ann W Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, lives the world’s largest urban bat colony. Each year from April to October, more than 50,000 tourists come to watch the 1.5 million migratory creatures emerge at dusk, a vast ribbon of black dots heading out for an evening meal of insects. Beyond bats, the city has bragging rights to a rich and varied live music scene fed by untold numbers of local musicians, more than 300 music venues and several world-renowned music festivals. A fitness paradise, Austin is perfect for residents addicted to stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, running and cycling. Celebrity chefs, mixologists who pour glasses of magic and food pioneers (Whole Foods and Tito’s Vodka began here) keep the denizens sated—as do organic farms and a wine country that rolls out through peach orchards and pecan farms like an oenophile’s fantasy carpet. There’s a historic spring-fed pool with its own endangered species (a blind albino salamander), art in the parks, a sprawling university rife with intellectual opportunities, a state-of-the-art Formula One track, world-class museums and abundant mom-and-pop boutiques. Best of all, the population of two million connects so well with one another (and leans so toward unpretentious cool) that the city exudes a village intimacy celebrated by everybody. Whether you want handmade cowboy boots, barbecue, breakfast tacos or long nights spent in a boozy honky-tonk, Austin welcomes you with open arms.