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Austin, Texas: Satisfy Your Artistic Side
BY THE NUMBERS:
Elevation: 597 feet
Median Home Price: $172,200
Your Hangout: Broken Spoke honky-tonk
Main Industries: Education (University of Texas), manufacturing, and technology (Del)
There are possibly better places to do any of the things Austin offers. But if you're hoping to ride singletrack in the morning, eat a Mexico Citygrade corn tamale for lunch, and actually go out at night—catch the latest indie flicks and bands at the South by Southwest festival, for example—the Texas capital is unbeatable.
Austin has the rolling hills, clear lakes, and granite ravines to compete with more mountainous towns, but its real draw is its distinctive hipster-meets-cowpoke scene. "There's no place that combines so much culture and so much outdoor activity," says Hill Abell, owner of Austin's Bicycle Sport Shop.
Moving here is a popular thing to do these days—the city is one of the fastest growing in the United States—but so far, Austin isn't crammed or financially out of reach. The cost of living is lower than it is in nearly every other comparably sized metro area in the nation, jobs are plentiful (especially in high tech and education), and homes are affordable. The downside? Surging population. As Austin grows flush with new arrivals, beware of gridlock, sprawl, and vanishing bargains.
Austin doesn't guard its outdoors secrets the same way other locales do. The six-mile Emma Long loop in City Park is a challenging favorite of mountain bikers (www.austinridgeriders.com), and the Austin Rock Gym guides half-day climbs ($150; www.austinrockgym.com) of nearby Reimer's Ranch, the local spot for rock. Outside of town, it's an hour's drive to the Hill Country, where meandering rivers cut through uplifted limestone and where Lance Armstrong trained for his Tour de France wins. The town's best kept secret, though, is a counterintuitive one: During September's Austin City Limits festival (this
year with Ben Harper, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, and dozens of other acts; www.aclfestival.com), smart concertgoers skip a day of performances to enjoy the empty trails.
Getting There: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is served by major U.S. airlines.
Where to Sleep: Hotel San José ($99; www.sanjosehotel.com) is in the heart of the SoCo (South Congress) music district.
Where to Eat: Chef Kevin Williamson's crispy fried oysters at Ranch 616 (+1 512 479 7616) are always perfectly crunchy.
Moving There: Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce (www.austinchamber.org). Check www.austintexashomes.com for housing options.
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