Tribune file photo
March 18, 2009
This groovy college town, home to the University of Texas, promotes itself as "The Live Music Capital of the World." Visit during the South by Southwest music conference ( SXSW) — which features more than 1,800 acts performing at 70 different venues each March — and it's hard to dispute that claim. Plus there's the Austin City Limits Music Festival, featuring dozens of headliners each October.
Even when those festivals aren't running, this city always seems to be alive with tunes. Spend a weekend simply bopping up and down the Sixth Street district and listen to music blasting out the windows of numerous bars. When something catches your fancy — be it traditional country, indie-rock, Western swing or something else — then pay the usually small cover and step inside.
TOP ATTRACTIONS: Every city should have a small outdoor amphitheater like Stubb's, where one can dance under the stars and enjoy tasty barbecue; 801 Red River St., http://www.stubbsaustin.com, 512.480.8341. Also try to attend a taping of the popular "Austin City Limits" TV music series, which features major acts such as R.E.M., Coldplay and Willie Nelson; http://austincitylimits.org/blog, 512-475-9077.
WHEN TO GO: SXSW draws music lovers year after year. It's where you may see dozens of "hot new acts" perform in fairly intimate venues. The next fandango is March 16-20; http://www.sxsw.com, 512-467-7979. The Austin City Limits Music Festival is a three-day event with countless acts that have already broken into the big time. The 2010 ACL, boasting such headliners as Phish, the Eagles, Muse and the Strokes, takes place Oct. 8-10; http://www.aclfestival.com, 888-512-SHOW.
WHERE TO EAT: Barbecue is the name of the game in Austin, and the city's best is Iron Works BBQ; 100 Red River St., http://www.ironworksbbq.com, 800-669-3602.
WHERE TO STAY: The best hotel near Sixth Street is the historic Driskill Hotel, which puts you in the heart of the hustle and bustle but doesn't skimp on luxury; 604 Brazos St., http://www.driskillhotel.com, 800-252-9367.
(Above: Courtney Love and Hole play the Spin Magazine part during SXSW on March 19, 2010.)