Creative, quirky and culturally diverse, Austin is one of the most fascinating cities in the United States. It’s a hub for music, food, film, technology and since 2012, motor-racing with a shiny new F1 facility located in the southeast of the Texan capital. The unique mixture of hipsters, rodeo riders, tech wizards and glamorous Grand Prix spectators means there’s a plentiful variety of restaurants, hotels, bars and artistic events to choose from depending on your mood or interests so there’s no excuse to get bored in-between races.
The Four Seasons Austin is one of the most luxurious options the city has to offer. Located on the banks of Lady Bird Lake, the hotel benefits from a relaxed, resort-like vibe that’s appealing after the buzz and tension of the F1 spectator stands. There’s an saltwater outdoor pool, indoor pool, whirl pool and nature focused spa that features eucalyptus infused steam rooms and a program of unique treatments such as the aromatic homemade seasonal scrub inspired by the produce of the nearby Texas Hill Country. The on-site restaurant TRIO is a destination in its own right and a favorite amongst discerning locals; specialties include steak and seafood. This month the restaurant is running an exclusive decadent on-the-lawn dinner seafood menu to celebrate National Seafood Month, highlights include wood-grilled tuna loin steak with crispy smashed red potatoes. Just 14 miles from the circuit, the W hotel is another popular choice for the jet set crowd who favor a more contemporary kind of luxury. Located downtown next to the famed Austin City Limits music venue, the hotel attracts a lively crowd who flock to the in-house restaurant Trace Austin for the specialized F1 dining menu of farm style Texan cuisine followed by cocktails on the trendy seasonal rooftop bar, WET.
If you’d rather avoid the hustle and bustle of the big hotel groups, try the Haywood Hotel on Austin‘s East Side, which was featured on Condé Nast Traveller’s Hot List for the best new hotels in the world. The boutique hotel has seven rooms which are playfully decorated with an eclectic mix of vintage furniture and can be booked individually or rented as a whole house. Whilst there are limited facilities on site, the hotel’s concierge staff are experts on the local arts scene and can give you insider tips on current happenings in the city.
As usual the most exclusive hospitality experience at the circuit is the F1 Paddock club with VIP access to the track and drivers, an open champagne bar and a gourmet lunch accompanied by fine wines, but when the racing day comes to a close, there’s a huge array of gourmet delights to discover within the city itself. Whilst Mexican, Tex-Mex and barbecue are the default cuisines, the city’s gourmet scene is also heavily focused on healthy, organic and fresh produce. Barley Swine is generally considered one of the finest American eateries within the city’s limits and whilst it used to have a no reservations policy, you can now book a table up to a month in advance. Dinner is a fixed daily menu of beautifully presented chef selected small dishes, which are teamed with beer or wine.
The Driskill Hotel grill restaurant is also excellent with inspired menus that change daily depending on the fresh ingredients sourced by the kitchen and the whim of the Chef Troy Knapp. If you’re feeling hungry, the tasting menus here are legendary; take your pick from 5 or 7 courses. For really, honestly good, no-frills Tex-Mex cuisine, Texas Chilli Parlor is the local favorite. Aptly named, the menu is graded according to the heat of the dish, with cow-boy style chilli at the top of the list. It’s by no means fancy, but if you’re looking to taste the true flavour of Austin, this is where you’ll find it.
The big annual Austin F1 charity bash is taking a break this year, but there are multi fold ways to celebrate a big win in the city. Ego’s Karaoke bar can be intimidating to newcomers, but if you’re feeling brave, it’s one of Austin’s best kept nighttime secrets tucked within an office building’s parking garage at the foot of South Congress. It’s dark and rowdy inside and attracts a crowd of colorful characters. For a more subdued and sophisticated atmosphere head to the bar at the San José Hotel, which offers candlelit seating on a private patio and serves an excellently curated selection of wine, beer and sake or else Vino Vino in the hip Hyde Park neighborhood serves an impressive selection of wine in warm, elegant interiors.
On an extended visit, explore Austin’s performing arts scene and comedy clubs or head to the famed Texan cities of Dallas or Houston for an alternative view of the Lone Star State. For a more rural experience, hike round the breathtakingly beautiful Guadalupe National Park or visit the unspoilt beaches along the Gulf Coast.