Byline: ALEX HANNAFORD
IT IS small, green, hilly, surrounded by lakes and rivers and very, very cool.
Boasting more live music venues per square mile than anywhere in the US, it is no wonder Austin plays host to the most eagerly-anticipated yearly music industry conference and festival on the calendar. Home to the State capital and the University of Texas (the largest in the US), the city supports a politically charged and culturally rich environment. It has a population of one million.
WHO'S DOING BUSINESS?
Apart from pretty much every record company on the planet sending a representative or two to Austin at the end of March each year for the annual industry shindig South by Southwest (SXSW), the city is one of the fastest-growing centres of computer development in the country.
IBM, Motorola, Texas Instruments and Dell have been here for years, it is the legislative centre for Texas and was once home to a certain George Bush, who still likes to spend time at his ranch near the city.
The University of Texas (UT), which now boasts more than 55,000 students, is a major research institution.
American Airlines (via Dallas), United (via Chicago), and Continental (via Houston) all fly from London to Austin and flight time is around nine hours.
Continental flies from Gatwick once a day. A return business-class ticket costs [pounds sterling]4,813 and an economy ticket from [pounds sterling]337 including tax.
To book visit www.thomascook.com or call 0870 0100 436.
Austin Bergstrom International Airport is eight miles from the centre of town. There is only one terminal so it's very quick and hassle-free. A cab takes 20 minutes to town and costs $16 ([pounds sterling]9.70) from American Yellow Checker (tel: 512 452 9999); the number 100 bus leaves the airport every 35 mins and costs just 50c.
But by far the best bet is to hire a car (see Time to Spare): Thrifty Car Rental UK has an international reservations line (01494 751 600) and online booking facility at www.thrifty.co.uk. One week's hire costs from [pounds sterling]211 (including CDW, mileage, liability insurance and local state taxes).
HOTEL DIRECTORY Business is booming The Austin Marriott at the Capitol (001 512 478 1111, www.marriott.com) has 365 rooms, the reception is big and impressive, it has a plush new lobby bar, parking is easy (in a large multi-storey next door) and reasonably priced. It has a restaurant - Rojo Red, two swimming pools with whirlpool and sauna, a gym, 21 meeting rooms and business centre.
Rooms start at $159 ([pounds sterling]97).
On a healthy budget The Hampton Inn and Suites (512-472-1500) is a great hotel - in location and for the general design and ambience. The rooms smell new (probably because the hotel opened only last December) and have traditional-style furniture.
There are 209 rooms and suites and it boasts a nice open-air swimming pool on the fourth floor; the adjacent fitness centre is small but adequate.
Although breakfast is provided, there is no bar or room service - the hotel uses the smart Chinese restaurant PF Chang's over the road. It's worth booking a suite - the views over Austin and Town Lake in the distance are great - but book early: spring and autumn are peak seasons.
The main nightlife area of 6th Street is a stone's throw away, and the huge Convention Centre is opposite. Rooms start at $169 ([pounds sterling]102) midweek.
Summer rates are cheaper.
The Holiday Inn, Town Lake (512-472-8211; email:
firstname.lastname@example.org) is in a perfect location on the banks of Town Lake, only 10 minutes from Austin Bergstrom International Airport, and about a $4 ([pounds sterling]2.30) cab ride (or 15-minute walk) from downtown. It has 320 rooms, the Pecan Tree Restaurant, which offers a wide variety of Texan dishes, and a heated outdoor pool overlooking the lake. …