Be ready for a warm welcome from a city that prides itself on its generous hospitality, quirky charm and thriving gig scene. For accommodation, sightseeing and etiquette tips, Director‘s Austin city guide for businesspeople is essential reading
Where to stay
The city’s landmark luxury hotel is the Driskill, based right in the heart of downtown Austin. It was built in 1886 as a showpiece for the local cattle baron, Colonel Jesse Driskill – and there’s no mistaking its Texan heritage in the decor. A recent refurbishment has restored the interior to its former glory, including a marble-floored lobby and a bar furnished with cowhide-covered seats. The rooms and service are what you’d expect of a five-star hotel, but the little touches – the “D” cattle brand on the door handles and bed frames, for instance – give it an unmistakable sense of place. If any further reminder of where you’re staying is required, breakfast in its 1886 Café & Bakery is distinctly Texas-sized. If you ask nicely, a member of staff might show you the room in which Lyndon Johnson – Austin’s favourite political son and America’s 36th president – watched the results come in on the night of his election in 1964. As you might expect, the Airbnb scene is thriving in this city of tech-savvy youngsters. For a unique experience, (very close) business partners can share a refitted Airstream caravan in a well-located spot in east Austin.
Where to eat
With apologies to non-carnivores, Austin is a meat town. Franklin Barbecue is the place for lunch, but get there early, as Austinites have been known to queue for more than an hour for their beef brisket. For those seeking some good old-fashioned American excess, the baked delights at Voodoo Doughnut have to be seen to be believed – bacon and maple syrup doughnuts, anyone? For dinner, Enoteca Vespaio, a laid-back eatery in the trendy South Congress neighbourhood, dishes up fine Italian food. The main drag, Sixth Street, is renowned for its live music joints. It can be a tad touristy at the weekends, though, so head over to Rainey Street with the locals if you want a more relaxing end to your evening. A 10-minute walk from downtown, the low-key Half Step will keep you fixed for cocktails, while Craft Pride will give you a taste of the state’s thriving beer scene.
What to see
You can’t move for reminders of Lyndon Johnson in Austin, but even non-historians will find the LBJ Presidential Library interesting. Its extensive exhibition serves as an informative tribute to a fascinating and transformative commander in chief. Despite having all the hallmarks of a major city, Austin has its outdoor entertainment too: the glorious Barton Springs Pool is a popular spot for an afternoon dip all year round.
Etiquette and customs
Expect a lot of friendliness in a city where everyone, from hotel staff to entrepreneurs, will do their utmost to make you feel welcome. If you reciprocate by, say, offering to discuss plans with a contact over a cold beer, you’ll be tapping into one of America’s most exciting cities, which prides itself on a kind of professional quirkiness. Not for nothing does every other car here sport a “Keep Austin weird” bumper sticker.
For the flight
On the fiction front, James Hynes’s Kings of Infinite Space is a hilarious, if occasionally close-to-the-bone, commentary on modern life in and around Austin. You could do worse than soundtrack your reading with some scrappy country music, or perhaps one of the numerous recordings that have emerged from years of gigs at the city’s world-famous music festival, South by Southwest.
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