Inside Austin, the quirkiest city in Texas

Inside the quirkiest city in Texas: Discovering how Austin will challenge misconceptions you had about the U.S’s second-largest state (you’ll find no Trump stickers here, for starters)

  • Cormac Connelly-Smith stayed at the Fairmont Austin near Rainey Street, which has a wonderful rooftop pool 
  • He recommends dancing to live music at The Continental Club or the iconic blues joint Antone’s 
  • At Lone Star Ranch on the outskirts of the city, visitors can learn how to lasso-throw from a team of ‘cowpokes’
  • ‘Shorts? This is Texas, partner!’ The ranch-hand eyed me suspiciously, impervious to the 40C heat in his double denim.

    If I were anywhere else in the Lone Star state I’d worry I was about to be challenged to a showdown at High Noon.

    But this is Austin, home to Virgin Atlantic’s newest US route, and a city that challenges any misconceptions of America’s second-largest state you may have been given by JR Ewing or John Wayne.

    Cormac Connelly-Smith explored Austin (above), Texas, a city that 'beats with a quirky, individual spirit'

    Cormac Connelly-Smith explored Austin (above), Texas, a city that ‘beats with a quirky, individual spirit’

    Austin is home to Virgin Atlantic¿s newest US route, operated by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

    Pictured is the upper-class cabin of the Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner that newly flies to Austin

    Austin is home to Virgin Atlantic’s newest US route, operated by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (left). Pictured on the right is the Virgin Atlantic Dreamliner upper-class cabin

    At times it doesn’t feel like Texas at all, from the green banks of the River Colorado that runs through town, to the fantastic eye-popping street art decorating the boujee vintage shops of South Congress Avenue.

    Coding, not cattle, is big business here. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have both set up gleaming new headquarters and the city is filled with smartphone-slinging tech pioneers.

    The business traffic has led to a boom in high-class, all-glass hotels Downtown. We stayed at the Fairmont, a short distance from the bustling nightlife of Rainey Street, with a wonderful rooftop pool.

    It would be unfair to label Austin as some kind of soulless Silicon Valley in a Stetson, however.

    It beats with a quirky, individual spirit epitomised in the unofficial motto of ‘Keep Austin weird’ and aided by its proudly liberal politics – you’ll find no Trump stickers here.

    'At times [Austin] doesn¿t feel like Texas at all, from the green banks of the River Colorado (above, passing under the Pennybacker Bridge) that runs through town, to the fantastic eye-popping street art decorating the boujee vintage shops of South Congress Avenue,' writes Cormac

    ‘At times [Austin] doesn’t feel like Texas at all, from the green banks of the River Colorado (above, passing under the Pennybacker Bridge) that runs through town, to the fantastic eye-popping street art decorating the boujee vintage shops of South Congress Avenue,’ writes Cormac

    Cormac stayed at the Fairmont (pictured), which lies a short distance from the bustling nightlife of Rainey Street

    Cormac stayed at the Fairmont (pictured), which lies a short distance from the bustling nightlife of Rainey Street

    One of the guest suites at the Fairmont Austin, which features a 'wonderful rooftop pool', Cormac notes

    One of the guest suites at the Fairmont Austin, which features a ‘wonderful rooftop pool’, Cormac notes 

    Avoid the rowdy walk-in bars on ¿Dirty¿ 6th Street and instead swing your hips at The Continental Club on South Congress Avenue

    Make your way to the iconic blues joint Antone¿s on East 5th

    Avoid the rowdy walk-in bars on ‘Dirty’ 6th Street and instead swing your hips at The Continental Club (left) on South Congress Avenue and the iconic blues joint Antone’s (right) on East 5th

    Live music is a way of life and the city truly comes alive when the sun sets and the hot Texan night is awash with the sound of country, blues and rock.

    Avoid the rowdy walk-in bars on ‘Dirty’ 6th Street and instead swing your hips at the more established music venues like The Continental Club on South Congress Avenue, or iconic blues joint Antone’s on East 5th.

    After a night of dancing, a breakfast burrito, a combination of cheese, potatoes and egg in a tortilla wrap is a must-have, preferably topped with a fiery salsa that will wake you up better than any coffee. 

    Allens Boots is an emporium for everything you could need to live out your Wild West fantasy, from Stetsons to cowboy boots. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons

    Allens Boots is an emporium for everything you could need to live out your Wild West fantasy, from Stetsons to cowboy boots. Picture courtesy of Creative Commons 

    Head to Franklin, the city¿s most renowned smoke shack, for beef brisket - it's 'pure melt-in-the-mouth joy', according to Cormac

    A plate of Franklin grub - devotees queue for hours to get served

    Head to Franklin, the city’s most renowned smoke shack, for beef brisket – it’s ‘pure melt-in-the-mouth joy’, according to Cormac. Pictured right is a plate of Franklin grub. Devotees queue for hours to get served

    Then there’s the beef brisket, slowly barbecued for up to 15 hours over a low heat, a charred mess of pure melt-in-the-mouth joy. 

    Devotees queue for hours at Franklin (franklinbbq.com), the city’s most renowned smoke shack.

    Of course, it would be a shame to visit Texas without at least a bit of rootin-tootin cowboy fun. 

    The wonderful Allens Boots (allensboots.com) is an emporium for everything you could need to live out your Wild West fantasy, from authentic Stetsons to rows of gleaming cowboy boots.

    And, once you’ve got the outfit, head to the Lone Star Ranch (lonestarranchtexas.com) on the outskirts of Austin, where the team of friendly cowpokes will teach you all the lasso-throwing and horse-whispering skills you need to make it on the open range.

    Even if you do arrive wearing shorts.

    TRAVEL FACTS 

    Virgin Atlantic return flights from Heathrow to Austin cost from £516 in Economy, from £817 in Premium and from £2,014 in Upper Class. Visit www.virginatlantic.com

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