25 Reasons We Love Austin
The quirky Texas capital sways to the strum of its own guitar.
20. Tough Texans
The TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls leave it all on the track: After every match in the women's five-team Roller Derby league, the combatants are bloodied, bruised—and pumped up. "The hits you see are real," says Audrey Butera-Young, who skates under the name Ali Mony for the Rhinestone Cowgirls. "I've broken a rib, dislocated my kneecap, and ripped a muscle. But I've always been back on the track as soon as possible!" The Roller Derby season runs from February to October at the Austin Convention Center. 500 E. Cesar Chavez St., txrd.com, $15.
21. There's a party going on right now
Austin is serious about its festivals. Thousands of indie rock, country, and bluegrass fans converge on the city each year for South by Southwest (sxsw.com, Mar. 19–21) and Austin City Limits (aclfestival.com, Oct. 2–4). For the literary crowd, Austin hosts the annual Texas Book Festival, which draws more than 200 international authors (texasbookfestival.org, Oct. 31–Nov. 1).
22. You can run a bar tab at the theater
Once you watch a movie at an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema with a Texas-brewed Shiner Bock in one hand and a basket of fried pickles in the other, you'll never go back to the multiplex again. Drafthouse has four outlets in town, each of which hosts special events like Kung Fu Sundays. drafthouse.com, movie from $6.50.
23. No gym membership required
Runners eschew the treadmill for the Greenbelt, a park along the dry bed of Barton Creek that has eight miles of trails, plus a few cliff faces for rock climbers. Another favorite workout spot is the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, 10 miles of paths on the waterfront. www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/trails.htm.
24. Tequila sunsets
The perfect place to end an Austin stay is the terrace bar of the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin hotel, overlooking downtown. Order a Stephen F. Top Shelf, the house margarita, tip your cap to the mounted longhorn on the wall, then watch the Texas Capitol turn pink as the last rays of the sun hit it. 701 Congress Ave., 888/424-6835, austin.intercontinental.com, margaritas from $12.
25. The Livestrong lifestyle
As is fitting for Lance Armstrong's hometown, Austin has a dazzling network of well-maintained bike paths. Rent your wheels at his new store, Mellow Johnny's—a play on the Tour de France's maillot jaune, or "yellow jersey"—and grab a peach-tea smoothie to go from the shop's Juan Pelota Café. 400 Nueces St., 512/473-0222, mellowjohnnys.com, two-hour rental $15.