Austin: Media Arts
A haven for tech startups and individual creators alike, the city known for its festivals—SXSW, Austin City Limits, Fantastic Fest—has pretty much cornered the market on cool, but that doesn’t mean it’s snobby or standoffish. On the contrary, the state capital offers a warm Texas welcome to makers of all sorts, and that embrace is repaid in a big way: Austin’s creative industries kick in billions in economic activity and millions in tax revenue annually, supporting some 49,000 local jobs. As a nexus of art, music, and digital technology, the city takes its position seriously, commissioning local new-media artists to run public arts projects and building up artists-in-residence programs, among other initiatives. All of which to say: It’s a great destination for the culturally inclined. Catch a film at the Paramount, a former vaudeville theater dating to 1915, or at the flagship location of Alamo Drafthouse, a cell-phone-hating (warning: NSFW language) mini-chain that offers dinner and drinks with a side of cinema; tour the University of Texas’s public art collection, and while you’re on campus, consider a deep dive into the archives of Nobel laureates Kazuo Ishiguro, Gabriel García Márquez, and more; and check in at the Bullock Museum for a crash-course in state history. Cool off at one of the city’s naturalpools, then take a spin through Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum to whet your appetite. This year, Texas Monthly named seven Austin spots to its list of the Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the state, including the Obama-anointed, heavily hyped Franklin Barbecue (recently damaged by a fire but aiming to reopen soon). But be warned: The battle for local barbecue supremacy is hotly contested, so make sure you do your due diligence and taste around a bit before you choose a favorite.