Austin (population 672,011) is often referred to as an island in the middle of a vast Texas sea. This progressive and dynamic city stands apart from other parts of the state politically, culturally, and demographically. And Austinites wouldn’t have it any other way—they’re proud (smug, almost) of their comfortably sized, well-educated, fit, and socially conscious city.
Most people living in Austin are from someplace else—Dallas , Houston , California , the Midwest—which adds to the city’s eclectic feel. Although the massive influx of people during the past decade has watered down some of this college town’s unassuming vibe, Austin still retains a laid-back quality that out-of-towners find charming and appealing, particularly during the city’s enormous music events (South by Southwest Music Festival , Austin City Limits Festival ), which annually draw bands and music fans from across the globe.
The only way to arrive in Austin by air is via the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (512/530-2242, www.ci.austin.tx.us/austinairport/ ). Located eight miles southeast of downtown, the small yet easily navigable airport features exclusively local restaurants and music by Texas artists. As a welcome to “the Live Music Capital of the World,” check out the bands playing on stage at the Hill Country Bar.
If you’re feeling adventurous (a.k.a. not renting a car), you can tackle the city’s bus system, Capital Metro (512/474-1200, www.capmetro.org ), which provides service to downtown and the University of Texas  campus. Buses run 5 a.m.–midnight Monday through Saturday, and 6:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Sunday. Fare is $0.50 for an adult one-way fixed route.
Capital Metro also offers the Armadillo Express trolley (known as “the ’Dillo”), providing free rides through the historic downtown area. A “Moonlight ’Dillo” runs late at night to transport partiers back to their hotels. Schedules and routes change frequently, so check with the visitors center or contact Capital Metro for the current schedule.