'Drive friendly' is a Texas state motto, and exploring Austin by car is generally a stress-free experience. Most major car rental companies are available at ABIA.
Fly with Continental Airlines (www.continental.com) and change at New York or Houston for a connecting flight to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, or ABIA (www.ci.austin.tx.us/austinairport/). An Airport Flyer Bus Service runs from the airport, along with the Capital Metro, which travels between the airport and downtown, Austin Central and the University of Texas. A taxi from the airport to the city centre costs around $25.
Amtrak operates regular rail services to and from Austin station, which is at 250 North Lamar Boulevard (www.amtrak.com).
The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train are spine-tingling reads by Texan novelist, Patricia Highsmith. If you want a Wild-West-flavoured romp, opt for Larry McMurtry's Pullitzer-prize-winning epic, Lonesome Dove. Texas has produced some famous faces (good, bad and ugly), including George W Bush, Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin, so dip into a biography or two.
Do go / Don't Go
March sees the South by Southwest music festival hit the city, so flock here if you love music, or avoid if you don't like crowds.
For Austinites, barbecues are more than just a means for men to prove their masculinity - they're a way of life. Follow the smells of grilled meat, roll up your sleeves and feast upon smoked brisket, pulled pork and chicken fried steak.
Cabs can be flagged in the street, although in this health-conscious, outdoorsy city, bicycles and pedestrians are more common sights. If finding a taxi is proving difficult, try American Yellow Cab (+1 512 452 9999) or Austin Cab (+1 512 478 2222).
Dancing shoes, a bolo tie and whirly skirts for two-stepping at honky-tonk hoedowns.
South by South West music festival (http://sxsw.com) is the foundation for Austin's evergreen music scene and attracts top talent - The Killers, Amy Winehouse and The Fratellis have performed in recent years. It also screens indie films and celebrates advances in digital media (Twitter launched here in 2007). The Austin Museum of Art (www.amoa.org) boasts an interesting selection of portraiture and two different locations, one at 823 Congress Avenue and one in a recently restored Italianate-style villa, at 3809 West 35th Street. There's also the Blanton Museum of Art (www.blantonmuseum.org).
The Barton Springs Pool, at 2101 Barton Springs Road (+1 512 974 9331), is fed from underground springs and is kept at a constant 68 degrees, meaning you can brave a dip even in winter.
Westernise your wardrobe with a trip to Allen's Boots (www.allensboots.com) at 1522 South Congress Avenue, for cowboy boots, plaid shirts and all things yeehah-fabulous. Just a few doors down, Uncommon Objects (www.uncommonobjects.com) stocks exactly that, with its selection of antler horns, tribal masks and retro bric-à-brac. In East Austin, browse arty tomes and admire exhibitions at Domy Books (www.domystore.com), at 913 East Cesar Chavez. The deliciously old-fashioned Avenue Barbershop (+1 512 441 2467), at 1710 South Congress Avenue, is perfect for men in need of a little polishing up. You'll find an impressive array of bicycles to buy or rent, accessories and souvenirs at Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop (www.mellowjohnnys.com), in the warehouse district at 400 Nueces Street. For beautiful jewellery and accessories crafted by local designers, visit Eliza Page (www.elizapage.com), at 229 West 2nd Street. A few shops away, stylish women's clothing spread across several floors comes courtesy of Shiki (www.shikistyle.com).
Climb the 99 steps that lead to Mount Bonnell, to survey the city and the sprawling Texas hill country from this 785-feet high vantage point.
Forget trains - hop on the 'Dillos, or downtown buses, which offer free rides from early morning until 6pm, or 3am Thursday-Saturday (www.capmetro.org).
March Music festival South by South West (http://sxsw.com) has global stature, yet manages to stay low key thanks to its laid-back Austinite hosts. Over four days, more than 1,800 music acts descend on the city and there are plenty of unofficial gigs around the official nightly line-up. Where else can you catch Joss Stone singing barefoot in a teeny bar or The Boss rasping his finest, acoustic-style, in a honky tonk. April Feast upon Texan cuisine at the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival (www.texaswineandfood.org). Hear some of R&B and neo soul's established and emerging talents at the Urban Music Festival (www.urbanmusicfest.com), held on the banks of Town Lake, at Auditorium Shores. August What better way to cool down in a hot city than with Austin's Ice-Cream Festival (www.icecreamfestival.org)? Celebrate Austin's winged residents with Bat Fest (www.roadwayevents.com). October Enjoy tunes in the park at the Austin City Limits Music Festival (www.aclfestival.com). Then swap music for movies at the Austin Film Festival (www.austinfilmfestival.com).