America's Best Cities: Austin, Texas

No. 4

Jul 20, 2009
Outside Magazine

1.6 million: Population (metro)
$182,000: Median home price
B-: Multisport grade
92: Number of annual music festivals held in town

Yes, the originator of the KEEP [your city's name here] WEIRD bumper sticker is still plenty kooky, but it's also young and remarkably active. With Barton Greenbelt 800 acres of wilderness in the heart of downtown, a lunchtime bike, kayak, or swim is standard practice for the techies, hippies, cowboys, and students (the University of Texas is here) who call Austin home. While the music scene really does live up to the hype, the running and biking communities are just as lively. Not only does local running shop RunTex lead training groups around LadyBird Lake every weeknight; it operates free water stations for anyone runners, bikers, walkers, even pooches who needs a cool drink. Bikers can get a tune-up at Lance Armstrong's gleaming new 18,000-square-foot skinny-tire emporium, Mellow Johnny's, before riding to bike-in movies at Café Mundi or tackling the city's impressive array of lanes and paths, which will expand to an astounding 900 miles by 2020. The economy is just as robust: Austin has proven to be, if not recession-immune, at least recession-resistant, thanks to big names like Dell and Whole Foods and a booming software industry. But what makes Austin stand out is its affordability: Bars like Ginny's Little Longhorn still serve $2 Lone Stars, taco vendors hand out three for a dollar, and the bus routes around the center of town still cost 50 cents. Whichmeans that for the price of a Manhattan power lunch, you can practically eat and drink all month.