1. Austin, Texas
Austin is a little off the beaten path for holiday tourism but the capital of Texas has a lot to offer to its visitors. Its major attractions include the Texas State Capitol, with free guided and self-guided tours daily, the campus of the largest urban university in the country, the nation’s largest urban bat colony, and Austin City Limits, the longest running television show in U.S. history. Worldwide, Austin is known for its incredible live music scene, with more performances per capita than any city in the nation, and of every musical genre. Big name musicians, including Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson, often play surprise gigs in small venues here.
Austin is also home to one of the country’s hottest food scenes. Slow cooking establishments like Stubb’s, Black’s, Smitty’s, Kreuz Market, and The Salt Lick are famous for doing Texas barbeque just right. First-rate Tex-Mex also abounds, most easily found in the town’s huge food truck and trailer scene. Fueled by great food, shoppers flock to South Congress Avenue, home to everything from vintage clothing and antique stores, to custom cowboy boot makers and contemporary galleries.
Austin is also a getaway to the Hill Country, a picturesque region of Central Texas that rivals Napa Valley in California in terms of scenery. Its wineries offer free samplings of the Hill Country wines and traditional Texas barbecue. San Antonio, with its famous Venice-like Riverwalk and the Alamo fortress, and Corpus Christi/Padre Island, with its sandy beaches and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico are only a short ride away.