Trip Tips: Austin revels in music, nature and keeping it weird

At no other time of year is Austin - the self-styled live music capital of the world - so celebrated than in March, when the throngs pour into the Texas city for the 12-day music, film and interactive festival known as South by Southwest.

One of the most influential music events on the planet, South by Southwest marks its 26th year on March 7-16 and draws some 25,000 industry pros and musicians to see at least 2,000 performances at more than 100 venues. (http://sxsw.com)

And that's just the official music portion of the festival.

Austin is a city of many superlatives, consistently ranked among the best places to live for everyone from job-seekers to singles and health nuts to hipsters. (Map: https://goo.gl/maps/WCvVO)

There is much to enjoy for those seeking vast outdoor spaces, world-class eateries and vibrant nightlife.

Austin was recently named by Forbes as the fastest-growing U.S. city, showing that the draw of the quirky capital of Texas far surpasses its signature South by Southwest event.

The renown prompted a Chamber of Commerce campaign to "Keep Austin Weird" - a mantra as ubiquitous as the "Hook 'Em" sign of Austin's beloved University of Texas Longhorns.

Here are tips for getting the most out of a trip to Austin from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of the world offer visitors the best local insights.

AUSTIN EDIBLES

The food truck craze has rolled across the United States in recent years but in trend-setting Austin, these bastions of creative edibles are a long-held tradition - making it nearly impossible (thankfully) to find a corner or a bar without one.

Paul Qui, winner of the ninth season of the "Top Chef" TV show, got his start in Austin with his East Side King Asian-fusion truck tucked into the backyards of dive bars on the city's hipster East Side. (http://eskaustin.com/)

The gluten-free Thai Chicken Karaagé from the truck behind the Liberty Bar at 1618 1/2 East 6th Street costs $8 for a deep-fried chicken thigh with sweet-spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeño.

Food trucks enjoy such wide support that several have been able to turn into full-service restaurants.

Easily the most unique is Gourdoughs at 1503 South 1st Street, which serves its dinners on doughnuts. The Boss Hog features pulled pork, potato salad and barbecue sauce atop a fried doughnut for $5.50. (www.gourdoughs.com/)

Austin also has myriad brick-and-mortar restaurants to satisfy the cravings of those not into street-side dining.

Sunday brunch is a tradition at the one of Austin's most influential eateries, Fonda San Miguel, where roughly $50 per plate gets you a buffet of classic Mexican cuisine and a modern take on ancient recipes. It's at 2330 West North Loop Boulevard, northwest of downtown. (www.fondasanmiguel.com/)

THE PINK DOME

One of the nation's most beloved liberals, the late Texas columnist Molly Ivins, once described Austin as a blueberry floating in tomato soup, a statement of the city's liberal leanings in a sea of conservative red that dominates Lone Star State politics.

But no matter who's in charge, Austin does love its Capitol building, the largest domed statehouse in the United States and the centrepiece of downtown.