And the winner is? Governor's Inn for the third year running. Three times a charm? Well, this B&B sure is charming, in all its 19th-century architectural splendor. Pick a room, any room; there are 10 of them, after all, named for governors in Texas' colorful past. Bring your out-of-towners here; it's just a stone's throw from the University of Texas at Austin in the heart of West Campus.
Not best for any intense graphics or clever design elements, but for the sheer enticement of going to that URL to find out just why someone might give half a damn that "Calvin Coolidge was the 30th president." It's actually a demographic test by billboard biggies Reagan National Advertising, and all who checked it out got a free "City of Ideas" T-shirt. Oh joy. Oh bliss. O capitalism!
Yep, taste is subjective, but some places do bait your eyes, compel visitors to ask "what's that?" and capture our readers' attention often enough to win this quirky category. Housing the ad agency that creates for Hollywood's Dreamworks, amongst others, it was designed and built by architects Susman Tisdale Gayle. Oh yeah, President Clinton checked it out on his last dash through town.
What other state can boast a pink capitol? Um, Texas-quarried, pink granite, that is. It's no accident that this landmark stands just a little bit taller than our nation's Capitol Building in D.C. Check her out from afar, and then move in for closer inspection: Everything from the inlaid floors to the grand wooden doors and windows and even the intricately designed door hinges are objects of incredible craftsmanship and beauty and worthy of close scrutiny. It's no wonder that this building is chosen as best downtown building so many years running.
The Texas ideal of oil-fueled chic now isn't just nostalgically lovely, but au courrant, thanks to the careful restoration of the landmark hotel. The expertise in the kitchen as well as the gorgeous jazz in the bar courtesy of Leslie Bonnell completes the experience. Why, even Hillary Clinton lunches here!
From dinosaur tracks 100 million years ago to butterfly trails today, Mama Nature picks certain places, plants, and species to confer her splendor. This is one of those blessed havens, and our readers know it. Oriental and xeriscape visions inspire profuse gardens of superb harmony. Butterflies flutter by seasonal roses, daylilies, azaleas, and fragrant herbs near a pioneer settlement with one of the best-preserved log cabins in the U.S. Here, the earth smiles - with our help.
Carl Lowry's vibrant 1980 homage to Hollywood icons for the old Varsity Theatre - now Tower Records - faces, on the other side of 24th, the other, more recent mural winner: a depiction, in striking but sweet realism by Doug Jacques and his ACC art class, of Austin's "good life." Just stopping to look at these two big visuals makes The Drag less of a drag.
South Austin is carefully guarded thanks to the watchful eyes of the blue genie at Annie and the bat at the Congress Avenue bridge. The bat, called Nightwing, courtesy of local sculptor Dale Whistler, is a benevolent protector, swaying gently in any breeze it can catch. The genie, with its gently menacing eyes, warns off all potential no-good-niks. Beneath the genie is the postcard you wish you could mail; you can if you get your photo taken in front of the mural, as is the local custom.
All ambitious restoration projects of landmarks this huge teeter between labor of love and construction nuisance. Any ambitious restoration project of a Texas landmark this lovely and important can take its sweet time to get the job done just right. For the longest time, our readers heeded the signs, watched out for the orange warning cones, and since July (despite remaining street construction outside!) have been able to enjoy the majestic Driskill in her full glory once again.
Perhaps it's the fact that by the time you reach the top you're so out of breath that your date thinks you're panting insatiably. Or maybe it's the panoramic city view that takes your breath away and leaves you gasping still: Oh, that winding river, those city lights, those house-speckled hills. This mountaintop right in the heart of the city has been the site of many a kiss by lovers young and old, not to mention quite a few proposals and even weddings. It's a real high point for any relationship.
Mount Bonnell at Covert Park
3851 Mount Bonnell Dr.
With a name like the Ditch (en Español), it's a wonder this Austin hot spot keeps the business it does. But local happy hour goers continue to flock to the Fifth Street restaurant's outdoor patio and deck. Is it the sign? The Ditch has done it again this year, winning best sign by sometimes intriguing, and other times disgusting, drivers with their daily quips on the marquees. Sometimes the words are about the weather, although jobs involving a certain Monica are a common topic. Need we say more?
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