>My friends who live in California are buying property in Austin. Yes, they are moving to Texas (it’s ok to go now; the state idiot doesn’t live here anymore). Austin has grown more metropolitan with the influx of people looking for an affordable place to retire and simply to live as prices on the West Coast have skyrocketed; a three bedroom house on a nice piece of land in Austin costs less than a one bedroom condo here in Los Angeles. They are already known for having a vibrant country music scene and a world renowned University, but do they offer what displaced Californians would want? It seems the answer is yes. Celebrities like Sandra Bullock are opening hip restaurants in Austin using green philosophies (their “plastic” to go utensils are made of potatoes), and I found some surprisingly upscale offerings that blend the luxury of city tastes with the country style of Texas.

For the ultimate in facials, the Lake Austin spa resort offers an 80 minute diamond facial which stimulates collagen production and uses diamond particles to make your face sparkle for $230 (diamonds are expensive). They offer other unusual and slightly less expensive options too, including Asian cupping, marine facials, and a tour of Texas session which includes a scrub using prickly pear, an aloe wrap, and ending with an essential oil massage; try out more than one offering if you have time. This spa resort was named by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as the #1 readers choice in North America in 2008, so it is worth a trip to Austin. If you go with six or more people, you get 40% off their regular rates, so get a discount by making it a party!

If you are going to make the trip, make sure that you stop at Jeffrey’s which shows that Texas isn’t just home to BBQ and cowboys anymore. Jeffrey’s has the kind of food that is putting Austin on foodie itineraries with twists on American comfort food and European techniques that are as beautiful to your tastebuds as they are on a plate. You can be decadent with Petrossian caviar and blinis to start, or adventurous with crispy oysters on yucca root chips with habanero honey aïoli, then for an entree, choose either the balsamic braised short ribs with cheddar chive potatoes & roasted garlic olive sauce, or the prosciutto wrapped chinook salmon with fettucine, mushroom tapenade, and pistachio pesto. Make sure you save room for a dessert like their caramelized crêpes with butter pecan ice cream & citrus confit (or share it).

Austin may not have been on your radar, but there are more reasons than ever to explore it as it grows into a destination for spa and food lovers with roots in southern hospitality.