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Where The Cool Things Are

Where the cool kids hang in Austin — according to people who don't actually live here

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White Horse in Austin
The White Horse in East Austin. The White Horse/Facebook
Heywood Hotel in Austin
GQ calls Heywood's minimalist rooms "kinda kitschy." Photo by Casey Dunn
December Shopping 2013 JM Drygoods
Conde Nast Traveler suggests stopping by JM Drygoods. Photo by JM Drygoods
Austin photo: Places_Food_Las Cazuelas_Food
Las Cazuelas is where queso fundido dreams come true. Courtesy photo
Austin Photo Set: News_Ramona Flume_South Congress Books_October 2011_exterior
South Congress is famous for a reason. Photo by Ramona Flume
White Horse in Austin
Heywood Hotel in Austin
December Shopping 2013 JM Drygoods
Austin photo: Places_Food_Las Cazuelas_Food
Austin Photo Set: News_Ramona Flume_South Congress Books_October 2011_exterior

It's that time of year when other people who don't live in Austin write guides about Austin for people who also don't live in Austin.

Usually, they're terrible. (Let's not forget last year's Huffington Post article that suggested everyone to just stay, drink and hang out at the Four Seasons.) But, as we spend our careers watching the news and reporting on cultural trends, we've seen one interesting thing arise from this year's pre-SXSW coverage: these guides are pretty good. So good, in fact, that we're a little worried we won't have any place to hide during the madness of March 7-16.

(Just kidding, there is no place to hide.)

First up is the March issue of GQ, which suggests you "follow the lead of the most clued-in party people and head to East Austin." Though Associate Editor Andrew Richdale gets negative points for inaccurately saying the east side was "suburban sprawl two years ago," he makes up for it with his suggestions.

Richdale suggests staying at the Heywood Hotel, (though he calls the rooms "kinda kitschy," we think he actually means "kinda Austin"), he notes the boutique hotel's prime location "within stumbling distance" of everything the city has to offer. Just be careful and don't stumble into the street Andrew, Austin's finest are pretty strict when it comes to crossing at a crosswalk. (Timely jokes!)

And GQ naturally suggests eating at Qui which is the magazine's pick for the best restaurant in the U.S. But, let's be honest, Qui is going to be harder to get into than that secret Daft Punk show. Instead, you should walk down the block to Las Cazuelas and order queso fundido (you're welcome in advance) or head to Bufalina where you can grab a spot at the bar and chow down on one of the best pizzas in town.

Drink wise, we can't argue with any of Richdale's picks: The White Horse, Liberty, Weather Up and Wright Bros Brew & Brew are all excellent choices. But here's an insider tip: You probably don't want to mention to any of these bartenders that you read about them in GQ. Instead, order yourself something local and leave a big tip. They're bartenders working during SXSW — they deserve it.

Richdale ends with his sole retail selection: Farewell Books, which is one of the best bookstores in town. Also, if you're in the market for a pinata, you're in luck. Just exit Farewell and make a right. Boom — pinatas for blocks. (We're serious.)

Despite the insultingly entitled, "Where the Cool People Shop & Eat in Austin During SXSW," Conde Nast Traveler also has some pretty good choices for visitors looking to spend a little more money. Perhaps a better title for this article should be, "Where the People with Corporate Expense Accounts Shop & Eat in Austin During SXSW."

Conde Nast suggests loading up on goodies from Kick Pleat, Stag, JM Drygoods and Helm. While you're on South Congress, make sure to stop in to By George for some one-of-a-kind pieces from designers like Stella McCartney, Elizabeth and James; then hit Blackmail for work from Austin's own Gail Chovan. Want to lose yourself in a world of first and limited edition books? South Congress Books is the perfect place to peruse the shelves and find a hidden treasure.

Is vintage more your style? Head to Prototype and New Bohemia, both of which cater to men and women. For the ladies, we have one word for you: Feathers. But you don't have to take our word for it. A few years ago we bumped in Chloe Sevigny coming out of this SoCo vintage haven, thus cementing it as Sevigny-certified.

If South Congress is too busy (and it will be too busy), just head to South First Street for vintage boutiques like Amelia's Retro-Vogue & Relics, Flashback and Ragalicious. Grab something special and wear it back home with pride. After all, there is no better feeling than when someone asks "Oh, where did you get that?" and you reply, "Oh, this funky little boutique in Austin." You maintain our cool rep, we make you look cool. Everyone wins.

While we Austinites may lament the coming of SXSW every year, we do take pride in our city and the amazing local businesses that make their home here. And we're so glad that the rest of the country's publications are catching up. So shop our cool stores, eat dishes from our talented chefs and drink from our internationally renowned breweries, wineries and distilleries.

But seriously, don't jaywalk.

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