There is an old joke that says that the only thing wrong with Austin is that it's surrounded by Texas. I guess it depends on how you feel about the rest of Texas, but its capital city does seem to stand alone in many ways. The giant main campus of the University of Texas dominates the central part of the city and it gives the town the sort of heart that is missing in most other large Texas cities.
What To Do
For a pleasant stroll and some traditional architecture you should check out the Texas State Capital as well as the University of Texas itself. Then there is the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library for a bit of history, but if you are coming between March and November make sure to check out Austin's famous bat colony. Approximately 1.5 million Mexican bats become active around dusk under the Congress Avenue Bridge.
But perhaps more than anything else, Austin is now famous for its huge live music scene. Every March the city hosts the increasingly popular South by Southwest Music Festival. Downtown Austin's Sixth Street is not much more than one bar and restaurant after another and especially during the festival the streets are overloaded with live music fans streaming from one venue to another. The South by Southwest Film Festival overlaps with the music festival and has turned into a significant industry conference and festival itself.
Austin is a large city, but since it's surrounded by even larger cities the airport has more of a regional feel. You can book a flight into Austin's Bergstrom International Airport (code: AUS), but you might also check fares into nearby San Antonio(code: SAT) as well as Dallas and Houston. Since you'll likely want to rent a car anyway, you can often save money by flying into the larger cites surrounding Austin. If you do fly directly into Austin there are buses, shuttles and taxis that can take you into town, and as long as you are staying in a central location you can visit Austin effectively on foot and using public transportation, unlike many other nearby cities.
Where To Stay
There are a couple of hostels in Austin and loads of hotels in Austin from which to choose. If you are planning on taking advantage of the nightlife on 6th Street you should definitely be careful to choose a place that is central. Saving money isn't worth it if you are staying nowhere near where you are spending your evenings. And of course you should book way in advance if you are coming during festival time.