1. Live Music Every Night of the Week
I am not exaggerating when I say this. There really is live music every night of the week in Austin. From holes in the wall like, well, Hole in the Wall, to larger venues like Austin City Limits Live and Stubb’s, if music is your thing, Austin is your city. It may be the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world, but that’s only because it’s true.
2. Austin is Funny
Check out the famous Esther’s Follies or pay a visit to Cap City Comedy Club where tons of national standups pass through. Also, Austin has the most improv per capita in the nation. Check out shows every night of the week at venues like the Hideout Theater, or even better, take some classes when you move there to meet new people!
3. It’s a Blue Dot in a Red State
Austin is the liberal oasis inside a predominantly conservative, republican state. In fact, sometimes it is easy to forget that Austin is not only a part of a larger, more conservative state, but it is the capital! This strange dynamic is most apparent when it comes to politics—hence the high number of protests at the state capitol, especially as of late!
4. Barbecue is a Religion
If you’re not moving to Texas solely for the barbecue, consider this just the cherry on top—or rather that chewy fatty layer around your brisket. The two places you should know in Austin: Franklin and the Salt Lick. (Franklin will have a line out the door. Expect to wait at least an hour, on a slow day.)
5. It Is HOT
If I wasn’t trying to keep this list short, I’d repeat this a few times with various degrees (super-duper hot, scorching, miserable…). Don’t worry, it’s only hot there in the summer, which lasts from approximately March to November. But there are plenty of ways to cool down.
6. Barton Springs & Zilker Park
Barton Springs is a naturally-fed swimming pool in the heart of Austin’s Zilker Park (you know, the park that gets trampled every year for Austin City Limits). The pool is three acres in size and, on average, a chilly 68 degrees year-round. During the summer, topless men and women of every shape, size, and color (though mostly a little red) can be spotted soaking up the sun on the grassy hill beside the pool.
7. Tex-Mex and Margaritas
After all of that barbecue-eating and laying out next to Barton Springs, you’re really going to have worked up an appetite. Enter the next staple in any good Austinite’s diet: Tex-Mex and margaritas. You’ll want to do this right: Start with Matt’s Famous El Rancho, Trudy’s, Maudie’s, Chuy’s, and Vivo. Then on day two, branch out from there.
8. Movies Are an Event
Imagine a magical land where delicious meals, delightful snacks, a huge selection of drinks, and movies, live comedy, singing, and all kinds of special events all combine. This is the reality that is Alamo Drafthouse.
9. The Hoods
For the sake of keeping this as brief as possible (and possibly at the risk of offending as many of you as possible…) I’m going to limit my descriptions to three words.
- East Side: hipsters, trendy, growing
- South Side/SoCo: funky, hippies, funky hippies
- West Side: Lexus, Porsche, Mercedes
- North Side: Too far away
- Downtown: Music, business, bars/restaurants
- UT Campus: Bros, bars, shopping
And for any of these, it’s probably safe to assume you can add in a dash of extra “growing,” and “trendy,” because, like it or not…
10. Austin Is Getting Bigger
Austin was recently named America’s fastest growing city by Forbes magazine, with a population growth rate of 2.8 percent! The rapid influx of people in Austin has left this once-small-city with a mess of traffic, on roads not built to handle so many cars. And the really crappy thing is…
11. You Kind of Need to Have a Car
Austin’s public transportation system is notoriously blah, and like most cities in the south, Austin is pretty spread out. One thing the city does have going for it, though, is Car2Go. It’s kind of like ZipCar, only the cars are teeny, and you can pick them up and leave them all over the city (not having to return it to its home).
12. Talk Like a Native
Before you get all uppity, I’m not saying that Austinites speak incorrectly across the board—but you have to admit, when it comes to the pronunciation of certain street names, things get a little confusing. Manchaca, for example, is pronounced “Man-shack.” Why? Who knows! For more on the correct way to incorrectly pronounce the street names in Austin, check out this article.
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13. Breakfast Tacos
Breakfast tacos are everywhere in Austin, but of course, they are not all created equal. If you’re going to taco for breakfast, do it right with Tacodeli, Juan in a Million, or Torchy’s Tacos.
14. Austin is FIT
Yes, even with all of the aforementioned fooding, Austin was ranked one of the fittest cities in America by Shape Magazine. Austin has over 220 parks, filled with running and biking trails, lakes for water sports, over 250 gyms, yoga studios, healthy restaurants, and health food stores.
15. It’s Town Lake
Whether you’re a runner, walker, biker, kayaker, dog-owner, a sun-bather… In fact, as long as you’re not looking for a place to actually swim, Town Lake is the place for you (Town Lake is beautiful, but it is disgusting. Don’t swim in this water.). You may also hear it referred to as “Ladybird Lake” these days. This, however, is silly. Call it Town Lake.
16. Whole Foods Market
The first Whole Foods Market was founded in Austin in 1980, at a time when there were only about five natural foods supermarkets in the U.S. Obviously a lot has changed since then—Whole Foods has expanded, natural grocery stores have sprung up all over the place, and yet, you still can’t beat the spectacle that is the Whole Foods on Lamar.
17. Dog Friendly
Austin was recently ranked the No. 1 city in the U.S. for dogs and dog owners, by the Pets at Home website. Austin is home to 12 off-leash parks, lots of swimming holes, and tons of restaurants and bars that will not only allow your four-legged friend, but welcome them with water bowls and biscuits.
18. Dress Up or Dress Down as You Please
In Austin, there are really only three things you should ask yourself when it comes to picking an outfit: Are you cool enough? Are you wearing shoes? And seriously, are you going to stay cool enough? The shoes thing might even be stretching it, as tons of pad-footed hippies walk around without shoes in the city.
19. Sixth Street: The Breakdown
- West Sixth Street: Posh, more expensive bars, usually filled with young professionals and ex-frat boys
- “Dirty” Sixth Street: This is the rowdy stretch of Sixth Street, from about Brazos to I35, that you’ve probably heard about.
- East Sixth Street: East of I35–a much mellower place, mecca for hipsters, outdoor seating, and often, art and music
20. Food Trailer Heaven
Zagat’s blog recently named Austin one of the top ten cities for food trailers. And if you’re expecting Austin’s food trailers to be dominated by barbecue and Tex-Mex… well, you’d be right. But there are also other delights. Check out East Side King for something savory or Gourdough’s Specialty Doughnuts for something sweet.
21. Not the Best for Art Museums
Austin is a great place for artists—as there are plenty of galleries all over town. But as far as museums go, the choices are, surprisingly, few and far between. Of note: the Blanton Museum, Austin Museum of Art, and the unique Umlauf Sculpture Gardens.
22. You ARE Still in Texas
As I mentioned earlier, it can be easy to forget that Austin is smack dab in the middle of a more conservative Texas, but sometimes that country charms seeps in, and sometimes that’s a really good thing. Be sure to check out Broken Spoke for your two-steppin’ fix and Allen’s Boots on South Congress for your garb.
23. Wildflowers Paint this City
During the spring, Austin’s highways and roads are dotted with Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, Black Eyed Susans, and Primroses, momentarily transforming the city into something like a Monet painting. Drive out toward Fredericksburg or up 281 for the full experience.
24. It’s a Tech Town
Companies like AMD, Apple, AT&T, Dell, Google, Intel, Facebook, 3M, and PayPal are just some of the bigger name tech companies in the fair city. Austin was also recently named one of the 10 best cities for tech startups in the US.
25. South by Southwest
South by Southwest is about a week-long festival for thousands of bands, films, and even interactive events (one reason Austin is such a great tech city!). It’s a lot of fun if you’re participating; however, if you’re not attending the events, you might consider putting your place up for rent and taking this week to get out of dodge. It’s a zoo.
When I asked some friends in Austin what they thought people should know before moving to the city, many of them (jokingly) responded, “Please don’t!” It isn’t that Austinites don’t want you there—in fact, they’ll probably embrace you, whoever you are, with open arms, an open beer, and an open mind. Austin is just a very special, big city with a small-town feel; and even as it is growing, it strives to keep its personality—it’s very, very weird personality.
So, welcome to Austin, ya’ll.
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