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25 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Austin

If you're planning on moving to Austin, memorize these 25 must-know tips. Otherwise, you'll just be a tourist.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

155 articles, 0 comments

1. Live Music Every Night of the Week

People perform at a rock show in Austin, TX

Source: SCH Art Studio

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

People stand in line outside of a venue in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user me and the sysop

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

Protesters in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Pciet

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

Pit barbecue

Source: Flickr user Barron

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

People swim in a swimming hole in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user austinevan

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

A public pool in a park in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Incase

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

Vivo Tex-Mex restaurant sign

Source: Flickr user Paul Lowry

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

The Alamo Draft House in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Tim Patterson

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

A Keep Austin Weird sticker

Source: Flickr user Jay Dean Photography and Films

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

Traffice going into Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Mrlaugh

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

A Car2Go car parked on the curb in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Denis Bocquet

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

A street sigh at night in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Rachel Hoefling

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

A taco truck in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Cogdogblog

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

Two men jog in a park in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Pixajen

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

People in boats on a lake in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Hi I’m Santi

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

A Whole Foods in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user that other Paper

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

A dog at a dog park in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Todd Dwyer

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

A pair of flip flop sandals at a park in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user Athrasher

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

People in downtown Austin at night

Source: Flickr user Mrlaugh
  • 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

People eat outside at a Thai food truck in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user

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

A sign for an art museum in Austin, TX

Source: Flickr user JD Hancock

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

A row of cowboy boots

Source: Flickr user Thelonious Gonzo

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

Bluebonnets in Austin, TX

Source: Filckr user Faungg's photo

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

Downtown Austin at night

Source: Flickr user Dell's Official Flickr Page

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

People walk around Austin during South By Southwest

Source: Flickr user Dave B

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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posted on: July 19, 2013
[views], 29 comments

29 Comments

  1. Jake

    y’all* otherwise good post!

  2. Robie

    It’s no longer Town Lake any more nor is it “Ladybird Lake”. It was renamed to “Lady Bird Lake” in honor of Lady Bird Johnson who has done a ton of good things for the nature of our city and surrounding areas.

  3. Chili

    Compared to other places I’ve lived Austin has a pretty good metro bus system. Most of the people I know that live here don’t have cars.

    Also a good thing to know is that we’ve got a bag ban here. Grocery stores and retailers won’t hand you your purchases in plastic bags anymore. It took some getting used to, but after awhile it’s pretty easy to remember to bring canvas bags along.

  4. BlackwaterStan

    “AMD, Apple, AT&T, Dell, Google, Intel, Facebook, 3M, and PayPal” Dell is the largest of these. The second largest is IBM. IBM employes as many people as AMD, AT&T and Apple combined.

    • Gronar in response to BlackwaterStan

      Dell is not in Austin, it’s in Round Rock. Thank god.

  5. Mallory

    Lady Bird is the one responsible for the wildflowers along the highway as well as cleaning up town lake to make it more family friendly and to encourage folks to exercise. 🙂 What a lady!

  6. Ward-thomas

    A green capital with clean tech compinies.

  7. Stephanie

    What should have been listed first and second on this list:

    1) Ongoing drought
    2) Fourth-worst traffic in the nation

    • RioBrewster in response to Stephanie

      3) Allergy capital of the universe!

  8. TOMAS

    THIS IS WHY I MOVED AS FAR AWAY A.S.A.P.Y…. 10 YRS AGO!!!
    CAME BACK TO VISIT LAST WEEK, YET HOPE TO NEVER RETURN !!!
    TRAFFIC & LAME TRY-TA-BE RICH HIPSTERS…. IF YER FROM CALI
    OR N.Y….. LIVE IT UP, LOVE THE HEAT AND BEYOND OVER-RATED
    HIGH PRICES OF BEING OH SO COOL!!! NEVER SO LAME…. !!!

  9. Monica

    Hi all,
    I’m from Northern california. been here all my life, i’m just turned 40 and i’m in the tech field. as you may know, california is very expensive and the older i get the more my priorities change. Hubby and I are looking to move and since we are both in the technical field we were looking at austin. We are liberals, not church goers, love country music.
    I know we can get more for our buck when it comes to homes, we make very good money here which doesn’t mean anything if you’re in Cali lol… any thoughts on the impact we would have moving?

    • Andy in response to Monica

      Monica, I am in a similar situation, and also in the tech field too. I got sick of the expense and density of SoCal, so I was considering Austin & Charlotte. Even though I thought Austin might be the cooler city to be in, I ultimately picked Charlotte because I have family nearby. The other appeal was the scenery of all the trees and greenery that are so scarce in California. So I moved to Charlotte about 9 months ago. There is a tremendous housing boom here, seems like every corner I turn there’s new neighborhoods popping up everywhere. Tons of people migrating from northeastern states for more affordable housing and milder seasons. And it’s truly sad because all of that great scenery is being bulldozed for more luxury apartment complexes and shopping centers. The good news is houses are still fairly cheap here. The bad news is Charlotte is becoming a massive overpopulated city like any other major metro area, and the infrastructure can’t keep up with the growth. Traffic is a real issue, and now I find myself kind of regretting moving here. It is for these reasons that I don’t really consider Austin to be an option anymore, because I believe I’ll be facing the exact same issues there. Now I’m considering small town life somewhere else in NC. There are some small towns that are acceptable commutes from Raleigh/Research Triangle (the east coast Silicon Valley). Anyway best of luck.

  10. A.E

    I was thinking about applying to the University of Houston there in Austin. I’ve been reading reviews but I want to know y’alls opinion on Austin and the university. If I follow through with applying, I want to know where the safe neighborhoods are etc. My mom will be moving with me for college so I want to make sure there’s activities for all ages (not only for young adults). Whats the good and bad there? crime rates?

  11. Dave

    Umm, University of Houston is NOT in Austin — it’s in H-O-U-S-T-O-N.

  12. Ashley

    My opinion personally of people flocking to Austin isn’t very pleasant. I feel that people only want to move here for our music and weirdness. I passed my a sorority house when they were taking Auditions and all I saw was a line of girls in hooker heels, I’m talking “Look at me! I can barely walk!” heels. That isnt Austin, that’s California or Florada or whoever else moved here, not Austinites. I’m a true Austinite, born and raised. I’ll never move. But I’ve witnessed in my 14 short years of my life that Austin has changed. Ive been growing up in North Austin all my life and in my small neighborhood I’ve witnessed a lot, though Ive never spoken out till now. The little plot of land near us was just sold to build appartments, scummy appartments for all the new people to live. It’s built ontop of Indian territory, we noticed all the signs though the construction crew was quick to cover it up so they wouldn’t have to stop their construction. All the arrowheads and other artifacts were distroyed or picked up by the crew as suvenires. All they saved was a pathetic patch of trees shoved into the corner between Parmer and Andersonmill. With all the people, traffic has been bad, it’s hard for my school bus to get me to my school.

    Ontop of the traffic and the boom of infrastructure, I feel that some of Austin’s culture has been lost. People move here thinking they can be as idiotic and weird as they want and get away with it. We still brush our hair and teeth and most of us match atleast some of our outfits! I know I do. I may not dress like a hooker, cowgirl, hipster, rapper, dork, race horse, or whatever else people this we dress like. We do wear things that may be different but we aren’t all hippies. Well, most are and we like tiedie and other stuff. My point is think before you act and realize that you may be contributing to our cultural loss.

    Another thing, we do have good art taistes, just not very good art museums. Check downtown, there’s plenty of murals and our famous “hi how are you” frog.

  13. Texas Red

    Please don’t.

  14. GalenLashbrook

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for supplying this information.

  15. Samuel

    No. Just please, no. Go away. Texas is closed until further notice.

  16. KeepOurFreedoms

    What about the UnYouth – Senior Citizens? Are they allowed to live in Austin?

  17. Nikki

    Does anyone have any idea how the public transportation in Austin stacks up next to the public transportation, specifically TCAT, of Ithaca, NY? I’m considering moving between milder seasons (mainly just sick of snow), affordability and a fresh career start. Is it true that Austin is really bike-friendly?

  18. jessica

    There’s a bike sharing thing you can do. There’s a yearly fee for the service. But be prepared to sweat buckets if you’re gonna be biking. There ARE hills. So I’d wear a tank top and some lycra yoga pants.

  19. Kelsey

    Any comments on Riverside? I am moving to Austin in August and am looking for affordable housing… my boyfriend will be attending UT.

  20. Michelle

    If I am in my 32 and am relocating here to start work in the medical aesthetican/ laser field and my bf wanting to get started in music what city or shall I say neighborhoods should I look at that would be good for my industry if I don’t want to be close that close to downtown and want to be in a nice area with nice affordable apartments ? My friend told me the north side. I don’t know why he told me to stay away from the east side. Any suggestions? And where is a good place for me to get a hotel for a week to check out everythjng before I move here? Is there an area where there are a lot of medspas/clinics? Thank you for your help!

  21. michael

    i love austin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Karen

    Michelle,
    There are hospitals and med surg clinics all over Austin. The Westlake and Barton Creek areas are the high end areas of Austin and are located between Mopac and FM 360 on the west side of Austin. However, housing is also very expensive in these areas.
    The demographic center of Austin is now in the Lakeline Mall area, where FM 620 and Research Blvd. ( Hwy 183) flyover is located. Austin is working on a regional development plan, where there Re strategic centers near amenities so people do not have to drive all over town, but can walk, or bike.

    There are some very nice apartments and condos being built in the Lakeline regional center, just north of Lakeline Mall, and it has also has a commerical transport station where you can park and take the rail downtown. Grocery, restaurants & shopping are great there, too.
    Austin is Growing fast, and the demand is driving up home prices. Many of the surrounding cities are still quite affordable: Round Rock Georgetown, Leander, Hutto, Manor, Elgin and Bastrop.

    If you want help finding a place to live in the Austin Metro Area, I AM A LICENSED TEXAS REALTOR. I have lived in Austin over 35 years, so I know the area well, and have sold, leased and helped people buy property for 8+ years. Helping people with their real estate needs is what I do. Call, text or email: 512-689-3040, kchoate@cbunited.com

  23. Brittany

    Michelle, I am a local Austin REALTOR and would be happy to help you locate an apartment. I also have knowledge of area hotels to stay while you search. Feel free to call me or email and we can discuss more in detail.
    Congratulations on your move to Austin!
    Brittany Painter, REALTOR
    Goff Properties
    512.431.0047

  24. Genevieve vickers

    Hi Im moving to Austin end of this month and what I can see by these comments that Austin doesn’t like new comers but I and my husband are just wanting a new beginning for our selves and we picked Austin we like to get out and enjoy the scenery and live our lives wtbs I don’t care what some people don’t want I’m coming and keeping to myself so no one will have to worry about us we have each other the people around us don’t make us who we are so I’m coming to Austin and live my life in peace I heard this was a good place to live but reading these comments let’s me know to keep my guard up and stay away from others and my life there will be fine no problem will be in my circle I’m gonna enjoy Austin me and my hubby thanks for the heads up people people can be so mean to new comers but it won’t happen to me I won’t change anything about me so I can get a friend don’t have none now and won’t have any when I get there

 

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