Austin is one of the hippest cities in the South and maybe all of the United States. Rather than the stereotypical Texas barbecue and rodeos, the Austin Area is filled with live music, food trucks, and outdoor activities. With a high quality of life and a decent cost of living, thousands are flocking to the city. If you're eyeing Austin as your next place to live, here are some things you should know before moving.
1. Live music is everywhere.
Known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," it's no surprise that it's easy to catch a show in Austin. You can find hundreds of live shows throughout the city each week. While the music scene is present throughout the city, some areas including Red River, Sixth Street, and South Congress are designated as entertainment districts.
And don't expect to just find one genre of tunes. Austin hosts solo blues performers, rock bands, hip-hop artists, zydeco groups, and more. You can also watch music in all types of venues from barbecue joints and concert halls to dive bars and the airport.
2. It's an outdoor lover's dream.
While you may think Central Texas is filled with tumbleweeds and ranches, the truth is that the area is gorgeous. Within the city limits, you can kayak or paddleboard on Lady Bird Lake, bike along the Barton Creek Greenbelt, visit the waterfalls at McKinney Falls State Park, and hike to the top of Mount Bonnell.
Less than 30 minutes from the city you can take an overnight canoe trip on the Colorado River, rock climb at Reimer's Ranch Park, and explore an underground world at Longhorn Cavern State Park.
3. Know what you like and pick an area of the city accordingly.
Like most cities, the different parts of Austin vary. So before you pick a neighborhood solely based on its cost of rent or proximity to your work, make sure to learn what it's like:
- Downtown Austin is a lively part of the city and is filled with condos, bars, and restaurants, as well as the Texas Capitol.
- East Austin used to be affordable, but due to the rising population, it has experienced the rising prices that accompany gentrification.
- You can find almost any chain store you like in North Austin. Housing here tends to be a bit more affordable than in other parts of the city.
- As you head West towards the hill country, you'll find some of the most expensive real estate in Austin. That said, the area is gorgeous.
- South Austin is known for keeping Austin weird, but the Southern part of the city varies by zip code. The 78704 zip code is highly desirable and therefore more expensive than other areas of South Austin. It's filled with funky shops, electric restaurants, and nightlife spots. Other South Austin zip codes tend to be a bit more mainstream and more affordable.
4. Skip the pool and swim in nature.
Temperatures in the 90s are the norm during the summer, so Austinites cool off in local bodies of water. The most popular options aren't man-made pools but rather naturally formed swimming areas.
Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park is fed by nearby natural Main Barton Spring and covers three acres. While the pool is manmade it's unchlorinated. Therefore, it closes every Thursday for deep cleanings.
Lake Travis is another good spot to cool off. You can hang out lakeside at one of the many parks, head out on the water on a boat, or try your hand at fishing from shore.
5. Austin's population is growing rapidly.
If you think Austin sounds like a great place to live, you're not alone. For the past eight years, Austin has been the fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the US. Between 2009 and 2019, Austin's population grew by more than 30%, with an average of more than 100 people moving here each day.
People move here from everywhere, including the California cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as northeast cities like New York and Boston. While Austin has a lower cost of living than the aforementioned cities, housing costs continue to rise as more people move in.
Long time Austin residents can sometimes be bitter about all the newcomers, but people are generally friendly and welcoming.
6. Foodies have lots of choices.
Austin has food options ranging from high-end restaurants to casual yet inventive food trucks. More than a few Austin restaurants started out as food trucks before moving to brick and mortar locations, so don't doubt the delicious meals that can come out of these trucks.
While Austin has a bit of everything, don't miss out on the barbecue, Tex-Mex, and breakfast tacos.
7. Tech jobs give Austin the nickname Silicon Hills.
Along with great amenities and quality of life, Austin brings people in with its attractive job offerings.
Apple, Dell, and IBM all have large presences in Austin, and smaller tech companies continue to move to the city. While Austin doesn't have as many tech opportunities as Silicon Valley has, it has enough to earn itself the nickname of Silicon Hills.
8. The city gets crowded during big events.
Along with many small music shows and local events, Austin also hosts some big events that draw in thousands.
Each year South by Southwest — or "South By" to locals — brings in hundreds of exhibitors and speakers in the related to music, film, and media. SXSW increases city traffic, but it also brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.
Another big annual event is the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Every year thousands of people gather in Zilker Park over two weekends to listen to big-name musicians.
9. Commute east to west is easier than north to south.
Although the car remains king in Austin, drivers have to sit in a lot of traffic. The city ranks in the top 15 most congested US cities, and backups are especially bad on roads that run North to South.
10. Public transportation isn't great, but lots of people bike around Austin.
Although Austin is a big city, public transportation is behind. CapMetro operates buses and a few rail lines, but they don't provide access to much of the city.
However, that doesn't mean you have to rely on a car to get around Austin. Lots of people bike around the city, but there are some hurdles to doing so. Cars can park in some bike lanes, and not all residents appreciate sharing the road with cyclists. Still, there is a strong cycling community and many educational events.
11. If you're looking to rent, consider working with an apartment locator or real estate agent.
Since so many people are moving to Austin, many landlords don't list their properties online. In the instance that Austin properties aren't available on platforms like Kopa or Craigslist, you can get some outside help.
Apartment locators are people you hire to find an apartment for you based on needs like location, number of bedrooms, and amenities. If you're looking to live in a house, consider working with a real estate agent.
12. The weather is hot, so take note of insulation.
The city of Austin only has one electricity provider, and the rates aren't cheap. Since it's so hot in the city, you'll have the AC on at least half of the year. So, while you might like the charm of that old building, make sure you ask about the insulation, energy efficiency, and past electric rates before moving in.
13. Those glowing towers are the last in the world.
In the early 1900s, these towers could be found across the world. They utilized carbon-arc lamps to bring outdoor lighting to otherwise dark cities. Since then, technology has improved and most towers have been taken down. However, 15 moonlight towers still remain in Austin, and they're listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pack your suitcases for Austin.
Now that you know a bit more about this Texas city, get ready to pack your bags and move. Since you'll be joining thousands of other new residents, you'll have plenty of people to explore your new home with.