Austin, Texas

(7 reviews)


“Austin living is the best”

Pros:

There are many pros to living in Austin. Considering it is continually on all of the "best places to live" lists or articles, I would presume it's for a reason! Austin is a major city, yet it still has that small or medium sized town vibe. People are extremely nice and they say hello to you. It is sort of a melting pot - many people come to Austin for school (undergraduate and graduate), and then they never leave. So, there are people here from all over the country. On that same note, Austin is still a college town. The amazing thing is, I forget that Austin is a college town - if you don't want to go to college games or participate in college-type activities, then it is easy to forget that the University of Texas is here!

There is also a lot to do in Austin, which makes it a great place to live. However, I will delve into that later.

Even though it is hot in the summer, I love that it can still get cool in the winter. Many places that have extreme summer temperatures don't get any change of seasons, but Austin does. It starts to cool off in October and then get colder in January. So, even though snow is rare, it's still nice to have cold weather at the holidays!

I love that Austinites are very active. Going for a run around Ladybird Lake in the morning before work is a great time...and I am in good company! I would say that more Austinintes are active than not - whether that means extreme activity such as triathletes and marathon runners, or just people that go to yoga a few times per week. I would say that sitting home and watching tv after work is a rarity for most.

Austin is a rare city that has something for everyone. I think that 20-something singles are just as happy living here as families. That's unusual. However, there is something to do for every type of person here in Austin. There are different neighborhoods where different people live, which makes it comfortable for people in every stage of life (I'll discuss more of that in question 4).

I also love that when I tell people I live in Austin, they smile and say "cool" Most people know that Austin is a fun town (probably due to all the great events throughout the year - Austin City Limits, South By Southwest, etc.).

Cons:

The things I don't like are few and far between. I did grow up on the East Coast, and to me, Austin is pretty sheltered geographically. I am used to being able to go to New York City or the beach or the mountains within a few hours drive. From Austin, you can really only go to the Hill Country or to Dallas or Houston. There aren't any real vacation destinations within driving distance. Not being able to escape the heat in the summer (without an airplane ride) is frustrating.

On that same topic, it's hot! This summer, in particular, has been horrible. Over 100 degrees for almost 3 straight months. It makes it impossible to go outside for more than 10 minutes at a time. So, you end up hibernating inside. I guess it's the same as with other parts of the country, except Texans hibernate in summer instead of winter!

Politics are a factor for some of my friends. Austin is very liberal and laid back (and democratic). However, Texas as a whole is very Republican. So, the politics of the state can cause some to avoid living in Austin.

Similar to the geography note above, traveling by air is not as easy as other cities. It is getting much better, and the Austin airport itself is very nice. But, in order to visit family and friends on the East Coast, it takes almost an entire day of travel. There is rarely a direct flight, and often I have to go through Houston (which is just ridiculous because it is an hour flight) - you end of spending too much time changing planes and dealing with layovers. Again, not a huge deal, and it depends on where you want to go. But, I rarely find a direct flight. If you travel internationally, you will always have to connect somewhere. But, if you don't travel much, or your family is located in Texas, this is a moot point.

Best Neighborhoods

This is a tough question, because neighborhoods are changing.

Downtown - this is mostly apartments or condos. Great for young professionals who don't want to have a car or would like to travel by bicycle (since parking is an issue). Most of the restaurants I frequent are not downtown, however. So, living downtown is mostly for young professionals that enjoy the bar-scene. 6th street is really just for college-age people, but the rest of downtown (4th street and 2nd) have some decent bars for non-college people.

South Austin - I would say this is for young professionals as well as families. Mostly single family homes. Close-in South Austin (off of South Congress or South First, Travis Heights) are older craftsman bungalows (built in the 30s) - some have been updated over time, some are falling down and some are just average. The area is perfect - suburban feel with an urban location (you can still ride your bike or walk to many places, but parking isn't an issue)! The houses tend to be smaller - 2 to 3 bedroom. However, the schools are not great in this area. So, it is mostly families with young children, single professionals or retired couples. Once you get further away from Congress or Lamar (but still considered South Austin), the houses turn into homes from the 50's or 60's. Often a little more run-down, but popular with families since it is cheaper.

Hyde Park - this area is similar to Travis Heights, with cute bungalows. But, the schools are a little better, and the houses are a little bigger. You can find 3 or 4 bedrooms a lot easier. Not as much shopping or restaurants to walk to as Travis Heights, but a nice neighborhood feel with easy access.

North Austin - this is where many many families live. It is easier for people that work at Dell or any of the major software companies located up North. House-styles vary widely - anything from 60's style homes to completely modern updates. Many of these homes have been "flipped" although that is less common after the recession. Schools are decent, but not great. Not really walkable or bikeable to anything - you will have to drive.

Lakeway/Lake Travis - this area is outside of Austin. It is located in and around Lake Travis. Homes are more expensive and larger. It is almost exclusively families in this area. Most houses have one parent that stays home with the children while the other goes into town to work. The schools in this area are the best - Lake Travis ISD is ranked tops in both education and athletics.

Westlake, Rollingwood - expensive, houses vary since some have been completely modernized and others haven't. Schools are excellent - the only neighborhood with great schools in Austin proper. Lots of new developments with shopping and restaurants geared toward the "upscale" - but no walking or biking, all car trips!

East Side - up and coming. Some really funky modern houses have just gone up. It is the "hot new area" for young professionals and families. You can still get in for very cheap, but the thought is that the area is going to appreciate in value. Geared more towards alternative and liberal lifestyle (or however you want to name it) - many organic food stores and restaurants, new food trailers, lots of new yoga studios. Some parts are still "sketchy" and the schools are not good - but most areas are walkable or bikable!

Popular Activities

Austin has so many things to do, it is a bit ridiculous. No matter what type of person you are, it is almost guaranteed that you won't be bored in Austin.

Obviously, live music is huge. There is a band playing in almost every neighborhood every day or night of the week. From the bigger venues - Stubbs amphitheater and the such (and the ticket prices that go along with it) to smaller dive bars (i.e. Saxon Pub), Austin has it all. There are even many free shows, especially in the summer. On the weekends, my friends and I like to walk up and down South Congress, window shopping the cool stores, stopping for free music and a cheap beer at the outside garden of Guerro's Taco Bar, then meandering down further to Continental Club for their free Saturday afternoon show. Live music is everywhere. The festivals are hit-or-miss. Austin City Limits is great if you can bike down - set up a chair in front of a stage you like and enjoy 3 days of music. Otherwise traffic is horrible and driving makes the weekend not as fun. South By Southwest is much more expensive and not a lot of fun (unless you like crowded bars and waiting in line).

Food is amazing. From food trucks right up to higher-scale dining, Austin has it all again. Personally, I love the food trucks. I have my personal favorites - the group on South Congress, anything on the East Side. But, I love to just stumble across a new truck and try something new! The Farm to Market Trailer on South Lamar is insane - local, organic, "fancy" food from a trailer..and it tastes amazing! In that same lot is Gordough's Donut trailer - so you can have a pork belly sandwich with fresh greens (picked that morning), then step over to the donut trailer for desert..and don't forget to bring your bottle of wine! BBQ is a given - but I think the best bbq is heading out for a quick drive through the Hill Country to Salt Lick!

In the summer, you need water! It is hot in Austin and the only way to cool off is to go for a swim. Barton Springs is a classic - freezing freezing cold water, but feels so good when it's 100 degrees. As long as you can get a spot in the shade for your blanket, an easy afternoon is spent! Or you can rent a kayak or paddleboard to cruise Ladybird Lake (and "accidentally" fall into the river to cool off)! Or, head out to Krause Springs in nearby Spicewood for natural waterfalls and a rope swing. If water isn't your thing, then the movies are the only other place to cool of..and the only place to see a movie in Austin is at Alamo Drafthouse. Food and drink brought to your seat, rule that discourage children from attending and a strink "no talking or texting" rule make for the most pleasant movie experience ever.

The best idea is to pick up a free copy of the Austin Chronicle (comes out on Thursdays) and find out what is going on that weekend. It carries every event, so pick it up and see what you are in the mood for!

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“Melting Pot of Delightful Weirdos ”

Pros:

Hippies past the age of 35 can still do their thing. I'm not quite there yet, but it's nice to know that Austin is a city you can grow into as opposed to grow out of. There are certain towns out there that are great for reckless night-owling but once you hit about 25, the whole scene feels obsolete.

Austin is not like this.

College spirit, family peachiness, and middle age free-spirit co-mingles to produce an oddly accepting and progressive place where Leslie the homeless cross dresser is considered a local celebrity and friendly hobos are sometimes invited by students to modest spaghetti suppers. (Seriously, this happened. My friend's roommate casually called him one afternoon to let him know that they were making room for a 5th at the dinner table.)

While it's not very ethnically/racially diverse, locals generally try to be open-minded. In stark comparison to everywhere else in Conservative Texas, Austin's attitude can be summed up as, "Hey man, that's cool...that's cool...." My Indian friend attended A&M University in College Station (a small college town in Texas, for those of you non-Texans out there), and on her first day, a perky blonde girl asked her if she spoke Gandhi. This should not happen to you in Austin.

Cons:

Traffic. Limited jazz scene.

Hmm, don't have too many complaints. I will say that it's supposed to be "The Live Music Capitol of The World"...and it's true that there are tons of opportunities to listen to live music...but let's be honest: a lot of it is crap. There's a good number of quality performances, but you need to sift through the lot of semi folky, semi screamy, off-tonal stuff that comes up. It's all part of the aforementioned grassroots "Hey man, that's cool" movement--no matter how bad the band is, it will still probably attract a small closet-sized following.

Best Neighborhoods

South Congress is cool for young professionals, West Campus and North Campus for UT students, Round Rock is a safe area for families.

Popular Activities

Real outdoorsy locals like the Greenbelt and Town Lake. I'm no tree-hugger and don't usually take advantage of these beautiful areas. But I am a big foodie who loves nothing more than enjoying Austin's many restaurants. Here are some of my favorites, whether they're exclusively local or have other state/national locations:

Barbeque: Salt Lick Barbeque (for ranchy ambience), Rudy's (for their sauce)
TexMex: Trudy's (for their stuffed avocado)
Indian: Clay PIt (make sure you get the muscle appetizer)
Mediterranean: Phara's (be careful if you're just there to chow down--they may insist that you belly dance!)
Sushi: Sushi Niichi (modest hole in the wall near campus)
Chinese: Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (great for Dim Sum aka Chinese brunch!)
Thai:Tatiayas (mmmm, green curry!)
Pizza: Home Slice (tomato/basil/mozzarella pizza)
Burgers: Dirty Martins, Your Mom's (Frida Kahlo burger)

Great wine bars to check out:
- Vino Vino (looks like a hole in the wall on the outside but lovely on the inside)
- Cru (rather expensive)
- Max's Wine Dive (for those who enjoy wine but want to drink it like beer...this is basically a sports bar. Don't wear blue suede shoes.)

Replies (8)
by Max:

I spit out grape juice when I laughed so hard after reading your take on the city.

by Diana:

Round Rock has a wonderful small town feel, but still close to downtown Austin. Great for shopping, food and fun:))))

by Michael:

I lived here all my life, i would never leave this place ever, there is freindly and nice people in Austin texas, You get to learn and see different people all the time, I work as waiter, and I meet new people all the time, and everyone is friendly and nice to me when i just want to say hi to them, Austin texas, is a good place to go out and movie, or just finding a good band in town, I love when we have all band come to one every year here, and listen to all different kind of music, love it alot. Love different kind of food all around in this town.

by John:

Round rock? horrible place to use to promote austin.

by Andrew:

Round Rock is in Williamson County....with is an ultra republican district..which is the COMPLETE opposite for Travis County. Seriously, did you actually visit Austin??? Tarrytown is safe and in Austin and far less conservative than Round Rock. Hyde Park, West Lake, Kyle, Buda are equally as safe as Round Rock, yet significantly more reflective of Austin's culture. BTW, in the late 1990's, is was reported the Williamson County Sherriff's Department, which covers Round Rock, had Sherriff's and Sherriff employees who were active members of Williamson County's KKK chapter. Yes, you read correctly, KKK and in the late 1990's. Google it if you don't believe me.

by Dan:

Yes Andrew, I agree that Round Rock is a suburban wasteland but it's affordable while Hyde Park and Westlake are not for many and Kyle and Buda may be too far for others (think north austin employers). If someone is unable to live in Austin at least in Round Rock they get some access to the great city of Austin...at least on the weekends!!

by Ernest:

I was born in '58 and have seen a lot of changes. I remember when you could drive anywhere in town within 15 minutes. So not the case now. Traffic sucks. We have a council that's hell bent on making everyone ride bikes to work or push a rail system down our throats. There are just too many people here.

by Sean:

Nice little synopsis. I'd probably throw Kyle, Texas (just south of Austin) as as alternative great place to raise a family... and it puts you closer to the Hill Country where you have your option of day trips to interesting little cities.

Perhaps you should add in the traffic situation in Austin. It's getting better, but the highway infrastructure was not made for a town this size.

I'd not be interested in moving anywhere else though. This part of Texas is pretty perfect.

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“Funky, Weird”

Pros:

I love this very liberal city. It is a whole lot of fun, it has great food, beautiful parks and is very outdoorsy. A great college town, definitely a young person's city, although it's a great one for any age.

Cons:

Traffic, what else? It doesn't matter what day of the week, what time of day, the traffic is absolutely maddening. The city has not done a good job of keeping up with the grown of the city in this regard.

Best Neighborhoods

Hyde Park is pretty nice. The areas south of the river, around Ziler Park and Barton Springs are just as nice. it has a lot of green lush, nice homes and great restaurants.

Popular Activities

It has great jogging trails and lots of outdoor activities. The music scene and the party scene are huge, especially along 6th Street. Eating out is fun with a wide array of restaurants to satisfy everyone's taste.

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“A truly wonderful city”

Pros:

I LOVE Austin! I was born and raised here, so maybe I'm partial, but Austin is a beautiful, lively, and unique city for all ages.

-The People. I find that Austinites in general are open, friendly, and helpful. Usually Austin people have a more liberal mentality - it's really a blue dot in a red state. And of course, almost every car has a "Keep Austin Weird" bumper sticker, in support of local businesses (the people aren't really weird...). You'll find a lot of Austinites are environmentally friendly, politically active, organic food loving, health conscious people.

-The Music. Austin has a great live music scene. It's got a range of venues, smaller places like Red 7 and Mohawks, and bigger places like Austin Music Hall and the Frank Erwin Center. A lot of independent and local bands play for great prices: I've seen plenty of shows for free, and lots for $15! And of course, we have Austin City Limits (ACL) every summer! I also really like that many restaurants downtown have live music on the weekends.

-The University Location. UT Austin is really close to downtown (you could bike there, take a max of 10 minutes drive, or hop on the bus). It's in a great location because it surrounded by coffee shops and restaurants for students, and its got a decent amount of clothing stores within walking distance too.

-The College Community. Austin is home to the University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest Universities in the United States, so downtown holds a pretty large amount of college students. Austin is a great college city!

-Buses for College Students. The parking options for college students aren't the greatest in Austin, but the buses make up for it! The buses to take you to and from campus are really reliable! (sometimes you do have to stand though). There are also buses to take you downtown during the day, and to take you down to 6th street to the bars and clubs! You can get almost anywhere with the transportation system!

-The Food!! So many restaurants!

-The Sights! Austin is a beautiful city, with a lots of greenery and parks and trials. I really appreciate how Austin has maintained its parks and lake.

Cons:

-Rush hour traffic! I live up north but go to the University, and the mornings (about 7:30 pm to 9:00 am) and the afternoons (about 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm) are bumper to bumper on Mopac

-Parking downtown. Austin has great nightlife and downtown sites, but I'm always hard-pressed to find a free parking spot, let alone one for $5. Usually parking lots are $7 or $10, and if you're lucky enough to find a free spot, its parallel parking!

-West Campus can get loud! It's great if you want to partake in undergraduate parties on the weekends, but if you normally like to study in your room on the weekends, prepare for loud music and occasional shouting!

-Parking for College Students. If you find a free place to park on campus, you are a really, really lucky person because I can never find one before 5:45 pm! There are a decent amount of parking garages, but they fill up pretty quick and are pretty expensive too. There's street parking about a 5 minutes walk from the University, but usually people living in the area park there cars there permanently so don't rely on those spots. Its best to take the bus from where you live or walk if you're close enough to campus!

Best Neighborhoods

-For Studious Students (and Graduate Students): North Campus

-For Party-Goers and Greek Life Students: West Campus

-For young professionals, grad students, etc: Hyde Park

Popular Activities

-Town Lake: trails for biking, jogging, and hiking.

-Barton Springs: great place for a study break, or summer afternoon with friends.

-Zilker Park: beautiful area to take kids, dates, or even dogs!

-6th Street: so many bars, so many people, so much live music - all in one place! And Halloween on 6th is a must-do at least once!

-South Congress: lots of great boutiques and restaurants, and a great view of the Capitol. Check out First Thursdays for sure: on the first Thursday of every month, the shops on Congress stay open late, and there's lots of live music and special deals going on!

-Austin City Limits!! An awesome three-day music festival in the summer.

-Congress Bridge at Dusk: Mexican Free-tailed bats pour out from under the bridge starting in spring time until winter in the evenings, it's a really cool experience!

-Lake Travis

-Alamo Drafthouse. There are a couple around Austin - they're movie theatres where you can eat dinner and buy drinks while you watch movies! They've got really fun events weekly like sing-alongs, or voice-overs, or showings of older movies.

-Paramount Theater. Austin's historical theater! They have a summer film series where they show classics and older films on the big screen, it's really great! they also show classics during the holidays.

Reply (1)
by Chuckles!:

Seriously? The whole 'Let's go see the BATS!' Is beyond my ken. I moved here, did it once and that was as satisfying as a dry hump. Why people rave about hanging out and waiting to watch vermin in the sky is mystery to me.

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“So much to love about this place”

Pros:

What I love most about Austin is the vibe. It's laid back, youthful, and vibrant all at the same time. In the evenings, it's common to see people at the park lazily enjoying the outdoors. On weekend nights, downtown is bustling and full of life. I am a person who appreciates getting the most of life and I love, love, love that the people of this city have that same attitude. It creates an atmosphere that is not found in anywhere else I have lived or visited.

Austin is also great because of its outdoor offerings. This makes summers in Austin amazing. There are many lakes and watering holes to enjoy. People celebrate summer with boat parties galore. There's Mount Bonnell, the highest point in Austin, that boasts an awesome view of the city. There is the Oasis, (a restaurant that seats 2,000!) that overlooks lake Travis and offers an unforgettable view of the sunset. Canoeing on Lady Bird lake which cuts through the middle of the city never gets old. And so much more...

Cons:

Parking is a scarce resource and the parking police love their job. They will ticket you any chance they get. Parking is especially bad downtown and in the UT campus area.

I35. Do everything you can to avoid this highway. It can be 3:00p.m. on a Sunday or 10:45a.m. on a Wednesday and you will still find yourself in traffic. The traffic patterns on this highway are truly unpredictable.

One annoying thing about living in a city that has a lot to offer is the constant stream of visitors. Sometimes it feels like there is a major event just about every weekend. This leaves us locals having to deal with people who can't navigate the city, more traffic, and longer lines at restaurants, etc. So annoying. Just let me enjoy my city, people!

Best Neighborhoods

I am a big fan of Central Austin. The neighborhood is peaceful, safe, yet hip and funky. Additionally, I am close to downtown, retail, restaurants, and every highway I can possibly access. Another really important benefit...I rarely ever have to use I35!

If you love to jog, walk, or bike, this is especially the neighborhood for you. You will be motivated by all of people who also partake in these activities.

Popular Activities

Town Lake - jogging/walking/canoeing

Mangia - great Chicago style pizza

South Congress - Shopping/walking/restaurants

Eeyore's Birthday - Never been, but heck, sounds like fun

Halloween - EVERYBODY who goes downtown dresses up and you get to see the some crazy and creative costumes. It is truly something to be seen.



Reply (1)
by Jen:

I can vouch for chicago pizza in Austin-mangia yes.

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“Laid back”

Pros:

1. Funky town with character
2. Friendly people
3. Lost of local restaurants with a strong culture to support them
4. Some of the best BBQ in the country (saltlick)
5. A well developed urban center
6. Always something going on (Austin city limits, South by Southwest)


Cons:

1. The highway and road systems have not really kept up with the population growth over the last 30 years. This has led to heavy traffic in the central part of the city. Same roads as 1980.
2. Buying a home in central Austin is very pricey compared with other Texas cities.

Best Neighborhoods

1. Downtown- tons of nightlife & restaurants. Close to town lake. You can walk everywhere.
2. South Congress- A very popular and trendy neighborhood. Funky Shops and eateries.
3. Hyde Park- Close to downtown and everything else. A mix of families, professionals, and students. An older, charming, walkable neighborhood.
4. East Austin- A gentrifying neighborhood that has become a hotbed for yuppies due to central proximity an lower housing costs relative to other parts of the central city.

Popular Activities

live music, downtown nightlife, town lake, south congress, and the many parks/trails/natural swimming spots.

Reply (1)
by Patricia Case:

You forgot to mention the homeless people with signs at every intersection or the illegals with their entire family at the grocery store or working at Mcdonalds.

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“Best City Ever!!!”

Pros:

Austin is like your crazy uncle. Three words to describe its energy would be: young, eclectic, and friendly. It's got a small city/big town vibe, which means there's plenty to do while still feeling like you're at home. I may be biased because I've lived here most of my life, but there's definitely a good reason why I've been able to grow up in Austin, attend college locally at the University of Texas, and now work here in town without wanting to pull my hair out due to boredom. The city is full of surprises...even after my long acquaintance with Austin, I still find out about new bars, restaurants, festivals, and events every week! Also, the people are wonderful. I've traveled quite a bit--within the U.S. and internationally--and you won't meet folks quite as sweet, welcoming, and open-minded anywhere else.

Not to mention, Austin's economy has been rather robust compared to other U.S. cities. And we support our local businesses, for all of you entrepreneurs out there!

Cons:

Public transportation is virtually nonexistent, which would be tough for someone without a car unless you're a UT student living around campus. Everything is generally pretty spaced out. Also, the summers are miserable--105 degree weather is not for the faint of heart. But of course, that applies to all of Texas, not just Austin. Plus, if you're an extreme conservative, this isn't the right place for you. The city's motto is "Keep Austin Weird" because it's just that: weird.

Best Neighborhoods

Young professionals - South Congress, downtown, The Domain area

Popular Activities

- Tons of concerts every week (hence Austin's title as "the music capitol of the world"), known for Austin City Limits festival and South by Southwest
- Great shopping! If you're into vintage, check out shops along South Congress Ave and "The Drag" (Guadalupe St.). If you're going for high-end, head to The Domain
- Trailer restaurants! Types of foods include crepes, cupcakes, tacos, bbq, Indian food. Pretty much everything, actually. Trailers are sprinkled along South Congress Avenue and South Lamar. They've even started to gain attention from The Food Network Channel :)!

Reply (1)
by Mike:

I'm packing my bags for Austin as we speak.

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