Here's What its Like to Live in Austin
Austin, a booming city in central Texas, is both the state's capital and its fourth-largest city. With a population growing at a rate of more than 150 people per day, Austin is one of the country's fastest-growing metro areas. New births account for only 30 percent of this growth. The other 70 percent comes from people moving to Austin, so, if you're planning to move to Austin, you're in good company.
Austin can trace its history back to the 1830s, when the first permanent settlers arrived in the area. Originally named Waterloo, Austin was later renamed in honor of Stephen Austin, the Father of Texas, when it became the state capital. The city is bisected by the Colorado River, which is dammed in two places, forming Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin. The former sits in the heart of downtown Austin.
The construction of the dams around the turn of the century stabilized the river, provided hydraulic power to produce electricity, and encouraged manufacturers to move to the area. By the 1950s, Austin started to become known as the technological hub it is today. In the 1970s, Austin experienced a musical rebirth (thanks to artists such as David Rodriguez and Willie Nelson) as well as a flurry of political activity, which included the founding of many neighborhood, environmental, and historic preservation societies.
As you prepare for your new adventure to Austin, you probably have many questions about what you should expect. Keep reading to find everything you need to know about moving to Austin.
Image via Flickr by Lars Plougmann
One common misconception that people moving to Austin have is that the city has a dry, desert-like climate similar to those of Phoenix, El Paso, and other southwestern cities. In reality, Austin's climate is humid and subtropical, with long, hot summers and mild winters. Overall, the weather is pleasant — perfect for those who enjoy spending time outdoors year-round.
Heat and Humidity
Just how hot and humid is Austin? In July and August, the hottest months of the year, the average highs are in the upper 90s and the average lows are in the mid-70s. May, June, and September have average highs in the upper 80s and low 90s, and the average highs in April and October are between 80 and 82 degrees. During the rest of the year, the average highs range from 62 to 72 degrees. Austin rarely experiences the uncomfortably high humidity that characterizes the Gulf Coast of Texas. Although the humidity rarely drops below 30 percent, it becomes stiflingly humid only before a big rainstorm.
For most of the year, the temperatures stay between 70 and 80 degrees. When the city gets hot during the summer, residents can cool off indoors or head to one of the many local swimming spots. The city has, on average, 228 sunny days and 34 inches of rain per year, with September and May being the wettest months. In comparison, the national average is 205 sunny days and 39 inches of rain. For roughly 50 days each year, Austin experiences some kind of precipitation, typically rain.
Winters in Austin are mild, and the coldest months are December, January, and February. January tends to be the coldest month, but, even then, the average highs are in the low 60s. The lows during the winter range from the low to mid-40s, with temperatures dropping below freezing for about 25 days each year. The area experiences occasional snow but averages less than an inch of snowfall annually.
Though Austin is a pleasant place to live in terms of climate, new residents should be aware of a few hazards. In the late spring, heavy rains can cause flash flooding, especially around low-water crossings. Austin can also experience strong winds and heavy rains from hurricanes, though these are weaker than what coastal cities such as Houston experience.
Finally, Austin's generally mild climate means that the allergy season tends to last for the entire year. Different allergens become prominent during different months: tree pollen during the spring, grass during the summer, ragweed during the fall, and cedar pollen during the winter. The air often contains mold as well, especially during rainy months.
The People of Austin
The Austin metropolitan area is home to more than 2 million people. The median age is 33.9 years, which is slightly younger than the national median. The city has a very diverse, majority-minority population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Austin's population was 48.9 percent Anglo, 34.5 percent Hispanic and Latino, 7.6 percent African-American, and 6.8 percent Asian in 2016. If current trends continue, the city's Asian population will surpass its African-American population within a few years, and its Hispanic and Anglo populations will be nearly equal within 25 years.
Overall, Austin boasts a young, active community and lower-than-average rates of asthma, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The population comprises a mix of government employees — including University of Texas faculty and staff — college students, high-tech workers, musicians, blue-collar workers, and businesspeople. Willie Nelson, Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Elijah Wood, Lance Armstrong, Andy Roddick, Brooklyn Decker, Richard Linklater, Dan Rather, and Terrance call Austin home.
Despite Austin's diversity, its residents tend to stay geographically divided. Residents in East Austin tend to be poorer, while West Austin has emerged as the city's most affluent area. Central Austin consists mostly of students, while young professionals, lawyers, lobbyists, and wealthy retirees gravitate toward Downtown. Families with children, meanwhile, typically choose to live in the city's suburbs.
The Austin Lifestyle
In general, Austinites have active lifestyles. The city consistently ranks among the healthiest/fittest cities in the country due to its abundance of parks, outdoor recreational opportunities, and locally sourced foods.
Austin is also extremely dog-friendly. Pets are welcomed at many bars, breweries, shops, restaurants, and outdoor spaces — including the Texas State Capitol Grounds and the Barton Creek Greenbelt, the 10-mile downtown trail around Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin. Pet owners can also find several dog-friendly events and off-leash areas throughout the city.
Perhaps the best illustration of the Austin lifestyle is the "Keep Austin Weird" movement. As the city has grown, many residents have sought to preserve its unique culture. Austin has an eccentric, hipster reputation with decidedly liberal leanings and a thriving LGBT community. Residents tend to favor local businesses and indie culture over anything mainstream. Overall, Austin offers a more laid-back, casual vibe than most metro areas.
When moving to Austin, you'll find that its neighborhoods have their own distinct characteristics. If words like "artsy," "weird," "funky," and "eccentric" describe your ideal neighborhood, try Bouldin Creek or Clarksville. Both are close to the downtown area and popular among creatives and young professionals. Retirees, on the other hand, seem to prefer suburbs such as Wimberly, Georgetown, and Elgin.
The University of Texas at Austin is large enough to be considered its own neighborhood; it is bordered by West Campus, Downtown, and East Austin. Students who want to live off-campus can find a lot of rentals in Southeast Austin. Hyde Park also has rentals, but these tend to be slightly more expensive.
Families will appreciate neighborhoods such as Mueller Community, Barton Hills, Brushy Creek, Cherrywood, Leander, South Lamar, Rollingwood, Pflugerville, and Crestview. Allendale, located in north-central Austin, has some of the area's best schools, while Brentwood offers a convenient location, a 9-acre park, and a high concentration of single-family houses.
Although housing prices in Austin have been steadily rising, it is still possible to find affordable neighborhoods. If you're working with a tight budget, look for starter homes in Rosedale, Zilker, East MLK, or East Riverside-Oltorf. Central East, East Cesar Chavez, Downtown, Barton Hills, Govalle, and North Loop are other affordable options.
The Austin Independent School District (ISD) comprises 129 schools. According to the Austin ISD website, this number includes elementary, middle, high, early college, academy, magnet, alternative, and community schools. When you add to this other local school districts, the numbers grow significantly:
- 573 preschools.
- 252 elementary schools.
- 132 middle schools.
- 96 high schools.
- 201 public district schools.
- 52 public charter schools.
- 486 private schools.
According to GreatSchools.org, the best schools are found in the Lake Travis, Eanes, and Dripping Springs ISDs, each of which scored either a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. The Austin ISD scored a 6. The worst districts are the Del Valle ISD and Lockhart ISD, which scored 3s, and the Manor ISD, which scored a 4. The other 10 districts scored somewhere between 5 and 8.
The top-rated public high schools are the Liberal Arts & Science Academy, Westlake High School, and Westwood High School, all of which earned an overall grade of A+ on Niche. Lasa High School, Chaparral Star Academy, Bowie High School, and the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders also received high scores from GreatSchools.
Austin is also home to several colleges and universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, Huston-Tillotson University, Austin Community College, and Saint Edward's University.
The Job Market in Austin
The cost of living in Austin is higher than the national average, especially in terms of housing costs. The median home price is $278,608, and the median monthly rent is $1,098. However, Austin's overall cost of living is about equal to the cost of living in cities such as Phoenix, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta, and it's also significantly cheaper than living in many large metro areas. For example, people from New York City, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, or Chicago could take a significant pay cut when moving to Austin and still maintain the same standard of living.
At 2.9 percent, Austin's unemployment rate sits comfortably below the national average, and the future looks good; Austin's job growth is predicted to outpace the national average. The average income is $32,672 per year, the median household income is $55,216, and residents pay no personal income taxes.
The biggest industries in Austin are construction, manufacturing, retail, education, health care, and hospitality. Nearly 12 percent of the city's workforce are employed in the professional, scientific, and technical service fields. Austin's largest employers are the city, county, state, and federal governments; the Austin ISD and Texas State University; tech and telecommunication companies such as Dell, IBM, AT&T, and Apple; and retail giants such as Amazon, Whole Foods, and Walmart.
Transportation in Austin
One thing you may hear many Austin residents complain about is the city's traffic. Austin consistently ranks as one of the cities with the worst traffic; the city simply wasn't designed to handle so many people and cars. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the stretch of I-35 in Austin experiences the worst traffic in the entire state, and it is indeed the most congested road in the city.
Public transportation is managed by Capital Metro, which offers an express bus service (MetroRapid) and a commuter rail (MetroRail). The former includes two busses that run between North to South Austin every 12 to 30 minutes, depending on the day and time. The latter runs between Downtown Austin and Leander on weekdays and from Lakeline to Downtown on Saturdays. Austin has several rideshare services and a bike-share program known as Austin B-cycle. A map of the city's bike routes can be found online.
The Austin Food Scene
If you're looking for the best local restaurants, Austin residents will be happy to point you in the right direction. Locals and visitors alike — including Anthony Bourdain and former President Barack Obama —have praised Franklin Barbecue on East 11th Street as the best in the city. Texas Monthly even dubbed it "the best barbecue in the known universe." As you can imagine, the line gets long, but the food is worth the wait.
On South Congress Avenue, you'll find many of the best local joints, including Home Slice Pizza, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, and Jo's Coffee. Locals recommend Perla's for seafood, Uchi for Asian fusion, Elizabeth Street Cafe for Vietnamese, Justine's for French cuisine, and Sway for modern Thai food. Austin has a long list of top-notch Mexican and Tex-Mex options. Among the best restaurants are Tacodeli, Torchy's Tacos, Fonda San Miguel, Chuy's, Juan in a Million, and Manuel's.
Al fresco dining is very popular in Austin. Indulge in Italian cuisine at Olive & June, which has a spacious outdoor patio, or dig into some tacos at Fresa's Chicken Al Carbon. Relax outside with a drink at Workhorse Bar, Contigo's, or Kemuri Tatsu-ya, a Japanese-style pub. If none of those is your style, you have dozens of other outdoor drinking spots to choose from.
You can also enjoy a meal outdoors by visiting one of the city's food truck parks, which offer some of the best eats in Austin:
- Pangea Lounge.
- Rainey Street Food Trucks.
- Spider House Food Trailers & Village.
- East Riverside Food Trucks.
- The Picnic.
- 5000 Burnet Food Park.
- The Midway Food Park.
- South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery.
- Mueller Trailer Eats.
- Co-Op Food Court.
- South First Street Food Trucks.
- Thicket Food Park.
- North Loop Vegan Trailers.
- Aztec Food Trailer Park.
- East Side Food Park.
- South Congress Food Trucks.
A long list of breweries, wineries, and distilleries have made Austin their home. Notable examples include Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery & Tasting Room, Black Star Co-Op, and the new Oasis Texas Brewing Company. Argus Cidery produces sparkling hard ciders from Texas-grown apples, and Adelbert's Brewery specializes in Belgian-style ales. Don't forget to sample the brews from Hops & Grain and Austin Beerworks. Wine-lovers can find over 50 wineries within a short drive. About two dozen of them are located in Hill Country, a region west of the city.
The Biggest Annual Events in Austin
Regardless of when you move to Austin, you'll find plenty of exciting events to add to your calendar. Every month has new opportunities to socialize with other residents, try new things, and immerse yourself in Austin's culture. Here are a few of the city's biggest events.
Spring (March through May)
One of Austin's most popular events is the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals, which are held at the Austin Convention Center in March. Since the inaugural event in 1987, SWSX has expanded to include four festivals — Interactive, Film, Music, and Comedy — as well as a Gaming Expo, a Trade Show, a Marketplace, a Wellness Expo, and several other exhibitions. The SXSW Conference, meanwhile, brings together professionals from around the world to explore emerging trends in film, culture, music, and technology.
The Rodeo Austin, founded in 1938, is another massive event. This rodeo is held every March at the Travis County Expo Center and features 10 ProRodeo events, a family-friendly fair, livestock shows, daily concerts, and more. Also in March are the Austin Urban Music Festival and the St. Patrick's Day Festival at Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms.
Austin's event calendar is especially packed in April, when the city hosts Art City Austin, the Moontower Comedy Festival, the Fusebox Festival, Austin Reggae Fest, and the Austin Food + Wine Festival. The good times keep rolling in May with Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, the Pecan Street Spring Festival, Finding Euphoria Fest, and the West Austin Studio Tour.
Summer (June through August)
Summers in Austin can be slightly less comfortable than the spring and fall, which means there are fewer outdoor events. However, residents will still find several big events to enjoy. The four-day Republic of Texas Biker Rally is held every year in mid-June. Not only is this the largest motorcycle rally in Texas, it's also the largest ticketed motorcycle rally in the country. Later in June, families can enjoy the Fun Stop 5K & Festival. Formerly known as the "Keep Austin Weird Fest & 5K," this event invites residents to traverse downtown Austin in the wackiest costume they can come up with.
Austinites celebrate the Fourth of July with a patriotic, family-friendly concert hosted by the Austin Symphony and a spectacular fireworks display over Lady Bird Lake. In August, be sure to check out the Bat Fest on Congress Avenue Bridge, where you'll see the world's largest urban bat colony take to the skies. In addition to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats, the event features live music, a costume contest, and children's activities. Austin Pride Week is also held in August, culminating in the largest Pride festival in central Texas.
Fall (September through November)
As the weather becomes cooler, Austin's event calendar heats up. In September, you can see the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (aGLIFF) as well as the Fantastic Fest, a film festival that specializes in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and action. Austin also hosts the Texas Craft Brewers Festival in September.
Based on official attendance numbers, Austin's biggest annual event is the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park, which drew 450,000 attendees in 2017. (SXSW is a close second, with 421,900 attendees in 2017.) This festival spans six days across two weekends and features over 150 musical acts across eight stages — plus local food vendors, brewers, artisans, and pop-up shops. Austin also hosts the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in October. In addition to the race, which features drivers from around the world, ticketholders can enjoy live performances from artists such as Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder.
Other top fall events include the Austin Film Festival, the Austin Celtic Festival, and the East Austin Studio Tour.
Winter (December through February)
Every December, 400,000 people head to Zilker Park to check out the Austin Trail of Lights, making it the city's third-largest annual event. In addition to 2 million lights and dozens of displays, this massive holiday celebration boasts a carousel, a 90-foot Ferris wheel, a marketplace for holiday shopping, a large selection of local food vendors, and much more. The Austin Trail of Lights is open every night for about two weeks, with free admission on certain evenings. The event also hosts a family-friendly Movie Night and a Heroes Night to honor veterans, active members of the military, and first responders.
The fun continues after New Year's with Free Week. Held during the first week of January, this music event features hundreds of local bands playing free shows at different venues around the city. On January 15, Austinites honor Martin Luther King, Jr. by marching from the MLK statue at the University of Texas to the historic Huston-Tillotson University for a community festival. In February, you can enjoy Carnaval Brasileiro, one of the biggest Carnaval celebrations outside of Brazil, and the OUTsider Festival, a multidisciplinary art festival that brings together Austin's LGBTQI community.
Things to Do in Austin
Beyond the annual events and other special activities that you'll enjoy as a new Austin resident, you can find a wide variety of things to do in Austin throughout the year. Whether you're an art lover or a history buff, a shopaholic or a thrill seeker, Austin has a little something for everyone.
Austin is filled with parks, hiking and biking trails, and many other opportunities to enjoy the city's pleasant weather. You can go ziplining or kayaking, book a party cruise, explore the many scenic trails and caverns, or show off your skills at the BMX skate park. Nature lovers will enjoy spots such as the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, McKinney Falls State Park, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Other popular destinations include Lake Travis, Mount Bonnell, Natural Bridge Caverns, and Krause Springs.
To beat the heat, head to one of Austin's local swimming holes or water parks. Barton Springs and Deep Eddy are spring-fed pools, and you can find many other natural pools here as well. Several of the city's most popular swimming spots — including Campbell's Hole, Twin Falls, and Sculpture Falls — are conveniently located along the Barton Creek Greenbelt, allowing you to combine hiking and swimming in a single outdoor trek. Nearby waterparks include NLand Surf Park, Typhoon Texas Waterpark, and Quest ATX.
When it comes to Austin sports, the Longhorns take center stage. The University of Texas competes in NCAA football, basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, and swimming, among several other sports. If you're a fan of college sports, you'll love cheering the Longhorns to victory.
Austin is also home to many professional and semi-professional sports teams. These include the Austin Bold FC, which plays in the United Soccer League, and two rugby clubs: the Austin Blacks and the Austin Huns. The Austin Spurs play in the NBA G League, and the Round Rock Express is the AAA Minor League affiliate of the Texas Rangers. The Texas Stars Hockey Club is the AHL affiliate of the NHL Dallas Stars. You can also find women's rugby and roller derby teams.
If you're into motorsports, you'll be excited about the city's brand-new Grand Prix facility: Circuit of The Americas (COTA). In addition to the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, COTA hosts the Red Bull MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas, Lone Star Le Mans, and several other races throughout the year. Named "The Best Golf City in America" by GOLF Magazine, Austin is also a golfer's dream. Golfers will find dozens of courses — many of which were designed by pros such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Shopping and Live Entertainment
Austin boasts eight diverse entertainment districts: Downtown, East Austin, Northwest Austin, Sixth Street, South Congress, Rainey Street, Red River, and West Sixth. Each offers its own unique nightlife, shopping, and live entertainment options. As the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World, Austin boasts over 250 live music venues. Two standout venues are The Broken Spoke, a country dance hall, and The Continental Club, where patrons have been enjoying the blues, folk music, and rock since 1957.
For boutique shopping, head to the 2nd Street District in Downtown Austin, South First Street in South Austin, or South Congress Avenue. Another popular retail destination, The Domain, located in Northwest Austin, offers 700,000 square feet of shops, including luxury fashion from national brands and independent designers. Austin also has a large selection of secondhand stores, including the impressive 2,200-square-foot MOSS designer consignment store.
History and Culture
History buffs and art lovers will enjoy Austin's many museums, galleries, historical sites, and landmarks. America's 36th president, Lyndon B. Johnson, lived in nearby Stonewall, Texas, and his presidential library was built on the grounds of the University of Texas at Austin. The city is also home to the Bullock Texas State History Museum, the French Legation Museum, and the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center. Step back in time to the 1800s at Pioneer Farms, or visit the Neill-Cochran House Museum, the tenth-oldest house in Austin.
Art lovers will also enjoy the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, the Blanton Museum of Art, the Elisabet Ney Museum, the Mexic-Arte Museum, and the Austin Museum of Art. Austin also boasts an array of outdoor art, including street art and public art.
Many of these suggestions are appropriate for the entire family, but Austin has several other kid-friendly options as well. Kids will love the Austin Zoo, Peter Pan Mini Golf, the Dinosaur Park, Pinballz Arcade, the Austin Toy Museum, Playland Skate Center, and Thinkery, a hands-on, interactive children's museum. Take your children ice skating at Chaparral Ice or rock climbing at the North Austin Rock Gym or the Austin Bouldering Project.
With so many options, you're unlikely to run out of things to do in Austin. However, if you ever want a change of scenery, you can take a reasonable drive to several other large cities. San Antonio sits an hour and a half to the southwest, Houston is two and a half hours to the east, and Waco is less than two hours to the north.
From live music, local wine, and Longhorns football to Formula 1 races, dog-friendly parks, and the country's best barbecue, new Austin residents have lots to look forward to. For your move to the ATX, rely on Allied Van Lines. Whether you're looking at a cross-country move or relocating from another city in central Texas, we offer the professional moving services you need for a smooth transition.