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34 Things to Know Before Moving to Austin, Texas

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From the recording studios of Seattle to the dot-coms of Silicon Valley, it seems just about everyone is talking about moving to Austin, Texas. Drawn by the low cost of living, excellent job market, delicious Tex-Mex, and incredible music scene, Austin is a beckoning siren. So, should you join the hordes and head to Austin? Check out Estately’s list of 33 Things to Consider Before Moving to Austin before you pack up and make Austin your new home.

1. Chicken $#!% Bingo

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When people say, “Austin has it all,” what they really mean is, “Austin has it all, including a form of Bingo that requires a chicken to bring its digestion to completion.” To join the fun you’ll have to head to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, an establishment that’s won titles like one of the 20 Worst Bars In America and also a place on the list of 20 Great Bars To Throw Up In.

2. Most Adorable Cats In America

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Not a cat person? Take a trip to Austin Pets Alive and you’re almost certain to go home with your own kitten or cat. It’s not clear whether it’s the climate, some cultural phenomenon or a secret breeding program, but Austin has the coolest cats of any city in North America. They’re just adorable and they want to move in with you.

3. Breakfast Tacos

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An important part of this nutritious breakfast in Austin is a breakfast taco at Torchy’s Tacos. If tacos sound a little heavy for breakfast then maybe this isn’t the city for you. Get out.

4. Two Holy Days

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Most monotheistic religions have a Sabbath, a single holy day per week. During football season, many devout Longhorns football fans add a second, reserving their Saturdays solely for the purpose of watching the U.T. game. Some Saturdays are filled with elation, while others with profound grief. Either way, there’s sure to be partying down on 6th Street. Don’t worry Texas A&M fans; there are a few Aggie-friendly bars in the area for you.

5. Affordable Homes

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Despite Austin‘s rapid economic growth and popularity, home prices are considerably cheaper than comparable cities like San Francisco. According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the median home price for the Austin area rose 8% in the past year, but was still only $231,500 as of May of 2013. Check out current homes for sale in Austin on Estately here or see all the photos of the brightly-painted home above here.

6. Live Music Capital Of The World

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It wasn’t clever marketing that earned Austin the title of Live Music Capital of the World. Austin won it with numerous music festivals and live music coming from seemingly every bar, nightclub, and coffeeshop in town. The upside is there are 30+ live acts performing on Mondays alone, and over a hundred on Fridays and Saturdays. Should you want to join the fun, there are over 500 Craigslist ads seeking musicians each week. The only downside is that for every Austin band playing a show, there are 5-10 aspiring rockers angering their neighbors by practicing their power chords at 2am.

7. Bikability

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Austin is bike-friendly enough for Lance Armstrong to live and train here so it must be at least okay, right? Bicycling magazine declared Austin America’s 13th Most Bike-Friendly City thanks to its new bikeways, urban-trail plan, and great bike advocates like Bike Austin. It’s only going to get better for bikes.

8. Kingdom of Queso

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  1. Queso is a cheesy sauce found on breakfast tacos, enchiladas, and other Tex-Mex classics. You also dip your chips in it. It’s glorious.
  2. There are 20+ calories in every tablespoon of queso.
  3. They often use queso waterfalls instead of chocolate waterfalls at Austin weddings.
  4. The thing Austinites miss most if they move away is the queso, especially these five queso spots, according to Blog con Queso.
  5. In Heaven, the rivers run with queso and you float around on a tortilla chip raft.

9. Can You Wear Cowboy Boots?

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While you’ll look like a real douche wearing cowboy boots in New York City, you’ll look stylish here in Austin. However, don’t rush and buy a pair as soon as you move here. Give it a little time to get acclimated and then pick up a used pair at one of Austin’s vintage clothing stores. Wait a while before wearing it with a buckle and cowboy hat, though; nobody likes the newcomer who’s trying too hard.

10. Bats. Lots Of Bats.

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The Congress Avenue Bridge is home to 1.5 million bats in the summer, the largest urban bat colony in North America. The Mexican free-tailed bats discovered new crevices made ideal habitat after engineers reconstructed the bridge. The bats have become a tourist draw and are quite a sight as they depart each night to hunt for bugs.

11. Celebrity Sightings

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The odds are incredibly slim that you’ll go to a garage sale and bump into Sandra Bullock, Mike Judge, Andy Roddick and Lance Armstong, but the odds are better in Austin because they all live there. Austin is a great spot for celebrity sightings, especially during SXSW, but the locals don’t fall over themselves with excitement over them. Try to do the same.

12. SXSW

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There are music festivals and then there is THE music festival:  South by Southwest. What started as a local music festival rapidly turned into something far more immense. The festival is now a ten-day celebration of original music, independent films, and emerging technology. During this time, the city is overrun by musicians, concert goers, as well as those in town to attend trade shows and conferences. Locals either stay to partake in the fun, or else rent their homes out for exorbitant prices to those attending. Two weeks of renting it out can pay your mortgage or rent for 3-5 months. Just consider it when estimating housing costs.

13. Entrepreneurial Oasis

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Whether you’re looking to start a food truck offering Mongolian dumplings or the next innovative software company, Austin is an entrepreneur’s paradise. The workforce is educated and bilingual, there is no personal state income tax, and skilled workers are attracted to the low cost of living and high quality of life. According to Under30CEO, Austin is the Top City for Young Entrepreneurs in 2013 and Thumbtack.com’s Small Business Survey 2013 found Austin to be the Most Business Friendly City in America. Small businesses don’t face the same level of taxes or complicated licensing requirements as other cities, and there is a thriving startup culture.  If you’re looking to create a great tech company, find work at an emerging startup, or experience a work culture built on collaboration, Austin’s might just be the best spot in the country. Of course the competition is tougher, too.

14. Frolf Or Die

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Not really into golf? No problem. Austin has plenty of disc golf, also known as Frisbee golf or frolf. It’s basically golf played with a Frisbee and Austin is sort of a disc golf Mecca, with over 40 courses in the Austin area. Will you get made fun of for playing it? Absolutely. Will you secretly get super competitive and not care? Of course. Just be sure to stay away from the hacky sack.

15. Warnings For Democrats

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  1. Austin is a very blue city, but it’s surrounded by red suburbs, red counties, and a pretty red state. Living in a blue enclave doesn’t isolate you from socially conservative policies, growing restrictions on women’s health care, and an abundance of executions.
  2. Gov. Rick Perry, famed for his inability to count to three during a debate, will not be seeking re-election in 2014. However, the next governor will most certainly be another Republican.
  3. Democrats are putting together a long-term campaign to turn Texas blue and could use a few good democrats to move there to help make it happen.

16. Warnings For Republicans

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  1. Austin is so liberal it’s sometimes jokingly referred to as the “People’s Republic of Austin.” You can smell the patchouli on the hippies from as far away as Armadillo. 
  2. Thousands of people move to Austin every year for the limited government, low taxes, and business-friendly environment. Austin may be the blue tumor in a red body, but the state’s Republican state government keeps liberal Austin from getting too “weird.”
  3. Austin may be hostile to social conservatives and religious fundamentalists, but libertarians will enjoy the live-and-let-live attitude.

17. Trudy’s Stuffed Avocados

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This delicious dish alone is reason enough to move to Austin. They take an avocado, stuff it with chicken and cheese, bread it and fry it, and then top it with more cheese and a green chile sauce. It’s basically the greatest thing ever and if you don’t like can take your stunted tastebuds back to whatever bland, Midwest town you came from. The crown jewel of Tex-Mex, this glorious meal is best paired with a couple Mexican Martinis, but only two because they cut you off after that because THEY ARE STRONG!

18. Stephen F. Austin

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Austin is named for the Father of Texas—Stephen F. Austin—who led the successful colonization of the region bringing 300 families to settle the area. He was reluctant to do so, but it was his father’s dying wish so what’s a guy gonna do? If the name Austin doesn’t do it for you, the city also goes by the nicknames Bat City, Heart of Texas, Hippie Haven, Live Music Capital of the World, River City, Silicon Hills, People’s Republic of Texas, Queso Capital, Weird City, and many more.

19. Mad Dog Margaritas

The Texas Chili Parlor Bar was made famous by the Guy Clark song “Dublin Blues,” but did you know the drink doesn’t even have a drop of Mad Dog in it? Not only that, but legend has it the drink didn’t actually exist so the bartenders had to invent one to meet the sudden demand the song caused. Order the drink anyway and have a side of Frito pie.

I wish I was in Austin  /  In the Chili Parlor Bar  /  Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas  / And not carin’ where you are  — Guy Clark.

20. Location Is Everything

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Austin and Dallas may have a state in common, but they really couldn’t be more different. Dallas is perched on the edge of the prairie, a place where the man in the cowboy hat and buckle is actually a business attorney transplanted from Connecticut. Austin resides in the scenic Hill Country, a place where the guy with the cowboy hat and buckle is probably a musician from Seattle. Either way, most people in Dallas wish they lived in Austin, but they will go to great lengths to deny it.

21. Orchestra Showdown

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Austin supports two talented orchestras, but if you live here you’re going to have to pick a side. Like the East Coast vs. West Coast rap battles of recent memory, the rivalry between these two orchestras could turn ugly fast. Ask yourself, will you stand with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the oldest performing group in Austin, or the Austin Civic Orchestra, a volunteer-based semi-professional orchestra? Choose wisely because an orchestra battle can quickly come to fisticuffs.

22. Fit City

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You’d think with all the delicious Tex-Mex and barbecue Austin’s citizenry would be groaning under the weight of their collective obesity. Actually, Austin is a fitness-focused city that spends a lot of time exercising outdoors. The American College of Sport Medicine declared Austin the 11th Fittest City in America, by far the healthiest major city in Texas. Austin has a downright un-American obesity rate of just 22.9 percent!

23. Want To Get Weird?

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The slogan “Keep Austin Weird” was originally spoken by Red Wassenich and later adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small business in Austin. At least that’s what Wikipedia says. Truth be told the slogan came about when ol’ Red received divine instructions from a talking bat who called on him to keep Austin from losing touch with its true nature. And, sure, Austin has lost some weird landmarks like the Armadillo World Headquarters, but SPAMARAMA is back, and the city’s efforts to keep it weird are so inspiring that other cities have tried to steal the slogan. Primarily, the attempted thievery has come from Portland, Oregon. Check out examples of Austin’s eccentric side HERE and be prepared to fly your freak flag high if you move here. If you’re unsure how to, just ask Kinky Friedman.

24. lce Cream Is Better In Texas

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Ice cream lovers flock to Austin for the legendary Amy’s Ice Creams, which won national fame for their world famous Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream. But be warned:  If there really are UFOs visiting earth then it won’t be long until the planet is invaded by some alien force set on stealing all the Amy’s Ice Cream for themselves. People, this will be our next Alamo and the 350 rotating flavors must be defended at all costs.

25. Sunshine

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Clear skies are a common occurrence in Austin, which averages 115 sunny days per year. While better than most of the country, it still has fewer than El Paso (194), Amarillo (157), or Dallas-Fort Worth (135).

26. Crime Doesn’t Pay

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If you’d like to avoid being arrested by Walker, or any other Texas Ranger, then you’ll want to avoid walking around Austin with wire cutters in your pocket because it’s against the law. Also, if you are planning to become a murderer, Austin is a lousy place to do it because the Great State of Texas relishes executing murderers.

27. Walkability

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Your boots are made for walking, but unfortunately Austin isn’t. According to Walk Score, Austin is just the 31st most walkable large city, with the most walkable neighborhoods being Downtown, West University and the University of Texas. On the upside, there’s probably a live music venue within walking distance no matter where you are.

28. Food Trailer Courts

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These trailer park food courts are more like culinary theme parks. You will eat at them a lot, unless you’re some kind jerk.

If You’re Ready To Move, Check Out Homes For Sale In Austin on Estately By Clicking Here

29. So Much Yoga

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Do you enjoy contorting your body into pretzel-like shapes even more than eating pretzels out of picnic baskets? Well, yogi, Austin is the town for you. The hard part is going to be choosing between the 200+ different places offering  yoga classes in some form. There are yoga flash mobs, classes in parks, yoga-themed dating services, classes taught by former NFL running back Ricky Williams (still waiting to exhale), and plenty more. You can even bring your pooch with you to Austin Doga, which holds the Guinness World Record for most dogs doing yoga (341). It would have been 375, but 34 dogs were disqualified because they were actually just grooming themselves.

30. Dog Paradise

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The Texas Capital is Estately’s #4 U.S. City for Dogs (related article). Austin won points for its 11 dog parks, ample water to play in, and a plethora of activities to share with your pooch. Austin offers a variety of boutiques and health food stores for Fido, as well as more than 35 pet photographers. Seriously. The city also hosts the annual Easter Pet Parade & Costume Contest, the Austin Dog Fair, and a host of other dog celebrations. But the best dog feature in Austin is Kramer the Austin Famous Rock Dog, who fishes for rocks in local lakes and streams. Your dog could to.

31. Grab Your Waterwings

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Did you know over a third of all Americans are unable to swim? If you’re one of those people you’re going to need to learn or get a fresh pair of waterwings because Austinites spend their free time on the water and in public pools. Locals swim in Barton Springs Pool and dozens of others, kayak on Lady Bird Lake, sail or waterski on Lake Travis, and even float the nearby Guadalope River with a cooler in tow.

32. Sports

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Austin is the largest city in America to not have a team in one of the major sports leagues, so you won’t be attending any NFL, NHL, MLB, or NBA games. However, the University of Texas Longhorns football team could probably beat a couple NFL teams (Jaguars/Raiders). If college football isn’t your thing, then consider watching the Austin Toros, an NBA Development League minor league basketball team; the Round Rock Express, a Triple A minor league baseball team; or, if you’re tough enough, one of the best flat track roller derby teams in the nation—the Texas Rollergirls. If, like much of Austin, you’d simply rather play than watch, just join one of dozens one of local recreational sports leagues.

33. Heavy Metal Fans?

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With the frequency you see this gesture, you’d think Austin was a city solely dedicated to the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. In actuality, the Hook ‘em Horns hand signal represents a longhorn, as in the University of Texas Longhorns. It’s possible that the second leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome in Austin is frequent use of this hand signal.

34. Traffic From Hell

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If you don’t have a good stereo and air conditioning in your car, you’re going to be completely miserable because traffic is terrible in Austin. Local mass transit isn’t very fast, and the freeways and arterials are clogged with traffic. For every appearance on a list of top places to live, Austin routinely shows up on lists of the worst U.S. cities for traffic. According to INRIX, you’ll spend 38 hours per year stuck in traffic, the fourth worst in the country. On the upside, the locals cover their bumpers in amusing bumper stickers so you’ll have something to read.

Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • mrod1975

    I think this list is incomplete without a BBQ category, which would include the three best in the state:

    Franklin BBQ
    JMueller Meat Company
    La Barbecue

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  • nacinla

    “Comparable” to San Francisco? Obviously the writer has never been to San Francisco.

  • Guest

    The weather is the biggest difference and exactly the reason I moved FROM Austin to San Francisco, especially after Armadillo World Headquarters closed. I visit every couple of years in January. Enjoy it all.

  • nacinla

    The weather is the biggest difference you see? Whew! Good luck!

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  • Jennifer Perkins

    Thanks so much for showing our house! Hopefully going to new owners soon.

  • T-Pie

    The big food trailer park has been kicked out in favor of high-rise condos. And the weather is a problem – you need to enjoy doing these things in 95-105 degrees.

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  • SoberMoney

    Forget Austin. Go 40 miles southwest and park your butt in Wimberley, Texas. You get all the benefits of Austin and San Antonio without the headaches. And Texas State University, San Marcos is only a few minutes away.

    But don’t plan to live here in the summer. It sucks heat.

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  • Diana

    wondering about activities for bikers? (motorcyclists)

  • tre

    What is wimberly Texas like

  • tre

    Looking to move to texas a entrepreneur. Looking to open a cosmetology school. First wrk in a school.
    African American earthy love stepping and humble environment.
    Also looking to rent beautiful up to date home.
    I’m into lots of diversity A MUST people business etc.
    Want to attend TD Jakes church.
    Mentor youth programs will be an intrest.

  • tre

    From Chicago

  • tre

    Hair stylist want to start up diverse clientele with good income base mid to high.

  • ACV2233

    If you’ll read the list you’ll realize pretty quickly that there’s nothing on it that you can’t find in almost any other city. That Austin is cool, or weird or unusual is a myth. I’m not sure how it developed that reputation but after 8 months living in Austin I feel duped.

    – 90% of the people who live here dress right out of small town 1980.

    – There are pan-handlers at every single street light in this city.

    – Restaurants are average but think they are unusual and charge like they are.

    – The only music in town is down-town – if you’re not 21, you’re out of place.

    – No one knows how to drive in Austin.

    – It’s filled with people from small towns. This is the biggest city they’ve ever lived in. So they are enthralled.

    All in all, Austin is great if you’re from a town of less than 200K people. If you’re from a city with character, you will not like Austin.

  • guest

    You forgot Salt Lick

  • Jess

    Wimberly is the closest you can get to old-school, small town Texas stereotypes. It’s inconveniently far from pretty much everything and you definitely need to be looking for a country lifestyle. I spent quite a bit of time there and Dripping Springs. It’s pretty scenery… But really country.

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  • Ruth Steiner

    Lived in several different areas of Texas and will NEVER live ANYWHERE in that state again. To many reasons to list here, weather, floods, you name it.

  • Katherine

    Then go back to where you came from. We certainly don’t need you turning your nose up at our beloved BBQ and Tex-Mex treasures. You obviously haven’t ventured out enough to enjoy it here or find live music outside of downtown, which, frankly, is hard to do unless you’re agoraphobic. Good luck moving with all of our terrible drivers out on the roads. Us country-bumpkins just ain’t accustomed to drivin’ on these here fancy city roads!

    P.S. – There are panhandlers everywhere.

  • nacinla

    Lived for seven years in Austin when it actually had character and was, in fact, weird. Today it’s just another navel-gazing consumerist mecca, only with a great music scene. And you’re right — most of the things listed here can be found just about anywhere — which is a sad statement to make about the coolest city in Texas. PS: Don’t pay any attention to Katherine’s comment. It’s typical of Texans these days to brag about how everyone’s moving to Texas, but as soon as you say anything negative, the xenophobia for which Texans are well-known comes out.

  • Sharon Drew Morgen

    I don’t know where this person lives. I have been here 15 years. The food is fantastic and cheap. The music is plentiful and fabulous. The people are friendly, kind, and interesting. The tech and business sectors are hot and creative. There is always fun stuff going on that’s reasonably priced. A high percentage of folks moving in are from California. There are very few panhandlers altho far too many save the children folks.
    So I don’t know where this person is living but it’s not where I have lived. I lived in nyc, London, Hamburg, and taos. Austin is the best.

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  • austin roxxxxxx

    YEAH!!!!

  • HillmanDC

    I’ve lived in and visited many cities.

    Austin is one of my favorites.

    Sure, it’s basically a small town.

    But I’m fine with that.

    As for panhandlers, that’s simply not true. Yes, you see them at some intersections.

    But there are FAR fewer than in DC, Boston, Philly, etc.

    “Every single street light”? Nonsense.

    Austin has a lot going for it. By and large the locals are extremely friendly and unpretentious. The food is by and large terrific.

    I’m curious, though. If you dislike Austin so much what cities do you prefer?

  • creepyTexan

    Please don’t move here. Austin is the top growing city in the US! By the time you get here it won’t be the city you dreamed of. Found a job here? Better pay well, a 3-2-2 in an average neighborhood rents for 1000+ a month. The home prices are now inflated if you are into buying.

  • J

    This city isn’t very kind to African Americans. I’ve encountered so much racist behavior and discrimination in Austin. I’ve witness racist behavior against Hispanics, Asians and anyone who isn’t white. It seems white people don’t want black or brown people here. Too bad for them because I’m not going anywhere. Don’t let that discourage you I’m just being honest with you. Mexicans are pretty cool though. It seems they treat you the way you treat them. Despite it all. I love the weather and Austin has some amazing swimming holes.

  • tre

    Thank you I decided to move to phoenix. You are awesome for being honest though. Have a great evening.

    Subject: Re: New comment posted on 34 Things to Know Before Moving to Austin, Texas

  • Your mom

    Austin is not a small town, it’s the 11th most populous city in the united states.

  • Your mom

    then move.

  • Your mom

    lol..you moved to phoenix instead of Austin to escape racial discrimination?! That’s rich.

  • Your mom

    I am white, I live in Austin, I live in a predominately Hispanic and black neighborhood and I haven’t met many racist people really, and I know racist because I grew up in Louisiana and Mississippi.

  • Cole

    I would have to disagree. Austin is a great city for people of all colors and walks of life. I haven’t ever heard a racist comment and I’ve lived here for 12 years. Also, most people are just nice in general.

  • C

    Wimberley is mostly a retirement community. If you’re under the age of 50 and you like doing things besides art, market days, and swimming, I’d recommend staying in Austin.

  • graham

    oh this is so damn accurate.
    especially the “no one knows how to drive” bit….

  • angie

    Hahah you just dont fit In, Im below 21 lived here two years (for UT) and this city is amazing, if you dont like it go home

  • Gregg

    We’ll can you blame white people for this? Doesn’t take a genius to see what happens to life when black people move in. I’m from diverse NYC i have yet to see a peaceful, law abiding middle class neighborhood not run down, filthy, and crime ridden. Don’t blame white’s, blame blacks for this feeling ofCause and effect. Ever hear of the knockout game? It anoint white people playing it Dawg

  • Dave Cooper

    What can u tell me about the art world are there any great design companies or is art a good part of Austin’s economy

  • LigetiFan

    “Growing restrictions on women’s health care, and an abundance of executions.” I love euphemisms. Use the word, “abortion”. That’s the “restriction on women’s health care”. And some might call that a form of execution. The inability to see any irony in a sentence like the one quoted is amazing.

    If the truth is on your side, no obfuscation is necessary, Ryan.