More Americans are moving to Texas than any other state, and many of those transplants are hanging their hats in Austin — with good reason. Texas’ wildly eclectic and slightly eccentric capital brims with live music, cooler-than-you hipsters and the world’s best barbecue. We’ve rounded up 20 insights to help you fit in and find your groove in this quirky urban center.
1. Cheap rent? Fuhgeddaboutit.
You can thank the Californians for this one. Once those West Coasters flocked here to snatch up “bargain” apartments for only $2,000 a month, the rest of us have been reeling from sticker shock.
2. The best (non) winter you’ll ever enjoy.
Enjoy a day of Frisbee golf or a picnic in the park … in February. That’s right. Expect a mild winter where “The Big Freeze” is anything that hovers remotely close to 32 degrees. At 60, expect locals to don their heaviest coats. From the North? Put on your parka to fit in and to avoid answering “Aren’t you freezing?” all day.
3. We have the mother of all Whole Foods stores.
Even if you abhor battling Prii (plural for Prius) for a parking place and debating whether cauliflower is the new kale, you really can’t miss the flagship store below Whole Foods’ world headquarters. There’s the walk-in beer freezer, the football field-size buffet bar (all organic, of course!) and some of the best breakfast tacos you’ll ever wrap your hands (and lips) around.
4. It’s Town Lake and the Town Lake Trail.
You’ll remember this one, because the alternative (the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake) is a brain strain and near useless when talking to locals.
5. We’re pretty liberal.
Austin is a liberal oasis in the heart of red-state Texas. You’ll still find your fair share of spirited red supporters, but as a college town and a congregation point for intellectuals and artists, you’ll find a wide array of political persuasions in Austin. Plus a handful of naked hippies.
6. Tattoos are OK.
Don’t be surprised if you walk into your new job and your superior is sporting full ink sleeves. In fact, you’ll find a tattoo shop on nearly every corner in some Austin neighborhoods.
7. It’s the Live Music Capital of the World.
The title of “Live Music Capital of the World” is not bestowed lightly, and Austin takes it seriously. Any day of the week you can find nearly any genre of music being performed live. If your Pandora feed consists of the Billboard Hot 100, prepare to be snubbed by the city’s music elite.
8. The best barbecue requires a looooong wait.
Austinites appreciate nothing more than a glistening rack of ribs or a slab of melt-in-your-mouth brisket, which explains the wrap-around lines at barbecue joints like Franklin Barbecue (which is Jimmy Kimmel’s fave). Show up early, as the best cuts will be gone by noon.
9. Skip “Dirty Sixth” … unless you love shots.
This avenue of booze-fueled mayhem is best avoided unless a.) you’ve just turned 21 b.) you’re a tourist c.) you prefer your drinks in 1.5-ounce pours. If you must, head to West Sixth Street for a slightly classier experience or East Sixth Street for a slightly more hipster experience.
10. ‘Public transportation’ is a rare breed.
If you’re coming from New York or Chicago, cut your expectations in half, and then in half again. Austin’s MetroRail remains something of a novelty with its single north-south line, and the buses ostensibly operate at their leisure.
11. Eeyore’s Birthday isn’t just for kids.
Eeyore’s Birthday Party, held each April, may honor Winnie the Pooh’s melancholy sidekick, but it’s definitely not your typical kiddie holiday. Expect drum circles, barely-there costumes, a cannabis haze and a handful of shocked parents.
12. Navigating downtown is as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Numbered streets run from east to west. Streets running north to south take the names of Texas rivers. Be warned that south of downtown, the numbered streets change direction and run north to south.
13. Summers are sizzling.
When the mercury surges past the 100-degree mark and your face feels like it’s slowly melting off, just remember that balmy winter. Take up tubing to cool off.
14. Tubing is a summer ritual.
To escape the scorching heat, Austinites head for nearby New Braunfels to float the Comal River. It’s an all-day affair, so slather on the sunscreen or face the dreaded belly burn.
15. We’re not as weird as you think.
The city’s motto may be “Keep Austin Weird” and you’ll spot a good smattering of bona fide weirdoes, but for the most part, we’re a more mild breed of quirky.
16. Avoid I-35 at all costs.
Austinites will drive 20 minutes off course to avoid I-35. It may the city’s main artery, but it’s a six-lane parking lot during rush hour (and even at other times). You’re better off avoiding it altogether, even if it means taking side streets.
17. No need to use ‘ya’ll,’ ya’ll.
If you’re more inclined toward “you guys,” stick to that. Few Austinites appreciate a forced “y’all” or, even worse, a fake drawl. Most of us don’t say “howdy,” either. Oh, and many of us don’t wear cowboy boots. Ever.
18. Football is a religion.
Austin rarely conforms to the Texas stereotype, except when it comes to football. When the University of Texas Longhorns take the field, it’s “Friday Night Lights” on a citywide scale. Expect lots of burnt orange, tailgating and atrocious I-35 traffic.
19. Tailgating is a sport.
Combine two of Texans’ favorite pastimes (football and barbecue), and our everything-is-bigger-in-Texas swagger shines through. Think trailer-size barbecue pits and legions of RVs blaring the game from giant-screen TVs. Even non-football fans join in (the alternative being to sit at home … alone).
20. The South Congress neighborhood is SoCo (and so cool).
SoCo is the beating heart of Austin’s hipness. Venture down South Congress Avenue and its environs for cozy coffee joints, authentically Austin eateries, dive bars and vintage shops — the very essence of Austin.