Way OT: Austin, TX

Submitted by seegoblu on August 11th, 2014 at 2:35 PM

I am not sure if we're still in the offseason or not given that fall two-a-days have started, but given the broad geographical reach of this community, I wanted to see if I could impose upon the board to see what those with direct personal information could provide me with their take on Austin, TX.

I was offered a job just to the west of downtown and I am thinking of relocating from Connectiut to Austin with my wife and two teenage daughters.

Everyone I've spoken to and everything I've read suggests that Austin is a great place to live and raise a family, with traffic and heat during the summer being the primary drawbacks. We're not an active outdoors family, not a lot of biking/hiking or live music concerts, so I was wondering if in the absence of those activities, Austin was still a great place.

Any constructive input would be appreciated.

Apologies if we/ve moved out of offseason, but this OT post was worth a shot.

 

Comments

carlos spicywiener

August 11th, 2014 at 2:39 PM ^

I just literally came back from a 3 day trip to Austin. Takeaways: yes its hot in the summer, but it's an active city, with lots to see and do. Big urban sprawl. Nightlife and live music scenes, along with hiking / biking, kayaking, canoeing, and hanging out on the river. Maybe you guys can take up an interest in that stuff.

It's Longhorn country, they love their Texas football. I loved it. I'm actually searching for jobs there myself.

Erik_in_Dayton

August 11th, 2014 at 2:46 PM ^

That's the one knock I've heard from people I know who lived there and still keep track of things - it's uniqueness became so alluring that people with money started moving there, thus driving up real estate costs and such.  But otherwise people seem to love it. 

ertai

August 11th, 2014 at 2:44 PM ^

Yes, Austin is still an awesome place. In fact, out of all the places I've lived in (Ann Arbor, Portland, Santa Clara, Seattle) it's still my favorite. The drawbacks you listed are indeed correct. Traffic is terrible and you'll probably want to start and end work at more unusual times in order to avoid rush hour. If you don't want or can't do this, then I suggest living on the same side of the river (Lady Bird "Lake") as your job. The weather in the summer can be terrible and sometimes breaks even 110F in the summer.

However, everything else is truly awesome. Real estate is currently still cheap (but quickly rising), the city is liberal and quirky and accepting of everyone, the music scene is terrific, the food is multi-cultural with terrific Texan BBQ, every season other than the summer is great, Texas has no state income tax, Google Fiber is coming soon, and it's quickly becoming one of the leading tech hubs in the US. Best of all, there's a major Michigan alum presence with plenty of places to watch Michigan football and basketball. Go Blue!

BeatOSU52

August 11th, 2014 at 2:47 PM ^

But I was there for a week in 2005, and I remember wearing my Michigan stuff when I toured their stadium shortly after they beat us in the Rose Bowl, and everyone was a class-act.  

From what I remember about the city, it was a very interesting place.  A lot of poor areas that I was helping out with but really nice people.      

somewittyname

August 11th, 2014 at 2:53 PM ^

Really is a great city but the two drawbacks you list are the two I'd list. There's great food (and great cheap eats), there's a great bar scene with a number of different areas each with their own style, there are always some sort of fun events going on, there's of course the music which includes a number of festivals and good local music, there are good movie theaters, and then the most surprising to me was all of the outdoor and water related activities. Now if food, music, and hiking, swimming, etc. aren't high on your list, I think you would be missing out on some of the best that Austin has to offer. Regardless, it has a nice big city feel without being too big and has good people from all over. Housing is going up quickly but still much better than DC, NYC, or California. I think it's unlikely I'll spend my life here with the heat and being a northerner at heart, but if I were to spend my life south of the Mason Dixon line, it would be here.

justingoblue

August 11th, 2014 at 2:51 PM ^

I loved it, it'd be near the top of the list for me if I could just pick a place to live. I liked it better than anywhere else I've been outside the upper midwest/Atlantic states.

Other than the outdoor stuff (which I personally enjoyed) the food was amazing and the scenery is beautiful. One thing that really stood out to me being my first time in Texas and first time spending any real time somewhere south not named Florida is that suburbia is suburbia, even in Texas. My friend down there lived in Cedar Park and other than different terrain and a lot more pickup trucks life wasn't any different than Chicago's northwest suburbs.

Eating on the patio at The Oasis at sunset remains one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen from a restaurant.

True Blue Grit

August 11th, 2014 at 2:52 PM ^

and Austin is easily the best.  Great music and restaurant scene.  There's a lot of physically active people there too, enjoying the excellent trail and river recreational areas.  It seems there is a high % of professionals there too which is good.  It has a very dynamic business startup environment too if that's important to you.  The main drawbacks have already been stated:  awful summer heat and bad traffic pretty much all the time. 

voraciousness

August 11th, 2014 at 2:55 PM ^

I have been living in Austin for 4 years in June. I moved from Ohio. It's been the best decision I ever made. I've travelled all over the country the last 5-7 years and nothing comes close to it. It's COMPLETELY different from the rest of Texas. The only drawback is the heat, which I don't mind at all. 80 degree summer nights are great and 80 degree Novembers are even better. There's traffic in all big cities. It's an awesome artistic town, the people are great and it's a gorgeous city with a small town feel. I wouldn't live anywhere besides here. I live on the west side by Barton Springs and it's great. Living on the west side gives you a much different perspective of the city as opposed to living on the east side (more poverty, but also younger, artsy types), which I did for 3 years. There's a Pluckers bar on South Lamar that is packed with M fans every football Saturday. It's been the fastest growing city in the US for several years for a reason. On second thought, don't move here. The housing prices are skyrocketing bc so many people are moving here. K Thanks.

Bossman23

August 11th, 2014 at 2:57 PM ^

Keep Austin weird!!!!   I recently moved to The Woodlands not too far away from Austin and both cities are incredible.  Economy is booming down here and there is always something to do.  It's a night and day difference from Michigan and to be honest, I really don't miss Michigan at all.  

UMaD

August 11th, 2014 at 2:59 PM ^

It is pretty great. 

People like to complain about the summer because yeah, it's hot and shitty compared to northern summers but it's the worst time of year.  Summer in Austin needs to be compared to Winter in Ann Arbor (or wherever you're coming from.)  If you look at it that way, it's fantastic. By night time it's far nicer and you can go for a walk or whatever on on weekends you can hit the water.  . 

Plus there is AC everywhere. My gripe during my 2 years there was actually with that - I had to bring a long-sleeve of some kind around with me during the summer because everyone overcompensated with ridiculous AC usage.  Spring and Fall are fantastic.  Winter is actually cooler than you might expect but it is short and mild by northern standards.

RobM_24

August 11th, 2014 at 3:06 PM ^

I've had a lot of friends that relocated to Austin (from IN) after college to start careers. They've all loved it. They are all in the 23-30 age range FWIW.

tdeshetler

August 11th, 2014 at 3:18 PM ^

You forgot the traffic.  It's pretty bad and can lead to some long delays during peak times of the day.  Austin is trying to catch up with the infrastructure, but the lack of public transportation can be frustrating.  Other than that, it's like a much bigger version of AA.  It’s a great city with many opportunities.  Probably the most liberal of all Texas cities, but Texas is a very conservative state.  Anyone with an alternate point of view will be outnumbered.

nowayman

August 11th, 2014 at 3:42 PM ^

Personally, I never had a problem with the traffic but that's probably because I grew up in Houston.

I also never had much of a problem with the heat but again Houston.

Just keep in mind that the city is an island.  

 

seegoblu

August 11th, 2014 at 3:29 PM ^

Does anyone know about the schools? We are looking at Westlake, Vandegrift and Anderson High Schools...also interested in Lakeway.

Also, does anyone have families and insight into family life?

Thanks again for all of the input...I knew I could count on the MGOBoard community to share their views.

 

gpalme

August 11th, 2014 at 5:48 PM ^

I teach at UT, so I've interacted with a lot of students from those schools. All four are good schools. I'll agree that Lakeway is pretty far from Austin, if you care about getting into the central city. Vandegrift and Anderson are solid suburban schools like you'd find in the Detroit or Chicago suburbs. I would be wary of some of the other more competitive suburban schools, because in my experience, they tend to produce grade/test score-obsessed students who cannot think for themselves. AISD also has an excellent magnet high school, LASA, that's very competitive, but the students I've taught from there are actually able to use their very gifted brains. 

I highly, highly recommend moving to Austin. The west side is beautiful (beginning of the Hill Country) and very family friendly. Like some others have said, there's a scene for everything here. Whatever you and your family like doing, you'll find other people doing it here. 

SJ Steve

August 12th, 2014 at 12:52 AM ^

We just decided to pull our 12 and 8 year olds in favor of LUOA (online homeschool). The public schools give a lot of lip service to anti-bullying, but there's little to no follow-through. Very disappointing considering how highly rated the school systems are.

Take my experience for what it's worth.

Auswolverine

August 11th, 2014 at 3:33 PM ^

I still love it here.  I grew up in Chicago and have also lived in Ann Arbor, Houston, and Baton Rouge, and Austin beats them all hands down.  I'm not a biker nor a festival goer, but it's still a great place to live.  The downsides already mentioned (traffic, summer heat, rapidly rising cost of living) are all accurate, but they don't begin to offset the vibe, livability, food, and non-summer weather.

Take the plunge...you'll be glad you did! 

Sten Carlson

August 11th, 2014 at 3:55 PM ^

I've lived in Austin since 2000, and as others have said, it's an awesome place -- and the only place in Texas that I would live (lived in Dallas for a few years).

Traffic: Worst I've seen for the size of the city.  It's one thing to have horrible traffic issues in a huge city like Bangkok with over 8 million people.  But Austin is around 1 million, it's just a near complete cluster f*%$ everywhere, almost every day.  This stems from two issues, one of which the city could solve (not sure why they don't) and the other they're working on diligently.  Austin is the ONLY city I've ever seen that doesn't use sensors to time their traffic lights.  I comment on it ALL THE TIME when I find myself sitting at a light with NOBODY coming in the other direction for the entire duration of the light.  I understand and fully expect traffic at peak times, but to me there is nothing more frustrating to have open road in front of you, only to get stopped at an unsensored light for nobody else to come by.

Secondly, in the fairly recent past, there was some weird movement among the powers that be in Austin to try to keep Austin small(ish) and like it was in the grand ole 60's or something like that.  As such, these nostaglic folks fought all attempts to expand Austin's road infrastructure, so when the tide finally washed over their efforts the city was left with ONLY north/south highways (one of which isn't a highway despite it being named the Capital of Texas Highway).  Things have improved as there is now a contiguous loop around the city, but Austin's roads (in my totally untrained opinion) are significantly overloaded.

They've built a train, which I ride to my office downtown, but again, at this point it's only one train and it only runs north/south.  There are plans to expand the routes, but like the roads, there is strong opposition.

I've simplified the issues, and could very well be wrong about some of them, but there is no doubt that Austin traffic is complete and utter crap considering it's really not THAT big o a city.

Weather: For the most part, Austin's weather is amazing -- it's just that from about Mid-May to Mid-September it is often opressively hot.  I liken it to the winter up north -- you just want to stay inside.  However, I would gladly exchange a hot summer for a uber cold winter, especially considering the fact that the rest of the year is awesome.  I find it hilarious when people complain about the winter.  Yeah, we'll get an ice storm here or there, but many times you wake up and it's 34 degrees, but by noon when the sun is out, it'll get up to 70 and then fall back down as the sun sets.

Trust me when I tell you that you'll get used to the heat, and you'll laugh at the winters.

Lifestyle:  Austin is an amazingly casual place to live.  Except maybe in the State Gov't and the courts, you really don't see many people in suits and ties.  Not that that is a difinitive measure, but Austin is pretty much a "come as you are" kinda place where shorts and flip flops are pretty much the norm.

One thing that I tell people about Austin that I find interesting (if not a bit annoying at times) is that so many people in Austin have a "thing."  There are a lot of what have been termed "hipsters" here, I mean A LOT.  They've all got their thing, whether it's their beards, their beer-snooby craft beers, their silly shoes and goofy socks, their dumpy over-priced east Austin gentrification -- they've all got SOMETHING that defines them.  Despite my somewhat negative tone, I am not against them, just commenting on it from a cultural standpoint.  I comment to my buddies often, "I'm not cool enough to be here ..."  because there are an amazing amount of REALLY REALLY COOL people in Austin.  Everyone has a tattoo, a piercing, or rides some kind of trendy bike, scooter, or the like.  Also, Austin is an extremely fit city with a HUGE cycling, running, work out community.  This also plays into the "thing" that so many Austinites have.  You'll see people who are cyclists, but they don't just ride a bike for fun, they are CYCLISTS with the little outfits, the clacky clip shoes, the $3,000 bikes, and they walk around with their marble bag bulging out in those little shorts.  I digress, sorry.

The best part about all of this though is that despite the coolness, the fitness, and the "things" it's a very open and accepting city.  I've been places where you've got hipsters, cowboys, golfers, older people, younger people, and everyone is just there to have a good time -- which Austin does very well.

There is ALWAYS a festival -- like ACL, or SXSW -- somewhere, and there is almost always a 10k run or something going on somewhere. 

To be honest, I don't get out nearly as much as I used to, but it's nice to be in a vibrant, active place if only as an observer.

Anyway, just some thoughts about Austin -- start growing out your beard, get out your skinny jeans, get a tattoo and maybe a piercing, and you'll fit right in. 

Oh, and when you come, meet the UM fans down at Plucker's South on Gameday!

corundum

August 11th, 2014 at 4:13 PM ^

I think it's overrated. The humidity is awful, traffic is almost as bad as the parking. You wait in line for everything. Most of the people are kind but snobby about how awesome Austin is. Drugs are prevalent. Bums are everywhere. Last weekend I literally saw three people smoking crack in the bushes of a residential neighborhood, about 2 blocks from South Congress. I live in West Texas but travel to Austin frequently. If you want to move there, stay on the north side. Move to Fort Worth is my recommendation.

Edit: My post is a tad harsh, I'll add some positives. The bar scene and 6th street are a blast. Live music is huge and always entertaining. Good eats if you don't mind ridiculous wait times. Young people galore. Lyft will pick you up and take you anywhere for reasonable prices. Between Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, you are never too far from doing something different.

Quickhatch

August 11th, 2014 at 3:57 PM ^

I have lived in some great cities across the US and abroad and Austin easily tops my list.  The city is pretty, with great weather 9 months out of the year, and has fantastic music, food and sports scenes.  What I like best is the diversity of it's population - techies, BBQ bubba's, politicians, students, cowboys, entrepreneurs, music hipsters, church goers, party goers, athletes, normal Joe's - and just how damn friendly folks are here.

Two of our daughters went through their high school years in Austin (one of whom I am proud to say is now a Jr. at UM) and our son is still in high school.  Your teenagers will get a great education as the schools in Austin are very, very good.  

I have a pretty good network in Austin and am happy to connect directly if you want more perspective.  My wife can wax poetic around neighborhoods and school districts.  Good luck making your decision.

Quickhatch

August 11th, 2014 at 6:03 PM ^

Seegoblu - my kids went to Westlake (EANES ISD).  As Silvermassy mentioned, it is known to be very strong academically, both in Central Texas and across the state (US News and World Report gives Westlake high marks FWIW).  My wife and I couldn't be more pleased with the education our daughters received (and son still receiving).  While there is some of the "keep up with the Jones" Silvermassy refers to due to the socioeconomic makeup of Westlake parents, I see more competitiveness around earning strong grades and getting into colleges of choice.  Westlake is still a public school - I liken the academic environment to UM, more friendly and helpful than snobby and private.

Anderson, Austin, Vandergrift and Lake Travis are all excellent high schools as well.  You may want to consider work location as it relates to school districts.  Lake Travis and Vandergrift are quite far from downtown Austin.  If you are working far west or northwest, then these schools would be great choices but if you are working in central Austin, the lack of freeways and heavy traffic could wear you down.  Westlake covers much of west Austin, Austin High closer in to downtown and Anderson covers more of north central Austin.  If you are working from home, Lake Travis ISD and Vandergrift gives you access to lake life, pretty views and water sports whereas the more centrally located schools give you better access to Austin.

My wife and I are happy to help offline if you like.  Go Blue.

silvermasy

August 11th, 2014 at 4:17 PM ^

I grew up in A2 and did my undergrad at UM.  I moved to Austin 25 years ago for graduate school and stayed.  I love it here.  

School comments below are completely and total biased and judgemental - take them for what you paid for them.

My daughter is just beginning her senior year at Anderson high school (she's been in the Anderson school district since first grade).  It's a very good public school and we moved to the neighborhood to be in this district.  It's really "nerd" high - there are lots of smart kids and the school is pretty "under control" with a good principal and strong AP courses.  Most families are middle to upper middle class although there's some diversity (much less in Texas that Ann Arbor, though) with lots of parents who are engineers, in the professions, etc.  We are very happy with it; my wife is VP of the PTA and we are very active at the school.

Westlake is more "socially elevated" than Anderson.  It's a very very strong academic school with outstanding athletics too.  It's a pretty big school also and it draws from some of the most wealthy areas of town (although not the wealthiest - that's Austin High, or the private schools).  Lots of kids from family money and families in businesses. Kids drive nicest cars and carry LV purses - there's more pressure to be "in" and keep up with the other kids compared to Anderson (although that's always as issue in high school, at least to some extent).

Vandergrift is not too far away and much newer.  We've been there for a couple of football games and it seems nice, but i can't really comment on the school itself.

Good luck with your decision

Black Socks

August 11th, 2014 at 4:30 PM ^

I lived in Texas and the people are very friendly.  But after living in the Rockies Texas couldn't match the quality of life we were used to, so we went back.  Never regretted it.  

saveferris

August 11th, 2014 at 4:38 PM ^

My cousin grew up in the Dallas / Fort Worth area and ultimately graduated from UT.  She always says that she hated living in Texas, but loved living in Austin. 

txmichigan

August 11th, 2014 at 4:40 PM ^

I live in Austin.  It takes me about 7 minutes to get to work.  If you base where you live even a little bit on where you work, you can avoid most traffic issues.  Even if you do have to deal with a little traffic, your commute will likely be not as long as if you lived in another major city and walked to the subway etc.  You could consider renting for a year to get your bearings before buying a house that you know would give you an easier driving situation.

Everything else is pretty ideal.  I am not a big music lover but everyone likes great food.  I really can't imagine living in Austin and not enjoying it.

m1jjb00

August 11th, 2014 at 5:33 PM ^

My sister in law lives in a community built on the site of the old airports and seemed pretty cool.  Also, everyone will tell you the same thing: Austin isn't like the rest of Texas.  Hot as heck, though.

Johnny Blood

August 11th, 2014 at 7:07 PM ^

I grew up in CT and my parents still live there.

I lived in Austin for 7 years (1999 - 2006) and now live in Georgia.

For the record I have also lived in Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Ann Arbor, Washington DC, Phoenix, and Houston.

Austin is my favorite (and not just because I met my wife and had my boys there).  Especially relative to CT, it is a pretty good lifestyle and far more affordable.  I can go into great detail but a lot of other folks have already covered it. 

If you have any specific CT vs. Austin information, please let me know and we can take it offline.

trueblueintexas

August 11th, 2014 at 9:29 PM ^

I lived in Austin for the past seventeen years. Most of everything people have mentioned is true. A couple of points specific to living there as a family life. Austin is not a hub city for airports. Although there are some direct flights, most require you to go through someplace else. My wife's family is west coast and mine is Midwest and it was a pain in the butt getting to them while traveling with our little boy. Look into what flights exist for where you may need to travel back to.
Traffic. It is far worse than it used to be so locals talk about how bad it is. If you are from other big cities, especially east coast or west, it's no worse than what you are already used to.
There are great things to do with your family. They have a great new children's museum. There are plenty of parks and children focused activities year round.
The food is great and affordable.
Not going to lie, it's hot. No other way to sugar coat it. If you really love spring and fall, it's not ideal.
Schools. There are very good schools if you live in the right areas. As a state, Texas ranks around 48th nationally. Make sure you can afford to live near the good ones, if not, you will not get a good education.
Overall I loved Austin, it was just too hot and too far from family once our son was born. Good luck with your decision. If you have more questions, I'd be happy to talk directly.

Felix.M.Blue

August 11th, 2014 at 9:53 PM ^

I'll chime in since I lived there 2 years. 

I'm an outdoor person and I thought Austin and the Lake Travis area was really nice. I loved biking in the parks and traveling around. You are probably 3 hours from the Gulf which is ok. I enjoyed driving my car on the beach for the first time. That was pretty neat after being in Ohio.

SA isn't too far from Austin. Riverwalk is awesome. San Marcos has the biggest outlet mall I have ever seen.

That's all the good I can say. I'm glad I experienced Texas since I love to travel but I transfered out the first chance I had.

I didn't like the people at all. I'd give Texas to Mexico and take Toronto Canada if it were up to me.

Like someone said above. There is a weird backwards arrogance going on there for some strange reason.

AJHLAW

August 11th, 2014 at 10:28 PM ^

Austin is cool, but it isn't all the hype that you hear right now.

Housing is riduculous.  Most of the appeal of Austin revolves around downtown (6th Street, Congress Ave., SXSW, ACL, Townlake, etc.).  You can expect to pay $500,000 for a shack in central Austin.  If you can't afford that, then you'll likely end up living in a place like Leander, Cedar Park, Round Rock, etc.  These aren't bad towns, but they are not Austin.  You might as well be living in Dallas.

Also, Austin's economy isn't as great as it is hyped up to be.  The tech industry is strong, but that seems to be it.  Austin seems to be a lot of young entrepreneurs, bartenders, drifters and people trying to find themselves.  I think the economies of Dallas and Houston are much stronger.  Because so many people want to live in Austin, I think that salaries are less than in Dallas and Houston.

To the original poster:  check out Lakeway.  It is near Lake Travis which is impressive to most Texans.  While $500,000 won't get  you much in central Austin, it will get you a beautiful home and lifestyle in Lakeway.  It would be a great place to raise a family.

South TX MFan

August 12th, 2014 at 12:30 AM ^

I like the city a lot. It's different than the rest of the state. A close friend of mine owns 2 bars on 6th Street so it's always a good time when I go lol.

The one really bad thing about the area is it's running out of water. Most of TX is in moderate to extreme drought conditions and it's getting worse.

Wolfman

August 12th, 2014 at 12:38 AM ^

is that if you do so you are pretty much restricted to Austin unless you want to take a long drive; by that I mean getting out of the SW to find any place closely associated with Austin in terms of cultural offerings.  Inasmuch as TX is such a large state, you might want to give this some serious thought.  You say you're not much as to outdoor lifestyle, but it's my guess it wouldn't take you long to be researching Galveston, etc., for some weekend getaways.

mgowake

August 12th, 2014 at 3:17 AM ^

Live close to work. Eat BBQ. Listen to music. Go boating. West of downtown will have good schools. Anderson near far west is also a good district. No state income tax. We'd move back but the wife is in biotech and I'm in high tech so Silicon Valley for us.

If you want to, buy a place on lake Travis in lakeway. The water will eventually come back and the home will appreciate. But your commute would be hell.

Turn Texas Blue

August 12th, 2014 at 10:06 AM ^

I was born and raised in Austin. I left twice, both for school, and couldn't wait to come back both times. I'm not saying there aren't better places to live, but, for me, it doesn't get much better.

Pros:

  • The weather in Austin is great. Yes, it's hot in the summer, but there are plenty of things to do indoors and out when its hot. Can't beat 300 days of sunshine a year.
  • Good economy
  • If you're a foody, great restaurants
  • Great local beer
  • No income tax (state thing, obv)
  • Rapidly growing - 110 people move here a day, net
  • Good schools for Texas
  • The people are great
  • Big city attractions, smaller city feel (except traffic)
  • HEB - best gorcery store in the country (sounds funny, but ask anyone who's lived in Texas)
  • Central Texas Hillcountry - even if you're not an outdoor family, still fun things to do in small towns nearby and gorgeous scenery

Cons:

  • Rapidly growing
  • Depending on where you live, traffic can be pretty bad. That being said, if you live near work it won't affect you that much (I'm about 8 miles from work and I take I-35 in every day into downtown - takes about 25 minutes).
  • Not sure what housing is like in Connecticut, but its a seller's market here - looking at about $200/sqft. Just heard that the average house is on the market for 39 days - Renting is expensive
  • Drought - I anticipate severe water problems in the next 10-20 years

If you really want the job and your only question mark is moving to Austin, I'd say pull the trigger - you'll love it!