Moving to Austin? Check out our insider’s guide for navigating the place you’ll soon call home. Food, entertainment, neighborhoods, outdoor activities, employment and economy, kid’s activities, and shopping—Austin locals dish on it all.
We hope this information makes your move a little smoother, that it shows you ways to take advantage of Austin’s best features, and that it helps you feel more proud and excited to call Austin home. We also hope you’ll understand why we’re so proud Austin is home to eight of our prized storage facilities.
Click on each section below for exclusive tips about specific features of Austin, or scroll down to view all of the highlights.
1. Food and Restaurants
2. Entertainment & Nightlife
4. Outdoor Activities
6. Kids Activities
“Everything is bigger and better in Texas.” Nowhere is this old saying more true than in the state’s capital. Fortune Magazine, Business Insider, and other media outlets consistently rank Austin in the top 10 American cities for attractions, commerce, and standard of living. This mid-sized metropolis, home to over 900,000 people, offers charms that draw people from every walk of life, who then further its unique culture.
So what are the special secrets you need to make your move to Austin a Texas-sized success story?
(1) Insider Tips on Food & Restaurants in Austin
Austin is a foodie’s paradise. We interviewed two major players in Austin’s food scene who gave us insider tips on how to best experience Austin culture through taste.
Christina Meza is the daughter of Juan Meza, owner of renowned restaurant Juan In A Million. She says that some of the city’s best flavors come from places that were built with hard work and dedication, and Juan in a Million is just that kind of place.
Juan Meza: former school teacher, founder, and owner of Juan in a Million
The famous eatery, located on Cesar Chavez, was a collective effort of Meza’s friends and family members helping him fulfill his dream of opening a restaurant. Opened in 1980, the restaurant grew in popularity, publicity and acclaim. Christina spoke about what a humbling experience it has been to receive such praise from the press and how lucky they feel to be in business. She recalled what her mom told her about the restaurant opening:
“I remember the first day [we opened]. We had no background in restaurants and we didn’t go to business school. I’ll never forget the day we made $100. We thought we were the richest people in the world and we went to go celebrate. I will never forget that.”
Hits like the Don Juan Taco—full of eggs, potatoes, bacon, and cheese—and other fare from the menu remain popular favorites with natives and tourists, including celebrities like Martha Stewart.
Brandon Hodge is the owner of the eclectic Big Top Candy Shop, located on South Congress. Since its inception, he has embraced the “keep Austin weird” mantra by offering unique candy—such as chocolate-covered bacon—the candy that put them on the map. In fact, Big Top Candy Shop was the first in the country to produce this mouth-watering mishmash, giving taste buds just the right combination of sweet and savory.
Hodge says that much of his success is due to listening to the needs and wants of the community. His Willy Wonka/circus-inspired candy shop is filled to the brim with interesting goodies. The shop offers many local favorites, like pecan brittle and butter pecan truffles. There’s also an amazing soda fountain that serves a wide variety of custom sodas.
Located as it is, deep in the heart of Texas, Austin is home to some of America’s best comfort food:
Round Rock Donuts, popular with natives and tourists alike, is home of the Texas-sized Round Rock donut. The donut weighs two pounds and is the size of your face. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, you’ll be convinced to try one of these iconic donuts upon knowing that they offer the same fluffy, sweet goodness found in the smaller versions.
Salt Lick BBQ, an eatery on the outskirts of Austin, is highly favored by barbecue connoisseurs and newbies alike. An all-you-can-eat family dining experience goes for a seriously economical $21.95 (cash only), and offers Texas favorites like burnt ends, brisket, ribs, and so much more.
Beyond the long-standing favorites, Austin offers a variety of modern dining experiences that offer a fun dynamic.
Contigo has house-made charcuterie and the best farmhouse burger in town. They offer open-air seating in a fantastic year-round setting. In the mood for fresh seafood? Get your fix at Perla’s, where the food has a unique southwestern flair—like king crab with grits or scallop pozole verde. Also, don’t miss the quiet Vietnamese bakery Elizabeth Street Café where classic French pastries, made daily from scratch, meet flavorful pho, bánh mì, and steamed buns.
The food section wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of Austin’s best food trucks. The city boasts an abundance of food trucks—ranking second only to LA in number—and new ones are popping up all the time. Most of the trucks are stationary and function as small test kitchens for restaurant hopefuls, which means they are easy to find and offer extraordinarily tasty tidbits from limited menus.
Torchy’s Tacos is the king of taco trucks. It has grown from a single truck on South First Street, to a burgeoning company with locations in 14 cities and three states. The original Torchy’s Truck is a must-visit for their famous tacos, and the queso could very well change your life.
Bananarchy dips frozen bananas in chocolate, peanut butter sauce, or yogurt, then coats them in your choice of toppings. They end up looking like loaded ice cream bars, tasting delicious, and are a perfect way to keep cool in the summer heat.
Patrizis is a hidden gem that serves homemade Italian food alongside locally sourced meats and farmers market veggies. It’s located behind the Vortex Theatre, so if you time it right, you can enjoy live music with your fresh dinner. You can’t go wrong with the standard menu, but they also offer an unpublished daily special that is always amazing.
When you move to Austin, you surround yourself with some of the best food experiences in the country. If Austin’s restaurants and food shops have proven anything, it’s that locals are not afraid to embrace new and amazing culinary experiences.
(2) Insider Tips on Entertainment & Nightlife in Austin
Austin fosters a thriving nightlife and entertainment scene that’s unmatched by any city its size.
It’s not all cowboys and rodeos. Though the cowboy/Americana culture is still very much a part of the city’s identity, Austin is also home to many unique art museums and bustling music clubs that, as long-time residents might say, help keep Austin weird.
We interviewed Austin art-scene insider Nicole Griffin, a spokeswoman for The Contemporary Austin, a popular art museum in the heart of the city. The museum hosts revolving shows that display the works of renowned artists, such as Mark Motherbaugh, the lead singer of Devo. The Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park is another feature of The Contemporary Austin, and is located at 3809 W 35th Street. The park regularly hosts art classes that teach skills like pottery wheel throwing and hand sculpting, and it offers a wide variety of permanent and temporary sculptures to view. Take a nature walk and visit your favorite works of art.
Tom Friedman, Looking Up, 2015. Stainless steel. 390 x 130 x 90 inches.Edition 1 of 3, 1 AP. Artwork © Tom Friedman. Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Image © The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.
Griffin told us her thoughts on why Austin art is so varied and free:
“Because of Austin’s history with music culture, it is naturally open minded to a lot of different things—music that is everything from Americana and country music like Willie Nelson, all the way up to indie pop bands and classical musicians. On the art side there is a lot of freedom to play around for that reason.”
Austin’s wide variety of art and musical entertainment ensures there’s something for any audience.
The world-famous SXSW Music Festival is an annual attraction in Austin that brings in over $300 million, making it the highest-revenue-producing event for Austin’s economy. The festival starts in mid-March. It expands in attendance and offerings each year, with over 2,000 music performances in 2014 and 145 feature-film screenings in 2015. What was once a small music festival is now a major multimedia outlet. The festival even hosted launch events for Twitter in 2007 and Foursquare in 2009.
Another way to enjoy the local art scene is by catching an improv comedy show at The Hideout Theatre. There are at least two shows per weekend night, and because each one is created on-the-spot, it’s always a new show!
Along with local music festivals, people who move to Austin can enjoy vibrant music shows at clubs like Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. Located on Burnet Road, Ginny’s regularly hosts local musical acts like Two Hoots & A Holler, as well as Uranium Savages. Despite the venue’s Western-themed name, the bands that play here trade in all music genres. If you’re interested in moving to the area near Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon (the Northwestern region of Austin as shown on our infographic below), you might check out our Austin storage facility conveniently located right on Burnet Road.
Another popular Austin venue is The Continental Club. The Continental Club has made its home on South Congress Avenue since 1955 and is, as one critic calls it, “Texan to the core.” It hosts country, rockabilly, jazz, blues, and other musical acts every night of the week. It is widely regarded as an Austin staple and has been acclaimed by media sources including Playboy magazine, Rolling Stone, and Ameripolitan.
A move to Austin gives you access to a one-of-a-kind music and arts scene. Head into the heart of the city when you want to experience the best of what Austin has to offer.
(3) Insider Tips on Neighborhoods in Austin
Are you looking to find the perfect neighborhood to plant your roots? Check out our infographic for details on the best places to live, based on your demographic, as well as the major areas of attraction for each section of Austin.
For instance, if you’re interested in living in Austin’s most-diverse area, you might consider settling down in Central or West Central Austin. If you want to be close to the best shopping in Austin, you might look for a home in the North Central area. For you shoppers, we have a conveniently located self-storage facility on North Lamar Boulevard where you can store all your treasures.
The question of safety plays a big role when deciding to buy a home and relocate your family. According to Texas Monthly, when comparing the 24 largest metropolitan areas in Texas, Austin has the third-lowest violent crime rate. Even with a growing, thriving population, Austin enjoys one of the lowest crime rates not only in the state, but also the country. There’s no better place than Austin to call “home.”
Take a look at “the figures” section of the infographic for an idea of which Austin neighborhoods contain the most hospitals, restaurants, bars, nightlife spots, shopping destinations, schools, and recreational facilities.
(4) Insider Tips on Outdoor Activities in Austin
Though it’s a thriving metropolis and home to over 900,000 people, Austin is a haven for beautiful, natural hiking parks and gorgeous outdoor scenery. Wherever you live within the city, some of the finest parks and areas for outdoor recreation will be within a few miles of your front door.
Cynthia Rodriguez, Austin community organizer for the Austin Parks Foundation and local park authority, told us that Austin is home to over 300 parks that provide activities and recreation opportunities for residents. The Austin Parks Foundation works to improve the quality of life in Austin by providing funding and resources to support and maintain the city’s parks, trails, and green spaces.
Take a look at some of the beautiful parks you can find in Austin, presented by the Austin Parks Foundation.
In addition to the wonderful parks highlighted in the Austin Parks Foundation video, Rodriguez informed us of a couple local favorites: Veloway Park and Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Veloway Park, located in South Austin, is a wonderful combination of beautiful outdoor scenery and pleasant, paved walkways. This park is ideal if you like to bike or roller blade. It is also close to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
One of the most popular parks, Barton Creek Greenbelt, offers more than eight miles of hiking trails and is the perfect place to visit if you want to bike, swim, hike, jog, or just enjoy the great outdoors. Located in the heart of Austin, the park is also used for yoga and other planned exercise events.
Another natural hot spot is Austin’s Mount Bonnell. This park and hiking area, also called Covert Park at Mount Bonnell, is located in the heart of downtown Austin. At its highest point, Mount Bonnell provides a gorgeous view of the city and the downtown area.
Year-round Austin locals can enjoy Lady Bird Lake by canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard rented from one of several lake-side organizations. From the water, you’ll be able to enjoy a whole different view of the city skyline, as well as spot stunning turtles, fish, and several water birds that frequent the area.
With a nearly endless variety of outdoor attractions to appeal to any interest, there’s just no downside to living in Austin.
(5) Insider Tips on Employment in Austin
Austin is one of the few cities in the U.S. with a robust and growing economy. It is home to such global companies as Whole Foods and Dell. According to the Forbes article, The Best Cities for Jobs 2015, it also ranks fourth in the nation for job growth and employment.
Given its healthy economy, it’s no wonder that Austin enjoys a reputation as being extremely hospitable to small businesses and is listed by Forbes as one of the Top 10 Up and Coming Cities for Entrepreneurs. People wanting to start their own business often find the success they crave when they move to Austin.
As Eva Newsom, local employment authority and owner of website AustinJobs.com told us, Austin has remained largely unscathed by the fallout of the oil market. If anything, the city continues to grow its economy and create jobs in industries such as IT and healthcare.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Austin’s unemployment rate is at an amazingly low 2.9%, compared to the US average of 4.9%.
When moving to Austin, have patience while searching for a job that fits your employment needs. If you are looking for immediate employment, Newsom advises job-hunters to widen their searches across a variety of different business sectors to take advantage of the many available job opportunities. If you lack job experience, expand your resume by working temporary or contract jobs. With employment opportunities aplenty in Austin, you can establish a career and enjoy job security that is unmatched anywhere in Texas or the rest of the country.
Some of the most secure jobs in the city are found within Austin’s IT industry. In 2012, the city was home to more than 49,000 high-tech jobs and recently ranked fifth for the number of high-tech startups per capita. With about 2600 high-tech firms located in Austin, the city ranks second in the nation for high-tech startup jobs overall.
According to Forbes, Austin also tops the “America’s Cities of the Future” ranking of cities most likely to prosper over the next decade; it ranks 14th for the best place for business and careers.
Moreover, the city is home to companies that hunger for new talent and continue to hire suitable candidates. Some of the businesses that top the hiring list include Advanced Micro Devices, Apple, Applied Materials, Flex, and the Samsung Austin R&D Center. Non-IT or high-tech businesses also seeking employees include Whole Foods, the Austin School District, the City of Austin, Seton Healthcare Family, the State of Texas, and Girling Healthcare.
The job market and the economy in Austin are healthy and growing. Move to Austin and find employment and job security with one of the many vibrant and hiring companies.
(6) Insider Tips on Activities for Kids in Austin
Best known for its exciting music scene, nightlife, and great food, Austin is also a great destination for families and offers a variety of family-friendly activities. Did you know Austin has over 300 days of sunshine each year? Take your kids out to enjoy a free activity in the sunshine at Liz Carpenter Fountain in Butler Park. The fountain and splash pad are open all year long!
For an insider’s take on Austin’s family-friendly fun, we spoke to Johnathan Dela Rosa, the owner of iPlay Austin, an expansive and lively indoor recreation venue. Johnathan had some quick tips and ideas for family activities in Austin.
iPlay Austin is ideal for kids because, while it’s large enough to accommodate up to 800 people, it is also geared toward providing space for families to spend time together. iPlay Austin regularly hosts birthday parties and celebrations for its many visitors. Johnathan also told us about a unique program geared toward parents:
“[We] offer parents night out programs on the first Friday of every month. Parents can drop their kids off for a few hours—go out, do what they want to do—and come back at a certain time [to pick their kids up]. This is a big seller.”
Other special events include private holiday celebrations like Easter egg hunts or Christmas parties, for which tickets are sold to a select amount of people.
For more indoor fun, check out some of Austin’s other well-known venues. One of the favorites is the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, where your kids can watch movies, go bowling or skating, play arcade games, or have snacks at the food court.
Thinkery Austin is the city’s new interactive children’s museum. You’ll find exhibits to entertain and inspire every age-group and developmental level. The younger kids love the Kitchen Lab and Currents water room. School-aged kids can build and launch planes and make wax art in the Spark Shop. Everyone loves the Light Lab shadow room and the giant Our Backyard playscape. In addition to the regular museum features, keep an eye out for their rotating special programs.
Austin offers ample opportunities for you and your children to have fun together in the beautiful outdoors, many of them in the city’s private and public parks. Venues like the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary and Austin Duck Adventures allow your kids to get up close and personal with animals and also explore the great outdoors. Other outdoor fun includes Kiddie Acres, Zilker Park, and Boggy Creek Farm, where you and your kids can pick your own fruits and vegetables.
Austin is perfect for raising a family and offers accessible and enriching fun. These venues are just a few that await you and your children.
(7) Insider Tips on Shopping in Austin
Austin is a hotbed of local and national retailers that offer unique home décor items, collectibles, fashionable clothing, and much more. What’s popular among shoppers in Austin? Cowboy boots, for one.
We interviewed Chris Conrad, owner of Texas National Outfitters, for some insider tips on buying cowboy boots that can help you blend in with the locals. Read below for details.
As a new Austin resident, you may be interested in some cowboy or cowgirl gear to go with your new Texas identity. If so, head to Texas National Outfitters. Founded in 2011, this retailer has handcrafted boots and artisan-created leather accessories. As its owner and Texas outfitter expert Chris Conrad told us, the store’s focus is to provide shoppers unique Western-themed apparel and boots, and to put the emphasis on the craftsmanship that goes into creating these products. When we asked Conrad what made him want to start this amazing retail experience, he told us:
“[I have] traveled all over the world, living in Italy for a number of years. [When you are] away from your culture a bit, you reflect back and realize the things that are special about it—primarily the cowboy boots are the core iconic thing that Texas is known for. [I] wanted to further that craft and the overall Texas culture in general.”
If you don’t see a pair of cowboy boots you like in the store, you can customize a pair of boots for yourself; choose from low-cut boots (which are most popular with women), alligator boots (which are most popular with men), or many other styles. The boots are crafted from high-quality leathers and hides. You can also find Texas souvenirs like key chains and customized Texas passports, complete with the story of Texas printed inside.
Texas National Outfitters
Some Austin shops focus on sourcing locally made and designed goods to give you a great feel for the artist and entrepreneur community in the area. Mockingbird Domestics carries carefully selected home goods, in addition to their line of handcrafted furniture. The Paper + Craft Pantry lines their shelves with stationery and fine goods from around the country and also gives space for ceramics, home wares, accessories, and plants produced by up-and-coming Austin creatives. Esby Apparel products have been sold online for years, and the beautifully created line of women’s clothing, designed in Austin, just opened a flagship storefront downtown.
With literally hundreds of other shops to choose from, you may wonder where else to go on your initial Austin shopping spree. You might try SoCo, or South Congress Avenue shopping district. There you will find eclectic boutiques, restaurants, thrift shops, bohemian stores, music shops, and much more. You may also want to explore an area known as “The Drag,” located on Guadalupe Street between 30th Street and MLK. This shopping area is home to local artisans who make handcrafted jewelry and other wares.
If you are looking for a great shopping mall, head to The Domain. You’ll find favorite national chains and great restaurants and cafes, lining a tree-shaded street with wide sidewalks. There is also a small outdoor play area with benches to give the kids a shopping break.
Austin has everything you could want when it comes to shopping—from national chains to unique and inspiring local stores.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to Austin and found all you need to make your moving experience perfect. Feel free to comment below with one of your favorite tips about living in Austin or give us your feedback about our article.