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Whether it’s the music, bats, food, or the University of Texas Longhorns, there’s a reason why 19.7 million people each year choose Austin as their travel destination of choice- and why thousands more move here each year. In fact,
In fact, both the Worldwide Employee Relocation Council and Cartus Corporation, formerly Primacy Relocation, LLC, have ranked Austin, Texas, highly in surveys of the country’s “best large markets for relocating families.” Other notable rankings include NerdWallet’s “Best City for Job Seekers,” Thumbtack.com’s “No. 4 Best City for Small Businesses,” and “One of the Best Cities for Dating,” according to the BBC.
Austin, Texas, is the home of both the state capital and 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that swoop from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge nightly from March until mid-November each year – in addition to the 1.9 million residents who are proud to call the Austin MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) home. The “Live Music Capital of the World” also offers a funky mix of award-winning restaurants, mouth-watering barbeque, tattooed hipsters, a refreshing liberal culture, politics that are always interesting, and innovative high-tech companies and startups.
Compared to nearby Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Austin is like the upstart, renegade youngest sibling – the one who’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission, and in the process, created a whole new way of doing things. Austin’s laid-back, take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude matches well with its fun and “weird” culture, celebrated on bumper stickers and T-shirts with the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” Perhaps that’s why so many celebrities – including Sandra Bullock, Robert Rodriguez and others – decide to move here. They won’t be bothered here – because, to be honest, no one cares.
AUSTIN’S TERRAIN: ANYTHING BUT FLAT
Located nearly in the center of the state, Austin is about three hours south of Dallas; three hours west of Houston; and about 90 minutes north of San Antonio – depending on I-35 traffic, of course. Austin’s geographic location is in south central Texas, where the Colorado River crosses the Balcones Escarpment – which separates the Texas Hill Country from the state’s blackland prairies to the east. The escarpment is also responsible for creating the city’s limestone cliff formations that define Austin’s anything-but-Texas surroundings.
One look at the scenic Hill Country views, and it’s clear that the words “flat” or “desolate” simply don’t apply. With its steep terrain, creeks, parks, and the Colorado River cutting a wide swath through the center of downtown, many visitors to Austin find it hard to believe they’re still in Texas.
Instead of the flat terrain common to most of the state, visitors are greeted with stunning vistas, rolling hills, and wildflowers. The area’s mostly temperate climate has earned Austin a reputation as one of the nation’s fittest cities, since there’s plenty to do outside to stay fit and enjoy an active lifestyle. There’s no question that both visitors and residents alike revel in the stunning beauty that combines the best of the Texas prairie with the scenic Hill Country.
The Colorado River only adds to that beauty – flowing through the heart of the city and feeding a series of lakes that stretch for more than 100 miles. The lakes are manmade, created by several dams built over the years. The crown jewel of these lakes is Lady Bird Lake, named in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. Surrounded by the expansive and popular Zilker Park, Lady Bird Lake is the epicenter of outdoor activity – from kayaking, rowing, and paddleboarding to miles of running trails that encircle it.
WATERLOO: THE ORIGINAL AUSTIN
Austin grew from the tiny village of Waterloo, originally settled by Native Americans. The area was chosen later to become the capital of the new Republic of Texas. Texas was an independent country for nearly ten years before being annexed by the United States in 1845.
Waterloo was renamed after Stephen F. Austin, “the father of Texas” and the founders’ vision included a state capitol building to look down from a hill over the city. The State Capitol was built on that hill in 1888, with stunning views of the city.
The Texas State Capitol was built as a result of one of the largest barter transactions in history – the Capitol’s builders received 3 million acres in the Texas Panhandle, which later became the largest cattle ranch in the world, the XIT Ranch. The Capitol is one of the state’s most popular attractions with more than 1 million visitors each year. Constructed from limestone and pink granite from nearby Marble Falls in the same architectural style as the nation’s Capitol, it’s actually taller than its distant D.C. sibling by seven feet – making it the largest state capitol in the U.S.
Today, with a population of just over 885,400, Austin is the fourth-most populous city in Texas, and now officially the 11th largest city in the U.S., according to the Census. The area continues to grow, and the Austin city demographer’s office anticipates the population inside city limits to reach 1 million by 2025. For the five-county Austin-Round Rock MSA – which covers 4,279 square miles and includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Caldwell, and Bastrop counties – they expect to reach 3 million by 2030 and 4 million by 2045.
No matter how long they’ve been here, most people who live in Austin say they wouldn’t live anywhere else – and for good reason. The state capital of Texas inspires fierce hometown dedication to its rolling terrain, natural living, liberal attitudes, interesting people, quality of life, stellar educational opportunities, and thriving business community.
The combination has attracted the attention of those relocating from all over the country and internationally – and plenty of accolades from diverse sources in recent years. For instance, in 2013, Austin ranked first on the Milken Institute’s list of best-performing metro areas, up from second place in 2012.
Forbes consistently highlights Austin’s remarkable growth, naming it the “#1 City to Watch in 2014,” the “Fastest Growing City for the 4th Year in a Row,” and second-place among best U.S. cities for future job growth.
The city also regularly leads “best of” lists for places where your dollar goes farthest – which include such critical factors as affordable housing, gas prices, inflation, and job market. The bottom line is that Austin has a lot to offer – and that has inspired a passionate dedication in those who live here, especially when it comes to community service and volunteer efforts to make Austin an even better place to live and work.
AUSTIN’S INTERESTING MIX
Austin residents – and visitors who want to be residents – have discovered a surprising combination that’s like no other city in the state. The city is a heady mix of technology, education, government, music, film and the arts – and it’s the kind of mix that’s hard to ignore.
Think authentic Tex-Mex and barbeque to elegant, four-star restaurants and nationally-known chefs; two-stepping and country music to jazz, modern and alternative rock; Longhorns and cowboy hats to shaved heads and tattoos; and a drag queen affectionately known as Leslie who once ran for mayor – and whose passing sparked an outpouring of sympathy and a hometown parade in his honor. With its friendliness, laid-back attitude and “anything goes” attitude, Austin is heavy on appeal.
AUSTIN’S ARTS SCENE: MUSIC, FILM, TV AND CULTURE
The Austin area is the smaller of its bigger siblings Dallas and Houston, but there’s no doubt that it’s a vibrant center of Texas life and culture. The arts are thriving here, thanks in part to a longstanding creative community, a passion for arts, music and everything creative, and the draw and influence of the University of Texas.
That influence is most evident with one of the city’s cultural gems: the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin. Located on the UT campus, the Blanton opened in May 2006 and is the largest university art museum in the country. Housed in an 180,000-square foot, two-building complex, the Blanton has the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas with more than 17,000 works of art.
The Blanton’s permanent collection is recognized for its European paintings, an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings, and modern and contemporary American and Latin American art. Works include European Baroque and Italian Renaissance paintings by such masters as Sebastiano del Piombo, Rubens, Giulio Cesare Amidano and others; an American and Contemporary Art collection spanning the American West, early American Modernism, Pop, Social Realism, Abstract Expressionism and more; an 1,800-plus Latin American art collection representing more than 600 artists; and thousands of prints and drawings from such diverse artists as Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso; plus a host of rotating special exhibits throughout the year.
Along with the Blanton, other Austin cultural gems on the UT campus include The Harry Ransom Center, the Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas Press, UT Libraries, the Graduate School, and the Michener Center for Writers.
Austin is also home to a number of public museums throughout the city, as well as a host of private galleries, including the Thinkery (previously known as Austin Children’s Museum), Austin Nature and Science Center, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, Elisabet Ney Museum, Mexic-Arte Museum, LBJ Library and Museum, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, and the Mexican-American Cultural Center. Visit www.inthegalleriesaustin.com for a complete list of cultural and creative visual arts venues.
Discover the best of high culture at the Austin Symphony, Ballet Austin and Austin Lyric Opera, along with ongoing music, theater and dance presentations at UT’s Performing Arts Center/Bass Concert Hall, and The Frank Erwin Center, both of which combine to bring great talent to Austin. The Austin Music Hall, which was torn down, expanded to a seating capacity of 4,400, and re-opened at the end of 2007, offers yet another live music and performing arts venue.
The Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2008 and offers residents a vibrant community arts center – with top musical, dance and dramatic performances for kids and adults alike. The historic Paramount Theater downtown and the One World Theater in the hills off Bee Caves Road host national, regional and local productions. A huge variety of theater companies, both small and large, offer theater performances of every type, including the Dougherty Arts Center, Zachary Scott Theatre, State Theatre, Scottish Rite Children’s Theatre, the Austin Playhouse at Penn Field, Esther’s Follies, and the Capitol City Comedy Club, just to name a few.
As the “Live Music Capital of the World,” music is, of course, synonymous with the city. The clubs on Sixth Street are a major attraction, as are major industry conferences like South by Southwest (SXSW) and National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) – the trade association of the international music products industry, which has held its annual conference in Austin for the last several years.
For more than 30 years, the national PBS series Austin City Limits was filmed and produced on the UT campus by local public television station KLRU, showcasing the best of American music and the thriving Texas and Austin music scene for millions of viewers worldwide. The new home for the filming and production of the show, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, is located adjacent to the W Hotel downtown and opened in 2011. It has become a popular performance venue – hosting acts from both the famed television show and its associated three-day music extravaganza each fall – the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
The ACL Festival, as it’s called, launched in 2002, and has become a huge draw each fall at Zilker Park, attracting more than 75,000 fans on each day of the three-day festival who enjoy more than 130 bands on eight stages. In fact, because of the festival’s incredible popularity each year, organizers added a second weekend with different headliners and artists, starting in 2013. Thanks to ACL, and to the many musicians who live, work and make music here, Austin more than lives up to its musical nickname.
Music clubs line both the popular Sixth Street entertainment district and the Fourth Street Warehouse District, and are spread throughout the rest of the city. There’s an opportunity to hear live music any time of day here – from the local musicians who welcome visitors with daily concerts at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to the weekday lunchtime concerts in front of City Hall and the bars, restaurants, dance clubs and other entertainment options along and near Sixth Street and Congress Avenue, and the thriving Second Street District.
The city is also a center for filmmaking and television, nurturing local talents like now nationally known directors such as Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and Mike Judge, and filmmaker Terence Malick. The variety of scenery and diverse natural environments in the area have made Austin the location for such Hollywood productions as the critically acclaimed opus from Richard Linklater, 2014’s Boyhood, and Jon Favreau’s 2014 food truck comedy-drama, Chef. Not to mention such perennial favorites as Miss Congeniality, Courage Under Fire, The Alamo, Hope Floats, Michael, all of Rodriguez’ Spy Kids films, as well as the award-winning television series Friday Night Lights.
AUSTIN, TEXAS: A GREAT PLACE FOR BUSINESS
Besides fun, recreation, music and great food, Austin also has a reputation as a thriving and vibrant business community. Companies here offer a virtual cornucopia of business and industry, with key industries that include advanced technology and manufacturing (software, hardware, semiconductor, and more); government, education, music, healthcare, and film – plus many other support services and industries.
While Austin, Texas, is probably most known for its technology base and its reputation as the “Silicon Hills,” thanks to such major local employers as Dell, Inc., IBM, AMD, Applied Materials, National Instruments, Samsung Semiconductor, Apple Computer, and Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., it’s also home to a robust government and public employment sector.
Large government and public sector employers rank among the area’s largest employers, including the Internal Revenue Service, which operates a regional office; the University of Texas at Austin; the State of Texas; the City of Austin; the Austin Independent School District; and the Round Rock Independent School District, among others. (See specific large employer list in the Business and Economy section for more information).
The state in general – and Austin in particular– is a magnet for new projects, expansions, and relocations, winning Site Selection magazine’s 2013 Governor’s Cup for new project activity and a thriving business climate. Besides a flourishing corporate business culture, Austin is tops for those who want to start their own business venture. Expansion magazine has ranked Austin first among cities where the “business opportunity is greatest for growing companies.” Austin regularly leads rankings in Small Business Vitality – in 2013, Austin again ranked first for the fifth straight year in The Business Journals’ On Numbers listing and, in 2014, topped the Forbes magazine’s Best Cities to start a Business. That’s great news for entrepreneurs in any industry.
Known as an incubator for countless homegrown enterprises, Austin boasts several stellar resources for startup companies, including Austin Ventures – one of the region’s most active venture capital firms with $3.9 billion under management across 10 funds. It’s no surprise, then, that the National Venture Capital Association consistently includes Austin in its list of “Top 10 Cities for Technology Startups.” Multiple Austin companies have also made the Deloitte Texas Technology Fast 50 list in past years, as well as Inc. magazine’s annual list of the 500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the U.S.
And, as the home to the University of Texas – the fifth-largest university in the country with an enrollment of about 51,000 graduate and undergraduate students – as well as such distinguished colleges and universities as St. Edward’s University, Southwestern University in Georgetown, and Texas State University in San Marcos, there’s no shortage of talented and highly educated employees and an entrepreneur base.
GET OUTSIDE! OUTDOOR LIVING IS TOPS IN AUSTIN
The Austin area gives first-time visitors a striking impression with its rolling hills, lush greenery, and no tumbleweeds in sight. That natural beauty is yet another reason for the city’s appeal – and it has nurtured an active outdoor lifestyle for residents with plenty of beautiful places to swim, jog, cycle, boat, play golf, and much more.
The city’s natural surroundings invite residents to take part in a vast range of outdoor and sports activities – and they certainly do, thanks to about 230 days of sunshine per year, normal average daily temperatures of about 70 degrees (and about 95 degrees in the hottest months of July and August), and an average annual rainfall of 32.15 inches. Of course, there’s a saying in Texas that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute. It might be hot one day and freezing the next, but it’s just a part of the charming dichotomy that residents have learned to love – or at least tolerate.
Love parks? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Austin is truly “a city within a park” with more than 15,000 acres of parkland that include more than 220 parks and 24 greenbelts, plus a number of nearby state parks. The city itself has more than 32 miles of inner city trails, including the 10-mile hike & bike trail around Lady Bird Lake, which is busy with walkers, runners and cyclists nearly every hour of every day.
Like to swim? There are 50 public pools throughout the city that keep residents “in the swim,” while Lake Austin on the west side of town and nearby Lake Travis offer even more aquatic activities. Don’t miss Austin’s jewel – Barton Springs, a natural spring that stays a refreshingly cool 68 degrees year-round. Hamilton Pool is another favorite, as are Deep Eddy and other local swimming holes.
As the home to golf legends such as Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and the late Harvey Penick, it’s not surprising that golf is big here, too. Avid golfers will feel right at home in Austin with its five municipal courses and one short practice course, plus a host of private links and country clubs, including a number of world-class courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and others. Central Texas has also been the host to several tournaments on the PGA Champions Tour.
Prefer spectator sports? The area is home to several professional sports clubs, including Round Rock Express Triple-A baseball; Austin Spurs basketball – an NBA Development League (D-League) team; and the Texas Stars minor league hockey team. 2012 also marked the first year that Austin hosted the exciting Formula 1 racing at the brand-new Circuit of the Americas (COTA) track and racing facility, located in southeast Austin near Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Austin is the new home for multiple racing events, including an agreement to host the prestigious Formula 1 United States Grand Prix through 2021, as well as the MotoGP and V8 Supercars series.
Of course, there’s no question that the University of Texas Longhorns are high on the list of most popular sports events here, and there’s also a host of top NCAA college athletic events throughout the school year, including UT’s football team, baseball team, basketball team, and men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball teams.
Photo Credit: Robert H. McGee
FINE FOOD AND ECLECTIC SHOPPING
When you’re out and about in Austin, you’re bound to get hungry after all that activity. That’s good, because dining in Austin is a delight. A bounty of restaurants offer such delicious local fare as Mexican food, barbecue and Southern-style cooking, as well as everything from sushi bars to Italian bistros to fine French cafés and sumptuous steakhouses. Try Guero’s Taco Bar on South Congress or Chuy’s Tex-Mex (multiple locations) for casual, Mexican fare; The Salt Lick or County Line for barbeque (see our barbeque article in this issue for additional mouth-watering choices); or Hudson’s on the Bend, Uchi, or Fonda San Miguel for the best in fine dining.
Once you’ve satisfied your appetite, it’s off to do some shopping. The Domain, located in northwest Austin, includes Neiman-Marcus and other luxury shops and boutiques such as Barney’s CO-OP, Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Tumi, and the Apple store.
Then there’s the Hill Country Galleria – 152 acres of expansive natural beauty in Bee Cave with eclectic shopping, dining and entertainment, as well as office and residential space. Surrounded by a lush nature preserve, wildflowers, native trees and rocky streams, the Hill Country Galleria is an ideal way to spend an afternoon.
Major malls in the Austin area include Lakeline Mall in Cedar Park (Macy’s, Dillard’s, Sears and J.C. Penney) and Barton Creek Square in west Austin (Macy’s, Dillard’s, Sears, J.C. Penney, and Nordstrom). There’s also the Arboretum, which is home to national chains such as The Gap, Pottery Barn, and Barnes & Noble, plus local boutiques and spas.
Don’t miss the charming boutiques and shops on South First, in the Second Street District, or the vintage and antique shops on South Congress, South Lamar, North Loop, Burnet Road, and Guadalupe Street (also known as “The Drag” on the UT campus).
For outlet shopping, this area can’t be beat, whether you head to the Round Rock Outlets just north of town, or the Premier and Tanger Outlet Malls in San Marcos – just 30 minutes south of downtown on Interstate 35. Austin is also home to a 250,000-square foot IKEA store in Round Rock, which is the place to go for hip, inexpensive European choices in home décor for every room in the house.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
There’s no doubt that Austin’s a great city – the “hippest in the Southwest,” according to travel reviews in The New York Times and other national publications, but what ultimately makes any city feel like home is its many and varied neighborhoods.
Choose from charming inner city history to minimalist downtown loft living to lush gated communities around the city or quiet suburban neighborhoods – there’s no shortage of diverse housing in Austin.
It’s relatively inexpensive to live here. When many cities were still recovering from the after effects of the recession and a sluggish housing market, the Austin market remained steady and stable – with the city experiencing price gains. Now, even with the market heating up again, there is still affordable housing to be found across the city. The median price for a single-family home was $321,100 in April 2017, up eight percent from the same month in 2016.
Offerings range from classy downtown condos, elegant old homes and modern showplaces, to friendly suburban neighborhoods, to countryside ranches and farmhouses on the outskirts of town. Wherever you choose to live in Austin, Texas you will always find the friendly and neighborly atmosphere that pervades the entire community.
Welcome to a city that residents and visitors adore – and that you will, too! As you explore the Austin Relocation Guide and the city that it represents, it’s easy to see that there’s a lot to love about Austin. It’s a great place to live, find success, and enjoy the good life.
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