Ten Things to Do Your First Month Living in Austin

Like it or not, most of us are creatures of habit—which is exactly why you need to start taking advantage of all the good stuff Austin has to offer from the moment you arrive. I recently talked to a neighborhood friend who has lived here for 19 years, but never set foot on the Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike Trail. Don’t let that be you. Rather, set the tone for a very good life in Austin by establishing some very good habits right from the get-go.

1. Take a Hike

Natural beauty is one of the many things that sets Austin apart from other large Texas cities. Whether you want to stay urban on Lady Bird Lake, get a little taste of the wild on the Barton Creek Greenbelt or head north to St. Edwards Park, there are miles and miles and miles of trails worth exploring within Austin’s city limits.
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2. Get Acquainted with the University of Texas

From the Blanton Museum and Informal Classes to educational speakers, sports and world-class performances, UT is overflowing with cool stuff to do. It’s remarkably easy to forget it’s there, however, so put it on your radar early.
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View from the UT Tower Tour

View from the UT Tower Tour

3. Tune into KUTX (98.9)

Everything a local radio station should be, the musical ‘arm’ of our NPR station is a great place to school yourself on Austin music and culture.

4. Spend Some Time (and Money) at Waterloo Records

Around since 1982, Waterloo is a champion of local musicians and the kind of authentic place we need more of in the world. Plan to spend at least an hour browsing, then choose something new, as well as something with deeper roots, like Jerry Jeff Walker or W.C. Clark.

5. Pick a Festival, any Festival

Austin quite possibly hosts more festivals per year than anywhere else on the planet, and there is truly something for everyone. Depending on your preferences, hit up a biggie like ACL or SXSW, something spicy like the Hot Sauce Festival, something trippy like Eyeore’s Birthday Party or something whimsical like the Kite Festival. Whatever you choose, it’s pretty darn affirming to be among masses of people enjoying the same good time you are.

The Annual Zilker Kite Festival

6. Spend a Day in East Austin

Maybe more than anywhere else in town, East Austin is a blend of the ‘old’ ATX some are nostalgic for, and the ‘new’ hip iteration. To get some understanding of that juxtaposition, spend a day enjoying both sides of the argument. Eat breakfast somewhere classic like Cisco’s (while you still can!), hit up some art galleries and shops like Friends & Neighbors, grab a locally-brewed beer from Hops & Grain and either catch a show at the Historic Scoot Inn or eat at fancy James Beard award winner Launderette.

7. Put Live Music on Your Monthly Calendar

Sure, you talk big now about going out nightly to see shows.  Unfortunately, life and finances can get in the way, so plug in at least one night per month on your calendar. You can fill in the details later.

8. Get wet

No Austin to-do list would be complete without mentioning Barton Springs. It really is all that it’s cracked up to be. But, there are plenty of other fun places to cool off, including the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Deep Eddy, and one of the many small neighborhood pools in parks around town. They all have their perks, and they all contribute to Austin being Austin.
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9. Pay Homage at a Classic Music Venue

There’s some hallowed musical ground in this town. Make it a priority to visit at least one classic venue soon after arrival, because they probably have had more influence on the Austin vibe than anything else. To name a few noteworthy places… The Continental Club, Saxon Pub, White Horse, Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, Broken Spoke and Hole in the Wall.
The dance floor at The Broken Spoke

The dance floor at The Broken Spoke

10. Start a Favorite Taco List

Don’t get into a taco routine just because there’s a good joint nearby. Pledge to visit a different one every week, and then decide which is your favorite. What will it be? Valentina’s, Tacodeli, Veracruz, Papalote, Torchy’s, or somewhere else? You won’t know if you don’t try.
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About the author: Jill Coody Smits is the author of Expedition Austin: A Kid’s Guide to the Weirdest Town in Texas. A freelance writer of many things, she lives south of the river with her husband, daughter and two four-footed sons. After nearly 20 years in Austin, she is still in love with this little big town.