Moving To Austin Featured Archives - 365 Things to Do in Austin, TX

Austin is a weird place, and that’s part of the reason it’s such a well-loved place. If you’ve lived in Austin for some time, you’re likely already aware of some of these unique Austin quirks. If you’re new to the city, get ready for a quick rundown on the in’s and out’s of some of Austin’s most confusing and endearing personality traits, or as we like to call them, Austin-isms

    • It’s harder to find somewhere without live music on the weekends than it is to find somewhere with it

austin music

    • It’s pronounced man-shack, not mahn-CHA-cah
    • Some of the best food in town can be found in trucks

Austin food truck

    • 360 loop isn’t actually a loop
    • Neither is Loop 1. Also, Loop 1 is called Mopac not Loop 1
    • You can eat some variety of tacos for every meal of the day

Austin breakfast tacos

    • You’ll probably see more dogs than kids when you’re out and about

dog

    • Guadalupe is pronounced gwah-dah-LOOP not gwah-dah-LOO-peh like you would think
    • You can’t beat the views here.  If you’re moving to Austin, be sure to let your real estate agent know if a view is on your “must have” list

Austin, TX views

    • FM 2222 has so many different names. At any point along the length of its reach, you’ll hear it called Koenig, 2222, Allandale Rd, Bull Creek, and/or Northland Dr.
    • Almost every restaurant has a patio

    • Your 2-mile commute might take 40 minutes. Or it could take 5. It’s anybody’s guess really.
    • Most people in Austin aren’t from Austin. And the people who did grow up here are often referred to as “unicorns” now

austin, texas

    • There’s no shortage of outdoor activities

SUP boarding

    • There’s no place quite like ATX

What are some of your favorite perks and quirks about Austin?

Whether or not they have children, many homebuyers in the Austin area seek out neighborhoods located within a good school district. That’s because real estate near strong public schools has a higher resale value and tends to stay sheltered from fluctuations in the market – a win for soccer moms and young professionals alike. The only problem? Residences near high-performing schools are typically more expensive, leaving homebuyers to wonder whether the cost is worth the reward. If you’re currently dealing with this dilemma, don’t despair, because we’ve researched some of the most affordable, up-and-coming Austin neighborhoods that also have top-notch schools. Check out our list below to see if any are the right move for you.

We found median home values through Zillow and high school rankings and data via U.S. News & World Report.

1. North Burnet (78758)

Median Home Value: $232,900 ($78,800 below Austin average)

Local High School: Anderson (Ranked #115 in Texas)

Filled with brand-new condos and pristine shopping malls, this growing neighborhood might be known by veteran Austinites as “South Dallas,” but don’t let that faze you. There’s plenty to do for all ages in North Burnet, from bar hopping at The Domain to indulging in retail therapy at The Arboretum. Plus, last year, nearby Anderson High School received recognition for outstanding achievement in six academic categories from the Texas Education Agency. Not too shabby.

2. Jollyville (78729)

Median Home Value: $267,700 ($44,000 below Austin average)

High School: McNeil (Ranked #139 in Texas)

If golf or tennis is your game, then Jollyville is calling your name. This quiet North Austin neighborhood encompasses public parks like Old Stage as well as more posh playing grounds like Balcones Country Club. Here, spacious single detached family homes sell for much less than those in Austin proper, practically begging you to move your golf clubs northward. Additionally, students at local McNeil High School rank well above their peers across the state in both English and math proficiency.

golf-jollyville

3. West Oak Hill (78736)

Median Home Value:$312,200 ($500 above Austin average)

High School: Bowie (Ranked #152 in Texas)

Located in Southwest Austin along East Highway 290, this hilly area of the city has experienced rapid growth over the last few decades. In Oak Hill, a beautiful view is always within sight, whether from your own front porch or a rocking chair at a barbecue joint. Residents can enjoy the breweries of Fitzhugh Road as well as favorite local eateries like Pieous and The Salt Lick. As an added bonus, Bowie High School, which serves the western half of Oak Hill, performs better in both math and English than the majority of schools in the district, including Austin High and McCallum High.

4. North Loop (78751)

Median Home Value: $400,700 ($89,000 above Austin average)

High School: McCallum High School (Ranked #119 in Texas)

If you want a neighborhood that puts the weird in “Keep Austin Weird,” look no further than North Loop, an area of town known for funky secondhand shops and mid-century homes. North Loopers like to frequent local stores like Breakaway Records and watering holes like Epoch Coffee or gastropub Drink.Well. At close-by McCallum High, the second oldest secondary school in the district, nearly half of all students take AP exams and more than three-quarters pass.

record-store-austin

5. Rosedale (78756)

Median Home Value: $471,700 ($160,000 above Austin average)

High School: Austin (Ranked #140 in Texas)

While by far the priciest neighborhood on this list, Rosedale is significantly more affordable than other communities serviced by Austin High School, including Zilker and Tarrytown. This burgeoning area of the city is home to both families and 20-somethings, thanks to a well-rounded mix of historic and renovated residences as well as an assortment of hot restaurants like Snooze, Pinthouse Pizza and Uchiko. Rosedale is within the attendance boundaries of Austin High School, which has a student population of more than 2,100 and boasts a graduation rate of 96 percent.

Interested in looking at homes in one of these neighborhoods? Check out our guide to finding a real estate agent in Austin!

When I first moved into the Zilker neighborhood several years ago, the hyper local list serve gave me my first clue that not everyone was happy with changes afoot in our urban enclave. Lamentations of “downtown encroachment” and “McMansions” gave me pause, for example, because we’d moved here, in part, because downtown was encroaching. And while our home would be considered backhouse-sized in Rob Roy, it is decidedly not an original 900-square foot cottage. (Tip: If you’re not sure if your home is a McMansion, it probably is.)

 

The longer I’m here, however, the more I realize that while there’s a lot to disagree about (e.g. impervious cover rules, urban coyotes and the cost-benefit ratio of ACL), there’s just as much most of us appreciate, including the Mayberryesque en masse walk to Zilker Elementary, the Bluebonnet Market, Fairy Alley, and our proximity to Barton Springs. Indeed, while the “Californiacation” of home prices and citified traffic problems are legitimate gripes, there is a lot for locals and visitors to love about this little piece of South Austin.

Zilker Vibes

If you look at an “official” map, the densely-populated Zilker neighborhood runs north to south from Lady Bird Lake to Barton Skyway. East to west, it goes just east of S. Lamar to around Robert E. Lee Rd. There’s a lot of good eatin’ and drinkin’ and whatnottin’ in those few square miles that add up to plenty of reasons to spend some time up here.

Butler Park Pitch & Putt or Peter Pan Mini Golf—If you’re looking for something somewhat active and outdoorsy, hit the itty-bitty-links for a few hours of fun.

peter-pan_shoe

Bluebonnet Market—If you’ve ever parked in the neighborhood and walked down Bluebonnet Rd. to an event at Zilker Park, you may have noticed this local treasure, where you can get agave nectar, organic milk, kale chips and locally-made falafel to go with your Coke Zero and bag of Cheetos.

Fairy Alley—Next time you stop in at Vox Table for smoked hamachi or the Highball for a little Alamo Drafthouse pre-party, wander (quietly and politely) into the alley just behind the theater to see the magical space a lovely Zilker resident has created for all to enjoy.

Zilker Nights

Odd Duck—Moscow mules, a chill atmosphere and little plates of local, delicious, slightly unusual bites add up to one of the best restaurants in town.

Backbeat—A sister scene to North Austin’s Drink.Well., Backbeat serves up really good cocktails and a small but tasty menu in combination with a nice rooftop patio.

Saxon Pub—Recently “rescued” from relocation by a local investor, this quintessential Austin music venue will remain in its South Lamar location and continue hosting the likes of Walt Wilkins and Patrice Pike—hopefully, for decades to come.

Zilker Days

Moonlight Bakery—If there’s a European bread snob in your life, stop by this unassuming, Zilker resident-owned place for your daily bread, macaroons and fresh pastries.

Irie Bean Coffee Bar—Just a hop-skip up up the block from Moonlight, you can pick up a fine cup of Texas Coffee Traders’ best and enjoy it on their back patio.

Shops Galore—There are loads of cute shops on S. Lamar, including wine lounge/home goods dealer Aviary (currently being remodeled), specialty beer store WhichCraft, contemporary design store Nannie Inez, women’s boutique Strut, and the the cool CoffeeSock factory, where you can buy reusable, organic cotton coffee filters and other coffee gear.

coffeesock

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.

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So you’re thinking about moving to Austin, huh? Welcome to the land of breakfast tacos, music festivals and bridge-dwelling bats. We certainly couldn’t use any more traffic in our city, but we’re happy to have you nonetheless. If you’re new to ATX, you might have trouble navigating our various neighborhoods and finding a home that meets all of your needs. Luckily, Austin is not only home to exceptional tacos, but also exceptional real estate agents, who can help you lock down the home of your dreams. Here’s our guide to finding your perfect Austin real estate agent.

texas capitol

Do the Research

More than 40 percent of homebuyers find their real estate agent through friends and family, according to the National Association of Realtors. But what do you do if you don’t know anyone in Austin? The obvious solution is to do a simple internet search to look up customer reviews and articles about agents in the area. It is also important, however, to find a real estate salesperson who specializes in the type of property you’re looking for and is knowledgeable about the area of town you want to live in. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you can start reaching out to agents.

Make Sure They’re Qualified

After you’ve done some initial research and compiled a list of potential buyer agents, you’ll want to dig deeper to learn more about their qualifications. Using the Texas Real Estate Commission website, you can look up agents by name to ensure they’ve completed the required real estate continuing education courses and have no formal complaints filed against them. Throughout the homebuying process, you want to make sure that your money and your legal rights are fully protected, so choosing a trustworthy agent is of the utmost importance.

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Find Your Perfect Match

Don’t be afraid to interview agents over the phone or in-person before you work with them. Come prepared with a list of questions and expectations to ensure that the agent can meet all of your needs. Some questions you might consider asking are:

  • How many years have you been in the industry? In Austin specifically?
  • How many listings do you have? How many homes have you sold in these neighborhoods?
  • How familiar are you with the neighborhoods I’m interested in? Who lives there? What is the school district like? What is the commute time to my office? Are there any building proposals I should be aware of?
  • How often can I expect to hear from you? How reachable are you in the evenings? On the weekends?

Once you’ve found your perfect match in a real estate agent, it’s time to start looking at properties! We’re confident that with all the beautiful neighborhoods and residences here in Austin, you’ll find a home that you’ll never want to leave. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our Moving to Austin content on 365ThingsAustin to learn more about neighborhoods, eateries and activities in the capital city. On behalf of all us, welcome to Austin!

I’m convinced people are born dreading the day they have to step foot inside the Department of Motor Vehicles. But if you’re new to Austin and have a license to drive in another state, you only have 90 days to trade it in for one with a light blue Texas State Capitol printed on the corner.

State law requires that within roughly three months of establishing in-state residency, newcomers must get their new state license, otherwise they’re considered to be driving illegally. Though the steps for getting a Texas driver’s license as a new resident are the same as anyone getting their license for the first time, the silver lining is you don’t have to re-take the knowledge and road tests (unless you’re from a different country).

There are a number of places around the city where you can get your new license—five to be exact. There’s the DMV North Lamar, one on Denson Drive, one just off the expressway in South Austin, one on Research Boulevard, and, though it’s technically not in the city, there’s one located on the outskirts in Pflugerville.

texas license

One good thing to note about the DMV is that now there are plenty of online ways to make your experience much less of a hassle. If you’re planning on going to either the North Lamar or Pflugerville locations, both will allow you to check in online before you go. Though it’s not always the most accurate service, the online check-in gives you an estimate on your place in line, sending out a text notification when your time is near. And if you’re new to Austin, but not to Texas, you can change things like your address online and have it mailed directly to your house for a fee of $11.

But if you’re heading out to the DMV to get your new state license, make sure you have all the necessary documents to prove that you are who you say you are. First, you will need a completed driver’s license application which can be printed at home or filled out at the DMV office. Make sure you take your social security card; documents to verify your identity like a birth certificate and insurance policy; proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence; two documents from different sources showing your name and residential address to verify Texas residency like a utility bill and insurance card; Texas registration and insurance policy for all the vehicles registered in your name; and if you’re younger than 25 years old, a certificate of completion for a driver education course. Lastly, if you’re ages 18 to 24, bring $25 because that’s how much a license will cost you. A full list of everything you’ll need plus examples can be found here.

Once you’ve made it to the office and you’re done going over all that proof with the DMV, you’ll be asked to surrender your out-of-state or out-of-country license. After that, you’ll be given a receipt which you can use to drive legally until your new license arrives. After about three weeks,, your driver’s license should arrive in the mail and if all goes well for you, it’ll be another six years before you have to return to renew again.

So newcomers, best of luck making your way to the DMV or navigating its online resources. Pretty soon you’ll be set to legally join the rest of us on that glorious beast we all know as I-35.

 

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.
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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.
zilker-kite-festival

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.

It’s no secret that Austinites have an affinity for fitness. Austin, TX was ranked America’s 10th fittest city by the Huffington Post last year and 7th best city for runners by Forbes.com, so it stands to reason that there are a wealth of trails, streets, and tracks available to keep Austin in the healthy elite and meeting all those pesky New Year’s Resolutions. From the obvious running choices to the secret gems awaiting your footfalls, Austin’s running terrain is as broad as the Lone Star State.

Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail

Whether you’re training for the Austin Livestrong Marathon or you’re a weekend huffer, there are plenty of places to hit the road and put in a couple miles before work. For beginners, you can try the friendly trails around Auditorium Shores. The 3.2-mile loop from the South First Bridge down to the Mopac Bridge is the best place for newbie runs or quick tune-ups. The trail also offers 7 and 10 miles loops for the more experienced and eager, but you’ll be safe keeping it to 3.2 miles with two water stops along the way and a RunTex nearby. You’ll also gain inspiration from all the other runners along the trail. Learn more.

Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail

The Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail offers a stunning 3 miles of terrain in Central Austin (6 for a round trip). It’s a little bit less groomed than the Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike so be prepared to do some root and rock dodging along the way. You park at the trailhead at 2600 N. Lamar Blvd or pick up the trail from Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike between Caesar Chavez and Lamar Blvd. Learn more.

Brushy Creek Trail

The Brushy Creek Trail is a great gravel-paved trail located in the Avery Ranch area of Austin, TX. Running parallel to Brushy Creek and offering 2.5 miles one-way, Brushy Creek Trail offers adequate biking, running, and walking in a pet friendly atmosphere. Learn more.

Barton Creek Greenbelt

The Barton Creek Greenbelt is Austin’s largest green space right in the heart of the city. Beginning at Zilker Park, the trail leads southwest through 7.25 miles of dense foliage, limestone cliffs and various waterfalls through the greenbelt. This trail is usually heavily populated by mountain bikers and contains some rough terrain by the Mopac/360 trailhead. But once you get down alongside Barton Creek, it’s easy going. During the summer months, the Barton Creek Greenbelt offers shade but is usually very humid due to the canopy overhead. It is considered the 7th best trail in the state of Texas. Learn more.

Travis Heights Neighborhood

Depending on where you live/work, running in residential neighborhoods are a great bet for steady running with no limit on mileage. One of the better neighborhoods in town for running is the Travis Heights neighborhood. Offering arteries of quiet residential streets, this safe, hilly neighborhood is residential running at its best. You can follow along Blunn Creek or run along the South Congress entertainment district. Learn more.

McKinney Falls State Park

The McKinney Falls State Park is a truly picturesque area in Southeast Austin that is host to running trails, water falls (if you catch the season right), some Austin history and “Old Baldy” one of the oldest bald cypress trees held on public land. Both running trails, the Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail and the Homestead Trail provide several miles of terrain as well as several hundred feet in elevation gain. There is an entrance fee of $6, but it’s well worth the cost, as this is one of Austin’s hidden gems. Learn more.

Hyde Park Neighborhood (Alphabet Streets)

While Travis Heights is a bastion for residential running to the south, the Hyde Park neighborhood’s alphabet streets offer equal safety and terrain for central Austin. Avenues A – G run parallel from 38th Street all the way to 51st and sometimes beyond. A run through these quiet, residential street leaves plenty of time for deep contemplation. Learn more.

Other Running Trails

PRO TIP: MapMyRun.com can help you find out different routes in your own neighborhood, allow you to specify your location, distance, and vertical ascent.