Both a wonderful and a terrible place to live
I lived in Austin for 8 years. I grew up in Houston, spent several years living in Denver, Colorado and now live in San Diego, CA for the last 2. After living in San Diego for a couple of years, I am ready to move and I can understand wholeheartedly now why so many people wish to leave beautiful California. With only 11% of San Diegans being able to afford home ownership, the environment feels nothing less than oppressive and the culture: rather bitter, in spite of the stunning beaches and weather we have to experience each day. I have deeply contemplated my next move and will most likely choose Houston, over Austin, for the following reasons.
I am a big city person and love culture and variety. Austin does offer a very unique vibe, but at the same time, it can feel monotonous after living there for only a short time. You must be a very creative person in Austin and extremely socially connected, to enjoy living there, because there simply is not a whole lot to do outside of: the restaurants, bars, live music, and enjoying the lakes and parks.
The winters are cold, so, the lakes and swimming can not be enjoyed during the winter months, so, during winter and holiday seasons - you can really feel that you are lacking for interesting things to do.
There are few museums, none I can think of that I would ever care to tour more than once. There is a very good live music, and, intimate arts scene. We enjoyed many shows at The Zach Theater and my little boy loved attending The Doughtery Arts School summer programs. I have to mention, however, that the traffic in and around Austin is among the worst in the nation and I recall how stressful it could feel to get stuck in hour long+ traffic jams just traveling from my home (10 minutes outside the city) into downtown and getting stuck in traffic so heavy that our 10 minute drive turned into 45 minutes, an hour, in the middle of the day, for no apparent reason. I hope the city does something to relieve it's serious traffic issues. I-35 is an antiquated nightmare.
Austin restaurants are excellent, the housing options are still very nice and plentiful, compared to California. Austin is fun, and it is "hip". We loved going to Central Market on Lamar and have so many wonderful memories at all the parks. When we are able to relocate back to Texas, I will never again take a smiling, kind and open community for granted again, this is something that we simply do not have in California as our residents are mostly: rushed, closed, and *stressed. Austin has a very relaxing vibe (outside of the traffic) and it's lack of culture, which a person who was born and raised in a large city, might find boring initially, then stressful, as it can give you a feeling of being "stuck", not to mention: landlocked.
I also found Austin to be rather cliquish and immature, at times. Many friends and dates I met, turned out to have serious drinking problems. Austin tries too hard to be politically "liberal" and I feel the political atmosphere there is contagious and goes hand in hand with people who live there wanting to fit in to the culture and appear to be progressive, and "hip". I met many nice people and a couple of great friends in Austin. I miss a lot about it, but, it's not a place for everyone.
I found the dating scene to be poor - due to the immature attitudes. It is a fun thought to remain forever young, but, there comes a time when one must grow up a bit? Austin is a good place for intact families to live, not the greatest place for 30-somethings starting over to truly thrive and find love again, in my professional opinion.
My little boy loved the camping and fishing opportunities in Austin but he loves Galveston too - the closest beach to Austin is Corpus (not nearly as nice as Galveston) and still over a 3 hour drive away.
Austin allergins are severe. I suffered from Cedar Fever living there and so did my son who often had a chronic cough. I got allergy headaches all the time. Our allergies have disappeared since moving to San Diego.
The schools in Austin are not that great. We paid a great deal in property taxes and my son's elementary school was pretty terrible. If you want good schools in Austin you can't find many close to the city, you have to think about moving to Lakeway or Steiner Ranch and the commute to the city is pretty brutal from those places.
I still have my favorite spots in Austin and enjoyed many epic nights out too. Austin nightlife is even superior to what can be found in Las Vegas! Austin is very young, fit, and is a city filled with beautiful people. I heard how SoCal is supposed to have such a beautiful population, well, maybe if you like the plastic look (pumped up lips) toxified foreheads, the people of California often look strange, so overdone. Austin has a strong All American feel to it.
If you love the "party life" and can deal with a lack of culture and are comfortable with a simpler life, doing the same things over and over, and/or are raising a family and willing to commute in severe traffic situations to place your children in the good school districts, Austin could be for you. I'm looking forward to renting in the Museum District when we get back to Houston (so my son can attend Poe Elementary), and then buying either in Memorial (great schools too), or, in the suburb of Katy for my child's JH and HS years. Houston suburbs even have strong city feels, vast amenities, and highly functioning toll-roads for commuting.
I do miss Austin, but, think I feel better living in a big city. I always felt as if I was potentially "missing out" on too many things, living in Austin. We are looking forward to spending weekends there, however, and enjoying all of our old favorite stomping grounds.
Houston is very convenient for road-trips and travel. We love taking cruises to vacation and living closer to the ocean. Galveston offers a great deal in the way of nature, history, and multiple cruise lines, including Disney!
Austin has many positives and quite a few negatives that should be seriously considered. If you are considering Austin, spend some time there first, make sure you are ok with the allergins, traffic, schools, dating scene, political environment, being a part of an intense and constant party-scene (drinking), and culture, or, lack thereof.