United States / Texas / 26420 / Austin County / Cities / Zip Codes

Review of Austin, Texas

Austin Is Not For Everyone
Star Rating - 7/30/2012
My family moved to Austin from northern Florida two years ago for my husband's job. We were so excited, as Austin was at the top of every list we could find online. It was like a warm Portland! It was the greenest, most family-friendly, most affordable, most entrepreneurial, most healthy places in the whole US! I was born and raised in the northwest US, but I'd lived in Florida for 11 years before our move. I was most excited for the family-friendly and green aspects of the city. I pictured my family biking, swimming, walking around our neighborhood meeting other families. . . . We have two girls--6 and 4. I had expected the vibe to be laid-back, eclectic, artistic, funky, progressive, and warm-spirited. I was looking forward to new opportunities for my girls. In the city, we could get them involved in things not available in Florida. They could do anything! They could sing opera! They could hear live music every day! Sure, we were leaving a tight community of friends and coworkers, but we had moved before, and everything worked out. My first shock happened while my realtor was taking me around (read: driving for miles and miles through considerable traffic) to the areas with the best-rated schools (Eanes and Lake Travis). Was I going to have to live way outside of the city in cookie-cutter suburbia (or a McMansion trailer park) in oder to afford a well-built medium-priced house with good schools? It was beginning to look like that. At night, after the realtor dropped us off at the hotel, I would cry. Where was my cute little neighborhood? My neighborhood health-food store? My farmer's market? My plethora of active people? If you don't like your neighborhood coming with an entrance sign, Austin suburbia is NOT the place for you. I didn't want to look out my window to see my neighbor's wall. I didn't want to stand on my balcony and see their roof within arm's length. We drove and drove and drove and drove. We looked and looked. Eventually, we ended up finding a house NOT in a development (very hard thing to do) in the Lake Travis area. (Far away from downtown, to my sadness.) Originally, I wanted to live closer to downtown, but I quickly discovered that I'd have to shell out $500,000 for a dive of a house (and I can't do a remodel with two small children and a working husband) in a very mediocre school district/questionable neighborhood in order for that to happen. I live in a really safe neighborhood with some character. The median price of a home in my area is $475K (steep if you're moving from Florida; not steep if you're moving from California--where 75% of my neighbors are from). The trade-off for buying a custom-built house in my price-range was that, though I had a .5 acre lot, I had no grass and no garden because of the drought and plant-eating deer (as cute as they are). My yard was wild--juniper, cacti, agave, and rock. And dirt. Pretty, pretty dirt. In order to have a "yard," you NEED a fence, a sprinkler system (water is expensive), and a professional landscaper to get you started (or no day job). I wish I had known this moving here: Gardening is not impossible, but--compared with Florida, the northwestern US, and many other areas on the globe--it is for experts who have a lot of expendable cash. Raised beds need to be built. Elaborate watering systems need to be installed. Et cetera. You cannot dig a hole in the ground with a shovel. You will hit solid rock. The other concern that hit me was that there were so many people here. Whenever we tried to go out into nature, we ran into a billion other people. There is no real wilderness here. You can canoe through the city (if you get to the rental place early enough). You can "hike" and got to the lake. But you'll not be alone by any stretch. And camping, real camping, is far away. Hours away. And, as far as I can tell, the state park system is nonexistent. The parks we have attempted, have been very very busy.

The best thing about Austin is this: It is kid friendly. Most restaurants have play-scapes, activities, so much to do to give parents a break. I will miss the food (Torchy's, notably) and little else when I go. The main reason I want to go is that I want to give my kids a childhood where they experience the outdoors without it being a chore to get there. And also: it is rather expensive here as far as extracurricular activities go. And the other thing: Austinites are NOT green. If you think you're moving to a green city, think again. You have to drive everywhere; the development is sprawling and sprawling; as far as I can see, the city's only plan is to keep spreading; no one carpools. ( In fact, there isn't even a carpool lane.) The over-consumption is mind-boggling. The hills are filled with enormous houses that go on and on and on and on . . . . Someone once said, "Austin is not a love-at-first-sight city." I had wanted to fall in love. I have found this to be true. And it MIGHT be a great place to be young and entrepreneurial. But trying to find real friends here at age 40? Good luck.

C. | Lakeway, TX
Reply to this Comment

6 Replies

Thank you for your extensive review and quite accurate.
Adriana | Austin, TX | Report Abuse

The parks are really really busy, and that's because the park system is non-existent?! I think that they're really really busy because they're really awesome and lots of us want to go there a lot. Ever been to McKinney Falls? Enchanted Rock? Zilker Botanical Gardens? Fiesta Gardens? Just a few of our wonderful parks (some state park, some municipal). Your yard was juniper, cacti, agave and rock... because that's what the landscape looks like here, at least west of the Balcones faultline. Do you blame Arizona because your yard would be rocks and sand and cacti? How can you expect lush, verdant Pacific NW or Florida foliage without Pacific NW or Florida rainfall?! Adjust your expectations. Our yard is xeriscaped with rocks and native plants that survive without irrigation, is one-fifth the size of yours and about three times further from downtown, and my husband and I carpool to downtown in our hybrid car. Yes, traffic sucks. Because they don't have an urban planning commission trying to turn us into cracker-box Manhattan density. A lot of your gripes about the people sound like you're confusing "old Austin" people with recent transplants. If they moved here before 1995 or so, they've probably gone native, but more recent transplants moved from big city California (and elsewhere, but mostly CA) and brought all their crap with them. Sounds like you just want to live in a small town with big city culture, and you just can't support those institutions without a large population and all its attendant inconveniences. I'm sorry. It's still the best place in the world for me.
Kings_Deer | Monument, CO | Report Abuse

Austin is pretty horrible. I've lived in: Richmond, Norfolk & Virginia Beach, VA Charlotte, NC Charleston, SC Silver Spring & College Park, MD Washington DC Philadelphia, PA Los Angeles & San Francisco,CA Nashville, TN Brunswick, ME Newport, RI Houston, TX Austin, TX I have to say, while Austin isn't the WORST place I've ever lived, (that was Houston), it's at the bottom-middle of my list, even bested by Maine, which touts blizzards amongst its attractions. JOBS: First of all, it's really hard to find a job here. There are tons of "scams" and "call centers" and dead-end click jobs, etc. but there's really no good work for someone without a degree who does not want to work in the food industry. Every job you go up for, you can be sure that at least 50 other people are interviewing for it as well. College kids will work for scraps, so the wages across the board are horrible. I just interviewed last week for an office job that pays $8/per hour. Yes, you read that right. This wasn't even an entry level office job, like a mailroom clerk or a receptionist - this was for an admin position. I haven't been paid $8/per hour since I was a teenager, but still, it is typical of what you see here and I needed the work. Want to know something funny? I DIDN'T EVEN GET THE JOB! LOL.I have 25 years of office experience, BTW. COST OF LIVING: So with everyone making such a good wage (in 1999) of $8/per hour, I bet there are a lot of cheap eats, things to do, rents, etc., right? WRONG. Austin's cost of living is infinitely higher than Philadelphia or even Los Angeles, with only San Francisco topping it on my list. You make no money to spare, and regardless of how many people say there's a ton of stuff to do in Austin, if you haven't got any money, there's NOTHING to do here. You could just park your car since you can't afford to drive anywhere and bike it, right? WRONG. BIKE COMMUTING: Biking in Austin is horrible and dangerous! There have been so many cyclist fatalities in this city that you see "ghost bikes" anchored to various railings and other landmarks all throughout the city. These ghost bikes are cycles that have been have spray painted white and left them out in public as a way to remind people of the places Austin where cyclists have been hit by cars and died. The cracked pavement of busted up roads with NO BIKE LANES spreads rampantly across the city, almost as far-reaching as the typical Austin car driver's hatred for cyclists. That combative attitude is made worse by no bike lanes, fast drivers, no shoulders, etc. Overall, Austin is one of the least bike-friendly cities I've ever lived in, with only Los Angeles and Houston coming in as worse on my list. How can you have a "green city" without making it bike friendly? UM... YOU CAN'T. SHALLOW PEOPLE: You know how the kookiest, fakest "Los Angelenos" are transplants from the midwest and the rudest, meanest "New Yorkers" are from little towns in Ohio? Well, Austin has the same kind of posturing with its BS personal slogan of "Keep Austin Weird", which original Austinites and the influx of posers from all around the USA are constantly chanting. But the thing is, Austin isn't weird. Austin is that annoying kid in Jr. High School who thought that he was a "punkrocker" because he listened to the Smiths. It's shallow, self-obsessed, vain and exhibits very little culture or substance. So in other words, Austin is the Paris Hilton of cities. If you enjoy deeply connecting with people, you'll find yourself with very few friends due to the flakey, overly dramatic and totally judgemental personalities that run buckshot over this city. While the list goes on, I am fresh out of time. I've got resumes to submit. That said, my goal is 100% to save up enough money to move out of Austin, and I will do so as soon as Earthly possible. You know they don't even have a planetarium or an observatory here? Sheesh.
Jennifer | Austin, TX | Report Abuse

I am so sorry that you've experienced this. I moved to Austin from Phoenix in 2006 and still consider it the best move I've ever made. However, I don't live in Austin, I live in Bastrop. A smaller community to the East but growing a lot. A diverse population and things to do for every age group. As an artist I find it to be a very art-friendly environment. It is easy to get to any area of Austin, south on the 71 and north on the toll. And, not to far from Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas/Ft Worth if you want to take advantage of those cities events/entertainment. Prices of houses are creeping up, but you can get a very nice 2500sq ft house on half or whole acre for 250k. It is in a neighborhood but is not cookie cutter. Property taxes are higher than other areas of the country, but if you factor in the lack of state income tax, it averages (at least it has for me and a few others I know). It took a few years to understand the area in order to really enjoy it. Gardening took a few years to understand that February is Spring here. But, there are so many seasoned natives that are willing to assist, you get the hang of it quickly. If you haven't left Austin, please come visit Bastrop and see that it is a wonderful, friendly community. There are a lot of outdoor activities. If you want to rent canoes or kayaks and float the Colorado, you will not be crowded and unless it is a river event, you will likely be one of few enjoying the nature. Come down during one of the events or on the evening of the first Friday Art Walk and meet the locals.
Pat | Glendale, AZ | Report Abuse

Radio in Austin IS bad; drive to other areas and it is easy to hear. There is no culture here, no good museums, no aquarium or zoo, barely any outdoor area that isn't dusty and hot as heck, I can't imagine there ever have been a cool city. The music is good, but it is good in lots of other places too. Not bad place to visit but definitely not worth living day in and out. And you are right about the people - superficially friendly, no substance and don't give a hoot about anything other than themselves. Very inconsiderate in communities and neighborhoods. Now, high tech has moved in and people coming in from CA and NE. What little highways there are, are extremely crowded. People drive sloooow, and traffic lights last 4 minutes a piece. It's bad, it really is and I'be been trying to leave for 3 years since I relocated here 4 yeara ago but family issues keep me here. I just want people to know that this IS Texas after all, and Austin too is not very liberal or enlightened.
Dotty | Austin, TX | Report Abuse

Another thing they never mention when talking about affordable cost of living in Austin - property tax is 2.32%, nearly double anywhere else, plus, more often than not HOA's monthly cost which run at least 200.00. How is paying 6600.00 or more total cost a year (not including mortage), affordable? There is no state income tx so only people who own homes are paying for everything, for everyone in this state. That is not a fair playing field given all the non-americans who come across for work.
Dotty | Austin, TX | Report Abuse
Join BestPlaces