Despite the pandemic, 2020 really put Austin on the map, popularizing it as an up-and-coming hub for young professionals, startups and celebrities from big cities across the U.S.
In fact, Austin's A-list is steadily growing. Well-known Austinites like Willie Nelson, Matthew McConaughey and Kendra Scott have been singing the praises of the weirdest city in Texas for years now, but 2020 brought some new arrivals and 2021 is ready for more.
So who moved to Austin in 2020?
In a $100 million deal with Spotify, podcast host, devil's advocate and iconoclast Joe Rogan uprooted his Los Angeles setup and moved it to Austin in July. Since then, Rogan has been making waves around Austin in every which way. From setting up his spaceship-like studio to having drinks with Greg Abbott in the Governor's Mansion, Rogan has made himself at home in the Lone Star State.
James Van Der Beek
After a difficult year in 2019, "Dawson's Creek" actor James Van Der Beek traded in his "concrete jungle" in Beverly Hills for the luscious hill country. Van Der Beek, his wife and all five kids loaded up and moved to a 36-acre compound just outside of Austin in October… after a 10-day road trip to see the sights along the route from California to Texas.
Elon Musk (Probably)
Das baby kann noch keinen löffel benutzen https://t.co/UETqVIA4BP— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1595307493.0
Though Musk confirmed he now lives in Texas, the tech mogul still has yet to confirm his move to Austin and is notorious for his need for privacy. With Tesla's Gigafactory and the Elon Musk Foundation putting down roots in Austin, it just makes sense to see him here. Multiple sources confirmed to Austonia earlier this month, Musk was looking at Austin homes to live in.
Even though few celebrities have confirmed a 2021 Austin emigration, there are a few leads. Here's who is or could be coming to the capital city in 2021:
Distressing fans of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" everywhere, reports that Chris Harrison is moving to Austin have surfaced, revealing the "humble servant and host to Bachelor Nation" is building a house in the Barton Creek area. Fear not, Bachelor fans, Harrison has reportedly said he is not leaving the show.
Debby Ryan and Joshua Dun
Newlyweds Debby Ryan, actress and former Disney star, and Joshua Dun, drummer for Twenty-One Pilots have made some important decisions in Austin—like holding their impromptu wedding right here in Travis County. Ryan spent several years living in Texas during her childhood and Dun, an Ohio-native, said Austin was "tight" on Facebook in 2016. Seems like a match made in heaven.
When the "Dazed and Confused" alumna hosted the Texas Film Festival at Austin Studios back in March, the pandemic had scarcely begun. The indie movie actress is well-acquainted with Austin, having shot several movies here, she'd fit right in. She said she loves Austin so much, she would even be happy quarantining here. Plus, she was pictured in front of a longhorn in August. Coincidence?
The Queer Eye Fab 5
In true Austin fashion, the Fab 5 announced via El Arroyo's famous sign that they would be filming season six of "Queer Eye" here in the capital city. In fact, Jonathan Van Ness, the hair expert on the show, has allegedly been living in Austin since the production of the show was put on pause—he even adopted a dog from Austin Pets Alive!. Though the other fab guys are happily living across the U.S., the gang would all be right at home here.
Here's to a famously fabulous 2021 in ATX!
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As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
Video by Steven Joyner
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.