Native and adopted Austinites (those of us who have a few decades here under our belts) like to complain about how newcomers have changed the city, added to traffic woes, ratcheted up the cost of living and brought in shiny hotels and shopping centers.
But the less crabby among us realize that while people can bring problems, they can also bring progress: Good paying jobs, tax money to build cool things, a major league soccer team.
So if you're out there thinking about moving to Austin—I mean, as apparently everyone is—let us give you some insights on your new soon-to-be hometown.
1. We're not just for weird people anymoreDreaming about becoming an Austinite? Here are 8 Things You'll Love About Us. (Karen Brooks Harper/Austonia)
Part of Austin's draw is its unique bars, restaurants and small businesses like Wild About Music, the Continental Club and the Austin Motel. But Austin has grown long past weird, bringing in hip national restaurant chains and high-end shopping centers, along with sprawling mixed-use developments in the suburbs that cater to the tastes of newcomers and those used to living in more mainstream environments. Plenty for the Keep Austin Weird crowd, and more than enough for everyone else.
2. We are a town of foodies
A server at Uchi on South Lamar delivers food to curbside customers.
(Karen Brooks Harper/Austonia)
Austinites tend to be fit, healthy people, but we do love our food. Our chefs are international celebrities, and our choices range from homegrown Turkish wraps to world-famous sushi to award-winning pizza. During the pandemic, Austin lost some iconic places, but other long-time establishments are pivoting, digging in and staying afloat. Fonda San Miguel is still serving some of the city's favorite interior Mexican food for take-out and dine in, and promises a return of its famous Sunday Hacienda Brunch soon. Vespaio, one of the city's original South Congress eateries, is open for Italian dine-in and take-out. Mother's Cafe, serving vegan and vegetarian fare in Hyde Park since 1980, is also open for take-out and delivery.
3. We're a great city for bikes
(The City of Austin)
We are a bike-friendly city and we are getting more so every year. Over the years, the city has reduced auto lanes to make way for bike lanes, it has created bike-forward intersections to help traffic and cyclists flow together, and it has recently completed phase two of the Walnut Creek Trail System, which will eventually connect north Austin to downtown via 20 miles of paved, peaceful, zero-traffic bike trails. So far, more than half the miles have been built and are open. The town is peppered with bike shops big and small and is headquarters for Lance Armstrong's Mellow Johnny's bike shop, training center and cafe downtown. All that is in addition to the Thursday Night Social Ride (currently on pause until the pandemic passes) that has drawn hundreds of cyclists of all levels to the streets of Austin every week for more than a decade.
4. We have unique neighborhoods to fit your personalityBillion dollar company Rex Teams to join Austin's tech hub (Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock)
Whether your taste and means suit a penthouse in a shiny downtown high-rise or a room in a hostel over a Sixth Street bar, a funky duplex near the university or a comfy retirement community in the suburbs, there's a neighborhood to fit your profile. For instance: Young, hip, trendy and looking to avoid downtown? The East Side is for you. Old-school with some cash and a hankering for the good ol' days? There's a home in South Austin with your name on it. Small school districts, decent shopping, affordable housing and still close enough to see the skyline? Head north. And if you want to be a neighbor to the stars, head out to moneyed homes of Lake Austin and move in next to Sandra Bullock or Joe Rogan.
5. We have a love affair with high techHere it comes: Elon Musk says 'stunning' $1.1 billion Tesla Gigafactory will be built in Austin area (Mike Mareen/Adobe)
They don't call us Silicon Hills for nothing. Nicknamed for its place in the Hill Country and its status as the next Silicon Valley, Austin is one of the most attractive places for the world's biggest tech companies, and they keep on coming. Even as Austinites shake off the vestiges of PTSD in the wake of the devastating tech bust of the early 2000s, the city still loves its tech, welcoming wave after wave of industry barons who want to relocate, build and live here. The most recent, of course, is Elon Musk, whose Tesla factory in Southeast Austin will be home to the new Cybertruck.
6. We offer plenty of star-gazingMatthew McConaughey offers himself and UT football to raise funds for coronavirus recovery
In case you thought Beverly Hills or NYC had the corner on celebrity sightings, you should know Austin is absolutely crawling with famous people. Pretty much year-round—but particularly during our festivals—you really can't swing a stick without seeing Meg Ryan hanging out with Ben Harper at Amy's Ice Cream or Doug Benson wandering around Sixth Street or Bill Murray crashing house parties or Anthony Michael Hall behaving badly in a hotel swimming pool. Celebrities swing in and out of this town in part because Austinites are so used to seeing them that they tend to get left alone to enjoy their lives. But we also have some who actually eschew the million-dollar mansions in the Hollywood Hills and instead buy half-million bungalows in the city's hip neighborhoods or on the shores of Lake Austin. Variety Magazine recently rounded up the big ones, but let us highlight a few: Elijah Wood, Matthew McConaughey, Dan Rather, and most recently, Joe Rogan.
7. We're no place for introvertsTravis County bans outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, with exceptions (ACL Radio via city of Austin)
Get used to crowds—at least, when they're legal again. Right now, the festivals are off due to COVID-19. But when they're on, IT. IS. ON. From the gigantic South by Southwest to the dual-weekend Austin City Limits show, the iconic Eeyore's Birthday (and attendant drum circle), the Kite Festival on the shores of Lady Bird Lake and the Blues on the Green free concerts in Zilker Park, not a month goes by without some kind of festival or event for Austinites to come together and enjoy their beautiful city with their neighbors. To illustrate the pervasiveness of the festival culture in Austin: When the coronavirus made large gatherings impossible, more than 100 festivals had to be canceled.
8. We Are still the Live Music Capital of the World—even without live music
Local singer-songwriter Bonnie Whitmore plays live on Facebook.
Home to an estimated 8,000 musicians and performers, the Live Music Capital of the World feels quieter with all of its nightclubs and venues shut down. But the city is running financial assistance programs to keep its musicians in town and afloat, and has become part of a national pilot program for re-opening its venues safely in the face of the pandemic, which has kept them largely shuttered for six months. Meanwhile, musicians—creative innovators that they are—have taken their shows online for a robust virtual music scene that delivers us a satisfying piece of Austin's musical soul while we wait for the stage lights to come back on.
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The time has finally come, Austin City Limits fans. Try to contain your excitement—there is still lots of prep work to be done.
Festival crews began setting up in the park last week, giving hope and excitement to ticket holders. With just a few days left until the festival's post-COVID debut, use those jitters to plan out the best possible festival season.
Whether it's your first time or you're an ACL veteran, here are a few tips to keep in mind while you prepare for the music.
Don't miss a beat:
What to bring
First things first, put on that wristband before leaving the house so there's no chance of losing it. Also, just as important as your wristband to get in, all attendees must show a negative COVID-19 test obtained within 72 hours of entering the festival. Fully vaccinated attendees may show proof of vaccination instead of a negative test.
Now to the fun stuff.
Pack light. I repeat, PACK LIGHT because you're going to be doing a lot of walking and moving around. That said, there are a few light creature comforts that will make the sizzling sun bearable, starting with a seat: a foldable chair, picnic blanket, whatever, but you'll want to have a place to camp out while waiting in-between sets or enjoying a bite to eat.
If you bring nothing else, make sure you bring a reusable water bottle. Hydration is crucial and water refills are free at ACL, with stations to fill you up all over the park, so save your money on plastic bottles by bringing one.
Sunscreen is a must, especially if you're planning on making it through a full weekend. Lather up but remember that it's not in an aerosol container and weighs less than 3.4 ounces. It's always good to have a bandana on hand, you never know when you might need one, but you can always grab a freebie from festival vendors.
Expect your battery life to be drained from posting on social media and trying to find friends in the crowd. Do not forget a cell phone charger. This year ACL will have antennas through MatSing, which means the typical WiFi challenge will be partially alleviated. You can pack it all in a one-pocket fanny pack, which doesn't have to be clear if it's smaller than 4.5" x 5.5" or any clear bag smaller than 12" x 12" x 6."
What NOT to bring
The ACL gods have spoken and they said no coolers, glass containers or hammocks are allowed. You can bring in a point and shoot camera but ACL prohibits anything with a detachable lens—in fact, the festival prohibits all professional photo and video equipment.If it's illegal, it is probably prohibited. ACL is not allowing any e-cigarettes or vape devices, outside drinks, tents, spiked jewelry, fireworks, bicycles, pets, umbrellas and selfie sticks are all prohibited. Read the full list of illegal items here.
How to get there
Trying to park at Zilker or anywhere close to the park will leave you disappointed—unless you purchase a third-party parking pass, such as at Chuy's on Barton Springs for $100-weekend parking—so it's probably best to nail down another mode of transport because streets nearby will be blocked off.
More likely than not, you'll still have to do some walking if you take an Uber, which partnered with ACL as the official rideshare app. Drivers have designated pick-up and drop-off zones that are often a trek away from the action. Plus, with high demand comes high prices, so you'll need to factor it into your ACL budget. When you're ready to head home, you won't be able to call an Uber until you pass the river, South Lamar Boulevard or the Frontage Road.
Depending on where you're coming from, it may be best to park downtown and shuttle over to Zilker Park. ACL has historically held free, quick and easy shuttles that pick up attendees, bus them all the way to the Barton Springs West entrance and drops them off at the end of the day. You can catch the shuttle at Republic Square Park downtown starting at noon on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. CapMetro also has bus routes around the city that run to Zilker Park, like MetroRapid Route 803.
Biking and walking 🚲
You won't be able to take your bike inside the festival but bike parking is available on Stratford Drive after crossing the Mopac Pedestrian Bridge and on Toomey Road at Sterzing Street and on Azie Morton Road.
How to survive the heat
(Roger Ho for ACL)
You're going to sweat, so make peace with that. Luckily, this year's forecast is calling for relatively mild temperatures. Now that that's out of the way, you can stay cool by dressing light, staying hydrated and giving yourself time to rest in the shade, which is where all the "must-brings" come in handy. Keep attire light and breathable, a hat or a bandana to keep the hair out of your eyes and a pair of sunglasses on hand. (Pssst… Don't miss our ACL style guide!) Make sure to take breaks and explore the air-conditioned areas of the park—the merch store and beer hall offer respite from the sweaty exterior.
What to eat
Like every year, ACL is bringing in only local restaurants, so you know you'll be eating well. Prepare yourself for a mark-up while you're there—there are plenty of restaurants around the Zilker area and on Barton Springs Road that you can sneak out to if you don't want to pay festival prices.
If you are going to eat at ACL, this is a great time to try something new because you can visit Torchy's any ol' time. Why not try Taco Bronco or Tamale Addiction if you're in the mood for Mexican food? It wouldn't be Texas if The Original Black's Barbecue or Micklethwait Barbecue weren't on the list, it wouldn't be trendy if you couldn't get a bodega-inspired snack from Wicky's Walkup, and it wouldn't be greasy festival food if you couldn't get a mac and cheese stuffed grilled cheese from Burro.
For your sweet tooth, Skull & Cakebones serves spooky sweets just in time for fall, Lick Honest Ice Creams creates creamy masterpieces with local and organic ingredients or if you're trying to stay mobile, pick up a handheld pie from Tiny Pies.
How to maximize your time
Don't go into the festival blindsided, lest you miss shows that are important to you. The first step in enjoying the festival to its fullest is by familiarizing yourself with the artists—a big part of ACL is discovering new favorites and up-and-coming musicians. This year, almost 20 local artists are performing and the worst feeling is discovering an artist that you could have seen at ACL.
Next, map out which artists you want to see with ACL's daily schedules. Though ACL has yet to unveil its new version of the app, previous versions allow you to schedule reminders for shows you wanted to see.
Don't forget to download the app prior to the festival—ACL can alert guests of set changes, weather and festival news in real-time.
Who to see
Miley Cyrus brought Billy Idol to the stage at this year's Lollapalooza. (Charles Reagan for Lollaplooza)
Miley Cyrus brought out special guest Billy Idol during her Lollapalooza set to perform their duet "Night Crawling," so ACL guests might get a two-for-one. Tyler, The Creator, took the Lollapalooza set with a theatrical performance that relives his past eras. The queen of Hot Girl Summer, Megan Thee Stallion, successfully got the entire crowd on their feet. It's important to keep in mind that some of these artists might be nearing retirement, like George Strait, so seize the opportunity to catch rare acts live.
There are some local treasures you don't want to miss—Black Pumas, of course, a band that needs no introduction and has its own holiday in Austin; Dayglow, an indie-pop project put on by frontman Sloan Struble; Nané, a thoroughly-Austin band formed from UT students Ian Green and Daniel Sahad, Dayglow drummer Brady Knippa and Black Pumas keyboardist JaRon Marshall; and Sir Woman, a solo project by Wild Child singer Kelsey Wilson.
Ultimately, who you decide to see is up to you but know that you won't regret branching out. You may not love every new band you see but you're bound to find at least one new jam. From the biggest stages, Honda and Lady Bird, to the smallest BMI and VRBO stages, there is a show to enjoy on all of them.
The festival will be here before we know it!
Two of Texas' top 10 most wanted fugitives were arrested this week, one of which was captured in Austin, a gang member by the name of Edward De Los Santos.
De Los Santos, a 43-year-old affiliated with the Tango Blast gang, was arrested at a South Austin hotel on Sept. 22 by the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force, Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agents and the Austin Police Department.
De Los Santos was wanted for continuous violence against family members, assault with injury, possession of a controlled substance and evading arrest with a vehicle. The Tango Blast member was added to the Most Wanted list on Sept. 2 and has been convicted with multiple accounts of aggravated assault, burglary of a habitation and aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon in the past.
The other, 51-year-old Moises Calderon, was arrested for affiliation with the Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos gang on Sept. 23 in an apartment in San Antonio.
Calderon has been in and out of prison since 1991, when he was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years before being let out on parole in November 2014. He has been wanted since violating his parole in October 2020.
Both of the gang members were located thanks to tips, which Texas Crime Stoppers will pay out. Texas Crime Stoppers is funded by the Governor's Criminal Justice Division and pays out cash tips to those who provide information that leads to an arrest.
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Heading to Q2 Stadium? Four months ago, it would've been tough to do so without dropping a pretty penny, but by mid-September, season ticket holders were clamoring to sell their seats for as little as a $10 beer.
While Austin FC continues to sell-out crowds—their most recent match was at capacity despite their record and scheduling conflict with a Texas Longhorns game—demand has dipped as new factors continue to pull down prices.
Austin FC's rocky season has been met with unbridled fan support, but it's also lost that honeymoon-phase traction as they fell to the bottom of the standings, faced a third COVID surge and were met with school, work and good ol' Texas football.
On Sept. 15, Austin FC fan Tanis Olvedo was willing to strike a deal: two beers for a ticket.
Austin FC went from $200+ tickets to this 😪 we down bad pic.twitter.com/Q3yOr7UBiC
— Darth Concha (@davidhidalgo44) September 15, 2021
Although he later sold at cost to another season ticket holder, many fans have seen the value of their season tickets take a serious dip. By Wednesday, Sept. 15, tickets that were once no lower than $36 had dropped to as little as $14.
Austin Anthem member Phil Stanch used his accounting skills to map out the dip in his ticket sales prices.
Phil Stanch found that the predicted value of his season tickets (in orange) will continue to trend downward. (Phil Stanch)
Here are the main reasons why fans say Austin FC's ticket prices have taken a tumble:
Austin FC's first home game on June 19 seemed like perfect timing—by June 16, 51% of Travis County residents were fully vaccinated. Mid-May saw Austin lift its risk-based guidelines to Stage 2 for the first time since the pandemic's onset just in time for the brand-new Q2 Stadium to open at 100% capacity.
But with the third surge sending Austin back into Stage 5 and hospitalizations skyrocketing in late summer, some diehard fans reluctantly began opting for the couch over a 20,738-capacity stadium.
That safety-consciousness comes tenfold for parents of young children who are still ineligible to get vaccinated, at-risk fans and the older population.
School starting and unvaccinated kids. That’s why we haven’t gone in a while. We are season ticket holders, so we have just given ours away to friends and coworkers that can go.— jae (@jae98342926) September 23, 2021
Austin has stuck to capacity and hasn't added any masking or testing requirements, garnering some criticism from fans.
I stopped going because of the COVID surge. I tried to sell my tickets a couple of times and they didn’t move. Then I decided to eat them to make space. Not happy the club didn’t create a mask or vaccination requirement.— Ruben Cavazos (@rcavazos) September 24, 2021
Just as the surge reached its peak in mid-August, schools across Austin once again opened in-person, leaving many families unable to go to late-night games on weeknights. Ten of the club's 17 home games have been on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Sundays—days that have quickly transformed into "school nights."
With 9-5ers unable to justify 8:30 p.m. weeknight games and kids tucked in bed by 10, fewer fans have been able to make their way to the games.
And with school comes another conflict of interest- tried-and-true Texas football is fully underway, and though Sept. 18 saw a sold-out crowd, a few Verde seats were left empty as the two teams played at home at the same time for the first time.
A combo of a number of things:— Tom H (@hallockitup) September 23, 2021
- Wednesday or Sunday games that end around 10pm are not appealing to people with jobs or kids.
- Being in last place hurts, no matter how passionate people are about the team. Nothing on the line.
- This is still Texas, and it’s football season.
While COVID and fall responsibilities have played a factor, Austin FC is also dealing with the unfortunate reality of being a last-place team.
Season ticket holder Doug Mayo was one of the 4% of season ticket holders who didn't renew his deal with the team. Once confident that he would easily sell the coveted tickets for their original price, the team's record plummeted alongside his own ticket prices. Mayo said that the team's 5-4-16 record caused their honeymoon phase to end prematurely.
"The newness wore off fast," Mayo said. "Nobody wants to go to a sporting event when it's 99% certain the team they support will lose."
For Mayo, it'll take a better record and more passionate play on the field to get him back in the 20,000-member season ticket waitlist.
"Mainly (I want) them to start acting more like a professional team," Mayo said. "We were so excited to have something to look forward to throughout COVID and it's just been a disappointment."
I've been a big supporter in general, I went to 4 games in the first half of the season, but no amount of "fan camaraderie" makes me want to spend $30-40 to see a team that plays without heart. And that's bc the last game I saw we actually won (albeit Houston was down a man).— Brown and in Austin (@DisraelTV) September 23, 2021
Still other reasons abound: some fans say it's those $10 beers themselves that cause prices to dip, while others say tickets were overpriced in the first place. Although Austin FC says 96% of season ticket holders decided to renew for 2022, many did so with a grain of salt, including longtime fan Shawn Collins.
"I have tickets in 110 (the Lexus Club) and even when the demand was crazy high I couldn't get face for my tickets because they were so high to begin with," Collins said. "When I got them I figured I'd make back what I paid on games I couldn't attend."
Austin FC's dip in ticket sales may be more of an MLS problem than a unique issue: gameday employee and University of Texas sports business student Ben Patterson said that prices shot up due to pre-season excitement and are now at more normal levels.
"The initial hype of finally having a pro sports team is likely what drove up season ticket prices at the start of the year," Patterson said. "Now that excitement has cooled off, ticket prices have dropped in value steeply."
But while five straight losses are enough to drive at least some fans away, plenty are committed to staying Verde through thick and thin.
It might not be easy being green, but thousands of fans are now enjoying the benefits of $20 tickets as they continue to pack Q2.
Let's not question why tickets are NOT expensive.
Let's just keep buying tickets at $20. Whaddaya say? https://t.co/HkhOjczzZJ
— AC (@Arc34_) September 24, 2021
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