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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Austin parents and grocery store shelves are feeling the effects of a nationwide baby formula shortage.
Caused mostly by a February recall due to contamination issues, followed by the Abbott Nutrition factory closure in Michigan, the shortage has left Austin shelves barren. However, earlier this week, U.S. officials announced a plan with the facility to restart production.
In the meantime, local parents in crisis have turned toward the Mother’s Milk Bank to keep their babies fed.
HEB on East 7th has been picked clean of formula and is limiting purchases. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
The milk bank—which takes donations from lactating mothers and dispenses milk to babies in the NICU—has been helping feed upwards of 30 families in need as the formula supply tightens.
According to the bank’s executive director Kim Updegrove, Mother’s Milk Bank has seen an uptick in calls from parents with healthy babies in need of help since the shortage began.
“We aren't used to hearing from families with healthy infants,” Updegrove said. “They're typically very upset, angry, frustrated, sobbing—it's scary to not be able to feed your infants. So in the past few weeks, those calls have been significantly increasing.”
Mothers are only able to donate if they are within a year postpartum, so Updegrove said they are constantly bringing on and retiring donors. While donors had been on a 30% decline leftover from 2021 when the shortage began, Updegrove said the shortage has led to mass community interest and more than 90 prospective donors in just the past few days.
“We and other milk banks are experiencing significant interest from the community—becoming milk donors and helping to turn around this crisis,” Updegrove said. “Every infant needs to be fed, every one of us can relate to that need, and we need to make sure as a community that it happens.”
Whole Foods downtown was also cleaned out of typical formula. (Laura Figi/Austonia)
While you may still be able to find formula at places like Whole Foods—which currently has goat milk, soy and plant-based formula in stock—Updegrove said it might not be what a baby needs.
Updegrove said it is best to buy types that say “infant formula,” as they are FDA approved and will provide the nutrients, vitamins and minerals a baby needs. Plant-based, homemade, non-cow's milk or diluting formula may not provide the same nutritional value.
As the community navigates the shortage, Updegrove said the most important way to help out is to not panic buy or stockpile.
“This is a crisis for families,” Updegrove said. “This is the time for the community to gather together and figure out what everyone can do to help families with young infants.”
Next time you’re sitting at a red light in Austin, you may look over and see a car without a person at the driver’s wheel.
Autonomous vehicle tech company Argo AI has brought driverless operations to Austin and Miami, starting out with only company employees using the service. Later on, commercial pilots with Lyft and Walmart will carry out ride-sharing and grocery delivery services, with the help of a human safety operator. The company has already made moves on this front in Miami Beach where some Lyft passengers have used its autonomous vehicles with a human operator.
While its platform is designed for integration with multiple vehicle types, the test fleet uses the Ford Escape Hybrid and VW's all-electric ID.Buzz.
The Pittsburgh-based company says this progress on its autonomy platform has been more than five years in the making and boasted about reaching this milestone before others.
"Argo is first to go driverless in two major American cities, safely operating amongst heavy traffic, pedestrians and bicyclists in the busiest of neighborhoods," said Bryan Salesky, Founder and CEO of Argo AI.
Expect to see the autonomous cars on the road during daytime business hours as the tech aims to learn from a diversity of road infrastructure and driving behaviors.
The company, which is testing in eight cities in the U.S. and Europe, has brought its tech to Austin as the company looks to expand in densely-populated cities. In particular, Argo is looking at ridesharing, delivery and logistics companies for integrating its autonomous vehicles into their digital services.
Argo anticipates its service availability to someday cover more than 15 million people in Austin, Miami and Washington D.C.
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