The City of Austin is the nation’s 11th largest metropolitan area and the State of Texas’ fourth largest with 790,390 residents (2010 census), growing by 160 people per day in 2017. It is comprised of 272 square miles over canyonlands, lakes , rivers and creeks, and flat land mostly in Travis County, Texas. It was first settled in 1835 as Waterloo but was renamed after its founding father, Stephen F. Austin, soon thereafter.
Homes For Sale in Austin Texas
Location of Austin, Texas
Austin is in “Central Texas” — for the most part situated atop the Balcones Escarpment where I-35 runs. East of the fault line is flat terrain with heavy clay and loam soils, whereas to the west it’s a limestone base with a thin layer of topsoil. The limestone is hilly and undulating, giving rise to the oft-heard, “Texas Hill Country,” phraseology.
The city today is unique for a city of its size. It has community spirit, free-thinkers and the monikers, “Keep Austin Weird,” a reference to efforts to keep it from becoming a sterile copy of other large U.S. cities, and “Live Music Capitol of the World,” a reference to the numerous live music venues (most per capita in the U.S.) and the long-running PBS show, “Austin City Limits.” And as of November 2012, it also become the sole home of Formula 1 auto racing, where 117,000 packed the stands for the inaugural race. The next F-1 races will be November, 2017. Concerts and events are also held at COTA on a regular basis.
When IBM set up shop in Austin in the 70’s, the city used it as a springboard to cultivate more high-tech business. IBM is still a leading employer here and is joined by a host of other notable names: AMD, Apple, Broadcom, Google, Intel, Qualcomm, ShoreTel, Synopsys, Texas Instruments, Samsung, Silicon Labs, Nvidia, 3M, HP, Applied Materials, Cirrus Logic, Cisco Systems, eBay/PayPal, Bioware, Hoover’s, Intel, National Instruments, Buffalo Technology, Oracle, Hostgater and United Devices.
The largest employers are: Austin Independent School District (AISD), City of Austin, Dell Computer, Samsung, U.S. government, St. David’s Healthcare, Seton Hospitals, State of Texas, and Univ. of Texas.
Austin Demographics and Miscellaneous
State capital; contains parts of Travis, Williamson and Hays counties, 271.8 square miles — 263.9 land and 6.9 water; Central Time Zone (CST); Zip codes: 78701-78705, 78708-78739, 78741-78742, 78744-78769; Phone area code: 512; straddles Balcones Escarpment fault line; ethnic makeup: white, 48.7%, hispanic, 35.1%, African American, 7.7%, Asian, 6.2%, American Indian, .2%, Pacific islander, .1% and other, 3.4%. AGes: under 18, 22.5%, 18 to 24, 16.6%, 25 to 44, 37.1%, 45 to 64, 17.1%, and 65+, 6.7%. Median household income: $42,689; median family income: $76,091; median house price: $235,206.
Getting Around in Austin
There are six major roads serving as the big arterials for Austin. Running east-west through the city are Hwys. 71 and 290, TX Toll Road 45, and parts of Loop 360. North-south are I-35, Mopac, Hwy. 183, and Toll Roads 183A and 130. Other major roads are RR 620, Lamar Blvd., Southwest Parkway, Congress Avenue, and Parmer Lane.
Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) is 5 miles southeast of downtown near the intersection of Hwys. 183 and 71 and a short commute. Air traffic is growing at ABIA and non-stop flights to many destinations can be booked, including to Silicon Valley. Additional capacity was added in 2016.
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Cap Metro) operates public transportation bus lines into and from the inner city, plus the new 2010 Metro Rail running the 32-mile stretch from north Leander to the Austin Convention Center …and a few points in between.
The Univ. of Texas operates buses for students in and around the campus areas. As a result, students make housing near bus stops very high demand.
Amtrak has service through Austin. The Texas Eagle station is downtown at 250 North Lamar Blvd.
Bicycling is popular here in Austin. As of today, 1% of Austinites ride their bikes to work each day. The most bike-friendly city in Texas, Austin has been awarded the Silver level rating from the League of American Bicyclists with devoted bike lanes on many streets.
Austin also is a leader in electric cars. In fact, the highest concentration of Chevy Volts is right here. Tesla chose Austin to be its first market. There is a Tesla dealership here. Many people love Austin for its green look, sustainable lifestyles and green living. Now a federal EPA program, Energy Star was originally a City of Austin program, started here in the 1970’s. Car2Go is also a program, whereby Smart cars can be leased at one location, driven around town and left elsewhere, ready for the next renter. You will also see many Nissan Leafs on the road; the City and some businesses offer free charging stations and close-in parking to electric cars. Google is testing driverless cars in Austin.
Austin is in a semi-arid region, characterized by hot summers and mild winters. Snow is rare here, as is ice. Average daily maximum temperature comes in August on average and is 95.6 F. Lowest highs occur in January with readings just over 60 F. Hottest lows come in July with an average of 73.4 F while coldest lows occur in January at 40 F. 2016 was our hottest year yet. 2015 was hottest before it and 2014 was hottest before that. Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years have been since 2000. Yes, it is getting hotter.
Typically, we receive 33.6 inches of rain per year, very rarely see a tornado and experience 12 days over 100 F and 18 days under 32 F. Right now our reservoirs are full and rain has been falling plentifully. We love rain in Austin. Bring it! Hurricanes that come into the Gulf of Mexico usually are good news for Austin, with their accompanying rain.
There are 29 independent school districts (ISD’s) in the Austin area. Austin ISD is the largest, but others from surrounding or engulfed communities permeate the city in places. They are: Eanes, Lake Travis, Leander, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Manor, Del Valle, and Hays. There are 17 charter and 69 private schools in the Austin area.
According to a study by researchers at the Central Connecticut State Univ., Austin is the 16th most literate city in the nation. The Univ. of Texas has the seventh largest academic library in the country and has been voted #1 college town by The Travel Channel. AISD student population is shrinking while suburban districts are growing fast.
As of 2009, 39 per cent of residents had a BA degree, ranking it #8 among U.S. cities with the degree. Forty-three percent over the age of 25 have the degree while another 16% have graduate degrees.
The Univ. of Texas undergraduate and post-graduate student body numbers 50,000. UT spends $640 million per year on research. Other universities, colleges and schools in Austin are: St. Edwards, Austin Community College (ACC), Concordia, Huston-Tillotson, Seminary of the Southwest, Acton, Austin Graduate School of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Virginia College, Art Institute of Austin, Austin Conservatory and Park Univ.
Austin Sports Scene
The Univ. of Texas dominates the Austin sports scene, competing in major sports within the 10-member Big XII Conference. Its football and baseball teams won national championships in 2005. Volleyball was champ in 2012. Football is played in the newly-expanded and renovated 101,000-seat Darrel K. Royal (a former coach, now deceased) -Texas Memorial Stadium. Baseball is played across I-35 from the stadium in the UFCU Disch-Falk Field, also recently expanded and renovated. It now can accommodate 6,756 fans. Basketball has Shaka Smart as new coach, and football hired Tom Herman in 2016.
On the professional level, Austin has the Texas Stars hockey team, an affiliate of the Dallas Stars, and the Austin Toros, affiliated with the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Development League. Soccer champ in 2013 was the Austin Aztex. The Stars won the Calder Cup in 2014.
Amateur sports abound. Austin has 80-some races per year for runners, most notably the Capitol 10K, the U.S.’ fifth largest such. The Austin Marathon, since 1992, is gaining in stature each year and is a qualifying national race.
Swimming, bicycling and auto racing are here or on the horizon. Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France 7 times and has done a lot for his sport in his hometown. The Capitol City Triathlon is staged each Memorial Day on and around Lady Bird Lake.
Formula 1 Racing began in November 2012 near the Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA). The State of Texas will spend $25 million per year the first 10 years to help with sanctioning fees. The new Circuit of the Americas (COTA) was completed at an estimated cost of $300 million by private investors, including UT grad and businessman, Red McCombs.
Austin Dining and Retail
Since Austin grew to more than a million people in the MSA, national restaurant chains and retailers have wanted to enter our market. The Domain in the geographic center of Austin, near where Mopac, Hwy. 183 and Loop 360 meet, is Austin’s first truly upscale mall. It is a multi-use area with limited vehicular access, nice pedestrian and park area, loft apartments, a couple boutique hotels, and of course many top-end stores.
Other shopping areas around the city are: Barton Creek Square Mall (Austin’s largest), Lakeline Mall, Southpark Meadows, Highland Mall, the Mueller Airport Development, a wide swath of downtown, and South First, Congress and Lamar.
Restaurant choices are many. Some sources say Austin has more per capita than any other city in the U.S. Regardless, there are eateries for every taste, from food trailer courts to fine dining to casual and BBQ. Places like Mighty Cone, Hopdoddy, Home Slice, McCormick & Schmicks, Chuy’s, Rudy’s BBQ, Sullivan’s, Carmelo’s, Franklin BBQ and The Salt Lick.
Austin Form of Governance
The City of Austin now has ten (10-1) councilperson districts. It formerly used the old at-large city councilperson election method. Council members are now elected for each of ten districts. There is the mayor, a mayor pro tem, and nine other members. There is a hired city manager and other hired posts. Candidates run non-partisan and stand for election every two years. Without a majority in each race, a runoff follows. The City of Austin conducts its business at the new city hall, located at 301 West Second Street, with Steve Adler as newly-elected mayor in early 2015.
Since the 60’s city leaders have traditionally been very environmentally aware. And citizen groups monitor development, water sourcing and use, wildlife, and energy production and consumption to make Austin a greener city. In fact, by 2020 the City of Austin has pledged to make itself the first city in the nation to be 100% green and sustainable.
A few enclaves around Austin are green home developments and quite a few buildings are LEED-certified. MSN calls Austin the “Greenest City in America.”
Along similar lines, Whole Foods started in Austin and has become the leader in organic and natural grocery stores around the country. Its flagship HQ store is located at 601 North Lamar Blvd. and a new, larger store in The Domain opened in December 2013. Similar stores have arrived: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Wheatsville, and Natural Grocers.
Austin Central Business District
A provision requiring the state capitol building be viewable from various vantage points in the downtown area called the “Capitol View Corridor” has made Austin’s skyline what it is. –Basically low with tall towers here and there. The previous mayor initiated a drive to populate the urban core more densely. Resulting are some of the tallest condo towers in Texas. The tallest in Austin is the Austonian with 56 floors and rising 683 feet. The 360 Condominiums were recently completed as well and reach 563 feet up into the sky. Many other projects are now underway, given Austin’s fast growth and demand for hip housing. The Independent was announced in April 2015 as the newest, tallest condo project to come down the pike. It surpasses all others.
Increasing population in the downtown area has ensured vibrancy for restaurants, bars, businesses, museums, coffee shops, boutiques, hotels, city hall and Lady Bird Lake. The hike and bike trail around the lake draws hundreds and often thousands of people downtown each day to exercise on or along the lake. Famed Zilker Park is along the trail on the south side of the lake and is one of the nation’s largest urban parks.
The March South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival is staged in about 90 downtown venues. Events spill out around town and help it to be Austin’s largest economic boost of the year, with an impact of nearly $170 million over four days. A film and electronics event has grown alongside SXSW and are becoming big draws on their own.
Downtown parks are famous for their fests and celebration hosting. Some of the unique Austin fest that keep Austin weird are: O Henry Pun Off, Eeyore’s Birthday Party in late April, Spamarama, Reggae Fest, Art City, Carnaval Brasileiro, Pecan Street Fest, and Halloween Night.
Also downtown you will find the “moon towers,” tall street lights that are antiques. No other city in the country has any that still operate, whereas Austin has 15. They were not even supposed to be here, but the manufacturer put them on the wrong train. Instead of arriving in Minnesota, they came here. The rest is history.
Austin Music Scene
With being “The Live Music Capitol of the World” comes a wide range of music and styles. The are cultivated organically right here in Austin …and via many music fests in Austin, drawing artists and audiences alike. The most venues in one place are found on East Sixth Street. There are dozens of bars and nightclubs featuring nightly or weekend live music. Your choices are many and include Stubb’s, The Backyard, new Austin Music Hall among others.
SXSW is big and rated the #1 music festival in the country. Another of our famous music fests is Austin City Limits (ACL). Though they cannot compare in size or stature, some of the other popular events are: Urban Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Chaos in Tejas, ReggaeFest, Spamorama, Eyeore’s Birthday, and Old Settlers Music Fest.
The Austin Lyric Opera was founded in 1986 and performs at the brand new Long Center for the Performing Arts on the south side of Lady Bird Lake.
Austin’s annual Austin Film Festival celebrates the movie-making industry and salutes the efforts the City of Austin makes to attract productions. Along with the City of Austin, the Austin Film Society has converted several former hangars at the Mueller Airport into film making studios called Austin Studios.
Movies you may have seen which were made in Austin are: True Grit, Grindhouse, Machete, A Scanner Darkly, Man of the House, Secondhand Lions, Walking Life, Spy Kids, The Alamo, Hope Floats, Slacker, Doubting Thomas, Miss Congeniality, Office Space, and Dazed and Confused. Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater are Austinites and prefer to film here in their hometown vs. Hollywood.
Creativity is encouraged in Austin, so there is a wide range of productions — from well-planned and professional to whimsy impromptu and lower budget. Among the venues in the former category are Zachary Scott Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Long Center for the Performing Arts, Austin Playhouse, Scottish Rite Children’s Theater, and Hyde Park Theatre. In the latter category are: Salvage Vanguard Theater, Vortex Repertory, Rude Mechanicals’ the Off Center, Blue Theater, Hideout Theater, ColdTowne Theatre, New Movement Theater, and Esther’s Follies.
Austin has some pretty high-profile museums …as well as some lesser known that make significant cultural contributions to the city. Some of the big names: Texas Memorial Museum, Blanton Museum of Art, Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Palmer Events Center, George Washington Carver Museum, Republic of Texas Museum, Texas State Capitol Building and Complex, Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, Elisabet Ney Museum, Harry Ransom Center, and Austin Museum of Art–Downtown and Laguna Gloria.
Less known among the museums are: South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, Mexic-Arte Museum, Children’s Museum, Doughertys Art Center, French Legation, Texas Highway Patrol Assoc. and Museum, Texas Military Forces Museum, Jones Center for Contemporary Art, and O. Henry House. Many of these can be found listed on the “100+ Things to do in Austin” page, with short descriptions and phone numbers.
Museum entry is free on a Sunday in mid-September. Check the Austin museum web sites for details.
Information deemed reliable as of 01/18/2017.