City Spotlight: Austin, TX
The bustling city of Austin is one of Texas’ brightest jewels, offering an immense array of arts and attractions to enjoy, a rich history to explore, and innovative businesses that regularly expand into new markets and drive job growth in the region. Austin’s beginnings can be traced back to the 1830s when immigrants from Mexico, Germany and Sweden settled along the Colorado River and established the village of Waterloo. Before that, the area was inhabited by numerous Native American groups, including the Tonkawa and Comanches. Austin was formally chartered in 1839 and named as the state capital by the Texas Congress. Today, Austin is home to nearly one million residents, and is known for its options in high-quality higher education, as a center for technology industries, and as a destination for world-renown music, culture, and the arts.
Weather and Climate
Located near the heart of Texas, Austin is often thought of as one of America’s sunniest cities, and it certainly does enjoy a warmer, sunnier, and drier climate than the average American town. Austin typically sees long, hot summers followed by short, mild winters, and gets less than half the average number of days of precipitation, averaging 50 rainy days a year compared to the U.S. average of 102. The amount of rainfall and snowfall is also lower, at 33.8″ and a measly 0.5″ respectively, compared to 39.2″ of rain and 25.8″ of snow for the average U.S. community. As one would expect, the number of Austin’s sunny days is 13 higher than the U.S. average at 228 per year, but due to a relatively low humidity, its comfort index (a measure of comfortable year-round climate) is significantly higher at 68, compared to the U.S. average of 54.
Austin is probably best known for its amazing music festivals and venues, however there is no shortage of other spectacular things to do and places to go, including some amazing natural attractions, festivals, artistic displays, nightlight, and racing events.
- The Great Outdoors: Austin is ranked by USA Today as America’s 12th fittest city in 2017, due in part to its high percentage of residents who regularly exercise and its low obesity rates. Austin’s numerous options for exciting outdoor fun contributes to that ranking, giving residents and visitors alike a wide range of things to do. The Lady Bird Lake Trail offers 10 miles of off-road beauty in the heart of Austin, and Austin’s Barton Springs Pool provides guests with a stunning 3-acres large watering hole where the clear, spring-fed water is a consistent 68 degrees. The city also offers several options for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, backpacking, rock climbing, camping, and cycling.
- Festivals: The bustling city of Austin seems to never sleep, where home, work, and fun often combine through its year-round events and festivals. The Food and Wine Festival that is held every April showcases the work of over 40 chefs and food artists, with grilling demos, wine tastings, and cocktail seminars. More eclectic options like Austin’s Fantastic Fest offer visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the worlds of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films each fall, while Austin’s Old Settler’s Fest has been celebrating local bluegrass and country music since 1987. However, Austin’s most famous festival has to be the South by South West (SXSW) music festival held each spring and featuring the work of over 200 artists in over a week of non-stop music, gaming expos, and an innovative technology trade show.
- Arts: Austin is known world-wide for its creativity and passion for the arts. Home to numerous museums including the Harry Ransom Center, the Blanton, the Carver Museum and the Mexic-Arte Museum, each of which offer a different look into the region’s culture, history, and works of art. Art is certainly not limited to the four walls of a typical museum, as painters, writers, photographers, dancers and musicians can be found working their craft in many public places around town. And don’t forget to check out the edgy Cathedral of Junk, a labyrinth of mass-produced odds and ends that has been slowly growing in the backyard of a South Austin neighborhood.
Austin’s diverse culture is a celebrated facet of the area, with a population consisting of many cultural groups and ethnicities. The culture of the city is reflected in the wide range of restaurants, entertainment venues, neighborhoods and festivals of the area.
- Neighborhoods: Austin has at least eight distinct neighborhoods and communities, from the bustling Downtown district with its upscale restaurants and high-rise apartment buildings, to suburban communities like those found in West Austin. The homes in East Austin tend to be more affordable, and has historically been a favorite area for young artists and musicians. South Austin and its communities like South Congress (SoCo) are more notable for their eclectic concentration of odd shops, funky venues, and edgy restaurants and bars.
- Food and Drink: Like most big cities, Austin features over one hundred taprooms, beer gardens and cocktail bars, which offer a full range of drinking options. Restaurants are equally varied and spectacular, with an impressive array of ethnic restaurants, grills, barbecue houses, steak houses, and even fresh seafood!
The Austin Independent School District (AISD) includes an impressive 130 public schools and over 82,000 students, served by 6,244 teachers and supported by another 5,983 administrators and staff. AISD has exceeded both state and national averages on the SAT and ACT for the past five years, and has a four-year on time high school graduation rate of 89.7%. There are another 70 private schools that serve Austin area, offering educational programs tailored to specific religious backgrounds, art institutes, college preparatory programs, and more.
The residents of Austin value their education. According to the U.S. Census, 87.5% of adults have a high school diploma or better, and an impressive 46.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or better, compared to the Texas statewide rate of 27.6%. There are numerous colleges and universities in the Austin metropolitan area, including the University of Texas at Austin, St. Edward’s University, Concordia University Texas, the Art Institute of Austin, and ITT Technical Institute at Austin.
Austin boasts an incredibly low unemployment rate, at 3.0% in July 2017, much lower than the national average of 4.4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth has been good in recent years, averaging about 3.02%. Austin’s largest industries are advanced manufacturing, clean energy, management and finance, education, construction, healthcare and life sciences, creative and digital media technology, and space technology.
According to the latest year available in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics database, Austin has a violent crime rate of 3.96 per 1,000 residents, and a property crime rate of 41.4 per 1,000 residents, numbers which have been declining rapidly over the last five years.
Austin is served by the Capital Metro bus service and Commuter Rail system, which together offer reliable, affordable public transportation between the downtown area, local suburbs, the airport, government buildings, and the University campus. The system also offers para-transit service for disabled individuals within a quarter-mile of the network’s transit lines. Austin was recently named #9 in a list of America’s best U.S. cities for public transportation, by the U.S. News & World Report, with over 3,000 stops and over 140,000 rides per day.