Newcomer’s guide to Austin life: How to live like a local

Elizabeth Williams

There’s no shame in not being from Austin, but now that you’re here, we’ve got a few tips to keep all of you newbies from sticking out like recently transplanted sore thumbs.

Realize that Barton Springs isn’t the only swimming hole in town: While it is a blessing to have such an accessible natural wonder like Barton Springs smack dab in our beautiful city, it is often overrun by obnoxious high school kids and 30-something hipsters wearing tiny swim trunks. Get adventurous with your choice of swimming hole and try one of Austin’s 27 neighborhood pools. Many of these local oases do not charge admission, which works out nicely.

There are funkier parts of town than SoCo: South Congress might have seemed quirky and hip the first time you visited Austin, but eventually you notice that the overpriced vintage stores and super-fried food trailers lose their luster and begin to embody the definition of highway robbery. So go somewhere else. The shops on North Loop make the tourist-targeted wares on SoCo look like child’s play. South First Street has food trailers galore and a frozen banana stand that will make you glad you moved here (Bananarchy, we’re looking at you). 

Learn to thrift shop like a pro: Austin’s thrift stores rock. It’s a simple fact. Searching for killer shoes? Head to Thrift Town. Need some basics? Thriftland’s got you covered and is also mesmerizing in its organization by color and type of clothing. Aiming to be trendy? Take a quick jaunt from campus to Buffalo Exchange. 

Bar districts other than Sixth Street exist: Night life is as vital to this city as breakfast tacos and comes in way more forms than Dirty Sixth. A night on Sixth Street can turn into sloppy amateur hour quicker than you can say, “Why didn’t we just go to Hole in the Wall?” Pull yourself out of the typical college rut and wander down to Rainey Street, Lavaca or East Sixth. As long as you’re 21 years or older, of course. 

Broaden your caffeinated horizons: Starbucks is great for a quick drink on the way to lecture but really can’t compare to spending a long night of studying in one of Austin’s many uber cool cafes. With a strong cup of coffee and an even stronger Wi-Fi signal, there’s no reason you can’t frequent one of Austin’s better coffee shops. Our five favorites are listed in this issue.

Don’t fear the bus: Every UT student ID entitles its owner to free Capital Metro bus fare, and that’s a beautiful thing. Put that ID to good use and explore beyond the 40 Acres. CapMetro also has an ultra-nifty trip planner on their website. Simply enter your start and end locations and desired time frame and receive suggested bus routes that best fit your needs. 

No one needs to be reminded to “Keep Austin Weird”: Obsessively mentioning the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” and talking about how “weird” Austin can be is the hallmark of someone who just moved here. We’re living in an excitingly offbeat place, and we all know it. There’s no need to jinx anything — just enjoy it.