• Samantha Linnett

Musings from Austin

After spending a week down in Austin for SXSW, navigating downtown on foot, exploring the parks and green spaces, and eating some amazing food, my impression is that Austin is pretty awesome, and it's no wonder it is growing so fast.

The city certainly has an interesting culture. It's a young and vibrant city (no doubt in part because the net gain of an average of 159 new people moving in per day is made up majoritively by millennials). Politically it is a blue spot in a sea of red with some of the most open and kind people you will meet. It's an artist's haven, full of street art and live music and amazing food trucks. It feels as though you're in the middle of one big party.

Yet it is still a city of the South, and therefore was designed as one. The city itself takes up 271.8 square miles and is not the easiest to navigate. The public bus system was generally reviewed to not meet the needs of residents. While being toted as bikeable, that really depends on where you are. The downtown core and its immediately surrounding neighborhoods are wonderfully dense with beautiful bike lanes and a walkable atmosphere. The far edge of the East Side (where I was staying in the Johnston Terrace neighborhood), not so much. With few sidewalks and plenty of major freeways cutting around this neighborhood, you needed a car to get anywhere.

View from the Congress Street Bridge .

Growing at a massive rate with millennials flocking to this creative tech hub, the City is scrambling to update its infrastructure. Divided and connected by a lot of road, you can find main routes under construction in almost every neighborhood, particularly downtown and on the gentrifying Central East Side. New high rise apartment complexes are popping up in varying stages of construction all over these central neighborhoods. All of this tends to create quite the traffic jam, especially during rush hours, where it can easily take over an hour to get from one spot in the city to another.

A tree full of singing birds sits amidst a landscape of cranes and high rise construction.

While being so spread out and traffic dependent, one way the city has connected its neighborhoods is with an amazing park system. In the City's 300 parks there are 18,714 acres of green space filled with natural springs and wildflowers, and 227 miles of hiking and biking trails, including the 10 mile long Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail that runs through multiple neighborhoods and along the Colorado River. Year round these parks are filled with residents getting their nature fix in this urban setting, and they made walking around the city that much more enjoyable.

View of Downtown from the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.

Food trucks. Live music. Sunshine and green space. A hipster city with southern charm.

Austin is most definitely weird.

In the coming weeks I'll be sharing more about my favorite experiences from Austin, including the food trucks, the parks, the Hope Outdoor Gallery, the Congress Street Bridge bats, coffee, and hot sauce! Stay tuned for more on the live music capital!

The Texas State Capitol illuminated at night.

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