Photo by Ben Sklar

The VICE Guide to Austin

Make Austin weird again. A local's guide to the ATX.

Mar 3 2016, 12:00am

Photo by Ben Sklar

Welcome to Austin! We don't know what the fuck is going on either!

The "Keep Austin Weird" bumper stickers pretty much only show up on sorority girls' 4Runners now, and a more common one these days is "Welcome to Austin, Please Don't Move Here." Everyone and their cosmic Cowboy uncle has an opinion on how Austin has changed; it will be the primary conversation you have with Uber drivers. For good or ill, that's open to debate. An area of town you haven't been to in a few months can still look completely different (condos, always condos), and the list of iconic establishments that are now but foundations for "boutiques" continues to grow. Black flight is a real thing here as the city becomes more homogeneous, with more and more design-focused white yuppies coming every day to take advantage of whatever they can.

The irony isn't lost on anyone. The same "authentic" things that made Austin appealing in the first place—the strange little blueberry in a cherry pie, the arts scene that's a shotgun wedding between hippies and cowboys, cheap housing, SXSW—are pretty much being smothered by progress and brands and the commercialization of a special thing. All the best and worst parts of gentrification. It's a mini tech corridor, still a proponent of music, and very livable if you make a few sacrifices.

The result is a town in flux, suffering growing pains and undergoing a learning curve. On the same street, you'll see start-up jocks, old Austinites of lore, hipsters, health food and yoga cultists, "gosh, y'all" Southern belles, and plenty of cowboy boots. It'll take you longer than imagined to find someone who's actually from here (everyone's so young!). In other words, it's a super interesting time to be here. It won't ever be like it was or how it's been advertised, but that's OK. This is the new-ish land of opportunity. Come on in, the water's fine enough.


In the midst of its rapid rise as a city of importance, Austin is still trying to figure out how to define itself, not just compared to other cities, but the areas that comprise it. Yes, everyone knows The Drag, and Dirty Sixth, and the other main booze-and-food strips people seem to frequent. And yes, while the city has its official list of "districts," you'll have to do better than saying "Old West Austin" or "Judge's Hill" when talking with others. Everybody knows Clarksville's where all the rich people live, and Hyde Park's classy in that old Austin way. But everyone seems to have a personal, and personally revealing, opinion about the Realtor®-friendly use of SoCo for South Congress. And do all the new shops on South Lamar mean that it counts as its own area now, too? More often than not, navigation and bearing-gathering revolves around singular places. This being a young person's town, those singular places are more often than not coffee houses, bars, or taco shops. Oh, you live by Paco's Tacos? Gimme 20 mins. Ugh, yes, traffic on I-35 just keeps getting worse.

Dirty Sixth/ Red River
No one with any sense actually likes Dirty Sixth. It is like every boorish, loud, overcrowded party street in every major town, complete with "shot bars," cover bands, and the kind of people you would never associate with in public or private. As if that weren't enough, the number of police who stand guard during the busy hours lend the street an extra sense of menace. Day time ain't much of an improvement, as it's taken over by the aggressiv