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My Favorite U.S. City: Austin, TX

I first came to Austin for a job. I’d only been here once before, briefly, but really enjoyed the town’s quirky feel. The words “Keep Austin Weird,” a city tagline of sorts, somehow resonated in my head for weeks after my visit. It felt like a call to duty to do my part.

When a six-month photography internship became available at a large commercial studio in June 2004, I applied and got the job. During my six months living and interning at the studio, I made some new friends and Austin quickly started feeling like home. The people here are mostly warm and friendly. When a random stranger on the street or a store clerk asks how you’re doing, it actually feels like they care about your reply. Having lived most of my life in the northeast, this was a strange phenomenon to me, but one that I’ve certainly come to appreciate.

When my internship ended, I started looking for reasons to stay. I felt like I’d just touched the surface of all that Austin has to offer. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the many joys of living in this ‘weird’ little city. First, there’s the live music scene. On any given night you can wander downtown and have your pick of live music being played at any one of dozens of venues. Weekends are particularly exciting. And then there are the music festivals, the most important of which are South by Southwest (SXSW) in the spring, and Austin City Limits in the fall. The city’s streets fill up with music enthusiasts and people just looking to have a good time. The atmosphere becomes circus-like.

The weather here was a huge selling point. I always disliked the cold winters up north—and the mild Austin winters suit me just fine. Sure, the summers can get hot, with highs typically in the 100s, but it’s a dry kind of heat and you somehow get used to it. Businesses and offices tend to be over-air conditioned, so you find it not at all unbearable. Austin also has some wonderful swimming holes, including the chilly waters of Barton Springs pool, and the rocky shores of Lake Travis. There are also plenty of parks in and around town, along with numerous hike and bike trails.

Add to this a fairly educated populace (many are employed by the computer tech industry), affordable housing prices, a fairly healthy local economy, and a decent cultural scene, and you have the makings of a great place to live.

In recent years, Austin has seen an influx of people moving to the city from other parts of Texas and California, prompting some to take measures to try and prevent people from moving here. I’ve recently seen shirts around town that read, “Austin sucks, don’t move here.” It’s all in good fun, of course, and all part of keeping Austin weird.

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