Probably the most common request from my clients when moving to Austin is to live in a walkable neighborhood.
Because of course, walking outside of your home to go to that local coffee shop or taco stand or dive bar is critical for having a quality life.
But then the reality of Austin (and basically everywhere in Texas) comes to life. Finding a quality walkable neighborhood is hard. Very hard. Texas is probably one of the least walking-friendly states in the country. Let’s be honest, who needs feet when you have TRUCKS. BIG TRUCKS!
While it’s hard, it’s doable. So, I’ve gone ahead and outlined the best walkable neighborhoods for you in Austin.
Obviously, Downtown Austin is going to be one of the best neighborhoods, with its high walkability and overall vibrancy. You saw that coming. Downtown Austin is one of the better downtowns that I’ve seen in the US. It stays alive well after happy hour. People actually live here, they aren’t just downtown to work and then go home. And most of the apartments you’ll find here boast walk scores of 90 and above. Not to mention there’s plenty of options when it comes to food, nightlife, and music at all hours.
Also obviously, the cost of living here is quite high. You probably already knew that too. Downtown is one of the only places in Austin where not having a car is feasible. And preferable given how much parking can cost (Usually $75-$125 per car). If you’re coming to Austin without a car, and a healthy budget, Downtown Austin will be high on your radar.
East Austin, as you probably already know with me, is my favorite neighborhood. Only a highway separates it from Downtown, but once you cross it, the lifestyle changes radically. East Austin is the most walkable neighborhood in Austin outside of Downtown. Skipping the strip-mall stage, East Austin went from poor old decrepit buildings to high-end modern apartments and office buildings.
But not in a soulless way. East 6th and Cesar Chavez are still soaked in style and culture. I can’t count how many bars, restaurants, and food trucks are within walking distance from my apartment. It’s awesome. I regularly spend hours walking around here by myself.
South Austin, in my opinion, is the soul of Austin. Everything that comes into your mind’s eye when thinking of this city, is probably in South Austin. Those famous murals, the parks, the funky little shops and boutiques, Zilker park – all of it is in South Austin.
It is possible to have a car-less walkable lifestyle in Austin, but only in a select few areas. For the most part South Austin is a big-street, car-dominated commuting neighborhood. For a truly walkable lifestyle, you’ll have to boost your budget and live along Barton Springs, South Congress, the north part of South Lamar, and Riverside. Otherwise, you’ll likely rely on a car to get around.
The Domain is Austin’s next most walkable area. Built as a second-Downtown, The Domain is a mega master-planned development complete with a large outdoor shopping mall, modern apartment complexes, office buildings, restaurants, and even a whole foods grocery store. But, like any master-planned community, it lacks the same depth of style, personality, culture, or any of those fuzzy feeling things you’d find in other parts of Austin.
However, if you work in North Austin, the Domain would be a great option if you want to keep a socially active lifestyle. As a bonus, the Cap Metro train stops nearby at Kramer Station, giving you easy access to Downtown.
Mueller is quickly becoming its own little microcosm Downtown. With a growing collection of apartments, office buildings, and retail stores, Mueller is transforming into a self-sustaining neighborhood. There’s also a fantastic park area complete with jogging trails, a scenic lake, and an open-air amphitheater. It’s a perfect place to relax, have picnics, stroll through the park, and even catch some local performances.
You’ll have a lot of stuff in the immediate areas to walk to – like a weekend farmer’s market, food trucks, restaurants, shops, and even an Alamo Drafthouse. However, not being as close to the metro rail line, you’ll probably still need a car for access to the rest of Austin.
Tucked just below the river and East of I35 is a small strip of walkable territory. Riverside has a growing collection of apartments and shops that run along the river. It’s one of the coolest options in Austin to live if you have fantasies about running and biking along Lady Bird Lake next to a bunch of dogs. Here you’ll find some cool bars like the Buzz Mill – which also serves coffee and often hosts open-air markets, comedy shows, and music; the Jackalope with it’s large dog-friendly patio, and brand new Frazier’s.
You’ll find the community is full of residents of all kinds, from artists and musicians to working professionals. But while you’ll certainly have a few cool things to walk to around here, keep in mind you’ll need to cross over into the East side, Downtown, or South Austin to really tap into Austin’s best parts.
Clarksville/Tarrytown/Old West Austin
I combined these three micro-neighborhoods since they have a distinctly similar vibe. Each represents a different classic version of Austin. These neighborhoods fall into the more historic districts Austin has to offer. You’re more likely to find older quaint houses, stores in cute bungalow houses, and small home office buildings. While there are a lot of walkable neighborhood streets, these areas are lacking in overall things to do.
Being a little further out of Downtown does mean lots of bike trails and open green space, but you will be lacking some in restaurants and shops that are very easy to walk to. And while the commute into Downtown only takes about 10-15 minutes, you’re more likely to see houses and neighbors rather than spend time at local bars and restaurants.
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