Thousands of Americans relocate to Austin, Texas each year. Katie Wright heads stateside to see if it lives up to the hype

Depending on who you talk to, anywhere between 60 and 100 people arrive in Austin every day - ready to call the city home, making it one of fastest growing places in America.

Why the influx? Well, it’s partly because young professionals are being priced out of places like San Francisco and Seattle, but the Texan metropolis certainly has plenty of ‘pull factors’ as well. And it’s now easier (and cheaper) than ever for Brits to get a slice of the action, with budget airline Norwegian’s new direct flight from Gatwick. My own arrival in ATX - as everyone calls it - is something of a baptism of fire.

First stop, after dropping my bags at the shiny new Fairmont Hotel, is Ranch 616 (, an old-style Ice House decked out with buffalo skulls and neon signs, where I’m tasked with downing a Fire in the Hole - a shot glass filled with tequila and a hollowed-out jalapeno. The trick, says the restaurant’s owner Kevin Williamson, is to drink the liquor from the jalapeno first, then from the glass, and then chase it with a bite of chilli - a combination that leaves my throat burning but my spirits soaring. Come evening, dining is more of a munch and move affair, with all three courses rarely eaten at the same establishment. “We might start at Guero’s ( for tacos and margaritas,” says Casey Barks, a communications manager who relocated to Austin 18 months ago, describing a night of grazing that starts on trendy South Congress Avenue (aka SoCo).

Hunger sated? Then it’s time to party. It’s apt that the bat has become the mascot of this urban jungle, because this really is a city of nighthawks. Every night, about half an hour before sunset, 1.5 million winged creatures take flight from their home under the Congress Avenue Bridge in search of a mosquito dinner. To get a decent view of the incredible mass exodus, sit on the grass slope on the south side of the bridge, and be sure you look up to see clouds of bats disappearing into the darkening sky. Back at street level, Austin’s youngsters are also on the move, flocking in droves to Sixth Street, affectionately called ‘Dirty Sixth’ because, well, it kind of is.

Everyone agrees that a stroll down the infamous strip is all you need to understand why it attracts a hard-partying college crowd. But don’t hang around; instead head to what Austin-born musician Relph Vega calls “legit places”, like The Side Bar ( or The Blackheart ( on bustling Rainey Street, a row of bungalows that have been converted into bars. And, of course, you’re never far from a gig in the Live Music Capital of the World - they’ve actually trademarked that tagline - with C-Boy’s Heart & Soul ( and The Continental Club ( frequently cited as the best blues venues.

Chat to the right resident and they might be able to tell you the security code that unlocks the door of Floppy Disk Repair, which is not actually a tech support store, but the front for a speakeasy bar. I had no such luck, sadly, but hey, it’s good to have a challenge for next time.