Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash

Let's talk about Nextdoor – it's the app that can make you laugh and groan at the same time. You either hate it, or you love it. And of course, no Nextdoor community conversation would be complete without someone whining about a noisy pet or a car speeding through the neighborhood.

In fact, a new report by Regional Foundation Repair has found that the most popular topics discussed by Austinites on the Nextdoor app are exactly that: dogs and traffic complaints.

The report combed through nearly 59,000 posts and just under 355,000 comments on the app in the 50 biggest cities in the nation over the past eight years to discover the top discussion trends.

Austin ranked as the No. 6 city with the most barking complaints, and No. 10 as the city where dogs dominate the topic of conversation more than cats do. The report suggests that Austin could be a city with a higher dog-to-cat ratio, but we'll let Austinites be the judge of that.

"As cute as furry friends can be, no one likes when they’re forced to listen to what seems like never-ending barking throughout their day, especially during a time when people are working at home more than ever," the report says. "Constant barking can not only make it difficult to focus on work, but it can disrupt sleep patterns, strain neighborly relationships, and result in an overall annoyance at your current situation."

While traffic complaints can be helpful for some who are trying to avoid it, most of the time it can just be a pain to read about. Though it may be the second-most talked about topic on Nextdoor in Austin, the city actually ranks No. 20 for the most traffic complaints in the overall ranking.

California cities notoriously have the worst traffic, with Sacramento, San Jose, and Fresno in the top three for the most complaints on Nextdoor, followed by Houston. But there is one major Golden State city that is noticeably absent.

"Interestingly, Los Angeles, the second most populous U.S. city, ranked as having the least traffic complaints out of all the cities we studied," the report says. "Maybe people have accepted the constant congestion during their commute as normal, and so they don’t bother talking about it with their neighbors."

As far as smelly streets go, Austin has the third-least stinky streets out of all 50 cities included in the study. At least we have that going for us.

The full report can be found on regionalfoundationrepair.com.

Pflugerville, TX Municipal Government / Facebook

Pfun Austin suburb pflies to top 50 most livable small cities

where quality meets life

Pflugerville is as pfun as they come, and according to a new study by SmartAsset, it's one of the most livable small U.S. cities too.

The North Austin suburb ranked No. 31 in SmartAsset's list of 275 small American cities, and was the only Texas city to make the top 50.

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau states Pflugerville's population is 65,191 as of April 2020. The study found that housing costs take up less than 20 percent of an owner's income, only 6.6 percent of residents live below the poverty level, and the city's unemployment rate is only three percent.

"Pflugerville is a fast-growing city, home to residents who enjoy safe streets, a beautiful trail system and share incredible community spirit," the city's website says. "Pflugerville combines trails and community with business opportunities and is the place where quality meets life."

Other factors that helped determine the city's rank include healthcare, average commute times, entertainment, and more.

Other Austin-area suburbs that made it into the report include Cedar Park (No. 118), Leander (No. 138), and Georgetown (No. 141).

Temple, which is about an hour north of Austin, ranked No. 223, while New Braunfels and San Marcos ranked No. 229 and No. 270, respectively.

The top 10 most livable cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Redmond, Washington
  • No. 2 – Sammamish, Washington
  • No. 3 – Novi, Michigan
  • No. 4 – Newton, Massachusetts
  • No. 5 – Arlington Heights, Illinois
  • No. 6 – Palo Alto, California
  • No. 7 – Kirkland, Washington
  • No. 8 – Farmington Hills, Michigan
  • No. 9 – Maple Grove, Minnesota
  • No. 10 – Queen Creek, Arizona

The full report can be found on smartasset.com.

Photo courtesy of City of Round Rock

Round Rock overshadows Austin as one of the best cities for renters

living better in the 'burbs

Round Rock continues to hit home runs for its highly sought-after livability. Now, it can add renting favorability to its growing list of achievements that outshine Austin proper, and continue a pattern of waning interest for living in the city.

Round Rock was deemed the No. 6 best city for renters in a new report by online apartment rental marketplace RentCafe, out of a total 136 American cities. The North Austin suburb's total population is just under 118,000 people, with the average renter's income at $62,293 a year. A renter's average apartment size is around 911 square feet, which is similar to other cities outside Central Texas. Luxury apartments make up a surprising 75 percent of all units in Round Rock, in another blow to Austin.

Austin still faired well in the report, ranking right after Round Rock in No. 7. Austin's average apartment size is 862 square feet, with the average renter bringing in $58,056 a year in income. 65 percent of apartments in the city are high-end, and 20 percent of all Austin apartment buildings were constructed within the last five years.

"[Austin] boasts a remarkable surge in job prospects, one of the highest shares of high-end apartments in the nation and lots of apartments nestled in prime locations," the report says.

Overall, the top 10 was dominated by Texas cities, with North Dallas suburb of Plano ranking as the second-best city, and Conroe earning No. 9.

"Having recently started to make a name for itself as the 'City of Excellence,' Plano lands second on our list," the report says. "Plano’s reputation for producing great academic achievers make it an ideal spot for families looking for a city with excellent public schools, in addition to its great air quality and significant share of high-end apartments."

Filling in the gaps in the top 10 are Charleston, South Carolina (No. 1); Scottsdale, Arizona (No. 3); Atlanta, Georgia (No. 4); Raleigh, North Carolina (No. 5); Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 8); and Arlington, Virginia (No. 10).

Here's how other Texas cities stacked up in RentCafe's report:

  • No. 19 – Denton
  • No. 32 – Dallas
  • No. 37 – Fort Worth
  • No. 41 – Odessa
  • No. 43 – Lubbock
  • No. 53 – Houston
  • No. 55 – San Antonio
  • No. 90 – Corpus Christi
  • No. 91 – Waco
  • No. 120 – El Paso
RentCafe used data from their sister site Yardi Matrix to determine each city's ranking among three major categories: cost of living and housing, the local economy, and quality of life. Cities were chosen if they had an "apartment stock" of a minimum of 10,000 units, and any cities with lower apartment stocks were excluded.
The full report and its methodology can be found on rentcafe.com.
Photo courtesy of the Georgetown Red Poppy Festival

Texans pop over to Georgetown for the annual Red Poppy Festival

seeing red

The signature blue and pink wildflowers seem to have faded from most of Austin proper, but things have turned red in Georgetown. This field day won't put you to sleep, though. The Georgetown Red Poppy Festival brings a parade, music, and more for a lovely suburban retreat from April 28-30.

The main draw are, of course, the bright blooms that visitors can tour using a map of about 100 square blocks. These flowers, which were sent home to Georgetown from Belgium by a soldier during WWI, are now maintained by civilians with an interest in preserving local history. Seed packets to plant in November are available at the Georgetown Visitors Center.

Besides the self-guided flower tour, the flowers are mostly a springboard into Central Texans' favorite things and outdoor festival staples. Some Texans may have visited the suburb earlier in April for the inaugural Two Step Inn festival, which brought some big names in country music and crowds befitting the lineup. The Red Poppy Festival takes a much more local approach for a lower-key visit.

Friday's schedule stays short and simple, with a food and artisan market starting at 6 pm and a concert by funky Austin-based "show band" Dysfunkshun Junkshun at 7 pm.

Saturday is the main event, kicking off at 10 am with a parade and market, and a car show an hour later with awards in the afternoon). The rest of the day belongs to the music, with song and dance performances from jazz bands, local theater groups, Ford Elementary, and more. Children are welcome and invited to hang out at the the "Kids Zone" both weekend days. The main concert, starting at 6 pm, features Alphine band Walburg Boys, country singer Wynn Williams, and well-known Texas folk duo Jamestown Revival.

On Sunday, stunts are pulled at multiple BMX shows and maybe even by talented furry guests at the pet parade. Kids into heavy machinery can get up close and personal with a variety of city and construction vehicles during "Touch-A-Truck," and visitors of all ages may see something culturally new to them including clogging, Zydeco (Louisiana Creole folk), and Indian street dancers.

This is a good excuse to wander around the small town, and the festival provides a guide to local eateries and hotels. It also offers a free shuttle on Saturday.

More information about the festival, schedules, and the surrounding area is available at poppy.georgetown.org.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Country's largest hot springs pool complex plans for Dallas debut

Wellness wonderland

Austin has plenty of places to swim, but the spa culture is pretty niche. Those willing to take a drive for a luxurious weekend always have the Hill Country and Dallas as options, and soon there will be a new wellness spa-amusement park: WorldSprings, a nine-acre outdoor mineral springs experience, will debut in the latter city in spring 2024.

According to a release, it will be WorldSprings' first location in Texas and the largest experience of its kind in the country.

"With pools inspired by the most famous hot springs from around the world, guests can explore WorldSprings’ 45 outdoor soaking pools including cold-plunge pools, Finnish saunas, and a spa which will include wellness therapies as well as a cafe and bar," says the release.

Specific highlights of the experience will include:

  • The Family Pool, the Dead Sea Float Pool and South Pacific Region mineral pools for all ages
  • The Asiatic, European, and Americas region mineral pools for those 18 years old and up
  • More pools, with temperatures that range from warm to hot and from cool to ice cold
  • The Spa, with a menu of body treatments and massages
  • The Sanctuary, offering sound baths and yoga, breathwork, and guided meditation classes
  • Aqua classes, including Aqua Aerobics, Aqua Sculpt, Aqua Yoga and Aqua Float
  • Performance-enhancing treatments including cryotherapy, hyperbaric chambers, and compression therapy
  • WorldSprings Café, from which guests can order food and drinks poolside with their smartphones and pay with a wristband

WorldSprings Grandscape The ColonyThere'll be adults-only pools and family-friendly pools.Rendering courtesy of WorldSprings

The wellness offerings were created by WorldSprings' in-house functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Sara Gottfried, the release says.

Of course, there are not actual hot springs located beneath Grandscape. Each pool will be "meticulously crafted to mirror the mineral content of legendary springs from around the world," explains WorldSprings.

Memberships and three-hour passes will be available, "priced for all to enjoy as a weekly ritual for well-being," they say, although pricing has not yet been disclosed. A limited number of discounted Founding Memberships will be available starting early next year.

”Our ambition is that WorldSprings will democratize wellness by opening locations throughout the country,” says Rob Kramer, managing partner of WorldSprings' owner Off Road Capital, in the release.

The Dallas-area park follows locations in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and a similar concept in La Verkin, Utah, near Zion National Park.

Anticipated opening date is March 2024.

WorldSprings GrandscapeA spa will offer massages and body treatments.Rendering courtesy of WorldSprings

WorldSprings Grandscape will be at 3240 Plano Pkwy., The Colony, joining the booming 433-acre center that includes not only shopping and dining but an escape room, immersive entertainment venue, amphitheater, and more.

"Bringing WorldSprings to this ideal location is a remarkable milestone,” says Justin Foley, general manager of the upcoming Grandscape location, in the release. “As general manager, I'm honored and excited to be a part of such an amazing community and to unveil an exclusive outdoor mineral springs experience – a first of its kind destination in Texas."

3 Lubbock luminaries on what ignites the Hub City

Faces and Places

In Lubbock, Texas, where locals have been pouring their livelihood into both the city and their craft, the community has created a Texas experience like no other. What sets apart a destination from others is the welcoming faces who meet travelers with open doors and a willingness to share the West Texas way of life with all who wander through.

CultureMap recently checked in with three Lubbock luminaries to learn what drew them to the city, what dreams they're making come true, and how visitors can take part in the magic.

Matt Bostick, sommelier and hospitality director of Llano Estacado Winery
Though his roots are in Texas, Matt Bostick found his passion for wine in Italy. While studying hospitality in Florence in 2011, he met Parisian sommelier Quinton Paillard, who encouraged his budding love of vino and set Bostick on the path toward becoming a sommelier himself.

After earning his degree in restaurant, hotel, and institutional management from Texas Tech University in 2012, Bostick joined Jackson Family Estates in Los Angeles. From there, he further honed his expertise as the lead sommelier for Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, under the mentorship of Sarah Clarke A few years later, Bostick co-founded a restaurant called Baldoria and even developed a line of ready-to-drink cocktails with his business partner, David King.

"When David and I decided to create B&K Cocktail Company, our business venture brought us back to Texas," Bostick says. "With my family residing in Lubbock, it was a natural choice to settle here. Lubbock holds significant personal and professional values for me. It's my hometown, where I was born and raised, and where most of my family continues to live and contribute to this community."

Today, Bostick is the events director and sommelier at Llano Estacado Winery, Texas’ second oldest winery. Bostick guides visitors through a sensory journey, introducing them to the complexities of different wines, regions, and vintages while offering insights into history, production techniques, and the unique characteristics of each varietal.

"I help individuals identify tasting notes, appreciate nuances, and even recommend food pairings that enhance the overall culinary experience," he says.

Grape Day on October 21 is an ideal time to visit the winery to see Bostick in action. To celebrate the end of the harvest, which spans late July to early October, Llano features captivating self-guided tours, diverse art booths, delicious offerings from the finest local vendors, exciting games for kids, and a mesmerizing lineup of live music on the Lubbock Listening Room stage.

Admission is free, but for $35 attendees will receive a commemorative Grape Day wine glass along with two tickets redeemable for a glass of wine. Pre-sale drink tickets will also be available for purchase in a bundle of three tickets for $15 (otherwise each ticket is $8 at the event).

"Grape Day holds immense significance to me. It's a celebration that represents the culmination of hard work and a sense of community," Bostick says. "Llano Estacado Winery has not only been a pioneer in the Texas wine industry but has also contributed to our local community's growth. Events like this shine a light on the rich heritage and traditions of winemaking, connecting our community to a broader narrative of craftsmanship and appreciation for the finer things in life."

Ian Timmons, pitmaster and third-generation owner of Tom & Bingo’s BBQ
It's been called a West Texas legend since 1952, and as soon as you step inside Tom & Bingo's BBQ, you'll understand why. This old-school barbecue joint — and Lubbock’s oldest restaurant — is packed with nostalgia and dishes out authentic barbecue that would make original owners Tom and Bettye Clanton proud, and current owner Ian Timmons intends to keep it that way.

While studying at Texas Tech, Timmons worked under Dwayne Clanton (Tom and Bettye's son, who gained ownership of the restaurant in 1980) and earned hands-on experience as a pitmaster. Upon graduation, he moved to Denver with his wife, Kristi, where he worked at Denver Biscuit Company.

"I’ve always worked in restaurants," says Timmons. "From my first job at Dairy Queen to a local restaurant called Orlando’s, where I was a server and got fired for making pizzas during my shift."

Timmons' wife also happens to be Dwayne and Liz Clanton's daughter, making him the obvious choice to carry on the legacy when the couple was ready to retire in 2017.

Now, Timmons pays homage to Tom & Bingo's 70-year legacy by smoking modern bark-on-brisket, his own coarsely ground smoked beef sausage, and pork spare ribs on the original brick pits the predecessors used for decades. He's also expanded the menu to include scratch-made potato salad and slaw, but one item remains a constant since the early days of the restaurant: the steak burger.

"This fall we are switching from our legendary brick pits to a new Centex offset smoker, so it’s back to square one for us," reveals Timmons. "This fall will be a learning season for us! But we are excited to see what a new smoker can do for us."

You can also catch the eatery's new food truck out and about and look forward to more biscuit collaborations with Monomyth Coffee (inspired by Timmons' time in Denver, of course). "We'll also hopefully open a Biscuit Club location to help grow the breakfast scene in Lubbock," Timmons hints.

But perhaps the tastiest way to experience Tom & Bingo's, besides visiting the restaurant itself, is by sampling its goods at the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in November. Held in Lockhart, November 4-5, the event helps raise funds for Feeding Texas and a network of food banks across the state.

Yung Cry Baby, aka Aaliyah Limon, resident artist with Charles Adams Studio Project
Full-time musician and vocalist Aaliyah Limon was born and raised in Lubbock, but when she was younger, she didn't feel the city had a place for her yet. After graduation, the aspiring talent took off to explore both coasts, working as a model and artist, but after a while realized she wasn’t as fulfilled as she had hoped and missed her family.

"I needed a break from my fast-paced lifestyle," she says. "I came back home to be with family, take a step back, and reassess what I really wanted to do with my life. When I moved back, my music took off much faster than I ever anticipated."

Now Limon is professionally known as Yung Cry Baby and serves as a resident artist with the Charles Adams Studio Project, a nonprofit that supports working artists in Lubbock.

"Because I'm passionate about it and motivated by the people who resonate with what I sing about, I've kind of kept with the momentum of things," Limon says. "I'm excited about what I do, and I love helping people heal through my music. Even if it only helps a little, it gives me a lot of joy knowing I can maybe help someone not feel alone."

Fans can see Yung Cry Baby perform not only at the karaoke bar she hosts at, but also at First Friday Art Trail, a monthly arts festival located in downtown Lubbock with a mission to bring together collectors, artists, and community friends for an evening of art, music, and fun. Participants are ever-changing, offering something for everyone.

"I love doing community-based things, especially when it comes to art," Limon says. "First Friday is always a blast for me."

Yung Cry Baby is currently working on her first full album, following the earlier release of her EP. Follow her on social media for updates.


Experience the people and places of Lubbock yourself by planning your next vacation here.

Llano Estacado Winery wine glass

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock

Matt Bostick helps visitors appreciate the wine at Llano Estacado Winery.

UT Austin rises to the top in new list of best Texas schools for 2024

go longhorns

The University of Texas at Austin continues its streak of high rankings for its high-quality educational experiences. The home of the Longhorns earned a coveted top three spot on U.S. News and World Report's just-released list of the Best Colleges in Texas for 2024.

UT Austin claimed No. 2 in Texas, and ranked No. 32 nationally. The public institution had an undergraduate enrollment of more than 41,300 students in fall 2022. The school, which costs $11,698 in tuition for in-state students and fees each year, ranks No. 9 for "Top Public Schools" by U.S. News.

In April, UT's Cockrell School of Engineering ranked No. 7 in U.S. News' ranking of the best graduate schools in the country, while McCombs School of Business earned the No. 20 spot among business schools.

UT Austin actually fared similarly in Niche'slist of top public universities, in which it ranked No. 6 nationally.

U.S. News' profile of UT Austin says the university prides itself on being a top-tier research institution.

"UT Austin has been a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities since 1929," the site says. "The university attracts nearly $800 million annually for research. Top accolades include the creation of the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines and the worlds’ fastest supercomputers for open research."

The university also boasts a rich campus culture that encourages students to participate in different organizations and activities.

"Students can participate in more than 1,000 clubs and organizations or in the sizable UT Greek system," the site says. "The university has several student media outlets, and its sports teams are notorious competitors in the Division I Big 12 Conference. UT also offers hundreds of study abroad programs, with the most popular destinations being Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and China."

Ahead of UT Austin in the ranking is Rice University in Houston. The "Ivy League of the South" ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 17 nationally.

Just behind UT Austin is College Station's Texas A&M University, which placed No. 3 in the Texas rankings and No. 47 nationally.

U.S. News' top 10 best colleges in Texas in 2024 are:

  • No. 1 – Rice University, Houston
  • No. 2 – University of Texas at Austin
  • No. 3 – Texas A&M University, College Station
  • No. 4 – Southern Methodist University, Dallas
  • No. 5 – Baylor University, Waco
  • No. 6 – Texas Christian University, Fort Worth
  • No. 7 – The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson
  • No. 8 – University of Houston
  • No. 9 – Texas Tech University, Lubbock
  • No. 10 – University of St. Thomas, Houston

The full rankings can be found on usnews.com.