The Great Debate: Austin vs. San Antonio

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Erin Lipinsky
Oct 29, 2020

In Texas, we love a little city banter. For the love of all things sports, city swag, and ‘up-and-coming’ anything, neither Houston nor Dallas will admit the other has anything better to offer. Dallas and Fort Worth make up an entire North Texas metroplex and trying to compare those two are like apples and oranges. Austin’s too hipster for Houstonians and Houston is too swampy for the likings of too-cool-for-school Austinites. We’re not even going to get into West, Texas, or the panhandle because we’d be here all day!

But, what about Austin and San Antonio? We love ‘em both – San Antonio is chalked full of vibrant Hispanic culture that pulsates throughout the entire city, and Austin is vibey as hell. We’re going to bypass the obvious outward draws of each city, such as The Alamo and River Walk, and ACL and SXSW so the cities can duke it out based on what’s most important…

When it comes to tacos, traffic, hill country access, culture, and apartments, which will come out on top?

Tacos

Whose knee-jerk reaction was Austin? Rumor has it that you’d, in fact, be mistaken! According to locals who have spent a significant amount of time stuffing their faces with tacos in both cities, San Antonio wins out on this one. Both cities have fabulous food cultures but when it comes to Texans’ beloved tacos, the strong Latin presence in San Antonio brings with it an authenticity that can’t be outshone. 

Try local taco legends such as Ricky’s Tacos off Babcock Rd., Henry’s Puffy Tacos in northwest SA, and Tacos N Salsa in north SA to get your fix. While you’re out, we recommend grabbing a side of elote and delicious Mangonada to bring the San Antonio taco experience full circle! 

Obviously, Austin is known for its food culture and novelty mom and pop dine-in dives, but since we’re talkin’ tacos here, don’t sleep on Veracruz Al Natural Food Trucks located throughout the city, Taco Joint in central Austin, Las Trancas Taco Stand off of E. Cesar Chavez, and Valentina’s near Slaughter and Menchaca!

San Antonio landmark

Traffic

Now that we’ve talked “tacos,” let’s talk traffic. In a recent article by Statesman, “Austin is No. 19 in the U.S. for most congested traffic, and No. 179 globally.” Don’t worry, though, beloved Austinites, Houston still takes the cake for the densest highway congestion in Texas. 

Austin was rumored to have leveraged early city infrastructure from the standpoint of “if we don’t build, they won’t come,” but “they” came anyway. It just grew too big for its britches too quickly, so the roads don’t accommodate the number of cars and city transplants Austin hosts. The outcome? Immense traffic at any popular commuting time of the day and ongoing construction on the roads.

San Antonio, however, was established with a little more space to work with and for a growing population. So the highways are a bit wider and allow for a better flow of traffic, but you cover more surface area so travel might naturally be lengthy, anyways. We’re not saying traffic doesn’t exist in good ‘ol San Antone – it does – it just won’t delay you as long as Austin traffic will.

The battle for ‘Hill Country Capital’

We can all agree that one popularly shared pastime of anyone who has spent time in Texas is going to the hill country and floating the river. It’s an experience that brings attention to the Texas hill country the second it’s warm enough to endure a 2 to 3-hour float session with family and friends. That’s obviously not all that makes hill country the hill country, but it serves as a major selling point. So, which city takes the cake in this regard? Both.

Austin offers a variety of hill country counterparts that serve as perfect day trips and river-floating destinations. There’s 7A, the Blanco River, and Salt Lick just southwest in Wimberley and Driftwood. There’s Lake Marble Falls and Horseshoe Bay northwest of the city, and a continuation of the Blanco down in San Marcos. You’ve obviously got Lake Travis knocking at your front door, which is always the perfect remedy for escaping the hustle of the city and chasing coastlines of cedar trees.

San Antonio has ease of access to hill country gems like New Braunfels and the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers, and Gruene Hall, with Canyon Lake neighboring closely over in Comal County. A few fan-favorites to visit are Cibolo Creek in Boerne just northwest of the city and Texas wine country just north of that in Fredericksburg. You’ve also got the Luckenbach staple just a hop and skip away from those.

City culture and college pride

San Antonio is home to generations of deeply-rooted Hispanic culture that permeates throughout the city. Radio stations host cumbia top 40 remixes and local markets offer vendor and eatery space to serve up and display all kinds of creations! This makes the city a very vibrant and colorful place to live. When it comes to live music, however, Austin wasn’t crowned ‘music capital of the world’ for nothing, let’s just say that.

Although the cake of citywide college pride goes to Austin and the unwavering fanbase of the University of Texas Longhorns, San Antonio is die-hard about their national basketball team, The Spurs! During the basketball season, the city comes alive in support of The Spurs and you can bet your bottom dollar anyone there would tell you that backing any other team is absolutely the wrong choice. The same sentiment goes during college football season in Austin – ‘Hook ‘em’ or nothing – don’t fight it.

austin texas mural

Austin definitely has more of a city vibe than an established culture. Since it’s one of the most sought-after cities to live in Texas, it’s home to a significant number of transplants while San Antonio is the lifelong home to many of its residents. Austin has more of a youthful population that can skirt the descriptive lines as hipster coffee fiends. They’re a little bit more of a health-conscious city so everyone’s always out and about, and up to something! One can’t help but give in to the magnetism local cafes, novelty food spots, beer joints, and outdoor amenities give to making Austin truly feel like home.

Apartment life

Let’s cut to the chase – pricing, overall, will always be lower in San Antonio for what you get compared to in Austin. What you might get for $950-$1,100 in Austin, you might be able to find in San Antonio for closer to $850-$1,000. Of course, pricing is relevant based on what you’re looking for location and finishes-wise.

The small script between the lines of pricing, though, reads that the opportunity for the type of living you may desire is a little vaster in Austin. For example, there’s the opportunity not only to live downtown, but to simultaneously live alongside Lady Bird Lake; not only can you live outside the hustle and bustle of the city, but you could live near Lake Travis.

There’s a give and take for everything when it comes to apartments, for sure. San Antonio is a little longer in the tooth than Austin is, so apartment aesthetics have a lot more character, especially in areas with a little more walkability. San Antonio, of course, hosts newer properties, as well, but we definitely have an affinity for the renovated properties that have seen it all.

Now that you have all the info, which city reigns superior and which taps out? We honestly love them both, so if you want a little extra insight as to what makes each of them great, alongside best-of-the-best apartment photos, tours, and pricing – follow Smart City on Instagram!

Best apartment deals in San Antonio, Texas

Best apartment deals in Austin, Texas

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