Austin vs. Nashville: The Live Music Capital of the World and Music City compete for talent, tourists
Austin or Nashville? This question is a familiar one to aspiring musicians looking for a place to start their career, bachelor and bachelorette party planners in search of a fun destination and millennials escaping more expensive coastal cities.
Chris Broach, 44, is also asking. A musician who works a remote day job in tech, he lives in the Highland Park suburb north of Chicago with his wife and their three young children. The couple is considering a move to Austin or Nashville, drawn in by their music scenes, milder winters and relative affordability. "Housing-wise, we can get something for what we have now (in Chicago) that's probably double the size outside of Austin," he said. "It's not affordable where we're coming from."
Although Broach worries about the conservative state politics and extreme summers, he knows he likes Austin after touring here and playing at Fun Fun Fest and South by Southwest. "If it was between Austin and Nashville, I think Austin really wins for me," he told Austonia.
Those who live or have lived in Nashville, TN. or Austin, TX. This is coming from an artist's / musician's standpoint, mostly - but I'm interested in all feedback.
- Why should/shouldn't we move to Austin, TX?
- Why should/shouldn't we move to Nashville, TN?#Austin#Nashville
— Chris Broach (@chrisbroach) February 28, 2021
Here's how the two Southern capital cities stack up across 11 categories.
1. Music towns
Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, is known for its festival scene—from Austin City Limits to South by Southwest—and iconic venues, such as Antone's, Broken Spoke and the Continental Club. It's also home to many successful musicians, including Willie Nelson, Gary Clark Jr., The Black Pumas and Shakey Graves.
Nashville is not only home to attractions like the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame but also a hub for recording studios, many of them located on Music Row, a National Treasure of the National Trust. RCA Studio B, built in 1957, is widely credited as the birthplace of the Nashville Sound and was once home to Elvis Presley. Other nearby studios have hosted everyone from Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
2. Expanding airportsBright skies ahead: Austin airport anticipates continued growth after pandemic turbulence(Austin-Bergstrom International Airport/Facebook)
Austin-Bergstrom has tripled its passenger numbers since opening in 1999. Between 2011 and 2019 it was the third-fastest growing airport in the country, and the Federal Aviation Administration ranked it second among medium-sized hubs in 2019 based on passenger boarding numbers (more than 8.5 million) and year-over-year growth (more than 10%).
Nashville International was the top-ranked medium-sized hub, with nearly 9 million passengers and 11.45% year-over-year growth. Similar to ABIA, the Nashville airport is in the midst of a major renovation and expansion project intended to meet growing demand.
3. Must eats
Austin has a lot to offer on the food front, from barbecue worth queuing for at Franklin and La Barbecue to breakfast tacos at countless joints around town.
Nashville is known for its hot chicken, especially when served at Hattie B's Hot Chicken and Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. (Tumble 22 in Austin is a good shortcut when a trip to Tennessee isn't possible.)
4. Party scenesWith loosened pandemic restrictions and a revived tourism economy, Austin's party boat businesses are anticipating a busy season—and letting out a sigh of relief. (Raudel HInojosa/Premier Party Cruises)
In addition to well-known going-out districts—Dirty Sixth and Rainey Street in Austin, Honky Tonk Highway in Nashville—both cities are magnets for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Nashville takes first place and Austin ranks fifth, behind Scottsdale, Miami and Las Vegas, according to a 2021 travel trends report from Bach, a party planning service. As Austinites know, party members tend to seek out Airbnb house rentals, spend their days on pedal pubs and booze cruises, and can be easily spotted posing in matching outfits, sometimes with sashes.
5. Housing costsSteep competition, cash offers and ‘hockey stick’ prices: On the ground of Austin’s ‘brutal’ housing market
Austin is more expensive than Nashville, with the steepest increase in the housing category, according to the Council for Community & Economic Research's cost of living index. A person moving from Nashville to Austin can expect to pay nearly 23% more in housing costs.
The median income in the city of Austin is $71,576, compared to $59,828 in Nashville, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median home sales price in the Austin metro is $465,000, compared to $400,000 in the Nashville metro, according to the Austin Board of Realtors and Greater Nashville Realtors.
The Austin metro showed the fifth-largest decline in housing affordability among 50 U.S. markets, according to a recent report by First American Financial Corp. The median home price in the city of Austin hit an all-time high of $566,500 in May, rising more than $142,450 year-over-year, according to ABoR. And prices across the five-county Austin metro are rising at an even faster rate, worsening an existing affordability crisis and pricing out many aspiring first-time homebuyers.
6. Millennial migration
Millennials are flowing out from most of the largest U.S. cities—including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles—and headed West and South, according to SmartAsset's 2021 Where Millenials Are Moving report. Austin ranked fourth, with a net migration of 5,686 millennials in 2019, and Nashville ranked 21st, with a net migration of 1,893 millennials.
Although Austin beats Nashville in terms of millennial in-migration, Nashville is one of the few cities gaining more Austinites than the reverse. Between 2014 and 2018, 519 Nashville residents moved to Austin while 741 Austinites moved to Nashville, for a net loss of 222, according to an Austin Chamber analysis of U.S. Census Bureau.
7. Local politicsTrump supporters protest election results outside governor's mansion
Austin and Nashville are both liberal capital cities in conservative states. During the 2020 presidential election, nearly 72% of Travis County residents voted for Joe Biden, compared to 46.5% of Texans, and nearly 65% of Davidson County residents did, compared to fewer than 38% of Tennesseans, according to Politico.
8. Sports cultureAustin FC is down 1-0 at the half against Nashville SC. (Austin FC/Twitter)
Both have new Major League Soccer teams. Austin FC debuted earlier this year only a year after Nashville SC became a member of the league. Nashville is currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, while Austin ranks 12th in the Western Conference, ahead of only Vancouver. Nashville SC beat Austin FC 1-0 in a May 23 match.
9. Population growth
Both cities posted double-digit population growth between 2010 and 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Austin, with a population of 978,908, grew 22.1%, and Nashville, with a population of 670,820, grew 11.2%.
With such popularity comes growing pains. Austin's affordability crisis—and attendant issues, such as homelessness—is deepening. Nashville shares these issues as well as others familiar to Austinites: transit expansion, crime reduction and school system improvements.
10. Bottoms upDesert Door distillery in Driftwood, Texas. (Emma Freer)
Austin and Nashville have strong drinking cultures, with craft breweries and distilleries galore. Austinites know and love local businesses from Austin Eastciders to Zilker Brewing Co., as well as destination sites such as Desert Door Distillery and Fredericksburg wineries.
Until 2009, only three distillers were allowed to produce alcohol in the state of Tennessee. Now they're more abundant: Corsair Distillery has two Nashville locations; H Clark Distillery produces gin, bourbon and whiskey; and Nelson's Green Brier Distillery was revived by the founder's great-great-great-grandsons. Plus, there's always the Jack Daniel's Distillery.
11. Green spaces
Austinites love their wide open spaces, including Zilker Park, Hamilton Pool, Barton Springs and Lake Austin. Straddling the Colorado River, Austin ranked 45th among the 100 largest U.S. cities, according to the 2021 ParkScore index. It received its highest mark in investment and lowest mark in equity.
Nashville is known for Centennial Park, a 132-acre oasis that's home to a full-scale replica of The Parthenon, which was built for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. It also straddles a river, the Cumberland, and ranked 86th on the 2021 ParkScore index, receiving its highest mark for acreage and lowest mark for access.
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With soft sand, plenty of beach bars and the best ceviche, there's arguably only one beach worth going to in Texas—South Padre Island.
You might know this beach as a college student's spring break hotspot, but really, it's the Rio Grande Valley's most secret gem. From someone who has been going to "the island" every year since before I could walk, here's a guide to the best SPI has to offer.
First thing's first, don't underestimate how hot South Texas is. Be ready with plenty of sunscreen. If you thought Austin was hot, you're in for a treat as high humidity will make the Valley feel scorching. Luckily, the water offers some reprieve from the sun's rays—still, be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat.
Driving in: From Austin, you can expect almost a six hour drive. Your navigation will take you either around San Antonio (which is a plus for most people) or through San Antonio, funneling to U.S. 77 until you reach Valley grounds in Harlingen.
- From there, it might be smarter to take the toll roads, which border the Port of Brownsville and will save you going through small towns like Los Fresnos that can get backed up with traffic.
- But if you do decide to hightail it through Los Fresnos, be wary of how fast you are going and the speed limit. Cops are especially on the prowl in those areas, catching out of towners unfamiliar with the speed limit changes.
Still, no matter which route you take, you'll go through Port Isabel before crossing the 2-mile bridge to South Padre. During peak times, such as early afternoon, expect to sit in traffic. Better times to travel are in the early morning.
Flying in: For the people that read a six-hour drive with wide eyes, there is a nearby airport in Brownville, a 40-minute drive from SPI, as well as the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, a 1-hour drive away. Be ready to spend $250-$400 a person.
Sights and sounds
Getting to the RGV, you'll be welcomed with palm trees well before you've made it to the beach. And just before crossing the bridge from Port Isabel to South Padre, you'll see a sign that may be blinking, indicating to watch out for pelicans.
As you drive over that bridge, your passengers will want to get their phones out and take the classic video of the the water, boats and parasailers in the bay. It's the best way to let everyone know you're on vacation!
And don't forget to roll down your window to take in the salty smell of the gulf of Mexico.
Resorts: For beach access and the fun amenities that come with that, places like The Pearl, The Palm and The Saphire are where you'll get a resort-style feel.
Affordable: You can still find a Holiday Inn, Ramada and La Quinta along the beach bars.
Airbnb is always an option where you can rent out condos, but you'll want to make sure to book in advance as options may be limited in peak summer.
There are at least 25 access points to the beach, which is on the east edge of the island. Some you can only get to if you're a hotel guest. Here are the most popular ways to reach the sand.
Walking to the beach: Between the bars and hotels, you'll find free access points where you get to just park and walk right onto the beach. You're likely to still find umbrellas and chairs you can rent out.
Beach bar access: Some of the most popular places for beach entry are those that come with a nearby bar. But don't worry, all ages are welcome. You'll want to check these bars' social media pages in the evenings if you're looking for live music.
- Where you're almost certain to not struggle for parking is one of the hottest spots on the beach: Clayton's Beach Bar and Grill. At Clayton's, you're able to get your drink on, get a bite to eat and have access to the beach and volleyball courts.
- A smaller, but just as cool alternative is Wanna Wanna Beach Bar and Grill. With the same amenities as Clayton's, you can't go to Wanna Wanna without trying a turbo, a pina colada with a rum floater—you can get these just about anywhere on the beach, but they just taste better beachside.
Driving on the beach: If you want to try your four-wheel drive on the sand, you can! Access points #5 and #6 allow you to pay a small fee to take your vehicle out there. Click here to see how you might prepare your vehicle for the sand. If you choose to go with this option, you'll want to make sure to pack appropriately as there are no rentals or bars nearby.
If you're trying to make the most of your South Padre getaway, we have you covered with things for the whole family as well as the nightlife scene.
- Watch the fireworks: Catch a fireworks display at the island all summer long. Catch them displayed on the bay in front of Louie's Backyard on Tuesdays and near Clayton Beach Bar on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Beach Park and Isla Grande: The former Schlitterbahn is now a beach park that opened in 2021. The 25-acre waterpark has water slides, a zipline and beach access. (Day passes are $38.99 for children and $10 more for adults)
- Sea Turtle, Inc.: Learn about sea turtles and sea life conservation at the largest state-of-the-art sea turtle hospital. You'll be able to get up close and personal with the turtles! ($4 for children, $10 for adults)
- Gravity Park: For the adrenaline junkies, this park has the tallest reverse bungee in the world ($25), a skycoaster ($25), go-karts ($15-$20), mini-golf ($8-10), a 60-foot ferris wheel ($8), and a climbing wall ($8).
- Sandcastle exhibit: Right next to Gravity Park is a small sandcastle exhibit that is free and about a 5-minute walk to see all the exhibits made entirely from sand by professionals. (Free w/ donations accepted)
- Get in on the water sports: A couple of rental places like Coconut Jacks SPI offer jet skis for rental as well as equipment for parasailing.
- Rent a pontoon boat: Tritoon Charters allows you to rent a pontoon boat for the day perfect for the whole family. The charter offers private snorkeling, shell hunting, up close dolphin and turtle encounters, tubing and sight seeing.
- Party like a local: Escape the beachside and head to the west edge of the island for live music and dancing. Tourists love to flood Louie's Backyard, but there are other bars along the bay worth going to such as Longboard, Laguna Bobs and Tequila Sunset.
You can't leave the island before eating ceviche and fried shrimp. And you can't go wrong by eating at the already mentioned beach bars and bay bars. But here are some other notable places to visit:
- Breakfast: Yummies Bistro and Grapevine Cafe are both places to get your breakfast tacos in the morning.
- Lunch: Cafe on the Beach are good midday options to catch a quick bite without sacrificing quality.
- Dinner: F&B is about as upscale as it gets if you can snag a reservation—Elon Musk has been spotted here. They also offer Sunday brunch.
The pilot of a small plane is now in the hospital after crashing into Lady Bird Lake Thursday afternoon.
The plane, which was being operated by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden, only had the pilot in it when it crashed just west of I-35 in the lake around 2 p.m. Nearby paddleboarders are seen taking the unidentified pilot to Austin-Travis County EMS in a video.
The pilot was then transported to Dell Seton Medical Center with potentially serious injuries.
UPDATE: #ATCEMSSPARTAN drone video showing the aircraft submerged just below the surface. pic.twitter.com/wexI9MqpQS
— ATCEMS (@ATCEMS) June 16, 2022
Texas Parks and Wildlife said the plane, a 2009 Cessna T206, was on a test flight after routine maintenance when the pilot reported mechanical issues and then crashed.
As of Thursday afternoon, it is not known when the plane will be removed from Lady Bird Lake.
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