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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Austin chefs were well-represented at the James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday night as two local restaurateurs took home the coveted award—more than any other Texas city.
Chef Iliana de la Vega of El Naranjo, 2717 S. Lamar Blvd., took home the title of Best Chef Texas and chef Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria, 2512 E. 12th St., took home Best Emerging Chef at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Nearby, Houston’s Julep was recognized for Outstanding Bar Program as the only other Lone Star State mention. The award has often been compared to high-caliber awards like the Oscars or the Grammys of food.
De la Vega told Austonia she wasn’t expecting to win—she hadn’t even prepared a speech—she was just happy for a weekend vacation with her husband and business partner Ernesto Torrealba. De la Vega said she considers it a joint award for the two of them.
“It was a little bit shocking, emotional, a little bit of everything. When we had to move from Mexico to here, I thought at some point, you know, it has to have a meaning,” de la Vega said. “We finally came to be recognized for the love and the sharing of the traditions from Mexico that we feel very proud of.”
De la Vega said when she originally started El Naranjo in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1997, it was the “perfect place, the perfect life and the perfect everything.” After the economy collapsed, de la Vega and her family had to move to the U.S.
They bounced from New Mexico to San Antonio, when she was asked to create and lead the Latin American Studies program for the Culinary Institute of America, which she accepted. Soon after, they moved to Austin and started a food truck for their lost restaurant in Oaxaca before they were able to build a brick-and-mortar shop in 2012. The rest is history.
De la Vega said she was proud to share the stage with Rico and represent her native cuisine, she just hopes she can live up to the hype of newcomers.
“To recognize Mexican cooking as one of the best cuisines in the world, I think it's huge,” De la Vega said. “Maybe there will be new people coming in that didn't even know that we existed and they may have bigger expectations so (I’m trying to) live up to the challenge right now.”
Rico echoed de la Vega’s pride in his emotional acceptance speech, mentioning it's huge for "La Raza," which directly translates to "the race."
“This is huge for la raza, this is huge for my people. For all the taqueros, anything is possible.”—Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria, 2022 #jbfa Emerging Chef winner, sponsored by @SanPellegrino. pic.twitter.com/9K831GqM0T
— James Beard Foundation (@beardfoundation) June 13, 2022
“Honest to god I did not expect to win this award tonight, but it’s been a trial to get here,” Rico said. “This is huge for La Raza, this is huge for my people. For all the taqueros, anything is possible.”
Dust from the Saharan Air Layer took a trip over the Atlantic Ocean and into Austin's skies Tuesday, causing a hazy sunset and air quality that was labeled "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" by the National Weather Service.
The African desert's dust takes a trip across the Atlantic every three to five days in late spring, summer and early fall and tends to hit Central Texas most from mid-June to late August.
Did you notice the hazy skies today? This was attributed to Saharan Dust that has made it into the region. Here is a comparison of tonight's hazy sunset versus two nights ago before the dust arrived. The dust is forecast to impact the region through Friday. pic.twitter.com/tmj4VwQbOU
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) June 14, 2022
Other than creating vivid sunsets, the dry Saharan air can make the sky appear milky white at midday. Just one dust cloud can be as large as the United States—and each cloud can help prevent tropical cyclones from occurring in the humid ocean air.
Those who are most sensitive to changes in air quality—including the elderly, young children and those with respiratory conditions—should limit their time outside as dust levels peak in the Austin skies Thursday.
And while the dust can cause a sore throat or itchy eyes, Saharan dust is an irritant that cannot be alleviated with allergy medications.
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