If you’re preparing to move to Texas, two cities stand out above the rest right now: Austin and Houston. But how do you pick between them? The conundrum is very much like the classic split decision Californians like deciding between San Francisco or Los Angeles. I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of these Texas hotspots to see what’s right for you.
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If you’re like me, comfort is key. Humidity is a big factor to Texans—the summers can reach over 100 degrees, with humidity being that wet blanket to ruin every post-shower towel drying opportunity. Houston’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes their heat feel hotter, whereas Austin’s inland location keeps it remarkably drier during those summer months. According to the latest statistics, Houston beats Austin in rainfall—48 inches of precipitation, versus Austin’s 33 inches. Come winter, both cities are relatively cool, rarely dropping below freezing, so don’t expect to bring your ski dogs to Texas anytime soon. Still, Texas summers can be brutal, so any mitigating factor that helps ease the heat stress is appreciated.
Sorry, Houston — Austin’s got you beat on live music, hands down. There’s a reason why we’re known as “The Live Music Capital of the World.” Walking along 6th Street or Red River in downtown Austin, nightclubs of all varieties are eager to grab your attention with cheap drink specials and every genre of music imaginable. Be sure to visit Emo’s and Stubb’s to catch your music fix any night of the week. For the big blowouts, there’s SXSW, ACL, and so many more. Houston does not even come close in this regard.
Houston’s large size and commercial interests make it a much more cosmopolitan city than Austin (if you’ve got money) and certainly more diverse, with neighborhoods catering to virtually any community you can think of. Austin stands apart from Houston in this regard thanks to our city’s approach toward young people and young companies. Austin is very much geared toward people in their 20’s and 30’s, and our city layout has a lot less sprawl than Houston. There’s also a lot more emphasis on tech startups here, and a huge variety of fun things to do outside that are guaranteed to keep tech workers happy. Houston, on the other hand, is ruled by massive aerospace, insurance, shipping, banking, and medical companies — great for older folks with established careers, or folks wary of startups. In other words, Austin’s culture is just better for young people — and recent studies support this claim.
Simply put, Houston is HUGE, sporting its rightful title as the largest of the state’s megalopolises. It’s also an international city, by virtue of the business that its boat and airports constantly bring in. While Austin may be the state’s capital, it has traditionally been a university-focused city, so we only have about one-third of Houston’s population. Sure, it’s crowded here, but it’s not Houston crowded. With such a massive population, their highways can be terrifying. While we are definitely experiencing some growing pains like higher rents and awful traffic jams, most folks here will tell you that sitting on Austin’s highways is a lot better than playing Mortal Kombat in Houston.
Despite being the capital of a deeply red state, Austin’s youthful population and college influences make it a bastion of liberalism. We recycle, we don’t kill animals in shelters, and we love vegan cuisine, among other things. We also elect pretty much nothing but Democrats. Houston, on the other hand, is much more conservative, which tends to pose a challenge for Democrats seeking public office. They do win elections, but they win in the general and not the primary. The politics of the major cities in Texas are definitely changing and becoming more liberal, but they’re all behind the curve compared to Austin, where that change took place a long, long time ago.
Featured photo: Flickr user Davidlohr Bueso, creative commons licensed.