Austin or Nashville? This question is familiar to budding musicians looking for a place to start their career, stag and hen party planners looking for a fun destination, and millennials fleeing coastal towns. the most expensive.
Chris Broach, 44, also asks. A musician who works remotely in tech, he lives in the suburb of Highland Park, north of Chicago, with his wife and their three young children. The couple plan to move to Austin or Nashville, attracted by their music scenes, milder winters and relatively affordable price. “In terms of housing, 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 come from.”
Although Broach worries about the state’s conservative politics and extreme summers, he knows he loves Austin after touring here and performing at Fun Fun Fest and South by Southwest. “If it was between Austin and Nashville, I think Austin really wins for me,” he told Austinia.
Here’s how the two southern capitals rank in 11 categories.
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 is 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 such as the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame, but also a hub for recording studios, many of which are located on Music Row, a national treasure of the National Trust. RCA Studio B, built in 1957, is widely considered the birthplace of Nashville Sound and was once the home of Elvis Presley. Other nearby studios have hosted everyone from Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
2. Develop airports
Bright skies ahead: Austin airport forecasts continued growth after pandemic turmoil(Austin-Bergstrom International Airport/Facebook)
Austin-Bergstrom has tripled its passenger numbers since it opened in 1999. Between 2011 and 2019, it was the nation’s third fastest growing airport, and the Federal Aviation Administration ranked it second among major hubs average in 2019 based on number of passenger boardings (over 8.5 million) and year-over-year growth (over 10%).
Nashville International was the top-ranked midsize hub, with nearly 9 million passengers and 11.45% year-over-year growth. Similar to ABIA, Nashville Airport is in the midst of a major renovation and expansion project to meet growing demand.
3. Must eat
Austin has a lot to offer food-wise, from the barbecue worth queuing at Franklin and La Barbecue to breakfast tacos at countless restaurants across the city.
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 Scenes
With pandemic restrictions eased and a revived tourist economy, Austin’s party boat businesses are anticipating a busy season and breathing a sigh of relief. (Raudel Hinojosa/Premier Party Cruises)
In addition to well-known nightlife neighborhoods – Dirty Sixth and Rainey Street in Austin, Honky Tonk Highway in Nashville – both cities are magnets for bachelor parties and bachelor parties.
Nashville takes the top spot and Austin ranks fifth, behind Scottsdale, Miami and Las Vegas, according to a 2021 travel trends report from Bach, a party planning service. As Austin locals know, party members tend to seek out Airbnb house rentals, spend their days in pedal pubs and booze cruises, and can be easily spotted posing in matching outfits, sometimes with scarves.
5. Housing costs
Fierce competition, cash deals and ‘hockey stick’ prices: Inside Austin’s ‘brutal’ real estate market
Austin is more expensive than Nashville, with the biggest 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 almost 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 US Census Bureau. The median home sale price in metro Austin is $465,000, compared to $400,000 in metro Nashville, according to the Austin Board of Realtors and Greater Nashville Realtors.
Metro Austin has seen the fifth-largest decline in housing affordability among 50 U.S. markets, according to a recent report by First American Financial Corp. more than $142,450 year over year, according to ABoR. And prices in metro Austin, made up of five counties, are rising at an even faster rate, deepening an existing affordability crisis and driving prices away from many aspiring first-time home buyers.
6. Millennial Migration
According to SmartAsset’s 2021 Where Millennials Are Moving report, millennials are leaving most of America’s biggest cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and heading west and south. 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 immigration, Nashville is one of the few cities to gain more Austinians than vice versa. 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 analysis by the US Census Bureau’s Austin Chamber.
7. Local Policy
Trump supporters protest election results outside governor’s mansion
Both Austin and Nashville are liberal capitals in conservative states. In 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, versus less than 38% of Tennessee residents, according to Politico.
8. Sports Culture
Austin FC trailed Nashville SC 1-0 at halftime. (Austin FC/Twitter)
Both have new Major League Soccer teams. Austin FC made its debut earlier this year just a year after Nashville SC joined the league. Nashville currently sits sixth in the Eastern Conference, while Austin sits 12th in the Western Conference, ahead of only Vancouver. Nashville SC beat Austin FC 1-0 in a match on May 23.
9. Population growth
Both cities posted double-digit population growth between 2010 and 2019, according to the US 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 related issues, such as homelessness — is deepening. Nashville shares these and other problems familiar to Austin residents: expanding public transit, reducing crime and improving the school system.
10. Bottom Up
Desert Door Distillery in Driftwood, Texas. (Emma Freer)
Austin and Nashville have strong drinking cultures, with craft breweries and distilleries galore. Austin residents know and love local businesses, from Austin Eastciders to Zilker Brewing Co., as well as destination sites like the Desert Door Distillery and Fredericksburg Wineries.
Until 2009, only three distillers were licensed to produce alcohol in the state of Tennessee. Now they’re more plentiful: Corsair Distillery has two locations in Nashville; H Clark Distillery produces gin, bourbon and whisky; and Nelson’s Green Brier distillery was revived by the founder’s great-great-great-grandsons. Plus, there’s still Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
11. Green spaces
Austin residents love their wide open spaces, including Zilker Park, Hamilton Pool, Barton Springs, and Lake Austin. Straddling the Colorado River, Austin ranked 45th among America’s 100 largest cities, according to the 2021 ParkScore Index. It received its highest rating in investment and the lowest rating in equity.
Nashville is known for Centennial Park, a 132-acre oasis that houses a life-size replica of the Parthenon, which was built for the centennial and the 1897 Tennessee World’s Fair. It also straddles a river, the Cumberland, and is is ranked 86th on the 2021 ParkScore Index, receiving its highest score for square footage and lowest score for access.
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