Austin or Nashville? This question is familiar to aspiring musicians looking for a place to start their careers, to singles and singles party planners looking for a fun destination, and to millennials fleeing more expensive coastal towns.
Chris Broach, 44, also asks the question. A remote tech musician, he lives in the suburb of Highland Park north of Chicago with his wife and their three young children. The couple are considering moving to Austin or Nashville, drawn by their musical scenes, milder winters, and relatively affordable prices. “In terms of housing, we can get something for what we have now (in Chicago) that is probably double the size outside of Austin,” he said. “It’s not affordable where we’re 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 is how the two southern capitals rank in 11 categories.
1. Musical towns
Austin, the live music capital of the world, is known for its festival scene, from Austin City Limits to South by Southwest, and for 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 like the Grand Ole Opry, the 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 Trust national treasure. RCA Studio B, built in 1957, is widely regarded as the birthplace of Nashville Sound and was once home to Elvis Presley. Other nearby studios have welcomed everyone from Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
2. Expand airports
Bright skies ahead: Austin airport predicts 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 third fastest growing airport in the country, and the Federal Aviation Administration ranked it second among major hubs. average in 2019 based on the number of passengers on board (over 8.5 million) and year-on-year growth (over 10%).
Nashville International was the top-ranked mid-size hub, with nearly 9 million passengers and 11.45% year-over-year growth. Similar to ABIA, Nashville Airport is at the heart of a major renovation and expansion project to meet growing demand.
Austin has a lot to offer on the food front, from the barbecue worth waiting in line at Franklin and The Barbecue to tacos for breakfast at countless restaurants around 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 tourism economy, Austin’s party boat businesses expect a busy season and breathe a sigh of relief. (Raudel Hinojosa / Premier Party Cruises)
In addition to the well-known nightlife neighborhoods – Dirty Sixth and Rainey Street in Austin, Honky Tonk Highway in Nashville – both cities are magnets for stag and hen parties.
Nashville is number one and Austin is 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 search for Airbnb home 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
Intense Competition, Cash Bids, and “Hockey Stick” Prices: On the Ground of Austin’s “Brutal” Real Estate Market
Austin is more expensive than Nashville, with the largest 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 with $ 59,828 in Nashville, according to the US Census Bureau. The median selling price of homes in the Austin subway is $ 465,000, compared to $ 400,000 in the Nashville subway, according to the Austin Board of Realtors and Greater Nashville Realtors.
The Austin Metro recorded the fifth largest drop in housing affordability among 50 U.S. markets, according to a recent report from First American Financial Corp. The median home price in the city of Austin hit an all-time high of $ 566,500 in May, increasing further to more than $ 142,450 year-on-year, according to ABoR. And prices on the Austin subway in all five counties are rising at an even faster rate, exacerbating an existing affordability crisis and pushing down prices for many aspiring first-time buyers.
6. Millennial migration
According to SmartAsset’s 2021 report Where Millenials Are Moving, millennials are flocking from most of America’s biggest cities, including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and heading west and south. Austin ranked fourth, with net migration of 5,686 millennials in 2019, and Nashville ranked 21st, with 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 Austinites than the other way around. 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 from the US Census Bureau’s Austin chamber.
7. Local policy
Trump supporters protest election results outside governor’s mansion
Austin and Nashville are both liberal capitals in conservative states. In the 2020 presidential election, nearly 72% of Travis County residents voted for Joe Biden, compared with 46.5% of Texans, and nearly 65% of Davidson County residents did, versus less than 38% of Tennessians, according to Politico.
8. Sports culture
Austin FC are down 1-0 at halftime against Nashville SC. (Austin FC / Twitter)
Both have new Major League Soccer teams. Austin FC debuted earlier this year just a year after Nashville SC joined the league. Nashville currently sits sixth in the Eastern Conference, while Austin is 12th in the Western Conference, ahead of just Vancouver. Nashville SC defeated Austin FC 1-0 in a May 23 game.
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, increased 22.1% and Nashville, with a population of 670,820, increased 11.2%.
With such popularity comes growing pains. Austin’s affordability crisis – and its attendant problems, such as homelessness – is escalating. Nashville shares these and other issues familiar to Austinites: expanding transit, reducing crime, and improving the school system.
10. Bottom up
Desert Door Distillery in Driftwood, Texas. (Emma freer)
Austin and Nashville have a strong drinking culture, with craft breweries and distilleries galore. Austin locals know and love local businesses from Austin Eastciders to Zilker Brewing Co., as well as destination sites like Desert Door Distillery and Fredericksburg Wineries.
Until 2009, only three distillers were licensed to produce alcohol in the state of Tennessee. Now they are more abundant: the Corsair distillery has two locations in Nashville; The H Clark Distillery produces gin, bourbon and whiskey; and Nelson’s Green Brier distillery was revived by the founder’s great-great-great-grandsons. In addition, there is always the Jack Daniel’s distillery.
11. Green spaces
Austinites love their great outdoors, including Zilker Park, Hamilton Pool, Barton Springs, and Lake Austin. Straddling the Colorado River, Austin ranked 45th out of the 100 largest US cities, according to the ParkScore 2021 index. It received its highest investment rating and lowest equity rating.
Nashville is known for Centennial Park, a 132-acre oasis that is home to a life-size replica of the Parthenon, which was built for the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in 1897. It also straddles a river, the Cumberland, and s’ is ranked 86th on the ParkScore 2021 index, receiving its highest score for square footage and lowest score for access.
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