Writing this breaks my heart. Seriously, I loved Austin. My home. My happy place. My respite. But on this last visit, after being gone almost 18 months, I’m on the edge of hating the city I once loved. Why? Because it’s because sooooooooo popular. And that’s caused it to change for the worse. So as has become a popular moniker amongst those of us that called Austin home pre-2011 boom, “Welcome to Austin, Please Don’t Move Here”.
You see the problem isn’t with Austin. It’s with the waves of East and West Coast monied up yuppies that have pushed gentrification to another level. And I can’t blame them. Article after article listed Austin as the best place in America to live starting around 2008. With amazing events like SXSW and ACL bringing in waves of happy go lucky travelers, experiencing all the great things about Austin, it’s understandable. But what about the other cities in Texas? So as a public service to my beloved city of Austin, and you the prospective Texas mover, let me give you three better options than Austin.
Who Really Wants to Wait 3 Hours for BBQ?
As a new Texan, you’ll learn one thing quickly. Barbecue is a religion here. No debate. If you don’t like BBQ, LEAVE!!!! You aren’t welcome here. Seriously, we love BBQ. And in recent years the PR gurus that are Austin BBQ joints have presented themselves as the end all be all of Texas BBQ. And let me tell you, as a 14th degree BBQ Black Belt, it’s false. Blah blah blah, yeah Austin has some good BBQ spots. Qualifying the “best” barbecue in Texas is futile. Each region (and yes Texas is big enough for regions) has its own style and this will largely come down to personal preference. But in the case of these three cities, size matters. And the concentration of excellent BBQ favors Houston and DFW. With San Antonio quickly gaining steam on Austin. What sets San Antonio apart from its three better-known siblings, is the BBQ communities integration of Mexican culture and cuisine. That alone is worth a visit to San Antonio if you’ve never been.
Moving to Texas for BBQ is a very valid reason and one I support 100%, but make sure you head over to where you’ll get the best bang for your buck. Here are a few spots worth moving for.
Where I Recommend
Dallas–Fort Worth: Pecan Lodge or Lockhart Smokehouse
Houston: Gatlin’s BBQ or Roegels Barbecue Co.
San Antonio: The Granary ‘Cue & Brew: Only available one day a week, their Pastrami Beef Rib is worth a trip alone.
Gentrification Destroys Art
Oh, you thought Texas was only Football, BBQ, and God? Well yeah, but we also love some great art. From major musical acts to world class art exhibits, you can find it all in the great state of Texas. And one of the most unique places, Austin. Austin’s Art scene used to be eccentric and vibrant. Now, many of the cities best creatives have been pushed out by gentrification. Forced to deal with the realities of rapidly growing rent cost and loss of former creative spaces. What remains are galleries who are long past their innovative peaks. While a couple of Austin’s major Museums and Galleries are still trying to hang on, they pale in comparison with the offerings of Houston and DFW.
Dallas has focused on attracting international exhibits and artists. They’ve developed the Arts District which is home to 13 facilities and organizations focusing on the arts. Houston easily boasts one of the world’s most diverse and modern theatre districts. Houston’s downtown Theater District spans 17 blocks and has nearly 13,000 seats in a concentrated downtown area. Making it one of the largest arts purposed areas in the United States. It’s also where you’ll find some of Houston’s best hotels. San Antonio offers the King William Cultural Arts District. Near the home of literary legend Sandra Cisneros. The author of The House on Mango Street. King Williams is also home to some of Texas’ most important Mexican American museums and art venues.
Where I Recommend
Dallas–Fort Worth: Dallas Museum of Art & ATT Performing Arts Center
Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston & The Hobby Center
San Antonio: Blue Star Arts Complex
Eventually, Indie Bands Lose Their Charm and Craft Beer Gets Flat
Don’t believe the 6th Street hype. Sure, you’ll get the great indie band or two but the Austin nightlife scene is relatively one dimensional. The city has plenty of places to hear great live music or to grab a hipster craft beer, but what else? The offerings outside of this are limited at best. Fine dining has become equally limited. While stalwart Paul Qui is still doing his thing, the brilliant Congress and LaV are no more. Leaving a huge void in the food truck obsessed capital city. People are waiting hours for Franklins while largely giving a pass to Austin’s fine dining establishments that remain. Wonder why? With all the nightlife and fine dining options you would expect of the capital, Houston, DFW, and San Antonio just has more to offer than Austin. Especially if diversity is important to you.
Where I Recommend
Dallas–Fort Worth: Deep Ellum & Mansion Restaurant
San Antonio: Southtown & Signature: I’ll probably get some heat for not putting the Riverwalk here. While I love a romantic stroll down the Riverwalk, it gets old fast. Especially with tourists. Southtown has more of a locals feel.
Houston: “Midtown” and Hugo’s. I have to go into a bit more detail about Hugo’s because I’m a huge fan. Hugo’s combines everything that’s great about Texas. Mexican American cuisine, fine cocktails, and friendly faces. James Beard Award winning Hugo Ortega and his restaurant represents everything our great state has to offer. Combining world class culinary skills with Mexican American recipes and ingredients, Hugo’s has risen to become one of the countries premier eateries.
Get Your Pro Game Fix
While Austin loves to “Hook Em”, you won’t find anything in the way of professional athletics. But to the contrary, DFW and Houston have pro teams in spades. And it doesn’t even matter if you’re a sports fan or not. Professional sports impact on all three cities has had massive ripple effects. From restaurants to community outreach events with the players, these cities have it all. Even San Antonio with it’s one professional team. Just so happens, they’re the five time NBA champions and one of the NBA’s best teams. Dallas on a Cowboy’s Home Game Sunday is a must visit. Make sure you get your hotels early because they sell out fast.
Where I Recommend
Dallas–Fort Worth: Cowboys, Stars, Mavericks, Rangers, FC Dallas
Houston: Texans, Rockets, Astros, Dynamo
San Antonio: Spurs
The Travel Bug is Easier to Scratch Elsewhere
Are you a travelholic like myself? Well, you’ll be STUCK in Austin. Yeah, that might be an exaggeration. But Austin isn’t exactly the most affordable places to travel from/to. All three cities offer amazing domestic travel deals. With places like NYC, Vegas, New Orleans, and Miami coming in at under $100 one way. But it’s when you look at the International offerings that these cities blow Austin out of the water. The prices below reflect fares I found within 30 days of this articles publishing and are one way.
Dallas–Fort Worth: AA, Cancun and Mexico City, London, Tokyo Japan, and Frankfurt Germany
Last Minute Trips: Costa Rica 122, Colombia 187, UK 352
Houston: United, Costa Rica, El Salvador, London, Cancun
Last Minute Trips: Guatemala 165, Hong Kong 372, Mexico 98
San Antonio: United Airlines (Hublet)
Last Minute Trips: Mexico $139, Canada $146 (this surprised me), Cuba $164
I love Austin. It will always be home to me. But after my last visit, I had to come to terms with the harsh reality. It’s not the same. And that’s not a good thing. While living in Austin might not be an option ever again, I could definitely see myself living in DFW, Houston, or San Antonio. If you’re looking for diversity, the arts, and international travel, they have exactly what you’re looking for and then some.