Austin vs. Charleston
Austin vs. Charleston. The Music City vs. The Holy City. Silicon Hills vs. Silicon Harbor. On the surface, Austin and Charleston appear to have as much in common as apples and oranges, but when you zoom in and look more closely, these two charming cities are actually very similar.
Charleston, lying on the Charleston Harbor, is known for its southern charm, unique blend of historic preservation with modern growth, and award-winning dining. Founded in 1670 as Charles Town, Charleston is rich in history and thrives on its tourism industry.
Founded in 1839, Austin is known for its vibrant music scene, funky vibe, and outdoor life. Originally named “Waterloo”, Austin is also rich with history and benefits from a large influx of tourists each year.
Whether considering a move or just a visit to either city, it’s good to know the lay of the land and what each brings to the table.
Big City vs. Small City
Charleston has the largest population in the state, with around 135,000 residents and a growth rate of 1.04%.
Though only the fourth largest city in Texas, Austin is significantly larger than Charleston with a population of just over one million and a growth rate of 2.8%.
Job Market & Industries
Both Charleston and Austin have a strong job market and low unemployment rate. Charleston’s unemployment rate is 2.4%, while Austin’s is a tad higher at 2.7%, both faring much better than the national unemployment rate of 6.3%.
Charleston’s tourism industry is thriving. Over 7 million tourists flock to the area each year, particularly in the summer, opening up thousands of jobs, particularly in hospitality, restaurants, and museums.
The city’s affordability and vibrant lifestyle have become a magnet for growing tech companies and new startups. In 2001, Charleston launched the Charleston Digital Corridor, a city-backed initiative to attract and grow technology startups. Since then the city has expanded from 18 tech companies to over 400, earning the city the nickname “Silicon Harbor”. Employers range in size from small operations to large tech companies and include major players such as Google and Boeing.
Like Charleston, Austin rides on the income the city brings in from tourism with over 30 million annual visitors. Events such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits are responsible for a large portion of those looking to visit the Lone Star’s capital city.
Austin too is a tech capital, being dubbed “Silicon Hills”. As of November 2020, 35 tech companies have moved their corporate homes to Austin. Major players such as Oracle, Facebook, Tesla, Apple, and Amazon have opened up a wide array of career opportunities for those working in tech, manufacturing, or warehousing.
Cost of Living
Charleston and Austin are fairly similar when it comes to the cost of living. While in Charleston the median salary may be slightly lower, $46k annually, the average starting cost of homes is also slightly lower at $400K. Austin’s median salary is $54K annually, with the average home prices starting at $475K.
Because Charleston is on the water, residents can easily enjoy activities such as sailing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Places like Sullivan’s Island and Shem’s Creek are a short drive from the city and favorites among residents. And while Charleston is notoriously flat, residents can travel a short distance outside the city to enjoy hiking and biking, at places like Caw Caw Park and Swam Fox Passage, part of the Palmetto Trail.
Charleston is also known for its vibrant restaurant scene as well as an abundance of museums and historical sites, such as Fort Sumter where visitors can learn about Charleston’s role in the American Revolution.
Within Austin, residents can enjoy plenty of outdoor activities. Head to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, one of Texas’ top-rated trails, or get a quad workout when you hike River Place Nature Trail, consisting of the three most challenging hikes in Austin. Parks within Austin, such as St. Edwards Park, Zilker Park, and McKinney Falls State Park offer residents the opportunity to hike, swim, canoe, and rock climb.
Likewise, Austin has some killer cuisine and plenty of museums. History buffs can enjoy the Bullock State History Museum, where visitors can learn about everything from Texas’ role in the Civil War to Austin City Limits, or the LBJ Library to learn about America’s 36th president.
Turns out, both of these historical, southern cities are wonderful in their own right. It will all come down to what you are looking for to determine which one you would like to call home.