Houston vs. Austin. Energy capital vs. music capital. H-Town vs. ATX. Both are great cities and though they are just two and a half hours apart, they are night and day in how they compare. When making a move or even just passing through, it is good to get the lay of the land for each city’s personality.
Houston is a metropolis. The 2019 census cited Houston as having 2.3 million residents and being 669 square miles. Austin, with just under 1 million residents has half the population and is one-third the size of Houston. This smaller size allows Austin to feel more like a small town. Austin is very community driven and relationships are built on connections. Because Houston is so large, this kind of environment is harder to achieve. Houston is also more spread out with Houston county consisting of 33 smaller cities, while Austin is a small city within Travis county. Though Austin is smaller, it is growing more quickly. Since 2010 Austin’s population has grown 22%, while Houston’s has grown 10%.
With Houston’s large population comes a more varied range of commerce. Houston’s main industries are energy, medical, banking, insurance, shipping and aerospace. This wide range of industries brings more multicultural diversity attracting applicants from all over the world. It is estimated that over 90,000 languages are spoken by Houston residents. That said, Austin is also a notable place to work and is home to companies such as Dell, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, and now Tesla making it the best place to be if you live in Texas and work in tech, manufacturing, or warehousing. Austin has also built an entire tourism industry around the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” and its world renowned music scene. Each year roughly 30 million visitors come to see sites like the State Capital, 6th Street, Lady Bird Lake and the Bat Cave.
Major events like South by Southwest and Austin City Limits also contribute millions each year to Austin’s economy. Austin is also a great place to live if you work in government, education or are a startup company. The city is full of mom and pop shops and local businesses that residents rally around to help succeed.
Both towns have varied topography. Austin is part of the greater region known as Texas Hill Country. To its south you have beauties such as Fredericksburg, Dripping Springs and Wimberly. Within the city you have the option to get out on Lake Travis or Lake Austin. These bodies of water and surrounding towns make for some great outdoor fun. On any given day you could find yourself hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, or fishing. Houston is located along the Gulf Coastal Plains and just 50 miles northwest of Galveston. Being this close to the beach means sun and surf is a quick drive away.
Both towns have lots of options for rooting for your favorite team. Centered around professional teams, many Houstonites remember cheering on the Houston Oilers who were the first professional football team in Houston. In 1996, the Oilers moved to Memphis and then to Nashville where they are now the Tennessee Titans. Now Houston football fans can cheer on the Houston Texans who were founded in 2002. In addition to this football team, Houston sports fans can root for the Astros (baseball) and the Rockets (basketball). Because Austin is a college town, Austin is built around University of Texas sports. The Texas Longhorn football program historically is in the top five most winning teams. UT Austin men’s basketball team has won the NCAA championship 27 times and the women’s volleyball team is a powerhouse taking first place in the NCAA and fourth place nationally in 2019. The University is centrally located downtown making it easily accessible for Austin folks to cheer on the Longhorns on any given weekend.
And the Winner Is…
It’s anyone’s guess as to which city is best. Both Houston and Austin offer great opportunities and benefits and so long as you are living in Texas, you can’t go wrong living in either city. It all comes down to what you are looking for.