Raleigh vs. Austin

Beautiful desert cactus growing in Austin.

If you’re looking at moving to someplace warm and trendy, Raleigh and Austin may be two cities that come to mind. They have a lot in common – both are capital cities, while not being the largest cities in the state. Both are tech hubs, have a great quality of life, and their southern location offers both mild winters and warm summers. No matter what city you are considering, it’s beneficial to get to know each one and how they compare.

Size of Austin vs. Raleigh

Austin and Raleigh differ both in terms of square footage and city population. Influx to Austin in the past several years has caused its population to boom, with over 2 million people now calling the Austin metro area home. With all of these residents being housed within 305 square miles, Austin is now considered the 35th largest metropolitan area in the United States. Raleigh is quite a bit smaller, clocking in around 144 square miles and housing just under 500,000 residents.

Getting Around the Cities of Raleigh and Austin

While Austin is slightly larger, the booming population has created massive commuting issues. In Raleigh, you can drive twice as far in half the time. Austin, however, has some really great transportation alternatives. The city is very bikeable and has gone so far as to reduce auto lanes to accommodate bikers. Some businesses even have incentives for their employees to bike to work. Likewise, Raleigh is on a roll when it comes to being bike-friendly with more than 100 miles of paved bike lanes. Austin also has a metro rail offering convenient transportation to and from downtown. 

Economy and Cost of Living in Austin vs. Raleigh

The economy in Austin is held up by multiple industries, making it incredibly strong. Oil, technology, shipping, government, education, and tourism are all huge industries in Austin. This diverse range of industries means Austin is prepared to weather the ups and downs of a changing economy. Because Texas has no state tax and Austin is centrally located between the east and west coast, many large companies are finding it an ideal place to call home.

Raleigh also has a very diverse economy, with one of its main industries being higher education. Raleigh is part of a bigger region referred to as the Triangle, which consists of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, and the three largest universities in the state – Duke, University of North Carolina, and NC State – are all within an hour drive of Raleigh. Like Austin, government jobs make up a large portion of the economy. And while their tech industry is smaller than Austin’s, it is still a hub within the state with many fast-growing tech startups making it their home.

Looking at cost of living between the two cities, the biggest differentiator is the median home cost. According to the Best Places cost of living calculator, most other costs are fairly comparable – but you can expect to pay around $200,000 more for a home in Austin than one in Raleigh.

Music Scene in the Two Cities

It is no secret that Austin has a thriving music scene. With over 250 music venues, there is no shortage of places to catch a great act on any given night. Well-known musicians such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Schneider, and The Chicks all claim(ed) Austin as home. Festivals such as South by Southwest and Austin City Limits attract an influx of world-famous acts and music fans each year.

Despite being a smaller town, Raleigh has a growing music scene. Rolling Stone recently named Raleigh as a “hotbed of independent music”. Due to the low cost of living and a large number of service jobs, musicians around the country are flocking to Raleigh. Young professionals, college students, and college radio are a driving force in the growth of hip music. Raleigh is also home to a number of music events such as Hopscotch Music Fest and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s yearly conference.

Topography of Austin vs. Raleigh

Both Austin and Raleigh offer a wide range of topography. Austin is located in the Texas Hill Country and if you drive south or southwest you will encounter green rolling hills, bluffs with scenic overlooks, rivers that wind through small towns, and an abundance of native plants and colorful wildflowers. Within Austin, you have bodies of water such as Lake Travis and Town Lake. Austin offers the opportunity to be one with nature without leaving city limits. 

Just south of Raleigh, you can get familiar with North Carolina’s agricultural roots. Here, the soil is sandy and the terrain flat, being used as tobacco farmland years ago. To the north of Raleigh, you will encounter hills, overlooks, and a mountain feel. Drive roughly three hours southwest to encounter quaint beach towns such as Emerald Isle and Southport. And about four hours west or north and you will hit the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Trail.

Which city takes the cake?

Both Raleigh and Austin offer beautiful scenery, a vibrant arts scene, and varied economies. Depending on what you are looking for you could easily be happy making your home in either city.

When considering a move to Austin, Lakeside offers a quality life just outside the city, while still being close to all the modern conveniences Austin offers. Find your dream home with Lakeside today!

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