San Antonio vs. Austin Vacation: Where Should I Visit?

San Antonio vs Austin Vacation guide

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Texas is one of America’s most famous states, with millions of tourists visiting The Lone Star State every year.

Many travelers often face the dilemma of choosing between touring Austin and San Antonio, Texas’s biggest cities. 

Generally, Austin is a better choice if you love the eccentricities of modern life. On the other hand, San Antonio is appealing to history and culture enthusiasts. 

Read on to discover the best of the two cities and which suits your needs. 

Why You Should Visit Austin

Austin is a fantastic destination with many things to do if you’re a tourist.

Visiting Austin
Visit Austin

The state capital is famous for:

  • great live music venues
  • outstanding food
  • motorsport
  • and general eeriness

More people are visiting and relocating to Austin due to its great culture and friendly locals. 

Here are the top reasons to visit or live in Austin.

Food and Drinks Galore

Austin is the best place to visit if you have a diverse palate.

The city has it all – from roadside food trucks to established restaurants. 

Exploring the food trucks is an excellent way of navigating Austin’s diverse food scene.

You can find everything you crave at affordable prices. 

If You Like Beer – Visit the beer garden at the heart of the city’s entertainment district. It has over 100 craft beers, so you’ll always be spoilt for choice.

While beer and cheap drinks are the preferred drinks by many, cocktails are catching up.

Cocktails will suit you if you prefer staying away from noisy bars. However, they cost more. 

Austin at night
Austin walk

Music

Music is central to Austin’s heritage.

In 1991, the city deservedly became the Live Musical Capital of the World, as music enthusiasts discovered it had more live music performances per capita than elsewhere worldwide. 

Popular genres include:

  • blues
  • country
  • jazz
  • and indie rock

Live artist performances are as good as the music, and the crowd gets going, too.

It’s why legendary musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Willie Nelson owe their status to Austin. 

You’ll find live performances on Sixth Street and downtown Austin, especially during weekends and holidays. Most bars also invite artists. 

Motorsport

If you love fast cars and motorbikes, visit the Circuit of the Americas (COTA).

Cota racetrack
Racing Austin

The circuit prides itself as America’s premier sports and entertainment destination.

Located on the rolling hills on the outskirts of Austin, COTA hosts world-class motorsports yearly.

What to Expect? Fans get the chance to enjoy a thrilling spectacle as the world’s best drivers and riders race each other around the 3.41-mile racetrack. 

Enjoy Nature

Lake Travis is an artificial reservoir that offers the perfect escape from the city’s bustling lifestyle.

It’s a 30-minute drive away from the city center.

The lake covers 30 square miles and offers many activities, including:

  • swimming
  • boating
  • biking
  • hiking
  • zip-lining, etc.

Renting a canoe and kayaks cost about $15 hourly.

There’s accommodation nearby if you want to spend more than a day.

 

Austin river
Beautiful Austin nature

Alternatively, you can visit Lake Austin, which is 20 minutes away from the city, by car.

It has fish, so you can rent a boat and go fishing. You can also swim or go hiking around the lake. 

If you want to rent a boat, it costs $400 for three hours.

Since boats can carry up to seven adults, it is affordable if you are in a group as you can split the costs. 

Weirdness

Austin has a long-held reputation for being America’s weirdest and quirkiest city.

Locals hold some traditions that others consider strange.

For instance, tacos count as breakfast, toplessness is ok, and people like bats. 

Austin buildings at night
Austin at night

Over a million bats fly from the Congress Bridge toward the city every summer night after sunset.

While most people consider bats harmful and ominous, Austin locals seemingly find them untroubling. 

Another eerie culture in Austin is being paid to get a tattoo.

Heads Up! When you visit the beer garden mentioned earlier, they’ll offer you money to get their logo inked on your skin. 

Why You Should Visit San Antonio

When you mention Texas, most people think of big hair, cowboy hats, and a cactus-strewn desert landscape with country music in the background.

San Antonio begs to differ – Texas’ second city, with the fastest-growing population in the United States, can hardly go unnoticed. 

Visiting reasons San Antonio
Visit San Antonio

The city is undergoing a cultural revival, with the fast-growing Pearl District at the forefront.

San Antonio is transforming into an all-rounded metropolis, thanks to:

  • a burgeoning real estate sector
  • restoration of historic sites
  • and establishment of new entertainment spaces

Here are the top reasons for visiting San Antonio. 

The Alamo

A visit to San Antonio feels incomplete without touring the Alamo, an iconic monument best known for its pivotal role in the Texan struggle for independence.  

Alamo San Antonio tour
Alamo San Antonio

The Alamo is the most famous monument along the San Antonio River. It’s the first of North America’s largest concentration of Spanish colonial architecture.

In 2015 – UNESCO inscribed the buildings as a World Heritage Site. 

Besides the gracefully weathered arched buildings, you can explore the beautifully restored gardens as you learn about Texan history.

Each mission still serves as a church, so if you happen to be around on Sundays, you can hop in for mass and listen to musical choirs. 

The River Walk Expansion

Paseo del Río is one of San Antonio’s most famous attractions.

However, recent expansion efforts have reduced tourist numbers, with more preferring to visit other areas.  

The 8-mile Mission Reach expansion connects four of the city’s 18th-century missions, excluding the Alamo.

San Antonio's most famous attractions
Riverwalk San Antonio

It features a below-street-level public walkway where you can walk or bike.

More importantly, the project restored the San Antonio River to its natural condition. 

The revamped River Walk now covers 15 miles combined with the previously completed Museum Reach section.

The Museum Reach segment links the upcoming Pearl District to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Its connection to the River Walk increases accessibility to the city’s cultural and historical sites. 

Pearl District

If the Alamo and River Walk seem dull, visit the Pearl District, a former industrial park in downtown San Antonio that is changing into a trendy and vibrant neighborhood.

It was formerly known as the Pearl Brewhouse and once had the largest brewery in Texas.

Pearl district sunset
Downtown San Antonio

The district has many bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and more. 

Although it’s not as popular as the River Walk, the Pearl District is a big draw to the younger population.

The segment has several eateries that offer diverse cuisines, including local, Caribbean, Japanese, and Mexican.

As for Nightlife – Many entertainment spots remain open well into the night. 

Tower of the Americas

The Tower of the Americas is a 750-foot-tall pedestal that gives visitors an unparalleled view of San Antonio.

You can enjoy the spectacular panorama atop the observation deck or while enjoying food in the revolving Chart House Restaurant. 

The deck’s floor has photographs of San Antonio’s landmarks to help visitors identify their surroundings.

Tower of the Americas San Antonio
Tower of the Americas in San Antonio

Its walls have eye-catching murals that depict the story of the six flags that once flew over Texas.

The tower’s base has an expansive gift shop that offers a unique selection of souvenirs to take home as a remembrance of your time on top of the building.

These include headwear, apparel, toys, and other novelty gifts.   

Which Is Better – Austin or San Antonio?

Austin is a great city with many activities to explore while you’re there. Most of the attractions require action rather than sightseeing.

Savor the food and drinks, dance to the live music, and end your trip relaxing in the nearby lakes.

On the other hand, San Antonio is more about sightseeing. History enthusiasts will love exploring the expanded River Walk that extends to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Alternatively, you can tour the Alamo or learn about Texan history on the Tower of the Americas. 

Both cities are great. Your preference determines the better option – if you love history, go to San Antonio. Otherwise, tour Austin.

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