Austin & Nashville: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Austin_Nashville_Side_by_Side_ComparisonA few weeks ago, my rockstar real estate agent Judy Rockensock—who helped my wife Gina and I find the perfect house on our move back to Nashville—called to say she had recommended me for an interview with the Tennessean. The gist of the interview was a comparison of Austin and Nashville. The interview was short but it inspired me to write more expanded thoughts in this post.

When Nashvillians find out I just relocated back after two years in Austin, they invariably say, “oh yeah, the cities are so much alike.” To which I answer yes…and no.

First, a graph showing a side-by-side comparison, and then my thoughts.

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1. Austin is supposedly the “Live Music Capital of the World,” but after two years I don’t think there is more live music in Austin than in Nashville with the exception of the convening of South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival. Both cities have a tourist trap street—Broadway in Nashville, and 6th St. in Austin—and in both cities the real music happens all over the city in out of the way clubs and venues. If I had to rate quality of music and musicians, it would be Nashville hands down.

2. Downtown Austin is one of the most delightful cities of the world. The epicenter is the breathtaking and beautiful Town Lake Trail circling the Colorado River, the bridges are strategically located, the city is spotlessly clean and the juxtaposition of old and new buildings is a work of art. It is a city throbbing with energy. Nashville—not so much.

3. Walkability in Austin is ideal. I lived downtown in a loft apartment next to the W Hotel on 2nd and Guadalupe and rarely got in my car. Everything I needed was within a one mile radius. The mother (literally) of Whole Foods was two blocks away, a weekly Farmer’s Market in front of our apartment building, a plethora of restaurants with Bon Appétit and James Beard award-winning chefs, a beautiful art museum, clubs and shopping everywhere. It didn’t hurt that the ACL state-of-the-art concert venue was next door, SXSW was two blocks away, the Town Lake Trail was one block away for exercise or people watching, the iconic SoCo district was two blocks away, as well as Zilker Park, Barton Springs, the Austin Symphony, the Austin Ballet, 6th St., the airport 15 minutes away, it is extremely bike friendly, and I could go on and on. Few cities in the world are laid out better than Austin. Nashville, not so much. The Gulch, the tourist strip on Broadway, the river district, East Nashville, Music Row, Hillsboro Village, Germantown are simply inaccessible to a walker. A car is a requirement.

4. Speaking of cars. This is a place where Nashville shines. Easy accessibility with the Interstate systems. The convergence of I-65, I-24, I-40 & I-440 provide easy ingress and egress into Nashville at the busiest of times. The streets are wide and well-designed. Austin, on the other hand, is a nightmare. The one Interstate I-30 is usually a parking lot, so are the other North South routes, MOPAC and 183. It’s as if the Austin city designers decided Austin was not going to grow any larger after 1979, and so no provision for any growth was made—much less the exponential growth that happened. Over 170 new people every day. And I don’t think they care. Driving is a horrible, horrible experience.

5. Both cities have a lot of work to do to attain an esthetically pleasing environment. They are relatively new American cities. Nuff said.

6. Although Nashville is making huge strides in the “foodie” department, Austin still has the edge hands down. It is so encouraging to see new restaurants like Etch and Rolf and Daughtersbut for every one restaurant with a chef of Deb Paquette and Philip Krajeck’s caliber, there are ten in austin. Congress, La Condessa, Uchi and Uchiko, Franklin Barbeque all have Bon Appétit award-winning chefs and that is only the appetizer, if you will. An amazing new culinary experience is to be had around every corner. And the bars…oh, the bars. For every Nashville Patterson House mixologist, there are a five times that in Austin. It is a libation paradise. Austin has to be one of the great “foodie” destination in the world, and thankfully the natives hungrily support their chefs.

7. Nature blessed Nashville. The rolling hills, four equal and beautiful seasons, the Tennessee River, the many lakes and rivers, mountains just a couple of hours away, one of the most beautiful, albeit unknown, waterfalls at Burgess Falls, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and the list goes on. Austin has the Colorado River, the Hill Country and that’s about it.

8. Again, there is no comparison. Nashville planned her park system well. They are everywhere, and the twin crown jewels are tucked in the middle of her population. Percy Warner and Percy Priest parks are next door to each other and provide hundreds of verdant acres of untouched, scenic beauty. Picnic areas, running and equestrian trails, an equestrian center and vistas unmatched in all of Nashville. Austin has the breathtaking Town Lake Trail but the list takes a huge spiral downward after that. Most of the parks look like the mixed desert that Austin is built upon. They are just not very “parky.”

9. Depression quotient definitely goes to Nashville. The unending gray skies in winter and the stark contrast of the naked trees provide little help for those of us in need of generous doses  of Vitamin D. In the words of Nashville songwriter Andrew Peterson “And the sky in Nashville, It can bend you low, ‘Cause the winter here is gray, Without a trace of snow.” Austin has plentiful sun and spectacular blue skies virtually every day of the year. The low humidity and beautiful days help you bear the heat during the summer.

The remaining nine HERE.

Question: Thoughts about my list?

10 thoughts on “Austin & Nashville: A Side-By-Side Comparison

  1. My brother moved to Clarksville a few years ago, and I lived in Austin for 9 years. I’d like to move to Tennessee sometime (I’m in Houston now. Ugh.) and being in Austin definitely raised the bar for what I want in a city. This comparison is interesting to see. Thanks for the info!

    1. Thanks, Chris. Yes, both Austin and Nashville are awesome places to live. Especially for a creative like you.

  2. Very interesting, Randy. I’ve often thought I would live in Austin if I ever moved from Nashville, not that I want to.

    Regarding driveability and walkability, I wonder if those things are at odds with each other? Driveability (good interstates) making more distant locations attractive financially. I don’t think it has to be that way but I think maybe it’s the natural inclination. In turn, those locations make walking just about impossible.

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s installment.

    1. Yes, good point, Joey. There is something to be said for either, don’t you think? Thanks for joining in.

  3. Very interesting. After living in the West, I wonder how places like Portland and Seattle (or even West Hollywood) would compare to Austin/Nashville.

  4. Nashville is one of my favorite places, after having grown to know it over the past four years or so. I have never been to Austin, but would really love to get there…especially after having read this list….especially to sample the food and bars (after having read this list)! I do agree that the one drawback of living in Nashville (at least for me) would be the “Depression Quotient.” Living in Florida has definitely been a boon to my spirits. Can’t wait to see the rest of the list tomorrow.

    1. Thanks, Tom. Yes, there is a lot to be said about Florida. My fifteen plus years there were quite wonderful. Thanks for joining in!

    1. Yes, Vince. I couldn’t agree more! Liberals are so much more graceful and accepting than Bible belt conservatives. No comparison.

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