Is San Antonio The New Austin?

Okay, yeah, we’re trolling somebody with that headline. But who?

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(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Over the weekend, the Huffington Post published a brief little travel guide to San Antonio. As these things go, it was fine. It ran at just 650 words, so it mostly just highlighted a few of the newer places to hang out in the city. But what caught our eye was the headline, which read: “24 Hours in San Antonio (the New Austin), Texas.

That’s a controversial statement, as anybody who followed the dumb Breakfast Taco Wars of 2016 could probably predict. But what’s interesting is that, for the most part, the people expressing outrage at the sentiment aren’t just Austinites outraged that their hip oasis in the middle of Texas is getting replaced, at least in the eye of one outlet, by its less-cool cousin to the south—it’s a lot of San Antonio folks annoyed at the insinuation that they’d even want to be the new Austin.

Now, it wasn’t solely San Antonio residents who felt the need to experience (or feign) outrage at the headline. The Austin American-Statesman got huffy at the Post and penned a tepid, lukewarm response to the insinuation, hilariously accusing San Antonio of having committed “sins” in the breakfast taco skirmish, and then offering this (frankly embarrassing) list of the city’s virtues:

But by no means does that make San Antonio the “New Austin.” Where else are you going to see a mural dedicated to Willie Nelson? In what other Texas city could you experience one of the top-rated parks in the country? And where else are you going to get to see bats fly out from under a bridge every night? If that’s not enough, here are 175 other reasons to love our fair capital city.

(You can see Willie Nelson murals in Nashville and Vancouver—and maybe even in San Antonio?—and as the Statesman‘s own link notes, Dallas’s Klyde Warren Park ranked higher than Austin’s Zilker on the very list the story references. They’re right about the bats, though. Austin has bats.)

If Austin’s great selling points are a mural of Willie Nelson and a park that’s almost as good as the one in Dallas and bats, well, keep it weird? But the more revealing part of the reaction to the story is that the too-cool-for-school crowd is mostly the San Antonians.

That’s an attitude that is downright Austonian, when you think about it. Which makes some sense: in his Texas Monthly cover story in March, Michael Hall noted that longtime Austinites had decamped for San Antonio in recent years, and the new hipness that the Huff Post writer noted in her original story—the Pearl Compound, the renewed Blue Star Arts Complex, the Alamo Quarry Market and more—have given San Antonio an updated look that’s got the city earning worldwide accolades. San Antonio is definitely more “hipster” friendly than in the “Keep San Antonio Lame” days, at any rate—which means that the headline from the Huffington Post is probably not all that far from the truth.

We’ll admit that we’re trolling somebody with that headline up there, but the big question is who? Austin’s best defense against the declaration about San Antonio is to talk about bats, while San Antonio’s is outright rejection, which suggests that somebody’s pretty cranky about being called a hipster. All of which suggests that San Antonio’s image may be well earned: After all, nothing annoys a hipster more than being called a hipster.

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  • San Antonio is just fine as it is. It doesn’t need to be the “New Anything”.

    • Kozmo

      And that’s a lesson Austin has NEVER been able to learn. Not since the later 70s, the last time it was content to only be Austin and not yearning to be something else (Houston, Nashville, Silicon Valley, or most recently, Los Angeles, at which it has succeeded only too well).

  • space2k

    Well it is kind of like Austin in that it used to be much cooler (r.i.p. Taco Land).

  • ladybugmom

    San Antonio, for the record, has tons of bats.

    • Scott Martin

      55 million in one cave to be exact. The largest bat colony in the world. And smaller colonies under bridges downtown. Jeez, people both cities are great for different reasons, but there’s lots of misinformed language floating around.

  • Mike in Texas

    I think the Statesman’s article highlight’s one of Austin’s more notable features …. the Austin Bubble. Apparently the author is unaware of bat watching on the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk at the IH-35 overpass. And apparently the author doesn’t pay attention to PBS. Otherwise he’d know about the PBS series “10 Things That Changed America,” specifically the episode titled “10 Parks That Changed America.” And as far as a Willie Nelson mural … um … well … really?

  • Kozmo

    Geez, why would San Antonio want Austin’s horrible traffic congestion, insufferable attitude about its own hipness, and soaring property taxes? These are ALL things that will probably force me to quit Austin in the next couple of years. Yeah, it’s “weird” not being able to afford to live here anymore!

    It’s also “weird” that the state lege has gerrymandered Austin into so many separate districts, just so the city can’t be ably represented any longer at the state or national level.

  • Carol Morgan

    It depends on “which” Austin they’re comparing it with… Is it the pretentious and gentrified Austin that’s overrun by the tech hipsters or the authentic one from the 70’s?

  • Scott Martin

    Justin at Flight gallery just got a new batch of “Keep San Antonio Lame” stickers if anyone wants one. FYI, this campaign and about keeping a best kept secret quiet by maintaining the image that SA is lame. Let people think it’s lame so it doesn’t get ruined by a massive onslaught of young people flocking to the next cool place.

  • Scott Martin

    I’ve lived in SA, Austin and Houston. All of these cites are great for different reasons. All of these cities are moving forward and obtaining things they used to not have. Let’s stop the petty bickering and start appreciating what each has to offer.