Two of the largest cities in Texas, San Antonio and Austin, sit just 80 miles apart at their centers. Some people think that one day, they will grow together to form a giant metro area, similar to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to their north. But despite their proximity, they are very different places to visit.
Let’s take a closer look at both San Antonio and Austin, and what each has to offer as a vacation destination.
San Antonio or Austin for a vacation?
Table of Contents
The Vibe ✌️
San Antonio, has a “Fiesta” vibe, plain and simple.
Texas was under Spanish control from 1690 to 1821, when it became part of the Mexican Empire, in which it remained until the Texas Revolution in 1836.
Originally settled in 1718 as a Spanish Mission and outpost, San Antonio’s cultural history is still evident today, with the largest hispanic population in the United States.
San Antonio offers all of the diverse attractions of any major city, with several colleges and universities, amusement parks, museums, and historical sites.
It also boasts sports attractions at the college, minor league, and professional levels.
Austin, on the other hand, has a much more trendy feel. Music takes the lead as the prominent cultural element, with its official motto being the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
Another motto of Austin is “Keep Austin Weird“, which expresses the desire of the locals to maintain the prosperity of local, independent businesses, as well as preserving the natural and cultural landscape, and the eccentric diversity those things foster.
As the State Capitol of Texas, it is home to many government employees, as well as one of the largest universities in the United States, the University of Texas.
Daytime Attractions and Activities 🗽
At the top of the list for things to see in San Antonio is The Alamo.
Near the center of the city stands what is left of the chapel from the Spanish Alamo Mission.
From February 23 through March 6 of 1836, fewer than 100 Texan troops fought roughly 1500 soldiers from the Mexican Army, killing from 200 to 300 of them.
One of the last, though possibly bloodiest battles of the Texas Revolution, the Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal moment in the events that eventually lead to Texas’ Independence.
Today, the Alamo is open to the public for tours. Admission is free but reservations are required.
Other big attractions are Seaworld and Fiesta Texas.
Seaworld is just what it sounds, an ocean themed amusement park. There are trained Orca whales that put on amazing performances, as well as dolphins, sea lions, and otters.
There are also opportunities to have hands-on experiences with the animals. SeaWorld is an educational and fun day for the whole family.
Fiesta Texas, part of the Six Flags family of amusement parks, has something for everyone. From little kid roller coasters to the big thrill rides, and a few water rides and short presentations in between, this park is sure to please.
A trip to Austin would not be complete without a trip to the Capitol building.
Constructed of native Texas granite, It was at one time the tallest Capitol building of any state.
Daily tours are available, allowing residents and visitors a first person glance at where Texas laws are written.
Austin has a plethora of bus tours, for all kinds of things. From brunch, to booze, there’s one for everybody. You can take a sightseeing bus tour, a brewery bus tour, and a music venue tour, even a haunted Austin tour, just to name a few.
South Congress Avenue is where you should go if you’re planning to do a little shopping while you’re there.
A myriad of small independent and unique shops line the streets, offering something to match any style.
All along the RiverWalk (more on that later) and beyond, are eateries for any mood.
There are, of course, plenty of Mexican and BBQ restaurants, but there are also fun restaurants like Dave and Busters (which is also an adults only arcade) and The Hard Rock Cafe.
After dinner, you have the choice of just about any style of bar or club you can think of.
There are places for beer lovers, dive bars, dance clubs, laid back speak-easy style hideouts, as well as live music, live theater, and even vaudeville shows.
The live music venues are in abundance in Austin. A wide range of musical styles can be found just about any day of the week.
Throw into the mix several clubs with live DJs, a few local breweries and wineries, along with themed bars, and pool halls, and there really is something for everyone.
There are bars where big names have played, like Antone’s where BB King and Sri caption have both performed, jazz and blues clubs, and a real 1920’s speakeasy.
This speakeasy, The Midnight Cowboy, uses a hidden door, that you must ring a bell to enter, and is filled by reservation only, due to the obviously limited space.
Must See Attractions🏛
San Antonio is probably best known for the Riverwalk.
As a creative way to address the fact that there was a river running through downtown San Antonio, architect Robert H. H. Human designed the Riverwalk to help protect the city from flooding while adding beauty and aesthetics.
The total length of the Riverwalk in 2022 is 15 miles, with 5 of that circling the center of downtown.
Set down below street level, the businesses lining it have renovated basement levels for access. There are also footpaths and wheelchair ramps located all along it for easy access.
The entire length is designated as a city park, and the banks are lined with restaurants and shops. There are boat tours daily, and river parades for special occasions. During Christmastime, the Riverwalk is light up with twinkling lights.
The bottom side of the South Congress Street bridge is home to almost 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bat, one of the largest urban bat colonies in America.
March through September of each year is when people come from all over the world to see their amazing natural display.
Every night around sunset, the bats come out to feed, consuming 20-30 tons of insects per evening.
While they feed the circle around the through each other, and in the process produce a beautiful aerial show that draws spectators from all over the world.
So, which is better for a Texas Vacation? San Antonio or Austin?
If you are looking for a family friendly place to go with plenty of things to entertain any ages group, or a group with varying ages (think family time), San Antonio is probably the better choice. The big city feel with plenty of attractions like SeaWorld and Fiesta Texas ensure fun times for the whole family.
The things to do in Austin tend to be a little more geared toward the adult crowd, and not as kid-friendly as those in San Antonio.
So Austin, then is better for those looking to have some grown-up time, whether you decide to leave the kids with grandma, or just don’t have any.
Either way, both cities offer an amazing array of things to do, from important historical monuments, to places that facilitate silly shenanigans–and everything in between.
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