Today, with summer travel season upon us, let’s deal with something from a file we’ll call “Is it just me, or … ?”
Is it just me or does it seem like Austinites, in general, oddly find little reason to go to San Antonio, a unique and larger city that’s only about 80 miles southwest of here?
This notion again crossed my mind during a recent trip to San Antonio for a David Byrne concert. Great show, by the way. He’s bringing it to Austin at the Bass Concert Hall on Oct. 10. Go. It’s a great reminder that he’s a lot more than just a Talking Head. I saw him in San Antonio at the new-to-me Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Great venue.
Anyway, it was that overnight stay in San Antonio that cemented this notion about why I, and maybe other Austinites, find relatively few reasons to go to San Antonio. Is it just me? Could be. Back in 2016, this paper noted that a report by Trivago, a hotel reservation outfit, found that San Antonio was the most-searched destination in Austin. Searches could lead to visits. But I still get the feeling that Ausinites don’t go to San Antonio as much as one might think they would.
I like San Antonio. The Alamo is always worth visiting (though they probably shouldn’t have put it in the middle of downtown). A few years ago I went to the Alamo for a screening of “The Alamo” (Ron Howard’s 2004 version, not the 1960 John Wayne epic that’s epically historically inaccurate).
Without getting into the current battle over the Alamo, let’s just all agree that it’s nice to see movement toward classing up the area a bit.
The Alamo is one of the San Antonio missions, all of which are interesting and well worth a visit. And who — even if you think it’s uncool to say the food there is good — doesn’t enjoy the mega-Tex-Mex restaurant that is Mi Tierra in the market area. One of the great joys of San Antonio taking first-timers (especially non-Texans) to Mi Tierra and watching them absorb the over-the-top atmosphere. Muy entertaining.
I’ve also done some enjoyable bike rides, organized and independent, in San Antonio. Though it’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I’m am overdue for another visit, I remember the Institute of Texan Cultures as a great place.
I’ve only been to San Antonio’s annual Fiesta once, and that was to help cover a 1979 shooting spree during the Battle of Flowers parade. I really need to go back and check it out under better circumstances.
I’m a basketball fan (the long-suffering New York Knicks kind), but I’ve made the transition to where I enjoy games as much (more?) on TV than in person. So I’ve never been to a Spurs home game at the AT&T Center. I did go to games at the old HemisFair Arena. I admire the Spurs as one of the best franchises in pro sports, despite this past season’s Kawhi Leonard unpleasantness. One other point: The Spurs annoy me by having piped-in music playing while the ball’s in play. There ought to be a law. This ain’t figure skating.
So there’s lot of good stuff in our not-too-distant neighbor, but somehow not enough to draw me — and other Austinites? — to San Antonio very often. What am I missing?
I’m not interested in igniting a battle over which city is better. Both are great and unique. And I don’t want to revisit the Austin-San Antonio breakfast taco war that rocked the nation a few years ago. The goal here is to limit the discussion to why it seems that in the years I’ve lived in Austin (got here in 1979), I’ve found relatively few reasons (other than work purposes) to go to a bigger city (and it used to be much bigger) and unique city that’s so close.
Some numbers, including some that could answer my question about why it seems to me Austinites don’t go to San Antonio very often. The city of San Antonio’s population now is about 1.5 million, making it the seventh largest city in the U.S. (and 2nd largest in the southern U.S.). But the San Antonio metro area has 2.5 million people, which ranks it only 24th in the nation.
The city of Austin’s population now is tagged at about 950,000, making us the nation’s 11th largest city, which is pretty staggering to consider. But our metro area is just over 2 million, ranking 31st in the nation. So, metro-area-wise, the two cities aren’t all that different in size these days.
I’m sure I’m missing something about San Antonio. I’d like to find more reasons to go there. So suggest away, and, as guidance, please know I’m not a fancy restaurant guy and, as a prohibitionist, sending me to places where alcohol is a key feature will just remind me of how much work I have to do on that front. I really don’t need more reminders of that.
I have one found thing — a person actually — that Austinites might find interesting in San Antonio: the former Austinite who’s mayor down there.
Ron Nirenberg, 41, though born in a Boston suburb, moved to Austin with his family when he was 3. He attended Summit and Webb elementary schools, Murchison Middle School and is an Anderson High School alum, making him among the most famous graduates of that Northwest Austin campus.
That list includes conspiracy theorist and all-around-oddball Alex Jones and the Brooks brothers (Hollywood actor Mehcad and Esther’s Follies performer Billy, not the suit guys). Disclosure: The Brooks brothers’ mom is American-Statesman editorial board member Alberta Phillips, who likes seeing her talented sons’ names in the paper.
FYI, Nirenberg wound up in San Antonio after attending Trinity University there.
So maybe that’s a reason to go to San Antonio, to say howdy to a former Austinite who seems to have a bright political future.
Bottom line, do Austinites not go to San Antonio very often? Or is it just me?