The product of a nomadic military family constantly on-the-go, my childhood was punctuated by cardboard boxes, packing tape, moving vans, and the loving shove out the door to, “Go make friends with the kids down the street!” As a less-than-outgoing youngster (with a penchant for nostalgia), the oscillating/steady rhythm of saying-goodbye-to-the-old and embracing-the-new was tumultuous, to say the least.
I’ll be the first to say: this wayfaring lifestyle instilled wonderful qualities in me. It made me adaptable to new situations, curious about the world, and better equipped to make new friends. But though I loved my adventurous life (and wouldn’t change a thing about it), it did lead me to create one hard and fast (and mildly jaded) rule for myself: Don’t grow too attached to any geographic idea of “home.”
With this mindset, I could flit from city to city every few years, never growing too attached to any house or tree or sandwich shop. However, in all my self-disciplined glory, I failed to consider the possibility that a location could steal my heart without the permission of my iron will...which is precisely what happened when I moved to San Antonio.
I remember the day I drove into town for the first time, my usual relocation wariness in full swing. When I stepped out of my air-conditioned car and into the hazy South Texas heat, I was ready to scope out the scene and start exploring (all while remaining unbiased and detached, of course). But even with my air of aloofness, I was almost immediately surprised by how much I liked the city. I was charmed by the humming mix of cultures (from Tejano to Mexican to German), the outrageously delicious breakfast tacos (al pastor, please), the old-world architecture, and generous parks.
Needless to say, the longer I lived in San Antonio, the more my arm's-length framework came crumbling down. Over the following days and months and years, a fierce love and loyalty for the Alamo City crept into my heart and now courses strongly through my veins. So what was it about this city that wooed a transplant even as standoffish as me? Below are just a few of my favorite things about San Antonio, Texas.
A Small Town in a Big City
As the seventh-largest city in America, I expected San Antonio to feel crowded, noisy, and cluttered with traffic. But rather than a cacophony, the Alamo City felt more like an ambling country song. The city’s widespread layout has created a network of tight-knit neighborhoods, each unique and distinct communities within a larger framework. From northward- lying areas like Stone Oak to the more centrally located Terrell Hills and Alamo Heights, San Antonio’s layout has always made me feel like I live in a small town.
Hill Country Vibes
Perhaps one of San Antonio’s most coveted features is its location: nestled next to the wide-open expanse of the Texas Hill Country. As locals, we enjoy the naturally exquisite luxury of sweeping views and a wealth of wildflowers. (One of my favorite weekend pastimes is hopping in the car for a scenic drive.) But San Antonio isn’t content to just lie dormant next to all that natural beauty. One of my favorite things about San Antonio is its many parks, from teeny green oases in the middle of downtown to the vast acreage of Brackenridge.
Forward Thinking + Innovative
Austin may be known as the progressive mecca of Texas, but San Antonio’s slow and steady path to forward-thinking innovation has been one of the city’s hidden gems. From organizations devoted to community improvement to political collaboration between various parties, San Antonio is dedicated to promoting education, the arts, civic engagement, and more.
Low Cost of Living
One of the more practical items on my list, I’d have to say that the affordability of San Antonio is actually pretty magical. According to one resident, the cost of living in the Alamo City is about 60% percent of what it would be in Austin...a pretty hefty difference if you ask me! I know quite a few people (myself included) who were drawn into living in San Antonio for the affordability factor, only to stay for the cultural charm.
A Fascinating History
When most folks picture San Antonio, one very distinct cultural icon comes to mind: The Alamo. In one sense, I feel like this is very appropriate. When I moved to this city, I immediately noticed its vibrant sense of history. However, as I’ve lived here longer, I’ve noticed that the historical nuances go further (and deeper) than obvious cultural attractions like The Alamo. As one of the oldest cities in Texas, San Antonio’s wealth of stories is inspiring and fascinating. From the grand architecture of the San Fernando Cathedral (the oldest church in the state of Texas) to the details in quirky historic neighborhoods, San Antonio is buzzing with historic charm.
Delicious Food Culture
Tex-Mex! Tacos! Margaritas! When you think of San Antonio’s food culture, we can bet these mouth-watering words flash with the ferocity of a hungry teenager. I personally didn’t discover the wonders of chips-and-guacamole or breakfast tacos until I moved here. (Needless to say, I was a die-hard convert within months.) But the best thing about San Antonio’s foodie scene is that it’s as diverse and interesting as the demographic makeup of our town. From brunch to fine dining, we claim some of the best chefs in the country.
An Authentic Take on Hospitality
The whole “small town vibes” thing I was talking about earlier comes into play here. While Texas itself is famous for that good ‘ol “Southern hospitality,” San Antonio’s charm just feels more...authentic than other cities. If Austin is known for its edgy honesty and Dallas its syrupy sweetness, San Antonio offers up a genuine, down-home kind of attitude, welcoming you in with a plate of tamales and a glass of tea on the porch.
Cliche, But True: We're a Diverse Bunch
If you look at any of the various lists outlining “Why San Antonio is So Great,” I can almost guarantee that “Diversity” is a factor on every single one of them. And, you know, it’s for good reason. San Antonio’s widespread demographics provide a variety of cultural perspectives, innovations, and city-wide tolerance and respect…Plus, there’s something special about such a diverse melting pot of ages, ethnicities, and perspectives unified by a fiery passion for the Spurs.
Decidedly “Lame”...But Maybe in a Cool Way.
Our capital’s classic cry may be, “Keep Austin Weird,” but the Alamo City recently started spouting a similar counterpart: "Keep San Antonio Lame." What began as a bit of a joke (nodding to San Antonio’s family-friendly and perhaps “boring” reputation) has given voice to a somewhat refreshing desire for normalcy. Quite a few of my friends are ex-Austinites who were done with the noise, the traffic, and the fight for uniqueness. Albeit not as loud and colorful, San Antonio has provided a more authentic, peaceful platform for everyday life.
Progress + Growth
Unless you’ve been living under a limestone quarry (which is maybe actually possible in San Antonio), you’ve probably noticed a high volume of new residents flocking to our town. As San Antonio has grown and matured, more and more transplants just like me have picked up and moved to our beloved city. Ever since I rolled into town in 2010, I’ve seen immense progress, growth, and change...from the Pearl District to the West side and beyond. I’m thrilled to call myself a San Antonian, and I can’t wait to keep watching (and participating in) what makes this city so great!
(Written by an anonymous San Antonio transplant)
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