Edited from an article by Sam Staff of San Antonio Magazine, February 2014
Non-San Antonians are often bewildered by residents’ passions for the city, and part of it can’t be explained—it just feels like home. But there are some reasons for our devotion that can be put into words. These are just a few…
- The Scenery is beautiful—really
The thing about this city is: sometimes its beauty hides in plain sight. From spring wildflowers growing along the side of the road and the autumn-tinted treetops of Alamo Heights seen from Highway 281, to the city parks and river reaches are natural places to look, but it’s the idyllic views right in front of us that we admire the most.
- We’re Forward Thinking
The Census Bureau estimates San Antonio’s population jumped 1.87 percent from July 2011 to July 2012. What’s attracting so many new residents? The positive business climate and affordable living, sure. But also the fact that San Antonio is in an era of change, and locals are helping to shape it. Just look at the myriad organizations devoted to community improvement. Two that we especially like: SA2020, which continues to build on goals related to arts, education, family, safety, civic engagement and more; and Awesome SA, which takes crowd-sourcing local with a board of professionals who each contribute to a monthly grant given to an ambitious idea.
- People Keep Moving Here
And unlike some of our fellow Texas cities—ahem, Austin—we’re glad to have them. Three newcomers tell us what they like about their new hometown.
“My (cost of living) in San Antonio is about 60 percent of what it would be in Austin. There are a lot of opportunities here.”—Kurt Jacquin Owner, SuperSlow Zone San Antonio
“I love that San Antonio residents have embraced the quirky and fun aspect of this city. The arts are beginning to flourish.” —Christopher Novosad Senior marketing manager, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.
“We love the diversity of the city. There are so many different places to go. There is history, yet parts of the city have a new, modern feel.” —Stacy Harmon Moved from Pittsburgh with husband for job transfer
- The Future of Politics Starts Here
Republicans and Democrats agreed on two things after the ballots were counted in the 2012 elections: the American electorate is changing—becoming less white and more urban—and Hispanic voters will largely determine who wields future political power. In other words, America, and Texas in particular, will soon have a political landscape like San Antonio’s.
- Mayor Castro (Former Mayor)
Ambitious and likeable. The attributes are basically requirements for a successful politician, and in Julián Castro’s case, they marry perfectly. He gets stuff done (from proposing to implementing Pre-K 4 SA to attracting new companies to introducing fitness and health programs that helped the city’s obesity rate dip below the state average), yet doesn’t take himself too seriously (his YouTube open letter to Charles Barkley still makes us laugh).
- Centuries of History
1691 Spanish explorers name the river and area after St. Anthony de Padua; 1718 San Antonio de Béxar presidio established; 1821 Mexico, including Tejas, wins independence from Spain; 1835 The Texas Revolution’s Siege of Bexar; 1836 Battle of the Alamo; 1837 The Republic of Texas charters San Antonio as Bexar County seat; 1845 United States annexes Texas, sparks Mexican-American War;
Fort Sam Houston established; 1891 Battle of Flowers parade held, becomes Fiesta; 1898 Theodore Roosevelt recruits Rough Riders for Spanish-American War; 1939 River Walk construction begins; 1968 HemisFair World’s Fair celebrates city’s 250th anniversary; 1973 Dallas Chaparrals become San Antonio Spurs; 1978 San Antonio Missions declared National Historical Park; 1990 San Antonio counted as 10th largest U.S. city; 2010 Census ranks San Antonio as seventh largest city; 2013 U.S. Chamber of Commerce names San Antonio one of seven “enterprising cities”, 2015 San Antonio Missions named a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
- We genuinely care about the military…and they care about us
True, this should be a given in a town known as Military City, U.S.A., but Brig. Gen. Robert D. LaBrutta, commander of the 502 Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio, says San Antonio’s military spirit is unique. “Throughout my 31 years, there isn’t another city that has embraced military members and their families as well (as San Antonio),” says LaBrutta. “That’s not because we have such a large military population. It’s because of the way San Antonio embraces the military … The people here are really patriotic. The city supports us. When our folks are downtown, someone always comes up and says, ‘Thank you.’” And because of the initiative San Antonians take to thank and include service members in the community, LaBrutta says military personnel want to get involved and give back to the city, whether through service, civilian jobs after retirement or some other method. “They make us feel like they want us to be a part of the community,” he says.
- Military Healing
Not just where the military trains, San Antonio is also where many who have been injured—physically or psychologically—come to heal. The San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston includes the military’s only Burn Center, and local researchers have become national leaders in research and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Good Eats
Yes, we have a never-ending supply of Tex-Mex—and we like it that way—but there’s so much more to our food scene. Case in point: Southtown, where in walking distance, you can eat Cajun shrimp from a truck (along with other gourmet options on wheels), devour Belgian mussels, embrace a quirky atmosphere and menu and find fine American dining. Turn a day into an eating tour and walk off the calories in between.
- City Leaders Have an Eye for the Future
Three recent news items we’re excited about:
➊ H-E-B opened a grocery store downtown in December
➋ A new era looks has begun with the opening of Phase I of Hemisfair Park
➌ VIA Metropolitan Transit bolsters the lives of those who live and work downtown with its downtown streetcar plan.
- Higher Education for All
No matter what kind of higher education environment you seek—big, small, religious, liberal arts, law, medical—there’s a program that’s just right. More than 100,000 students study at one of the city’s 31 higher education institutions.
- The Medical Community is Top-notch and Cutting Edge
In research and patient care, the city’s medical and bioscience professionals are recognized as some of the best in the country. One in six San Antonians work in the health care and biosciences sector (as of 2010), keeping us healthy, offering cutting-edge treatments and developing practices, devices and pharmaceuticals to save lives. Many people travel to San Antonio each year to receive medical care, and locals are lucky to have it in their backyard. A reader on our Facebook page recently wrote about battling breast cancer. “San Antonio has the best doctors, surgeons and oncologists. While so many women traveled hundreds of miles to receive good care, I merely surveyed the city and found the best,” she wrote. “Thank you San Antonio for being home to high-quality health care, especially for those battling breast cancer.”
- We’re a Short Drive Away from the Hill Country
Not that there isn’t plenty in San Antonio to keep us busy, but having the Hill Country just up the road is a benefit we like to boast about. Want to stroll down small-town main street? Shop antiques and tour a vineyard? Partake in a quaint festival? Admire the countryside? The Hill Country awaits.
- We Say ‘Hello’ to One Another
While the city’s vast support of its military is one reason Robert Murdock, a retired Air Force general and director of the city’s Office of Military Affairs, says he decided to retire here, the bottom line for him was the friendliness. “Whenever I fly back to San Antonio from a trip and I get in my car and go to pay the parking fee, the parking attendant always says, ‘Good morning’ or afternoon or evening and ‘How are you?’” he says. “You say, ‘hi’ in New York, and they just kind of grumble at you. I think that positivity and friendliness is pervasive in San Antonio.”
- We Innovate
From the silly to the ultra-serious, San Antonio has long been fertile ground for innovation. A sampling includes:
➔ Millions of people have had longer lives thanks to Dr. Julio Palmaz, who while at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio invented the revolutionary balloon-expandable stent, which has become the standard for treating coronary artery disease.
➔ The Spurs’ mascot, Coyote, is credited—and blamed—for coming up with the T-shirt cannon now used at arenas and stadiums all around America.
➔ The patent for the very first personal computer was filed in 1970 by San Antonio’s Datapoint Corp.
➔ Lt. Benjamin Foulois kicked off a new era of military aviation with his first flight over Fort Sam Houston’s parade grounds in March of 1910.
➔ Move over Richard Simmons. While serving in the military in San Antonio, Dr. Kenneth Cooper did much of the research and writing that ultimately earned him the title of “Father of Aerobics.”
➔ Whether it was clumping cat litter, an artificial way to age Scotch whiskey or heat resistant tiles for the space shuttle, William Mallow just couldn’t stop inventing things. Mallow, who died in 2002, did plenty of groundbreaking work while at the Southwest Research Institute.
- We Value Community Over Competition
Whether it’s chefs, photographers or contemporary artists, San Antonio’s creative class shows full support for one another. It’s one reason the city is becoming well-known for its arts community and food scene. Says restaurateur Jason Dady, who recently closed Bin 555 to open Umai Mi with his take on Asian cuisine: “When the chefs opening restaurants are your friends, it’s never a competition, you want them to succeed. Truly succeed. We all are competition against the big chains, so it’s easy for us to band together and root for each other. By doing this we all share in the progress in the food culture of San Antonio.”
- Chef-Driven Restaurants
We love all the new restaurants that keep coming from San Antonio’s stellar chefs. In the last year: Arcade Midtown Kitchen (Jesse Perez), Cured (Steve McHugh), Kimura (Michael Sohocki), The Luxury and Minnie’s Tavern (Andrew Weissman), Tuk Tuk Taproom (David Gilbert with Steve and Jody Newman). And coming soon: Hot Joy (Quealy Watson with Chad Carey), Umai Mi (Jason Dady) and a yet-to-be-named restaurant at Pearl from Jeff Balfour.
- Broadway’s Booming Again
We’ve seen Southtown and Pearl get hip, and as downtown proper slowly but surely inches its way toward cool, we’re predicting the next hotspot to be another downtown-adjacent ’hood: South Broadway. Known to those in the know as SoBro, the strip south of Alamo Heights and a few blocks east of Pearl had empty lots and dated—and mostly abandoned—concrete store fronts just a few years ago. Now, it’s home to 1800 Broadway’s modern “urban residences,” coffee shops, fitness boutiques and restaurants, including Tuk Tuk Taproom. Its face lift is a work in progress, but we only see it gaining in popularity. With the new Children’s Museum of San Antonio opening last year just a few blocks north, we hope the resurgence will reclaim all of Broadway as a booming main street.
- There’s a Neighborhood for Everyone
➔ The seventh largest city in the country, yes, but San Antonio is more like a large grouping of a bunch of small towns; it literally is in some cases—Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, Olmos Park, Windcrest, Castle Hills, Hill Country Village. Whether it’s another city in itself or a small area where you feel most at home, there’s a neighborhood just right for everyone. Empty nesters enjoying the walkable lifestyle from their luxury condo at Alteza above the Grand Hyatt. A young family looking to plant roots in a friendly community with charm finds Alamo Heights. Want to live and play near like-minded arts lovers and urban enthusiasts? Southtown is calling your name.
- There’s Something to Do Every Day of the Week
Sunday: Free admission to The San Antonio Museum of Art from 10 a.m. to noon and to the McNay if it’s the first Sunday of the month.
Monday: Start the week off at a free Fitness in the Park Bootcamp, available at multiple locations in the morning or evening.
Tuesday: Head downtown and park for free in city garages after 5 p.m. Check downtowntuesday.com for special events, including food trucks, pop-up shops, running tours and promotions at restaurants.
Wednesday: Toast during a mid-week happy hour.
Thursday: Catch a free movie during select months at Cycle in Cinema. In the summer, dance at the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Concerts Under the Stars.
Friday: First Friday in Southtown; Second Fridays at San Antonio Museum of Art, and during the summer and fall, Pearl celebrates with Échale Latino Music Estyles.
Saturday: Saturdays are usually filled with festivals and farmer’s markets. Enjoy!
- We’re Bike-Friendly
San Antonio was ranked among the top 50 bike-friendly cities by Bicycling magazine and with new cycling events, bike lanes and the ever-growing B-Cycle, we don’t have to wonder why. In 2013, B-Cycle added 25 stations, bringing the total number of bikes available to borrow up to 450. Locals (and visitors) took advantage, riding 514,103 miles on B-Cycles since 2011.
- The Weather is Great
If you’re not counting mid-July through August—though even then, temperatures are lower than 80 most mornings. We may bundle up if the thermometer dips below 50 degrees (South Texas winter weather), but we know spring and summer weather will be back soon, sometimes in the same week—or day.
- Three Words: Puffy Taco Mascot
We all love the Spurs Coyote, but the sports mascot guaranteed to make us laugh every time: Missions baseball’s Puffy Taco. In a ‘funny cause it’s true’ kind of way, but also, the mascot hijinks of minor league baseball really are funny.
- We’re Diverse—in Many Ways
Yes, it’s true that numbers can be deceiving. But it’s also true that, when presented fairly, numbers can provide important and unvarnished insights. In the case of San Antonio, the most recent U.S. Census tells us things we already know well—we are big, diverse and growing fast, for instance—as well as some that might not be so obvious.
- World-Class Affordability
San Antonio is both world class in terms of its cultural offerings, cuisine and quality of life yet relatively small town in its price. If you earn $75,000 in New York, you can earn $29,000 in San Antonio and still have the same standard of living. That’s a 60 percent decrease for the same quality of life. Some points of comparison.
Average Listing Price of Homes
San Antonio: $280,376; New York: $2.8 million; San Francisco: $1.6 million
Average Apartment Rent Per Month
San Antonio: $875; New York: $3,902; San Francisco: $2,630
- We Make National News for Reasons Serious and Fun
Double The Cute
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch’s Wasswa and Nakato, the only living set of giraffe twins in the country, born in May, and the San Antonio Zoo’s two-headed Texas cooter turtle Thelma and Louise, born in June, grabbed headlines and fans worldwide.
The nation is watching (and so are we) to see whether the mayor’s Pre-K 4 SA program is effective. As the country grapples with how to elevate lower income students to more universal success, this system will be a test for what could work elsewhere.
A Bookless Library
NPR called and Time, then CNN and others. They all wanted to learn more about BiblioTech, the first bookless library in the country. More than 13,590 Bexar County residents registered as users in its first four months.
- This Guy … Gregg Popovich
As head coach of the Spurs, Gregg Popovich makes us laugh, cheer and cringe. For all his moody outbursts, at the end of the day, he’s a great coach and seems like a cool guy, too.
- We’re Devoted to the Spurs
➔ While New York City now has two professional teams in each of the major sports, San Antonio has no divided factions. We love the Missions, Scorpions, Talons and Silver Stars, but there’s no mistaking, the Spurs are the hometown team. Our fandom unites us, and we may be biased, but we dare say Spurs fans are the best there are: exuberant, loyal and nice. We don’t riot when we lose (Vancouver)—or when we win (LA). After the Silver and Black lost to Miami in the 2013 Finals, fans celebrated their valiant, if disappointing, effort with horns and cheers in the streets, then lined the fences at the airport the next day to welcome the team home. Both the players and the fans made us proud to be from San Antonio.
- The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
Comedy, symphony, children’s theatre, Broadway extravaganzas and more – The Tobin welcomes the biggest and the best to its extraordinary stage.
- We’re Passionate About Our Jobs, But We Don’t Live to Work
For many of us, work is not just about getting a paycheck. For proof, look no farther than what’s bubbling up at Geekdom, the long hours put in at places like Valero or Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and the strong involvement in professional organizations. But that very same passion that makes San Antonio such a premier business hub also gets poured into fun of literally all types. Local groups that bring together lovers of everything from trail running to beer and salsa dancing to wilderness survival, books and the show Dr. Who. With so many ways to enjoy yourself—and so many like-minded folks eager to join you—there’s no excuse for being a workaholic.
“As a young professional and a member of LOOP, I’m thankful to have the opportunity to grow and shape San Antonio into a premier place to live and work.”—Allie Benson
- We Give Back
One of the things you hear over and over about why people love living in San Antonio is that it’s a big city that feels like a small town. One of the big reasons it has that neighborly feel is because people make time to support the community. The ways to do so are as expansive and big-hearted as the city itself. Summing it all up? The city’s biggest annual party, Fiesta, is actually the city’s biggest annual fundraiser, resulting in around a million dollars each year donated to various charitable causes.
- Things Keep Getting Better
While there are countless reasons (our 32 just gets the ball rolling) to love SA, the underlying theme that unifies them all is progress. Think of the city as a sculpture that we all have the chance to mold into an ever more beautiful form. Will it ever be perfect (whatever that is) or complete? No. But look at how we are all collectively changing it for the better already. People and businesses are flocking here, creating the sorts of jobs and opportunities every city craves and providing the kind of new ideas and energy necessary to keep up the momentum. Our cultural life gets more enriching and diverse by the day. Already great, our food scene continues to expand and improve in mouth-watering ways. Citizens are getting more engaged and involved in improving their neighborhoods. How will things get better this year? It’s hard to predict, other than to say that it will be you who makes it happen.
This article appeared in the February 2014 issue of San Antonio Magazine. The content was updated to reflect the current status of the city in 2015.