This area of South Texas is composed of plains and brush country that stretches from the edges of the Hill Country into the subtropical regions of the Lower Rio Grande valley. It is very dry here, and much of the area is covered with grasses and thorny brush such as mesquite and prickly pear cacti. Some lakes dot the region, as well as short-lived “resacas” which are former channels of the Rio Grande River that have been cut off, like an oxbow. These occasionally fill with silt and water, creating marshes and ponds, with plants and wildlife that vary seasonally depending on the quantity and quality of the available water. In Central Texas, the land is rolling to hilly grassland which sits on the Edwards Plateau that has been eroded into a hilly terrain over many millions of years. The Edwards Aquifer creates hidden, underground lakes and many holes and caves with water running through them. This aquifer provides drinking water for 1.5 million people, as well as for farming and wildlife habitat. Retirees who love spelunking will enjoy exploring the caves of the Hill Country.
Austin is the capital city of Texas, and has a population of 790,390. It was founded on a bend in the Colorado River in 1839, and largely developed along with the University of Texas (UT) which was founded in 1883. It includes a diverse mix of university professors, students, undocumented immigrants, politicians, musicians, state employees, high-tech workers, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers and a large gay community (according to Wikipedia). Local bumper stickers exhort residents to “Keep Austin Weird”.
Climate: Austin has extremely hot summers with prevailing humid winds from the Gulf of Mexico and mild winters which appeal to many retirees. The area receives an average of 33.6 inches of rain per year.
Cost of living: The cost of living in Austin is 6.6% greater than the Texas average, but still 3% less than the national average. No particular bargains here in terms of retirement housing, with the median home value in Austin 63.2% greater than the Texas average and 2.4% less than the national average.
Colleges and Universities: As mentioned earlier, Austin is proud to host The University of Texas at Austin and is also home to St. Edward’s University, Austin Community College, Concordia University, and Huston-Tillotson University to name a few options for learning in retirement. UT has an OLLI program, which is one of a well-known national network of lifelong learning opportunities for seasoned adults.
Transportation: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport offers air service, and public transportation is provided by Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), primarily by bus. Retirees will also enjoy riding in one of Austin’s pedicab bicycle taxis that operate downtown during the evening hours and daytime during events.
Travel and tourism: “The Live Music Capital of the World”, Austin can rightfully claim this title since almost any night here you can listen to live indie rock, jazz-funk, alt country, punk ska, acoustic rhythms, Latin sambas, Tejano trumpets, and world beat. Austin’s local beer joints launched the likes of rock diva Janis Joplin and cosmic cowboy Willie Nelson in the 60’s and 70’s, dear to the hearts of baby boomers and retirees.
Second only to Houston as the largest city in Texas, San Antonio has a population of 1.33 million in the city itself, with a regional population of 2.2 million. The city’s growth in the 20th century was due in large part to local military bases, but today it has a diversified economy based on financial services, government, health care, and tourism.
Climate: San Antonio’s weather is alternately dry or humid depending on the direction the winds are blowing. Summers are hot, winters are warm to cool with cool to cold nights, and it is comfortably warm and rainy in the spring and fall.
Cost of living: San Antonio’s is approximately on a par with the average cost of living, 5% less than the national average. Surprisingly, with all the amenities of this fascinating large metropolitan area, there are still bargains in housing. A retirement home in San Antonio will cost 8.8% less than the Texas average and 45.5% less than the national average.
Colleges and Universities: There should be many programs for learning in retirement from one of the 31 higher-education facilities in San Antonio which include The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University–San Antonio, and the Alamo Community College District.
Transportation: Twenty-one airlines serve San Antonio International Airport, with 43 destinations including three in Mexico. Public mass transit is provided by VIA Metropolitan Transit. Retirees who enjoy bicycling will be interested to note that San Antonio was designated a Bronze-Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.
Travel and tourism: Remember the Alamo? Three million tourists a year echo this refrain as they visit San Antonio’s central mission, site of the infamous battle/massacre. Retirees will enjoy the history, and meandering along the tree-shaded Riverwalk, which has more cafés and clubs than a dog has fleas. San Antonio is known for its lively Tex-Mex culture (about 60% of the 1.3 million residents have Hispanic heritage). Here you can drink an aguas frescas (fruit-infused water) at the mercado (marketplace) and then hear country music at an old country store Willie Nelson helped establish. Enjoy a fiesta one day and rodeo the next.