With year-round blue skies, a rich cultural history, and a welcoming vibe lauded in 2016 by Travel and Leisure, it’s understandable that most people think of San Antonio chiefly as a tourist destination. UNESCO’s designation of five frontier missions—including the Alamo—as a “World Heritage Site” only adds to that perception.
In contrast with similar large-scale metropolitan areas, San Antonio has a lower cost of living, a higher rate of employment, and a real estate market ideal for first-time homebuyers and retirees. Plus, from downtown digs and older homes in Monte Vista and Alamo Heights to popular suburban communities like Stone Oak and Alamo Ranch, there’s an array of neighborhoods available for young professionals, families, and empty nesters alike.
Officially the city covers 465 square miles. The downtown is nested at the core of two concentric loops, 410 and 1604. In recent years, growth has been concentrated on the city’s north side, creating an economic lopsidedness that south-side leaders aspire to correct.
The highway system is well maintained but, like most major cities, it’s beginning to feel the strain of population growth and urban sprawl. There’s been abundant roadwork in recent years, and there’s talk within the popular citizen-driven SA 2020 vision plan about increasing reliance on public transportation and bicycles.
To that end, the city is developing green belts and linear parks designed to connect communities through bike and hike trails. Still, with few exceptions, most people routinely rely upon their own cars to travel for work or pleasure.
It’s South Central Texas, so San Antonio is H-O-T for a big chunk of the year. While there are bouts of dry weather and the occasional extended drought, newcomers are surprised sometimes by the summer humidity. This makes sense when you factor in that the city center is only a few hundred miles from Texas Gulf Coast beaches. Officially, San Antonio has a “humid subtropical climate” and averages 31.91 inches of rain per year, but there’s a lot of variability in the landscape and vegetation across the city. Areas close to downtown can appear more tropical. The further north and west you travel, for example, the more apt you are to see cacti and scrub trees.
The upside to the summer heat is that winters are mild, with the occasional January ice storm shutting the city down for a day or two every few years. Given the warm, sunny weather, snow cones and margaritas are more popular than snow plows and shovels.
Summer average (June — Aug): 93.6℉ high, 73℉ low [Source]
Winter average (Dec — Feb): 64.3℉ high, 40.6℉ low [Ibid.]
The world may know San Antonio as “The Alamo City,” but boosters frequently refer to it as “Military City USA.” Given that there’s been a military presence in the area for 300 years (including the current U.S. Department of Defense’s largest medical center), it’s no surprise to find a sizable community of locals employed at Lackland Air Force Base, Fort Sam Houston, and Randolph Air Force Base.
Non-military industries thrive here, as well, especially: hospitality and entertainment; manufacturing; biotechnology and biomedicine; energy (including businesses related to the Eagle Ford Shale); and information technology. Cyber security is a growing economic sector with industry insiders recognizing The University of Texas at San Antonio’s cyber security program as the best in the nation. Major corporations include USAA, Toyota, Valero, Clear Channel, Frost Bank, Rackspace, and HEB.
Unemployment rate: 3.4% (as of May 2016) [Source]
Average weekly wages for all industries: $841.20 (fourth quarter 2015) [Source]