5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The great state of Texas has something for everybody. Having lived there for 20+ years, I can assure you that art and culture, vibrant industries, and world-class universities are as much a part of The Lone Star State as are the images of rodeos, ten-gallon hats, and country music.

The diversity of architecture, attitudes, and cultures in different cities is extraordinary. Going from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio to Austin gives you intrinsically different vibes in terms of energy, culture, and even politics. For a decidedly red state, there are liberal enclaves all over –like the city of Austin and pockets in Houston, San Antonio, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Then there are the smaller cities, hidden gems like the towns in the Texas Hill Country, havens and getaways for those a bit weary of big-city living.

We will be presenting Texas cities in two tiers. In Part I, we will discuss the five largest cities by population. In Part II we will discuss smaller cities. Along the way, we will discuss many of the places that I have enjoyed visiting with friends and family over the years.

How We Evaluate the Cities

Each of the five large cities described are chock-full of neighborhoods that are favored by families with children, young professionals, and retirees.

We will focus on eight critical attributes that often define a city:

  1. a. History and population
  2. b. Lifestyle
  3. c. Affordability (cost of living versus median income)
  4. d. Housing market and neighborhoods (with representative home prices)
  5. e. Healthcare and safety
  6. f. Employment prospects
  7. g. Education
  8. h. Climate

Here are 5 Best Places to Live in Texas in 2021:

1. Austin

Austin is the capital of the state of Texas and the seat of Travis County, located 75 miles north of San Antonio and 195 miles south of Dallas along I-35. The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport serves the city.

a. History, Size, and Population

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Austin was incorporated in 1839, built on a site called Waterloo in the middle of a buffalo-hunting region. The site was renamed after the “Father of the Republic of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin, when it became the capital for a brief period. When Texas joined the American Union in 1845, Austin was again named as its capital after a four-year hiatus.

Austin is the fourth largest city in Texas and the 11th largest city in the U.S., with a population of 964,254 (2018 estimate) and a metro area population of 2.06 million. Austin sprawls over a 272-square-mile area.

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b. Lifestyle

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Austin is a town filled with young professionals and college students. It has been dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World” and “The Drunkest City in the U.S.”

“Keep Austin Weird” is a popular T-shirt slogan that embodies the bohemian spirit of the city. Austin is considered a haven for young professionals—a city that often defies the social conservativeness that is prevalent in the rest of the state.

Austin is known for its multicultural population. The city’s vibrant music, arts, and cultural scene has gained national prominence (Sixth Street, anyone?) and reinforces the reputation that Austin has developed in terms of embracing new visitors and citizens.

Austin welcomes any form of music, be it rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, or country. The city’s musical tastes are highlighted in many places, from the live music at iconic Sixth Street spots to festivals such as the South by Southwest Music Festival.

Another attraction of Austin is its proximity to Texas Hill Country, a perfect getaway along a stretch that extends on either side of I-35 between Austin and San Antonio.

Austin, at the northern end of the hill country, on the Colorado River, displays undulating landscapes and vistas that continue to impress residents and visitors. Spots such as Mount Bonnell, Zilker Park, and the Balcones Canyonland Preserve are favorites for nature lovers, hikers, and campers. Within city limits lies the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

c. Median Income vs. Income Required to Live Comfortably in Austin

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

U.S. News and World Reportranks Austin as #3 on its list of best cities to live in the U.S. and the #1 option within Texas. Austin is ranked #29 on the list of the best U.S. cities to retire to.

A 2021 analysis prepared by GOBankingRates calculates how much money is needed for a person to live comfortably in a given city. The results for Austin are:

HOMEOWNER OR RENTER INCOME REQUIRED
Homeowner $98,007
Renter $94,455

 

AUSTIN MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME RANGE*: $63,717 to 67,462

MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $313,308

MEDIAN ANNUAL RENT: $14,604

* Median Household Income Range provided due to differing methodologies/sources.

Comparing the required income to the median household income, we find a shortfall of approximately $30,000 to $34,000 for Austin. This is modest in comparison with cities like New York and San Francisco, where a six-figure shortfall is common.

Using the rule that no more than 30% of gross income should be spent on rent, Austin clearly qualifies as a city where renters can live with room to spare.

Though the state sales tax rate is high at 8.3% (compared to the national average of 6.2%), Austin residents pay no state income tax (compared to a national average of 4.6%).

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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d. Housing Market: Some of the Best Places to Live in Austin

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The definition of best neighborhoods to live in has morphed significantly since the late 1990s, when the technology boom prompted an expansion of the city.

The following neighborhoods stand out:

  • South Austin/South Lamar/South Congress (home value range $575,000 to $675,000)
    The “in” neighborhood in the city, with bars, restaurants, art, and music on display.
  • North Loop (average home value range $475,000 to $520,000)
    Contiguous with UT-Austin, this area combines bars, boutiques, and cafes—a combination of the party life and casual life.
  • Old West Austin (home value range $290,000 to $2.9 million)
    This area mixes urban and rural living in a way that defines Austin.
  • Cherrywood, East and East-Central Austin (median home value range $580,000 to $650,000)
    Combining city, rural and college life.
  • Allandale (median home value $700,000)
    This welcoming community next to Cherrywood features smaller homes, interspersed with what is needed for laid-back city living, such as eateries and boutiques.
  • Mueller (median home value $1 million)
    Another area close to Allendale and Cherrywood, Mueller is a neighborhood built where the old airport used to be. It continues the laid-back tradition of Austin.
  • The Domain(median home value $370,000)
    This is one of the newer neighborhoods born as a result of the tech boom.
  • Westlake Hills (median home value $1.6 million)
    This higher-end suburb epitomizes the rustic charm of several decades ago.

 

e. Healthcare and Safety

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

While none of Austin’s hospitals are nationally ranked in specific medical specialties, there are strong regional presences by the Ascension Seton group of hospitals in multiple locations. St. David’s Medical Center is generally considered to be the top facility in Austin.

Austin had a lower violent crime rate compared to similarly sized metros in 2018, with 291 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, against a national average of 370. Property crime rates were higher than the national average, at 2,317 per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 2,200.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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f. Employment Prospects

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Austin is known as the technology hub of the U.S. South, with its large concentration of high-tech companies that have attracted young professionals and changed the city’s sleepy town designation from the late 1990s onwards. Industries in the area include technology, instrumentation, bioengineering, and other high-tech fields.

Noted companies that are headquartered in Austin include Whole Foods, National Instruments, Big Commerce, Silicon Labs, Facepoint, and Cirrus Logic. Dell is headquartered in Round Rock.

Other top employers in the area are the Texas state government and its vendors and affiliates, as well as the various departments and institutions within the University of Texas system.

There are excellent prospects for young job seekers and entrepreneurs in Austin. In 2019, the unemployment rate of 2.7% was more than 25% below the national average of 3.7%.

g. Education

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Austin is home to six recognized universities and colleges. The best-known one is the University of Texas at Austin, ranked #29 nationally by U.S. News and World Report.

The Austin Independent School District serves about 74,000 students across 125 schools. Per US News and World Report, the Austin metro area has a total of 94 public and 113 private high schools, and 54 of its schools are ranked nationally.

Overall, the Austin area is known for good educational infrastructure, ahead of the average for similarly sized metro areas.

h. Climate

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Austin tends to get hot and muggy in the summer, without much rainfall to alleviate the heat. Summer temperatures can reach into the high 90s on a regular basis.

Winters are substantially more pleasant, with lows usually staying above freezing.

A chart of average temperatures and rainfall is shown below.

Season Average Temperature Average Rainfall
Winter 50.60F 2.4 inches
Spring 67.20F 2.7 inches
Summer 82.70F 4.0 inches
Fall 68.40F 4.4 inches

Austin is pleasant to visit in the late fall, winter, and spring. It does not get much rainfall in winter and spring.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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2. Dallas

Dallas is located in north central Texas, approximately 30 miles to the east of Fort Worth. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is served by the east/west freeway I-20, which becomes I-30 just west of Fort Worth. The main north/south freeway is I-75, which ends in downtown Dallas and becomes I-45 going southeast to Houston. I-35 is another freeway through the area.

The major airport serving Dallas is the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

a. History, Size, and Population

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Dallas originally had a native Caddo population. The area was then successively occupied by France, Spain, and Mexico before becoming part of the Republic of Texas and then the U.S. The city of Dallas was incorporated in 1856.

Dallas is the third largest city in Texas and the ninth largest city in the U.S., with a population of 1,345,047 (2018 estimate). The Dallas-Fort Worth combined metro area has a population of 7.26 million.

Dallas is the largest city, population-wise, among the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington tri-city area. Dallas extends over a 383-square-mile area.

b. Lifestyle

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Today, Dallas is a cosmopolitan city with a diversified economy, with a population that has grown younger, even though it is still considered a great place to retire.

The memory of the John F. Kennedy assassination is forever linked with Dallas, which is why there are multiple areas paying homage to the late President. The John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza downtown, the historic Dealey Plaza(where President Kennedy was assassinated), and the Sixth Floor Museum(located in the former Texas School Book Depository, from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal bullets) are all stops for the history buffs.

Dallas is known for many other things as well, including:

  • Museums, Art and Culture. The Bishop Arts District is a well-known area for browsing bookstores, looking at artwork, and nibbling at cafes. For more arts and culture, head over to neighboring Fort Worth for a plethora of museums and cultural venues.
  • Live Entertainment and Fine Dining.There are multiple entertainment and dining districts spread around Dallas, the two most prominent being the Deep Ellum Entertainment District and the great eating establishments at Stone Street Gardens downtown.
  • Major League Sports. The city hosts the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA and the Dallas Stars of the NHL. The Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys play baseball and football, respectively, in nearby Arlington.
  • Family Activities. Whether it’s Six Flags over Texas, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the Dallas World Aquarium, or catching a sunset from atop Reunion Tower, there is plenty of family fun to be had around Dallas.
5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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c. Median Income vs. Income Required to Live Comfortably in Dallas

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021
U.S. News and World Report ranks the Dallas-Fort Worth combined area #24 on its list of best cities to live in the U.S., and the #2 option within Texas. The area is ranked #17 on the list of the best U.S. cities to retire to.

A 2021 analysis prepared by GOBankingRatescalculates how much money is needed for a person to live comfortably in a given city. The results for Dallas are:

HOMEOWNER OR RENTER INCOME REQUIRED
Homeowner $83,140
Renter $87,964

 

DALLAS MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME*: $47,285 to $50,100

MEDIAN HOME PRICE (DFW Combined Area): $255,033

MEDIAN ANNUAL RENT (DFW Combined Area): $13,020

* Median Household Income Range provided due to differing methodologies/sources.

Comparing the required income to the median household income, we find a shortfall of approximately $25,000 to 30,000 for Dallas. This is modest in comparison with cities like New York and San Francisco, where a six-figure shortfall is common.

Using the rule that no more than 30% of gross income should be spent on rent, Fort Worth clearly qualifies as a city where renters can live comfortably, since 30% of the median gross income level in Dallas is more than 15% above the median rent in the area.

Though the state sales tax rate is high at 8.3% (compared to the national average of 6.2%), Dallas residents pay no state income tax (compared to a national average of 4.6%).

d. Housing Market: Some of the Best Places to Live in Dallas

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The best neighborhoods to live in are spread around Dallas and Collins Counties, including nearby places like Richardson, Plano, and Irving:

  • Cotton Creek South (median home value $329,000) and Canyon Creek North (median home value $348,000)
    Described as “sparse urban,” these contiguous neighborhoods in Richardson are rated as two of the best, with Canyon Creek South holding the top place. Known for their excellent schools, these areas are also home to many parks, coffee shops, and restaurants.
  • Canyon Creek South(median home value $413,000) and Heights Park (median home value $289,000)
    Also in Richardson, the Canyon Creek South and Heights Park neighborhoods are characterized as “sparse suburban,” with a significantly higher percentage of owner-occupied homes than rentals. Like Cotton Creek South above, they are known for excellent schools as well as the relaxed ambience of the suburbs.
  • Timberbrook(median home value $327,000)
    Another excellent neighborhood in the Plano area, Timberbrook is also known for great public schools, casual and formal dining spots and parks and recreation areas nestled in between a more densely packed suburb.
  • Preston Highlands (median home value $383,000)
    Within Dallas proper, this neighborhood exhibits reasonableness all around, from home prices to political views. The area is known for an influx of young professionals, who tend to rent more often. Food, entertainment, and schools are of high quality.
  • Douglas Community (median home value $130,000)
    This is a lower-priced neighborhood with an urban and suburban mix of amenities. The area features more rentals than owner-occupied houses but has access to excellent schools.
  • Greenwood Hills (median home value $238,000)
    This is a moderately priced neighborhood with an even mix of owner-occupied and rental housing and great schools.

e. Healthcare and Safety

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Dallas boasts a number of hospitals that are nationally ranked in specific medical specialties, including the UT Southwestern Medical Center, Baylor University Medical Center, and the Parkland Health and Hospital System-Dallas.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area had a lower violent crime rate compared to similarly sized metros in 2018, with 350 violent crimes per 100,000 residents against a national average of 370. Property crime rates were slightly higher than the national average at 2,232 per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 2,200.

f. Employment Prospects

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Dallas went through multiple boom periods, first as a manufacturing hub for the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII, and later, from the oil and natural gas industry. Today, it is a diversified economy with a strong focus on services and technology.

In the Dallas area, the top industries are technology, financial services, and defense. There are a number of financial, business, and educational jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, along with service economy jobs such as retail/sales, nursing, engineering, medicine, and accounting. There are a number of start-ups that provide jobs for tech consultants.

Noted companies that are headquartered in Dallas include Southwest Airlines, AT&T, CBRE, Texas Instruments, and Dean Foods. Some other companies have their headquarters located in nearby cities, including Toyota’s U.S. Headquarters (Plano), Fluor Corporation (Irving), and Texas Health Resources (Arlington).

There are excellent prospects for job seekers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In 2019, the unemployment rate of 3.3% was more than 10% below the national average of 3.7%.

g. Education

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to 18 recognized universities. The well-known ones in Dallas include Southern Methodist University, the University of Dallas, University of North Texas, and the University of Texas at Dallas. Four of the universities are nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report, the top one being SMU at #66 nationally.

The Dallas Independent School District serves about 154,000 students across 230 schools. Per US News and World Report, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has a total of 355 public and 401 private high schools, and 214 of its schools are ranked nationally.

Overall, the DFW area is known for good educational infrastructure, ahead of the average for similarly sized metro areas.

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h. Climate

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The Dallas-Fort Worth area tends to get hot and muggy in the summer, with temperatures often soaring into the high 90s. The rest of the year is decidedly more pleasant. Winters can occasionally feature snow, sleet, and ice storms.

A chart of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s average temperatures and rainfall is shown below:

Season Average Temperature Average Rainfall
Winter 45.70F 2.7 inches
Spring 65.70F 4.9 inches
Summer 81.10F 3.8 inches
Fall 67.40F 4.2 inches

The best times to visit Dallas and Fort Worth are fall, winter, and spring.

3. Fort Worth

Fort Worth is located in north central Texas, approximately 30 miles to the west of Dallas. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is served by the east/west freeway I-20, which becomes I-30 just west of Fort Worth. The main north/south freeway is I-75, which ends in downtown Dallas and becomes I-45 going southeast to Houston. I-35 is another freeway through the area.

The major airport serving Dallas is the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

a. History, Size, and Population

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Fort Worth was incorporated in 1849 on the Trinity River. It was the last of a string of forts that were built to protect a large number of trading posts. The garrisons protected the commerce associated with western migrations, earning the city its nickname of “Where the West Begins.”

Fort Worth is the fifth largest city in Texas, with a population of 895,008 (2018 estimate). The Dallas-Fort Worth combined metro area has a population of 7.26 million.

Fort Worth sprawls over a 356-square-mile area and has doubled in population over the past two decades. Over 2000 to 2006, Fort Worth was the fastest-growing city in the U.S.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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b. Lifestyle

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Coming from a culture of trading posts and embattlements, Fort Worth mixes in the Wild West culture with a dizzying array of museums and performance halls. It is known as the cultural capital of north central Texas, with several places for history and culture buffs to enjoy:

  • Fort Worth Stockyards. Established in 1866, the historic Stockyards Museum and the nearly 100-acre district surrounding it remind visitors of the days of the old cattle roundups and drives, and how Fort Worth grew around those activities.
  • Museums, museums, and more museums. Fort Worth has many museums for art and culture lovers of all vintages, including the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Sid Richardson Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the National Cowgirl Museum, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Vintage Flying Museum, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
  • Sundance Square Plaza, Bess Performance Hall, and Circle Theater. Named after the Sundance Kid, this downtown district combines shopping, dining, and cultural activities.
  • Natural Parks. Natural and zoological attractions in Fort Worth include the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, the Fort Worth Natural Gardens, and the Fort Worth Zoo.

c. Median Income vs. Income Required to Live Comfortably in Fort Worth

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

U.S. News and World Report ranks the Dallas-Fort Worth combined area #24 on its list of best cities to live in the U.S. and the #2 option within Texas. The area is ranked #17 on the list of the best U.S. cities to retire to.

A 2021 analysis prepared by GOBankingRates calculates how much money is needed for a person to live comfortably in a given city. The results for Fort Worth are:

HOMEOWNER OR RENTER INCOME REQUIRED
Homeowner $79,287
Renter $87,135

FORT WORTH MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME*: $57,309 to $59,255

MEDIAN HOME PRICE (DFW Combined Area):$255,033

MEDIAN ANNUAL RENT (DFW Combined Area): $13,020

* Median Household Income Range provided due to differing methodologies/sources.

Comparing the required income to the median household income, we find a shortfall of approximately $22,000 to $30,000 for Fort Worth. This is modest in comparison with cities like New York and San Francisco, where a six-figure shortfall is common.

Using the rule that no more than 30% of gross income should be spent on rent, Fort Worth clearly qualifies as a city where renters can live comfortably, since 30% of the gross income level in Fort Worth would significantly exceed the median rent in the area.

Though the state sales tax rate is high at 8.3% (compared to the national average of 6.2%), Fort Worth residents pay no state income tax (compared to a national average of 4.6%).

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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d. Housing Market: Some of the Best Places to Live in Fort Worth

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Fort Worth has many neighborhoods that feature wide-open spaces and large houses. There are also multiple mixed communities for young millennials in the area.

Many neighborhoods in the Fort Worth area display a wide range of prices due to the mix of the types of properties and the residents.

  • Arlington Heights (home values from $110,000 to $1.8 million)
    Just north of I-30 and next to the Cultural District, this neighborhood offers a mix of homes suitable for both families and young millennials. It is quieter than being in the middle of the city, but within reach of everything.
  • Rivercrest(home values from $330,000 to $5 million)
    A quiet suburb with great views from Crestline Road next to the river; the large homes in this historic district are highly priced. The Rivercrest Country Club adds to the property values.
  • Fairmount (home values from $200,000 to $500,000)
    The largest historical district in the Southwest, Fairmount abuts Magnolia Avenue, which means there is plenty to do. Homes vary in size. Families love Fairmount due to the abundant parks and excellent school system.
  • Westover Hills(home values $1 million and up)
    This exclusive community next to the Cultural and River Districts features less than 800 single-family homes with large lots.
  • (home value range $200,000 to $2 million)
    Next to the beautiful campus of Texas Christian University, Westcliff has grown from a sleepy student town to a much more diverse community, as is reflected in the range of home prices. There is something for every budget in Westcliff, and an excellent public school adds to its appeal.

e. Healthcare and Safety

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Fort Worth residents have access to all of the medical facilities in Dallas. While there are no medical centers in Fort Worth proper that are nationally ranked in any specific category, the top hospitals include Texas Health Harris Medical Center (Southwest and Fort Worth campuses) and Baylor Scott and White Medical Center-Fort Worth.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area had a lower violent crime rate compared to similarly sized metros in 2018, with 350 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, against a national average of 370. Property crime rates were slightly higher than the national average at 2,232 per 100,000 people, as compared to the national average of 2,200.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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f. Employment Prospects

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

In its early days Fort Worth was known as a cattle and goods trading post with a crucial railhead, a far cry from the modern metropolis it is today. Its explosive growth came mainly due to its oil and natural gas reserves, which made it a boom town over the past 40 years.

In the Fort Worth area, the major industries these days are oil and gas, manufacturing, aviation, and aerospace. There are a number of financial, business, and educational jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, along with service economy jobs such as retail and sales, nursing, engineering, medicine, and accounting. There are a number of start-ups that provide jobs for tech consultants.

Noted companies that are headquartered in or around Fort Worth include the American Airlines Group, GM Financial, Ben E. Keith Company, and Lockheed Martin.

There are excellent prospects for job seekers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In 2019, the unemployment rate of 3.3% was more than 10% below the national average of 3.7%.

g. Education

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The Dallas-Fort Worth Area is home to 18 recognized universities. The well-known ones in Fort Worth include Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University. Four of the universities in the DFW area are nationally ranked by the U.S. News and World Report.

The Fort Worth Independent School District serves about 84,000 students across 143 schools. Per US News and World Report, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has a total of 355 public and 401 private high schools, and 214 of its schools are ranked nationally.

Overall, the DFW area is known for good educational infrastructure, ahead of the average for similarly sized metro areas.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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h. Climate

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The Dallas-Fort Worth area tends to get hot and muggy in the summer, with temperatures often soaring into the high 90s. The rest of the year is decidedly more pleasant. Winters can occasionally feature snow, sleet, and ice storms.

A chart of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s average temperatures and rainfall is shown below:

Season Average Temperature Average Rainfall
Winter 45.70F 2.7 inches
Spring 65.70F 4.9 inches
Summer 81.10F 3.8 inches
Fall 67.40F 4.2 inches

The best times to visit Dallas and Fort Worth are fall, winter, and spring.

4. Houston

Located in southeast Texas, Houston is 50 miles northwest of Galveston Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, sitting at the juncture of I-10 going east/west, and I-45 and I-69 (formerly US-59) going north/south. There are two major airports, George Bush International and Houston Hobby.

a. History, Size, and Population

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Houston, founded in 1837, was named after Samuel Houston, the war hero who won decisively over the Mexican General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest city in the U.S., with a population of 2,325,502 (2018 estimate), though the metro area population is much larger at approximately 6.78 million. The only un-zoned major U.S. city, Houston has an area of 669 square miles.

b. Lifestyle

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Houstonians are known to eat out more often than people in any other city, not a surprise given that the city has 10,000+ restaurants, great bars, microbreweries, and music clubs. Try the world-famous Texas BBQ or great Tex-Mex!

Besides food, Houston is known for many things, including:

  • Art and Culture. The Museum District, with 19 museums, is a major attraction close to downtown and the Hermann Park area.
  • Music and Entertainment. The Theater District and the Houston Opera offer a great selection of music, as do the many musical venues across the city, such as Rockefeller’s or the Ready Room in The Heights. Houston also has a thriving pub culture. The local Saint Arnolds brewery has become prominent, along with eclectic holes in the wall such as Valhalla on the Rice University Campus.
  • Shopping. Houstonians love to shop, whether it be at the Galleria in midtown, or at large malls such as Sharpstown, Woodlands, and the like.
  • Parks and Recreation.Houstonians love long bike rides along the Buffalo Bayou, which bisects the city, or outdoor activity at spots like Hermann Park or Memorial Park.
  • Professional Sports. Three major league teams–the Houston Rockets (NBA), Astros (MLB), and Texans (NFL)–have arenas in downtown Houston.
  • The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.The Annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest such show in the world, draws tens of thousands of visitors every summer.
  • Galveston Bay Area. The Galveston beachfront is an hour away from Houston. On the way, one can visit the Kemah Boardwalk and Moody Gardens. You will find something for all ages among nature preserves, family entertainment, and fine dining options.

You will definitely need a car to drive around Houston, though public transportation has improved in some areas, especially along Main Street between downtown and the Texas Medical Center area.

c. Median Income vs. Income Required to Live Comfortably in Houston

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

U.S. News and World Report ranks Houston as #27 on its list of best cities to live in the U.S. and the #3 option within Texas. It is ranked #22 on the list of the best U.S. cities to retire to.

A 2021 analysis prepared by GOBankingRates calculates how much money is needed for a person to live comfortably in a given city. The results for Houston are:

HOMEOWNER OR RENTER INCOME REQUIRED
Homeowner $79,378
Renter $87,658

HOUSTON MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME*:$49,399 to $51,140

MEDIAN HOME PRICE: $224,408

MEDIAN ANNUAL RENT: $1,055

* Median Household Income Range provided due to differing methodologies/sources.

Comparing the required income to the median household income, we find a shortfall of approximately $28,000 to $38,000 for Houston. This is modest in comparison with cities like New York and San Francisco, where a six-figure shortfall is common.

Using the rule that no more than 30% of gross income should be spent on rent, Houston clearly qualifies as a city where renters can live with plenty of room to spare.

Though the state sales tax rate is high at 8.3% (compared to the national average of 6.2%), Houston residents pay no state income tax (compared to a national average of 4.6%).

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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d. Housing Market: Some of the Best Places to Live in Houston

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The best neighborhoods to live in often depend on work commute and school districts, but in general, the following neighborhoods stand out within Houston:

  • West University (Average home value: $2.2 million)
    Next to Rice University, the Texas Medical Center, and the Museum District, this neighborhood was rated as the best “city” to live in the U.S. by Wall Street 24/7 in 2018 and 2019
  • River Oaks (Average home value: $2.2 million)
    The original area where the rich lived in Houston, it is also home to entertainment, cultural and shopping venues.
  • Tanglewood (Average home value: $1.6 million)
    A woodsy enclave just outside the inner loop, with the ability to spread out and provide a hint of country living.
  • The Museum District (Average home value: $1.2 million)
    Ideal for art and culture lovers, with 19 museums, the Rothko Chapel, and Hermann Park.
  • Bellaire (Average home value: $953,490)
    Close to downtown amenities, such as the Galleria, but offers bigger homes at a reasonable price.
  • The Heights (Average home value: $813,899)
    Historic landmark district.
  • Memorial (Average home value: $497,000)
    Nestled within parks, great schools.
  • Spring Branch (Average home value: $462,000)
    Large lot sizes at reasonable prices.

e. Healthcare and Safety

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

One of the biggest attractions to Houston residents is the Texas Medical Center, with its medical care and research facilities. Located along and around North Main Street, the center has more than 50 individual hospitals and research institutes.

There are many outstanding hospitals, such as Texas Children’s Hospital, which is ranked #4 nationwide by U.S. News and World Report.

Other well-known medical establishments include the Houston Methodist Hospital, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, and the Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center, all nationally ranked in specific medical specialties.

There are a number of other hospitals that are highly ranked regionally, including the Houston Methodist Sugar Lands Hospital and various campuses under Memorial Hermann.

Houston does have a higher crime rate (both violent and property crimes) than national averages and compared to similarly sized metros. Per 100,000 residents, the city had more than 568 violent crimes (against a national average of 370) and over 2,601 property crimes (against a national average of 2,200).

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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f. Employment Prospects

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Houston has a cosmopolitan population, with many high-income earners ($200,000 and above) in industries such as oilfield services, aeronautics, and medical sciences.

Houston has been ranked among the very top manufacturing metro areas in the U.S. It is home almost two dozen Fortune 500 companies, including Sysco, FMC Technologies, Halliburton, KBR, Baker Hughes, ExxonMobil, Center Point Energy, Marathon Oil, and Waste Management.

The Texas Medical Center and NASA’s Johnson Space Center are major employers in the area, along with retail, professional services, and the accommodation and food services industries.

The unemployment rate in Houston, at 3.8%, was slightly higher than the national average of 3.7% in 2019.

g. Education

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Houston is home to 13 recognized colleges and universities, including two that are nationally ranked. The top-ranked university in Texas, Rice University, is ranked #16 nationally byU.S. News and World Report.

Other prominent universities in the area include the University of Houston, Houston Baptist University, University of St. Thomas, and Texas Southern University.

The Houston Independent School District is the largest in Texas, and the seventh largest in the United States, serving about 200,000 students across 276 schools. Per US News and World Report, the Houston metro area has a total of 247 public and 382 private high schools, and 182 of its schools are ranked nationally.

Overall, Houston has a decent educational infrastructure, on par with the average for similarly sized metro areas.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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h. Climate

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

Houston tends to get blisteringly hot and muggy in the summer, with temperatures often soaring into the high 90’s and passing 1000F at times. Summer and fall also see some torrential rains at times; as a result, Houston has a problem with waterlogging.

Winters are pleasant, with lows usually staying several degrees above freezing, though there have been some historic snow and ice storms in 2021.

A chart of Houston’s average temperatures and rainfall is shown below:

Season Average Temperature Average Rainfall
Winter 55.70F 4.0 inches
Spring 70.00F 4.8 inches
Summer 83.30F 7.1 inches
Fall 71.80F 6.0 inches

The best time to visit Houston is during the winter, though the rodeo draws tens of thousands of visitors to the city during the summer.

5. San Antonio

San Antonio is located 75 miles south of Austin along I-35 and 189 miles west of Houston along I-10. It is situated along the Balcones Escarpment at the headwaters of the San Antonio River. San Antonio International Airport serves the city.

a. History, Size, and Population

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The Mission San Antonio de Valero, established in 1718, became known as the Alamo as a part of the Presidio(military garrison) within San Antonio de Bexar. The provincial capital was renamed as San Antonio after Texas gained independence from Mexico.

San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas and the fifth largest city in the U.S., with a population of 1,532,233(2018 estimate), a metro area population of 2.43 million, and an area of 505 square miles.

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b. Lifestyle

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

San Antonio is the best-known tourist destination in Texas. It is also a vibrant community with a large military base and a diverse population.

San Antonio welcomes visitors and tourists year-round. The city is home to the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Texas: The San Antonio Mission National Historic Park, which includes the Alamo, the Rancho de las Cabras, and four missions along the historic Mission Trail.

Known for being laid back and a family town, San Antonio comes alive during traditional Mexican festivals. A prime spot for fine dining and music is the San Antonio River Walk, a 15-mile stretch along the Colorado River which winds through downtown one level below the streets.

Some of San Antonio’s best-known tourist attractions include:

  • The Alamo. Thirteen days of brave resistance at this converted mission spurred on the drive for Texas to gain independence from Mexico, making this a must-see site for visitors.
  • The Mission Trail. The Mission Trail winds for nine miles southeast from the Alamo. Visitors enjoy the well-preserved sites of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción de Acuña, San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada.
  • Family Fun. The San Antonio area features many family attractions that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a year—including Sea World, Six Flags, and the Zoo—as well as river rafting or tubing along the Guadalupe River.

The San Antonio Spurs, who have won five NBA championships in the past 20 years, are another premier draw in town.

c. Median Income vs. Income Required to Live Comfortably in San Antonio

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

U.S. News and World Report ranks San Antonio as #41 on its list of best cities to live in the U.S. and the #4 option within Texas. It is ranked #24 on the list of the best U.S. cities to retire to.

A 2021 analysis prepared by GOBankingRates calculates how much money is needed for a person to live comfortably in a given city. The results for San Antonio are:

HOMEOWNER OR RENTER INCOME REQUIRED
Homeowner $71,943
Renter $77,871

SAN ANTONIO MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME*: $49,711 to $50,980

MEDIAN HOME PRICE:$212,992

MEDIAN ANNUAL RENT:$11,844

* Median Household Income Range provided due to differing methodologies/sources.

Comparing the required income to the median household income, we find a shortfall of approximately $22,000 to $26,000 for San Antonio. This is modest in comparison with cities like New York and San Francisco, where a six-figure shortfall is common.

Using the rule that no more than 30% of gross income should be spent on rent, the median income in San Antonio should put renting comfortably within reach.

Though the state sales tax rate is high at 8.3% (compared to the national average of 6.2%), San Antonio residents pay no state income tax (compared to a national average of 4.6%).

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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d. Housing Market: Some of the Best Places to Live in San Antonio

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The best neighborhoods to live often depend on work commute and school districts, but in general, the following neighborhoods stand out within San Antonio:

  • Downtown (home value range $75,000 to $2.8 million)
    Downtown San Antonio is where all the action is.
  • Terrell Hills (home value range $225,000 to $5.25 million)
    Terrell Hills is an upscale neighborhood with great schools.
  • Alamo Heights (home value range $445,000)
    This upscale neighborhood is located only five miles from the city center.
  • Northeast Inner Loop (home value range $90,000 to $2.1 million)
    Located northeast of Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills, this area also boasts historic architecture and is known for its good school districts.
  • Converse (average home value $192,000)
    Traditionalists love this historic district on the east side of the city. While there are many cheap homes available below $150,000, the higher end of the market shows prices close to $4.5 million.
  • Helotes (median home value $352,000)
    Similar to Converse, Helotes is located at the far northwest side of San Antonio.
  • Hollywood Park (home value range $375,000 to $950,000)and Shavano Park (home value range $400,000 to $3 million)
    These upscale suburbs in the northern part of San Antonio are adjacent and known for good-sized homes. Shavano Park is a bit more rustic.
  • New Braunfels (median home value range $270,000 to $350,000)
    Though 30 miles away from the central city, visitors flock to this area year-round, often tubing on the Guadalupe or visiting the nearby Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
  • Stone Oak (median home value $378,000), Fair Oaks Ranch (median home value $525,000), and Boerne (median home value $404,000)
    These three cities along I-35 are located north of San Antonio. The young communities of Stone Oak and Fair Oaks Ranch are considered the gateway to the Texas Hill Country area, while Boerne, around 45 miles north, is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction within the Hill Country.

 

e. Healthcare and Safety

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

The hospitals within the San Antonio area do not include any that are nationally ranked in any disciplines. The top three hospitals are Methodist Hospital-San Antonio, the Baptist Medical Center, and University Hospital-San Antonio.

The Brooke Army Medical Center is located within Fort Sam Houston to cater to army personnel and their families, among others.

In 2019, San Antonio had a higher crime rate (both violent and property crimes) per 100,000 residents compared to similarly sized metros in 2018, with nearly 470 violent crimes against a national average of 370 and nearly 3,093 property crimes against the national average of 2,200.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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f. Employment Prospects

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

San Antonio is a large military hub; Joint Base San Antonio comprises Fort Sam Houston, Camp Bullis, and the Lackland and Randolph Air Force Bases.

The Northside Independent School District, one of the largest in the country, is a major employer. There are a number of large companies headquartered in the city, including H-E-B and USAA.

Given the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come to the city and region every year, leisure, tourism, and hospitality workers are also abundant in San Antonio.

In 2019, San Antonio’s unemployment rate of 3.1% was more than 15% below the national average of 3.7%.

g. Education

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

San Antonio does not have any nationally ranked universities. The University of Texas at San Antonio and Trinity College are the best-known institutes of higher education.

The San Antonio Independent School District serves about 49,000 students across more than 90 schools. Per US News and World Report, the San Antonio metro area has a total of 123 public and 105 private high schools, and 66 of its schools are ranked nationally.

Overall, San Antonio’s educational infrastructure is below par compared to similarly sized metro areas.

h. Climate

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

San Antonio gets approximately 300 days of sunshine a year. Temperatures in the summer often soar into the high 90s. There is not much rainfall during the winter – there are very low possibilities of snow or sleet during those months.

A chart of San Antonio’s average temperatures and rainfall is shown below:

Season Average Temperature Average Rainfall
Winter 53.40F 1.9 inches
Spring 69.50F 4.0 inches
Summer 84.10F 4.1 inches
Fall 70.70F 4.1 inches

The best time to visit San Antonio is during the late fall, winter, and early spring, though the many tourist spots and the Alamo draw visitors throughout the year.

5 Best Places to Live in Texas 2021

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CONCLUSION

As the descriptions above show, Texas has something to offer every person who would like to visit or live there: history, art, culture, entertainment, food, sports, and a distinctive touch of the Old West. Despite the conservative bent of the state, the population has been growing younger and more multicultural with every passing year, a trend that’s likely not only to continue but to grow stronger.

If you like big-city living, with all the amenities and comfort, but would like to have access to wide-open spaces on a regular basis, most of these Texas cities will appeal to you.

If, however, you want to escape further from the hustle and bustle of large metropolitan areas, Texas offers a plethora of small towns and semi-urban hideaways for you. We will review some of those in Part II of this series.

 

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