They say everything is bigger in Texas. For sure, the state has 3 of the 10 largest cities in the nation and 6 of the top 25. The Lone Star State has suburbs that are bigger than some major cities. Arlington is bigger than New Orleans, Corpus Christi is larger than St. Louis.
It takes a certain type of person to live in Texas. Part cowboy and part hipster, part J.R. Ewing and part tech baron depending on where you choose to live. There are 40 cities in the state with more than 100,000 residents. Which one is right for you, the most affordable and best fits your budget?
Below are the dirty dozen, the 12 best places to live in Texas in 2022. Choose wisely, pardner.
Dallas too big? Fort Worth too Cowtown? Plano and Richardson and their ilk too suburban? Well, then, Arlington might be the best Metroplex town for you. Halfway between Big D and Fort Worth, Arlington is literally in the middle of it all. Despite being squeezed between two of Texas' largest cities, Arlington has a personality of its own.
To be fair, much of that personality is wrapped up in the Dallas Cowboys. Arlington has been home to the 'Pokes' AT&T Stadium since 2009 when the team moved from neighboring Irving. The city of 400,000 grows by 25 percent on Cowboy game days. “Jerryworld" is also the site of the Cotton Bowl Classic, and has hosted the NBA All-Star game, WrestleMania, the NCAA Final Four and more.
But it's not just “Dem Cowboys." Just across the way is Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers baseball team. The nearby University of Texas at Arlington also hosts the WNBA's Dallas Wings. And Arlington is the site of the original Six Flags amusement park.
Despite its suburban and satellite city status, Arlington is the seventh-largest municipality in Texas. Residents commute into both neighboring metropolises. It's a sprawling, independent city with its own shopping districts, restaurant rows and parks and recreation. But yes, much of it is centered on Cowboy game day life.
It's no surprise that Austin would land on the best places to live in Texas list. This is especially true if you're a millennial. The massive University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest universities in the country. Its widely known Austin City Limits and South By Southwest festivals are two of the most popular anywhere. And its progressive and hip “Keep Austin Weird" attitude differentiates it from elsewhere in the Lone Star State.
Unlike many Texas cities, Austin is young and growing. Its metro area has the largest percentage of millennial residents anywhere in the nation. And that number is only getting larger. Sure, the massive university and the keep-weird attitude are attractive, but why are young people flocking to the ATX?
It's one of the top cities in the country for both job seekers and future job growth. It's also one of the top metros anywhere for millennial housing, even during the pandemic. The sustainable city has been named “The Greenest City in America." And don't forget, it's also the state capital, with well-maintained roads and a robust infrastructure.
But more than anything, it's the lifestyle that draws young people and everyone else. While it's the fourth-biggest city in Texas and the 11th-largest in the nation, it rarely feels like it. Austin offers one of the most desirable nightlife and culture scenes anywhere in America, much of it centered around the university and downtown. It's Texas' premiere city for arts, live music, dining, breweries, green space, college sports and overall livability.
Brownsville is at once quintessentially Texas and so much different than the rest of the state. It's as far south as one can get in Texas. The city of 200,000 lies right on the Mexican border, across the Rio Grande from Matamoros. It's just a 45-minute hop, skip and jump to the Gulf of Mexico. And it's only 25 miles to the spring sun destination of South Padre Island.
But this is Texas. The distance between Brownsville and other Texas cities would be a multi-state trek on the East Coast. It's over four hours to San Antonio, five-and-a-half to Houston and eight to Dallas. That separation makes Brownsville feel like a world away.
It's so far south, the city has a tropical savanna climate. And while it's just the 131st largest city in the U.S., it contains the nation's 26th biggest Hispanic populace. Almost 90 percent of the metro area's population is Hispanic, with nearly 97 percent of those Mexican. And in 2019, Elon Musk's SpaceX christened the South Texas Starbase on the coast. In turn, the city added residential subdivisions to the area and opened the region to tourism.
But here on the ground, it's Brownsville's Hispanic culture that comes to the forefront. The Latin Jazz Festival and dual-nation Charro Days are two large, annual fiestas. These highlight local culture, food, entertainment, music and achievement. Brownsville's downtown lies along the Mexican border aside the Gateway International Bridge over the river. The district is filled with Mexican crafts shops, taquerias and upscale Mexican restaurants, tequila bars and tavernas.
How do you know if your city is a great college town? Well, having the word “College" right in the name is a good start. College Station is most certainly a hopping college town. And its location deep in the heart of Texas solidifies that notion. Home to Texas A&M University, College Station sits near the middle of the triangle formed by San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.
Each of the words in the name “College Station" represents the two pillars on which the town was founded. The community was founded just prior to the Civil War. That's when the Houston and Texas Central Railway chose the site for a key stop on its way through the region. And just 11 years later, the agricultural and mechanical college that would later be named Texas A&M was founded. The moment was significant, as it was the first public institution of higher education established in the state.
Of course, today, Texas A&M still dominates most aspects of life in College Station. This is particularly true in the fall when Aggies football season is in full swing. Expanded in 2015 to a capacity of nearly 103,000, century-old Kyle Field is the fourth-largest football stadium in the world.
But there's more to life than football. Both on game days and every day, fans, students and locals can enjoy the young and college-influenced nightlife of College Station. Popular restaurants, pubs and gathering spots line the areas along College Avenue and University Drive. This includes the iconic Hurricane Harry's, one of the best college bars in the nation. The shops and eateries continue east from the university into downtown.
The Texas city of Corpus Christi sits on the Gulf Coast equal distance from Houston, San Antonio and Mexico. But all told, the city maintains its relative isolation, not particularly close to anything. Corpus is a quiet city mostly known for its beaches, its pristine strand seashore and its laid-back lifestyle.
The city lies off the middle of a 300-mile strip of barrier islands from Galveston to South Padre. At the center is Mustang Island. The 20-mile-long, two-mile-wide strand features the island section of the city of Corpus Christi. The recreational spot is a popular getaway spot and spring break destination. It offers 4,000 pristine acres of warm, sandy beach along a five-mile Gulf-front stretch. Next to the sunny beach is Mustang Island State Park. The coastal park features outdoor activities, such as camping, kayaking, fishing, hiking and birdwatching.
Across the Bay and Laguna Madre from the barrier island is mainland Corpus Christi, stretching 35 miles inland. This is the cultural and commercial section of the city. Downtown Corpus sits at the northernmost portion of the interior city, overlooking Corpus Christi Bay. Hotels, restaurants and bars dominate the bayside along Shoreline Boulevard. Nearby is the Museum of Science and History, Watergarden, a bustling harbor and Whataburger Field. Just south is McGee Beach, a popular spot for jetty fishing.
Further north across Harbor Bridge is the North Beach/Rincon Point tourist district. The eastern bay region is home to the Texas State Aquarium, USS Lexington Museum and the Corpus Christi Beachwalk.
In reality, Big D is actually the third-biggest D. For all its size and bravado, Dallas is just the third-biggest city in its own state. But yes, it's the ninth-largest in the nation and the primary city for the DFW conglomeration known as the Metroplex. The metro area is the fourth-largest in the nation.
What comes to mind when one pictures the city of Dallas are all the North Texas clichés and tropes. Ten-gallon hats and big belt buckles. Rodeos and steakhouses. State fairs and Big Tex. Cowboys, both the football type and the horse-riding type. But from West End to Deep Ellum, Dallas is a complex, cosmopolitan city with much to offer for even non-cowpokes.
In fact, Dallas is an incredibly diverse city. Just 30 percent of Dallas is white, along with around a quarter percent Black and over 40 percent Hispanic and Latino. Nearly a third of Latinos in Dallas are Mexican. And to many people's surprise, Dallas has one of the largest LGBTQA communities in the nation. In fact, the Oak Lawn district was ranked as the top gayborhood in America.
Dallas is also diverse in nightlife, entertainment and family-friendly activities. Sure, there are plenty of rodeos to see and western shops to browse. But Big D has everything a major city like New York or Chicago has to offer. Downtown's Arts District is the largest contiguous arts district in the nation. It includes the Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum of Nature and Science and more. Deep Ellum and Cedars are rife with some of the South's best bars, pubs, eateries and music venues.
And if you're talking Dallas and eateries, you need to be talking about barbecue. There's no better beef barbecue city in America than Dallas. Barbecue restaurants can be found all over town at places like Cattleack Barbeque, Slow Bone and Lockhart Smokehouse. As well, over 40 colleges serve students across the Metroplex. That includes 10 or so within the city itself, including the University of North Texas at Dallas and the University of Dallas.
It's not hard to see why El Paso is named “the pass." Not only is it just a bridge away from Mexico, but it's also the hub of a two-country, three-state conglomeration known as the Borderplex. At 700,000 residents, El Paso is the primary city of a region also including Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico, and Las Cruces, NM. And it's bigger than cities like Boston or Detroit.
El Paso isn't just a border crossing. It's a major city and the center of commerce and entertainment for a large region. Its Downtown and El Centro districts sit right on the border across from Downtown Ciudad Juarez. And the entire border district encompasses attractions from the El Paso Zoo and Museum of Art to the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and Plaza Theatre.
The city is also home to the University of Texas at El Paso. UTEP has a distinct and unique architecture, featuring the Dzong fortress style popular in the ancient kingdoms of the Himalayas. The institution's football team plays at Sun Bowl Stadium built into the Franklin Mountains. The annual New Year's Eve Sun Bowl game is the second-oldest bowl game in college football, behind only the Rose Bowl.
As is no surprise, the city's population is heavily Hispanic. Nearly 82 percent of residents are of Latino ancestry. By far, the largest employer in the city is the federal government. Most of those are military personnel stationed at 1,700-square-mile Fort Bliss. The massive base is the second-largest U.S. Army facility, behind nearby White Sands Missile Range.
There's so much to Houston that it's impossible to know where to start. It's the sixth-largest city on the continent and it sits on the Gulf. It's also known as an educational city, a sports city, a port city, a space city, an oil city and a cultural city. And it's the most diverse city in the nation.
Included in this diversity, Houston has one of the largest and most robust LGBTQA communities in the nation. The center of gay culture in Houston is in the Montrose neighborhood, a well-known gayborhood. It also features one of the largest annual pride parades in the world.
Houston's economy is significantly less diverse. Oil and energy dominate the H-town financial system. Over 5,000 energy firms do business in the Houston area. The city is also known as a center for natural gas, petroleum storage, petrochemical shipping and oilfield equipment manufacturing. It has also become a leader in renewable energy and solar, as well.
However, oil isn't the only game in town, making Houston a top place to live for job seekers. It's been ranked No. 1 for paycheck worth, No. 1 for job creation and a Forbes “Best Places for Business and Careers." Along with its deep energy history, Houston is a top spot for biomedical research, technology, education and aeronautics.
Houston isn't a city of neighborhoods as much as it is a city of second downtowns. Over 10,000 Houstonians call Downtown Houston home. But several other business and commerce hubs and skylines have risen both inside and outside The Loop. Uptown, Westchase, Midtown, Greenspoint, Greenway Plaza, Memorial City and the Energy Corridor all vie for second downtown status.
Round Rock isn't just a suburb. It wants you to know it's a “super suburb." It bills itself as the Austin area's independent city, broken through from the chains of being just a bedroom community. Round Rock is more akin to satellite cities like North Dallas' Plano or Arlington and Alexandria in Northern Virginia. It's near Austin, but not dependent on Austin.
Round Rock is the retail, economic and commuter hub yin on the other side of Austin's laid-back hipster vibe yang. It sits just 20 miles north of Austin along I-35. It's ranked as the seventh-best “Small City To Live" and is a top “Fastest Growing City in the U.S."
Like many cities its size in Texas, it's a haven for tech companies and start-ups. The tech economy in Round Rock is booming and is the world headquarters of Dell Technologies. As the tech sector grew, other contemporary industries followed, including clean energy, next-gen manufacturing, healthcare technology and life science.
The city of Round Rock is no hayseed bumpkin town. At least not anymore. Its population has exploded in recent decades. Just 50 years ago, a mere 3,000 called Round Rock home. That number rocketed to 13,000 by 1980, 60,000 at the turn of the millennium and is nearing 150,000 today. Business parks like La Frontera and an influx of major retailers have increased the city's cache and kept residents in the city for work.
Unless you're an über geography nerd, it would be surprising to learn that San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the nation. In fact, it's the second-biggest city in the entire South. Few people picture San Antonio as a bustling metropolis.
That's because it really isn't. While over a million and a half San Antonians live within the city limits, under another million live in the surrounding eight counties combined. SATX is a virtually suburb-less city with a large urban/suburban gap. Overall, despite its city size, it's just the 24th largest metro area in the country.
San Antonio is still a major tourist town. It's specifically most known for its two internationally recognized tourist attractions. If you don't know before you arrive, it can be disconcerting to find the Alamo settled right in the heart of downtown. The mission and its plaza sit in the shadows of hotels and office buildings.
And the Alamo is just steps from SATX's other famous destination, the San Antonio River Walk. The sunken, walkable pedestrian canal-side path features some of the city's best restaurants and shops as it snakes through downtown.
But there is a slew of other attractions around San Antonio. Hemisfair Park was home to the 1968 World's Fair and its Tower of the Americas, the tallest structure in the city, overlooks downtown and The Alamo. SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas are big-box family fun, as is the San Antonio Zoo. And the city's only major pro sports team, the Spurs of the NBA, plays at the AT&T Center east of downtown. The team's former home, The Alamodome, has hosted multiple NCAA Final Fours.
Whatever you think Waco is, it's probably much more. It's not just a city with a funny name. It's not just the home of a college football team that used to be really bad and is now really good. And it's certainly not just the site of an infamous FBI standoff.
The city of Waco sits along I-35, about halfway between Dallas and Austin. At its heart, it's a college town, but it's also a modern, bustling city. Along the interstate sits a city of arts and culture and a plethora of urban parks. But yes, it also enjoys the trappings of a university city. The sprawling Baylor University campus is just downriver from downtown. With that proximity, students and locals alike mingle at a swath of college bars, bookstores and pizzerias.
But yes, of course, there's football. Waco is probably the only city in which you can attend a pre-game sail-gate. Baylor's McLane Stadium sits alongside the Brazos River, where Bears fans have taken tailgating to a new level. Before games, revelers in powerboats, sailboats and runabouts gather on the river by the stadium to party like any fan would in the parking lot with an RV.
Elsewhere in Waco, there's a number of art galleries and museums. But none may be as popular as the Dr. Pepper Museum. The interactive space is located within the first building built specifically to bottle the fizzy cherry soda. For outdoor fun, the Waco Riverwalk runs seven miles along both sides of the Bravos. And popular fishing and boating spot Lake Waco is a 13-square-mile reservoir that occupies much of the western portion of the city.
Wichita Falls is a valuable geographic locale. The city of 105,000 is just two hours northwest of Dallas and two hours south of Oklahoma City. It's just 15 minutes from the state border and an hour from sister city Lawton. And it's only four hours south of that other Wichita. As Pat Metheny sang in his 21-minute oeuvre, “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls."
Wichita Falls' location offers all the comforts of the big city (or at least convenience to one) with an affordable cost of living and an easy-going lifestyle.
The quaint downtown, as in many Texas cities, radiates out from the commercial train depot. The region is anchored by the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, a performing arts center and the Spinal Tap-ish, four-story tall World's Littlest Skyscraper. A few miles south is Sikes Lake. Around it is a second commercial district, home to Sikes Senter Mall, Wichita Falls Museum of Art and Midwestern State University.
Wichita Falls is also a haven for outdoor recreation. Popular 2,200-acre Lake Wichita is a giant fishing reservoir next to an athletic park featuring hiking and biking trails. Lucy Park is an urban recreation complex offering a log cabin, duck pond, swimming pool and disc golf course. And the city also hosts the annual “Hotter'N Hell Hundred," the largest single-day, 100-mile organized bicycle ride in the nation.
There's a lot to Texas, from cows to space to barbecue. And the Lone Star State's cities vary from cosmopolitan metropolis to rodeo chic to college town. Whatever you're looking for, there's a Texas-sized city waiting for you.
When you're ready to move to Texas, or move within the state (after all, it's 800 miles tip to toe), check out all the apartments for rent in Texas on Apartment Guide.