Need info on several Texas cities.
September 11, 2010 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify the pros and cons of several Texas cities?

My girlfriend and I will be moving soon so she can complete her internship and earn a shiny new doctoral degree. A lot of options exist in Texas, but we are both east coasters and unfamiliar with the Lonestar State.

We would appreciate any opinions on the following cities. Be as candid as you want...we aren't looking for a travel guide, just some honest opinions from people that have lived/been there. Thanks!

(if it helps, we are both extremely liberal, have one dog—a greyhound, gluten allergic and would prefer to only keep one car)





Fort Worth
posted by neverminding to Travel & Transportation around Texas (16 answers total)
Take Cypress and Lewisville off the table entirely. Both are suburbqn/exurban and will be commensurately conservative and non-one car friendly.

The other 3 are big and have a lot of variety within that bigness. (Ft. Worth is the smallest of those three.) More info on what schools she'd be at would help for the purpose of providing better info.
posted by devinemissk at 4:08 PM on September 11, 2010

If you're accustomed to the east coast and looking for a liberal home in Texas your best bet is probably going to be Austin, assuming that's an option for her internship.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 4:15 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd say Dallas, Houston, or Ft. Worth, in roughly that order. Dallas and Houston are big cities and have areas where young, liberal couples would fit in reasonably well.

I'm from Dallas, and off the top of my head the Greenville Avenue area (Lakewood and M Streets), Little Forest Hills and the Bishop Arts district would be neighborhoods you might want to look at, among others. Basically, they're all suburban-ish areas with small, older houses that are close to the city and have bars and arty things and so forth mixed in pretty well. Walkable areas in Texas cities are few and far between, especially when it's 100 degrees outside, but you might be able to get away with one car in some parts of Dallas if you plan things right.

The farther out you get (outside of loop 12 and definitely 635), the more you'll get for your money but the more likely you are to find yourself among more conservative people- lots of families, lots of big churches, lots of strip malls and McMansions. Austin is the exception to the Texas rule- I suggested the areas I did because I feel they replicate a little of the Austin atmosphere.

Finally, definitely take Lewisville off your list. It's a prime example of a conservative Dallas suburb.
posted by MadamM at 4:42 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm an Austinite, so not an expert, but based on having friends from and family in both areas, and having visited, I would say 1) Houston, 2) Dallas, 3) Fort Worth, and the others not even on the list. The Montrose area in Houston is supposed to be super cool. I don't know what the prices are like these days, but it's a big haven for the LGBT community, and is pretty cute to boot. It's supposed to be fairly walkable, as well.
posted by elpea at 4:48 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lived in Houston for many years, and have in-laws still there. The big upside to Houston is that it has world-class arts, culture, food, etc. with a low cost of living. The downsides are poor public transportation (better than it used to be, but still not great) and oppressively hot and humid summers (note that "summer" begins in April and lasts through October).

My husband and I managed as a 1 car couple for several years there in the late '90s. We lived way out in the western suburbs for a year, and then moved inside the loop to the Texas Medical Center/Astrodome area. I was able to take a quick, direct bus ride to work once we moved into town and we typically weren't trying to go to work at the same time, which made it possible to do the 1 car thing.

Inside the 610 Loop is where the more diverse neighborhoods, many good restaurants, art and music scene is/are. These neighborhoods are more expensive, but you'd probably be a lot happier there than out in the suburbs.

On preview, Montrose is great! I spent a lot of time hanging out there in coffee shops and art galleries. West U is also very nice, although a bit more upscale/family-oriented than Montrose.
posted by jeoc at 5:13 PM on September 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you're looking at Houston, I'm assuming that you'll either be at UH or near the med center (Rice/UTHSC/BCM et al). The area around UH is kind of crappy, but there are some very livable neighborhoods both north and south of the Med Center. If you're looking for that young, hip vibe, you'll probably want to head north into the Med Center/Montrose area.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:45 PM on September 11, 2010

We moved to Houston 9 yrs. ago from the east coast and we love it. Yeah.. it"s hot as hell in the summer, but on the flip side Nov. to May are beautiful. We moved here for work and honestly it wasn't our first choice, but the city has really grown on us. Here are few things that pop in my mind that may help.

- As far as liberal we elected a lesbian for mayor.
- The cost of living is shockingly low for it being the fourth largest city in the country.
- Montross is cool and hip, but it is getting pretty expensive to buy there, but there are tons
of apartment complexes in the area.
- We live in the Heights area which neighbors Montross to the North, and it is really just
Montross lite. Not quite as flamboyant, but it's still not an oddity to see an older gentleman in a pink tutu riding a bicycle.
- The theater district here is supposedly second only to New York. Honestly theater isn't my
bag, but I constantly hear this claim.
- Astros, Texans, Rockets and Dynamo if you are into sports
- The public schools are hit or miss. It's no coincidence that the nicer the neighborhood the
better the local school.
- No state income tax is nice.
- The traffic sucks. I avoid the major highways like the plague.
- Galveston is close so if you like the water it"s only about 45 min. away.
- Austin is about 2.5 hrs and San Antonio is 3hrs. away both cool cities.
- Food, food , and more great food.
- I don't have a dog , but I know that there is numerous dog parks around.
- Depending where you live one car should be doable, but the public transportation is
lacking. They did recently put in a rail system that if your near can be really nice.
- Oil is king here if your really offended by big oil this may not be the place to be.
- The nice thing about all the oil companies here is that they sponsor everything so we get
top of the line events, art, fireworks, marathon, festivals.

There is lots more. Like anywhere where you live is as enjoyable as you make it. I've had numerous friends leave here because they hated it, but I have many more who have really grown to love it here. Hope this helps.

Check out this site for some funny takes on Houston by Houstonians
posted by Buckshot at 7:21 PM on September 11, 2010

So basically you're asking about metro Houston and the D/FW metroplex.

In either of them, you will be able to find enclaves that are liberal. In either of them, you will still run into lots and lots of very conservative people who are very vocal about their conservatism whenever you're not in that enclave.

Me, I think you'd be better off (at least in the D/FW area) just accepting that you'll have two cars and then being able to live wherever in the metro area you want, and still both work wherever in the metro area you want. I'm sure you could arrange things so that you only needed one car, but you've have to do a lot of arranging of other aspects of your life to make it work.

I mean, it might be that she'd have the best internship in whatever in Lewisville, but there's no reason you'd have to live there instead of in Denton or somewhere in Dallas or Fort Worth.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:45 PM on September 11, 2010

- Dallas doesn't have a really top notch university like Houston or Austin and it shows. Not an intellectual city, or even a very cultural city.
- Enjoying sports is very easy in Dallas.
- Dallas is an excellent place for business.
- I'd almost guarantee that you will need two cars in Dallas.
- Lots of dog lovers in Dallas, as everywhere, but the heat means walking them early morning in the summertime. Also the heat means your dog can't stay in your car for any length of time during the hot months, even with windows open.

I would say look at Austin, but it wasn't on your list.

PS I hope your Greyhound was a rescue!!
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:57 PM on September 11, 2010

I grew up in Dallas, and find it profoundly boring, but I really do think that's a pretty objective opinion. There's a great video store (Premiere)? Ft. Worth is a step up, culturally speaking. Cow-townier/homier/friendlier. If not more interesting. Houston is biggest, and most nuanced, and cheapest? I always describe it as a libertarian city (not in a bad way), in that no one cares what you do, so it's easier to do fun/interesting things. The other places on your list are suburbs. They are suburb-y. Strip malls galore (which are more easily avoided in the other places).
posted by unknowncommand at 8:04 PM on September 11, 2010

Of the above, I would say Ft. Worth. It's Dallas' funky little brother, and somewhat cooler these days.
Parts of Houston are fun, and the cultural diversity is great, but it's not an understatement to say that Houston would not exist without air-conditioning. Imagine it being 90 at 8 at night: every night from about April until October. Also, the traffic is a nightmare, and you will need to drive everywhere.
Dallas is a very republican town, though it does have its liberal outposts. As an east-coaster, you will find it very foreign, and Dallas doesn't care one whit.
I'm not sure the one car plan is going to work out. This is just not a very good state for public transportation or walking.
posted by Gilbert at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2010

I live in Lewisville at the moment with me wife, who works downtown in Dallas. It's definitely not a one-car passable community. I commute up to Denton (grad school at University of North Texas) and she commutes by bus downtown - we might be able to make two cars work, but it's just tough.

I'd probably list the order as Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, but that's only because I really dislike Houston. Dallas isn't the most outwardly cultural city on earth, but because the area is so large, there are many scenes here to be part of. My wife and I love to hit the fun bars over off of 75 and Henderson and eat at a lot of the great, unique restaurants in the area.

Ft. Worth does have a quirkier vibe, especially near downtown. It's got its own issues, and unfortunately, we don't get over there much.

While I'm from Texas (different part), my wife is from Southern California, and we both did our undergrads in New Hampshire. We're both liberal-ish and don't have any problems around here, even in the "suburban hell" of Lewisville.

MeMail me if you want more info about the area - and set up a meetup if you get here! We need to have more of those... guess that's something I should be doing.
posted by SNWidget at 8:31 PM on September 11, 2010

Cypress is Houston.

It would be good to know more about what you guys want in your new hometown. You basically are choosing between Houston and DFW. Both are equal in meeting the few needs you outline.

I looked at your profile to get a better idea, and based on that I'd say Houston is your best choice -- in case the "smaller and better things" don't work out, your employment opportunities are better here.

Cost of living might be marginally less in Houston than in Dallas (but the difference would be very slight). Housing is cheaper in the suburbs than downtown. Transportation is more problematic in the suburbs. One car is completely doable in any of the places you list. Public transportation is not great in Houston or DFW, because we are so spread out (see: You are really only listing 2 cities).

Dallas and Houston have different weather patterns. We both have hot weather, but Houston is tropical (wet, doesn't get cold really) because we get our weather from the Gulf, whereas Dallas gets closer to having seasons and even snow sometimes (but not like you've seen in the Northeast).

As a native Texan, my generalization of Houston versus DFW is that DFW is more "city" and Houston is more "down home." Houstonians are more laid-back, a little more liberal, a little more diverse. Closer to the cities holds more nightlife, singles, and young professionals; suburbs hold more parks and families. That's a huge generalization, though.

Why not post back, and tell us what your hobbies are? Types of jobs you might look for? What you like best/least about the places you've lived before?
posted by Houstonian at 11:36 PM on September 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies so far! I'll get back here today and fill in a little more detail.
posted by neverminding at 7:02 AM on September 12, 2010

Are you thinking Lewisville for UNT or TWU? Those are in Denton, which is a whole different place than Lewisville. Denton is cool, Lewisville is not. If you want ultra-liberal and car-optional, then Denton is really the only option in Texas that I know of.

DFW is not really a fair grouping. Dallas is a dirty, mean place with access to more city type stuff than Fort Worth or Denton and a pretty good art scene made up mostly of imported Dentonites and rich Dallas people. Nobody lives there unless they have to for some reason and everybody from surrounding cities hates having to go there. You'd almost definitely need two cars. If you haven't picked up on it, I'd advise against Dallas.

Fort Worth is in between. More liberal than Dallas, less liberal than Denton. Nowhere near as dense as Dallas, but a very nice downtown decent art scene and world-class museums and zoo.

I've never been to Houston, but I understand it's really humid. That's about all I know. Oh, and there's good Korean food there.

I grew up in Fort Worth and lived in Denton for six years. I'm in Chicago now but will eventually go back to Denton, so Denton would obviously be my pick.
posted by cmoj at 9:12 AM on September 12, 2010

Just to say, if you're from the east coast north of DC, I'd say that it's worth taking a trip to DFW or Houston in July or August and get a sense of the heat before you decide to spend a few years there. Because... damn.

Denton is many things, but it is not ultra-liberal. It's a college town, so in some ways it's relatively liberal for Texas. But even the college students can be a conservative, churchy bunch, and Denton also serves a surrounding rural area that's, well, rural Texas. Daily life in Denton is substantially to the right of daily life here in western NY (which is not particularly liberal).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:11 PM on September 12, 2010

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