Where for young liberal professional to live in Texas?
December 4, 2012 9:51 AM   Subscribe

This northerner is moving to Texas - where should I live?!

I have accepted a job that requires I live in Texas. I actually have my pick to live basically wherever I want. What would you recommend? I am from New England and have never been south beyond visiting Florida. What cities do you recommend?

I'd like to live in a place that's pretty liberal (not Bush country, por favor) and also fun for a young professional - I am 30. A place with friendly people would be nice, as the north can be a little unfriendly at times! And I will have a car and I have lived in places that were very car unfriendly - I don't want it to be a struggle to drive or park anywhere. People tell me Austin or Houston are nice and tell me to stay away from Dallas. But Texas has several other major cities. Which city would you recommend and why?

I will do some independent research on my own - just wondering what's on the table. Thanks!
posted by AppleTurnover to Travel & Transportation around Texas (47 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty liberal = Austin. That's where I would go.
posted by TonyRobots at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

Austin. I don't think there is anything else on the table. There is nowhere in Texas you could pay me to live except Austin, and I'd pretty happily pay to live there, like you would in a normal place. Austin's demographics are unique in the state and there flat out are no other cities in Texas I would recommend for a young liberal. There are other cities in Texas I like to visit and the state has a lot to offer, but I would never live anywhere but Austin.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I might be wrong, but Austin is the only remotely liveable place for an intelligent person in Texas that I know of. If I had to live in Texas I wouldn't really consider anywhere else.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:58 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Austin is probably your best bet for avoiding Bush country -- it's a fun city. You might also take a look at San Antonio, especially if you like Mexican culture. And it's a pretty easy drive to Austin if you want to access the more lefty atmosphere.

But yeah, if I were in your shoes I'd go with Austin. I'm not crazy about Houston, and avoid Dallas like the plague!
posted by plantbot at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2012

I live in San Antonio. It is a liberal city but it also has large, conservative military presence. There are tons of late-20s professionals (when I moved here at 22 I thought that the scene was a bit too old for me - now that I'm nearing 30 I'm much more comfortable here) and downtown is going through a revitalization with new condos geared towards the single, professional lifestyle. It is only 90 miles from Austin - generally an easy drive although there is some rush hour traffic - and I go up once every couple months to go to shows.

That being said, if I had my choice to live anywhere in Texas I'd probably pick Austin. I dispute the idea that it's the only remotely liveable place for an intelligent person in Texas. Dallas is also really nice, but I've only visited. There are some great parts of Houston and they are a very liberal city, but again I've only visited.
posted by muddgirl at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Austin and Houston are pretty much it. To make some very gross generalizations:

Austin I would say leans more towards college kids, the indie music scene, etc.

Houston is more of a grownup, cosmopolitan place. And a lot bigger, obviously.

Personally, I'd rather live in Houston. Major opera company and symphony orchestra, other major cultural and arts organizations, tattooed 20somethings don't have as large an influence on the culture, and there are nice places like Houston Heights that are kind of the "Greenwich Village of Houston." You're also a reasonably short drive away from New Orleans, and at one of the southwest's major transportation hubs. It is, to me, the least "Texas-ey" city in Texas. But, depending on what you're into, Austin might be a better choice.
posted by slkinsey at 10:03 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Dallas is large and feels very corporate to me - Houston is larger and has the approximate climate of Satan's jockstrap. Austin is a great place to live and has a nice low cost of living, is very car-friendly (parking in the eight-block radius of downtown is a little annoying, but everywhere else is totally fine) and has a ton of young people and lots and lots to do. And is, I think, the most liberal place in about a thousand miles in any direction.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:04 AM on December 4, 2012

I might be wrong, but Austin is the only remotely liveable place for an intelligent person in Texas that I know of.

You're wrong. But yes, the OP probably wants Austin.
posted by caek at 10:06 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

N'thing Austin 1st, Houston 2nd.
posted by uncannyslacks at 10:09 AM on December 4, 2012

New Englander here. I went to college in Austin and lived there for several years after. It's a nice liberal college town with plenty to do; live music, running/biking trails, restaurants (how I miss you, Tex-Mex.) I liked it a lot there but the heat was entirely unlivable, but in Texas you can't avoid that.

Things I really missed - subway system, winter, being near the ocean. I've spent time in Dallas and Houston and didn't like those cities at all. San Antonio is nice also, and if you like the ocean you could take a look at Corpus.

There are plenty of intelligent people living in parts outside of Austin, and while you may not find a liberal-leaning city outside of Austin, you can certainly find liberals and a community of like-minded folks. Good luck!
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2012

Did someone mention Austin? If not, Austin.
posted by zippy at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2012

You (or your people) are selling Dallas short.

It has gone blue in every election that I can remember -- from dog catcher to Presidential (even in the 2010 Tea Party revolt).

Here is the run down of reactions you will see about cities in Texas
- Houston hates Dallas
- Dallas residents generally don't know that Houston hates them
- Austin hates every other city for practically every reason imaginable (the joke goes: "you can't spell Ostentatious without Austin")
posted by LeanGreen at 10:12 AM on December 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

Austin is more expensive than either Dallas or Houston. It's also lacking in the fine arts... if you are into live theater, ballet, the symphony, and excellent art museums, you want Houston. And to a lesser degree Dallas is an option for those as well. Austin is good for live music, comedy and improv, and nightlife. Houston also has more international food options than Austin. Don't know about Dallas when it comes to fine dining, but Houston is generally regarded as the best option for that in Texas.

If you're a liberal, any of the larger Texas cities will be perfectly fine... Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, even El Paso.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:13 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Austin first and Houston second. The heat it really going to stun you, though.
posted by spaltavian at 10:13 AM on December 4, 2012

Having just returned from a week in Austin, I don't understand the fuss about the city.

Not to say it isn't your best option in this situation, but be aware that it might not be the Holy Grail that is is often made out to be.
posted by fredericsunday at 10:15 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Texas is big, like bigger than ALL of new England big. And there are a lot more than just the four big cities of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. There is tons of small towns that are nice to live in and Texas is really 5 distinct regions.

Dallas/Fort Worth (North Texas)-red state bible thumping conservative, the part of texas that gives Texans a bad reputation for being loud mouthed arrogant idiots. Still has lots of nice people and pretty country.

Houston/Galveston (gulf Coast)-really a mish-mash of something between Louisiana and Dallas culture. Not nearly as loud mouthed but more libertarian live/let live type. Really has lots of sprawl and very diverse.

San Antonio/Austin(central Texas)-Rolling Cattle country with lots of western culture. Rich in History going back 500 years. Not so much liberal as moderate republican with a very strong live/let live outlook. This is the part of the state I am least familiar with.

Lubbock/Amarillo (panhandle-called west texas)-Farming country. Very Religious and Insular. Slowly drying up and blowing away. Never too well suited for intensive agriculture and as the aquifer dries up returning to the Llano Estacado (staked plain-look it up) or dry land low intensive agriculture. Surprisingly Libertarian and tolerate as long as you mind your own business and are a good neighbor.

El Paso/Big Bend/Border and Permian Basin (actual West Texas and not really acknowledged by the rest of the state). Culturally very, very much like New Mexico/Arizona not the rest of Texas. Really hot in the summer and dry. Winters are the best two weeks of the year. Great southwestern culture. If you want rocks and cactus for your yard and to live in an actual adobe house (really the best kind of building for this part of the world) this is the place for you. Once Mexico calms back down it is a great place to visit and if you speak a little spanish gringos are welcome.

BTW I moved from Texas about 29 years ago and lived primarily in Panhandle and El Paso. They are both parts of the state with a VERY different culture than the rest. The overwhelming part of texas is its big. Like really, really big. With all the differences that entails. Once again-big.
posted by bartonlong at 10:19 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Like everyone else has said: Austin is the only answer to this question. I grew up in Dallas, went to college in Houston, have family in Houston now, and can say a lot of great things about a lot of Texas cities. But if I got to pick anywhere in the state? Austin, without a doubt. Houston has a lot of great things about it (cool arts scene, amazing food, etc.), but it's also big and sprawling and kind of ugly. As a young, single, liberal person moving from out of state, Austin will make the process of developing a group of friends easiest. Like I said, if you were moving to any other city in Texas I could tell you some great things about it and why you would enjoy living there, but if you get a choice, Austin is #1, no question.

But definitely travel while you live there and see as much of the state as possible. It's a wonderful place.
posted by MsMolly at 10:29 AM on December 4, 2012

You (or your people) are selling Dallas short... It has gone blue in every election that I can remember

When you say Dallas, you're meaning the City of Dallas. I think when most people here are saying Dallas, they mean the Greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Which is indeedy mostly Bush country, especially the northern suburbs.

if you like the ocean you could take a look at Corpus

The weekend I spent in Corpus Christi was easily the longest million years of my life. And I have gone to Midland/Odessa in search of fun (and succeeded!).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:30 AM on December 4, 2012

You won't have to travel to any specific TX location? It will take you all day to drive from one end to the other. When i'm there visiting family around Dallas i can never get the time to visit Austin...its a long drive.

as said...texas is big. like california is big. Both are bigger than everyone's expectations and stereotypes in both population and land area. lots of conservatives in CA, lots of liberals in TX. You could take all of the New England states and lump them together and you would maybe have the population of Los Angeles. The biggest cities in TX each have as many people as some other States. Lots of people, lots of diversity.

maybe look at some weather maps of hurricane and tornado routes?
posted by th3ph17 at 10:36 AM on December 4, 2012

I live in Austin, and I personally wouldn't live anywhere else in Texas.

That said, while it's something of a sport for Austinites to ridicule the other cities in Texas, it is unfair to say they have nothing going for them. Houston is pretty nifty if you stay inside Loop 610. Both Dallas and Houston are big cities, which means that there's probably a critical mass of whatever you're interested in.

That said, I would really not live anywhere much west of Austin. El Paso is a mean, ugly place, and it is actually closer to LA than it is to Houston, so it's really disconnected. Lubbock, Amarillo, Midland/Odessa, Abilene…forget it.

Why do you need to be in Texas? Because you'll be travelling in the state a lot? If your job is going to involve a lot of air travel, you might want to limit yourself to looking at Dallas or Houston…or really just Dallas, because otherwise you're going to be dealing with a lot of transfers. If you're going to be doing a lot of car travel in the state, Austin is relatively central to a lot of population centers, but man…you're going to be doing a lot of driving. When you enter Texas from Louisiana on I-10, there's a mileage sign that reads
Beaumont: 23
El Paso: 857
That's a huge "fuck you" from the state of Texas.
posted by adamrice at 10:38 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Austin is seriously oversold. It's expensive, full of college students, and as hot as everywhere else in Texas, with the bonus of having a craaaazy pollen/allergy situation. The Austin suburbs are just as red and bleak and depressing as the ones around Dallas or Houston.

Look at Lakewood/Little Forest Hills/Junius Heights/Oak Cliff in Dallas and Montrose/the Heights in Houston. Do not move to a suburb! Definitely take a few weekends to visit each place.
posted by purpleclover at 10:40 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Austin. I don't think there is anything else on the table.

That seems an unduly cramped view of my adopted state.

Texas is made for cars, I have also found Texans pretty uniformly nice, so that doesn't rule anything out. Here are places that vote blue:

Austin: Most famously liberal, but also more segregated than I would have expected. Vibe-wise, it feels like it's where people from California or Oregon go when they got priced out of their liberal enclave. It is still not cheap -- more expensive than other blue-voting TX options. It does have natural beauty and easy things to do outdoors, but art scene outside of music is lacking. Allergies there are srs bznss.

Dallas: I am not a Dallas hater, but it feels more splashy and deliberately fancy than the rest of Texas. It is prettier than Houston, more planned. You are further north, so get more in the way of seasons. I think it's more liberal than people realize -- they reelected a county sheriff who is a lesbian, which is maybe not what you think of when you think of Dallas. Nearby Fort Worth has a great arts scene.

Houston: Not pretty, but tons of fun things to do that are kind of on the downlow. Great arts scene, amazing (cheap and fancy, both) food scene, really cheap living, major sports teams, including soccer, if you're into that. This is a ridiculously entrepreneurial place and a very easy place to live, travel to and from. It changes a great deal every 5 years. It is indeed hot. You either get used to it or you don't. It is very possible to live in the center of everything, pay very low rent/mortgage, and avoid the sprawl. I essentially live in a 5-mile area and have what I need, bike to work, etc.

San Antonio: Smaller, prettier, near Austin. Greater Mexican-American presence (friends call it "Big Laredo"). Has a more touristy vibe with Sea World and the River Walk. Decent galleries/arts.

I agree that your best bet is to spend some time in each place. And to talk to people who live in Texas. The changes I've seen since I moved here 10 years ago are pretty intense and do not necessarily square with the opinions I see on the internets.
posted by *s at 10:41 AM on December 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

I live in Houston and would just like to say that I find Houston to be incredibly liberal. We have elected an openly gay mayor and Obama took Houston. After living here for 10 years I'm amazed at the perception that some people have of our town.
It is hot as hell though.... You probably want Austin...
posted by Buckshot at 10:41 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

People get really excited about Austin. It's fine, but while there's a core part of the city that's young, generally liberal, musically vibrant, etc., it's surrounded by a big sprawl that's more or less like every other city in Texas. It's also always seemed like quite a monoculture to me.

I frequently question why I live in Houston, especially because the weather is awful for 4 months of the year and it's depressingly flat and ugly.

'm quite liberal and have had no problem finding communities of people with similar views. Houston follows the trend of all Texas cities- a more diverse, politically balanced core that becomes more conservative and white as you move outward. Like many others have said, it's great for performing arts and museums and has lots of great food. It's very diverse, with large black, hispanic, and asian populations. It's very affordable. You can make a good life here. I've known many people who were forced to move here for jobs, came to like it much more than they expected to, and stayed by choice.

But it gets hot. Really hot. And unbearably humid. The other 8 months are pretty temperate, but still humid. My wife is from New England, and still can't get used to people wearing shorts in November.

If you like outdoor activities, Houston can be pretty terrible. There's not much scenery, and we're in the middle of a very long coastal plain with no geography to speak of. And again, the heat limits what you'll want to do outside for long stretches of the year.

To summarize- Houston can be great culturally, can be very affordable, but the climate and geography are crappy.
posted by uberfunk at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

AppleTurnover: Other than a place that is not super-conservative (I assume this means both religiously and politically) and that has reasonable options for someone in his or her early 30s... what sorts of things are important to you? What do you like to do? What are you looking for? What sort of living accommodations do you want to have? How much does cost of living feature in to your decision? What other kinds of things?

More details will make your question a lot easier to answer in way that's useful to you, I think.
posted by slkinsey at 10:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My family now lives in Dallas. I'm not in love with the place, but I don't like Texas very much. Austin is Hip, Houston is...big.

It really depends on what you like to do. Houston and Dallas have culture, Austin is more college, young, indy music.

Houston is in danger of hurricanes every so often. Dallas isn't.

I don't envy you. But I recommend that you visit the three top cities, and see what you think.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:53 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are definitely pockets of happy liberals in the Dallas area, especially in the Oak Lawn area.
posted by neushoorn at 11:02 AM on December 4, 2012

Sounds like Austin is right up your alley.

We lived in San Antonio for six years and it was a lovely place, but not particularly for the northerner (I grew up in Maryland).
posted by Leezie at 11:10 AM on December 4, 2012

Well, I'm a young liberal professional and I live in Houston. Austin is of course, very fun, but for cost of living you really can't beat Houston. And by living, I mean the cost to pay your rent, eat an incredible meal, see a concert, go out drinking, wander around the Menil, join a kickball league - all these cost way less here than they would in Philly or Boston.

I live right outside the medical center and can walk to Rice Village or take the light rail to the Museums and Midtown. Free parking is ubiquitous. At worse you'll find people complaining because they have to park a block away from the restaurant or bar they're going to.

As for not wanting to be in Bush country, please refer to the WP election results map. Dallas, Austin, and Houston are blue islands in a red state. Also, the lovely thing about living in Texas is that its a friendly enough place that if you don't want to talk about politics, you can always change the subject with a smile. :)
posted by zamdaba at 11:20 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm guessing you need to reside in TX because your work involves the TX state government, or an institution that's deeply involved with the state. The capital is in Austin, and it may make your work easier, in addition to the cultural benefits listed above.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:27 AM on December 4, 2012

Houston is larger and has the approximate climate of Satan's jockstrap.


I live in Clear Lake, which is the NASA Town SE of Houston. It's a great place if you like boating, which I do, so it's the only place in Texas I'd live. Austin, meh.

Is Clear Lake Bush Country? I'd say it has a wide variety of beliefs, and my neighborhood had both Romney and Obama signs in yards in roughly equal measure.

If I had to live somewhere else in Texas, it would be San Antonio. I love their way of doing things. Great culture doesn't just mean college life.
posted by BeeDo at 11:41 AM on December 4, 2012

Pretty much anywhere besides Dallas / Ft Worth metro area. The election map results posted above me should help considerably. East Texas really is different from the rest of the state.
posted by NYC-BB at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2012

I'd suggest checking out Alpine, if getting places fast ain't a concern for you. It's one of the four or five places in Texas I'd be willing to live if I ever move back (the others being mostly places already mentioned: Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Marfa which is hipsterlandia way out in West Texas right by Alpine, and the farm I grew up on in deep northeast Texas).
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:04 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I suggest Fort Worth.

Austin is the NYC of Texas. It's a city of concrete and people who think than anyone cares that they live in Austin. The music scene is a marketing fabrication and there is no art scene at all.

Houston is nice, but it's a stinky sauna in the summer.

Fort Worth. It's got world class museums, an incredible park system, the food/beer scene is booming. Fort Worth has its own great music scene (especially blues) and you have access to the Denton scene if you like (named a few years ago by Rolling Stone as best music scene in the country) and Dallas for big name acts (it's where the big venues are). All three are big theater towns, and FW and D home to acclaimed opera houses and symphonies.

Dallas has nice things but it's a terrible place in general. If you want less city-ish, Denton is a smallish college town and has the same benefits.
posted by cmoj at 1:06 PM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

And as much as I tire of it, I need to point out that Texas polls 50/50 red/blue, but there are huge problems with gerrymandering and voter turnout here. Our politicians are red and crooked, not (all of) our people.
posted by cmoj at 1:09 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely consider Fort Worth! It reminds my husband of a conservative version of Austin. We like it. He's lived in Austin, Houston, Dallas, College Station, and Fort Worth, and I've lived in Bryan, San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth, and between that and various friend and family members scattered over the state, we've spent time in pretty much every larger city and many of the smaller ones. Our preferred locations are Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio in pretty much that order, as we're both centrist-to-liberal and tend to dislike the amount of woo that shows up in Austin. The landscape is prettier around Austin, but the weather is slightly better in Fort Worth (meaning it's only hellaciously hot instead of being hellaciously hot and humid) and the cost of living is lower than Austin or Dallas. I went to school in San Antonio, and enjoyed the vibe of the city, but it's been close to 20 years since I lived there and I don't know how it's changed. Bryan/College Station is currently a thriving metropolis compared to what it was when I grew up there and it would take buckets of money to convince me to live there again.

Yes there are a lot of Bible-thumping conservatives around the state. You will find pockets of moderates and liberals everywhere you go, especially if you live near a university. I should also point out that we don't live that close to a university, and our precinct voted overwhelmingly Democrat in the presidential election. It's pretty middle-of-the-road: decent schools, midrange housing, a few McMansions not too far away, but for the most part it's single-family homes, exactly what people think is highly conservative around here.

MeMail me if you want to ask more questions!
posted by telophase at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess I just disagree with folks who say that Houston is ugly. Sure, it has ugly parts (as do all cities), and it is big, which often requires highway driving (which is not really pretty anywhere y'all). But it has some pretty amazing places.

Ultimately, it underscores the fact that Houston has hidden gems. You wont know about them if you don't go looking for them. And you'll never go looking for them if you prejudge the city as a hot, hurricane-prone concrete slab.

The cons for Houston are pretty straightforward:

- It is warm here. And I'm only talking about the winter! (Ba-dum dum... clang...) This weekend, I wore shorts and a tshirt. That was slightly too much clothing. The summer? Roasting. It is subtropical here, and it feels it. But honestly, the climate is pretty well-mitigated here. People dress more casually than in other places and the culture is more relaxed because of it. Sure there are some places where business suits are required through the entire year, but in most places the uniform accommodates the weather. Also, while it is hot outside, everything here has air conditioning. You will find yourself complaining of the chill more frequently than the heat in the summer because everything will be set to "Meatlocker." (This is true of pretty much all of Texas.) Also, a mitigating factor about Texas weather is that while all your friends are plowing snow and bundling up with hot cocoa, you are sitting out on a patio, under the palm trees, enjoying an iced tea and reading a book in the cool February breeze.

- The weather also gives rise to some wonky natural disasters. But if it isn't one type, it's another. You get hurricanes on the coast. But you get tornadoes everywhere else (moreso in Dallas than Houston, Austin or San Antonio). This category is kind of a wash, because it really doesn't matter where you live - the planet is going to try to kill you in some fantastic way, and while it is probably prudent not to live on the side of an active volcano, at some point you just have to trust and prepare properly for these things.

There are some specific pro's that might be worth considering though, and I'll list them out for your below.

Arts and Culture and Music
Houston is, by far, the leader in arts and culture in Texas. We have the Houston Symphony, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Houston Friends of Chamber Music, the Texas Medical Center Orchestra, the Houston Heights Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (including Reinzi), the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Menil Collection, Aurora Picture Show, the Museum of Natural Science, The Art Car Parade, and the goddamned Beer Can House. If the high arts aren't your thing, there are plenty of live music venues - but you're also a 2.5 hour drive from Austin for any sort of special occasion shows.

Or if you like sports, maybe you'll enjoy Minute Made Park for baseball, or the new BBVA Compass stadium for our soccer team, or Reliant Arena for football, or the Toyota Center for basketball or hockey. I don't know. I don't really *do* sportball. If you're not interested in seeing sports, but doing sports, then check out Memorial Park for jogging, biking, golf, tennis, swimming, or kayaking. Running around Rice University is both popular and picturesque.

And that's pretty much it. Folks in Texas are friendly in general, and Houston's no exception. We're a more diverse city than the others in Texas. The cost of living is low. We cover more than 600 square miles, so there's no lack of parking. (Though sometimes it manifests as free valet, which can feel weird.) And people here drive faster than in other parts of the state. Houston's also a major hub for air travel, domestically and internationally. We've got two airports. If you'll be traveling, then that's certainly a consideration. And cruises leave from Galveston, with it's interesting architecture that keep threatening to be washed off the map, 45 minutes south of Houston.

My feelings about other places in Texas:

Dallas: I have been to Dallas exactly twice in my life and both times, I pretty much just spent my time worried that the wealthy white people would reveal themselves to be body snatchers and start howling to alert the others that an interloper had found his way into Highland Park. I'm sure my reaction is based on the fact that I grew up a scrappy public school kid who had a high tolerance for variety and diversity, and the kids I met (in college and beyond) from Dallas were almost always some awful combination of snooty and sheltered. I'm sure that's not the entirety of Dallas, but they send out some stunningly bad ambassadors on a regular basis, and it hasn't helped their image. At all.

Austin: Look, I'm sure Austin is a lovely place. So many people can't be wrong about it, but I just honestly don't get it and never have. I was born there, and my cousins have lived there for my whole life and it just doesn't make any sense to me. All my dearest friends in the world have moved there, and I visit them regularly and I just always leave shaking my head and wondering what they see in it. I think it is the Trying So Hard that just gives off a whiff of desperation and insecurity. You can't swing a handlebar mustache without knocking down a rollerderby team of hipsters in Austin. It really depends on what kind of a young liberal you are whether you'll enjoy Austin. If you're an East Coast Limousine Liberal? No. We live in Houston and maybe to a lesser degree, Dallas. If you're a hemp-sandal-wearing locally-sourced sustainably-organic homebrewer? You might love it. (But you can also find plenty of folks to play with here in Houston.) Pros: more outdoorsy activities. And cedar doesn't do to me what it does to half the city there, so my allergies are fine when I'm in Austin. Houston has oak trees, so my oak allergy is a problem here.

San Antonio: I love San Antonio. It is like the City That Time Forgot, and it isn't in any hurry to find its way into this century. 18th Century Missions from the Wild West, and a New Deal-era downtown that was based on New Pedestrianism before New Pedestrianism was New Pedestrianism! El Mercado (where you can always find a lucha libre mask!) and Mi Tierra and La Mansion del Rio... *sigh* However, I suspect that living in San Antonio and visiting San Antonio are two very different experiences, and I'm not sure I'd like living there as much as I like visiting. Also: Lowest cost of living of all locations.

Beyond: If you want a city, them's yer options, pardner.
posted by jph at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2012 [9 favorites]

We cannot overstate how getting the right area is important in a place like houston. Sugarland or Pearland is suburban wasteland/strip mall heaven/commuter hell. Inner loop Montrose/heighs/museum district has some trees, non-cookie cutter houses, Memorial Park and the arboretum, our fantastic multiple museums/symphonies/theater, etc.

San Antonio is neat, but probably also fairly location specific... it seems to me that a lot of the outskirts are fairly poor.

Dallas, to me, seemed like the most corporate and soulless of the major Houston options. Didnt spend much time there though.

Austin has probably the best scenery, out by the Hillcountry.

Corpus Christi strikes me very much as a place where you make your own fun. Most of this seemed to involve the beach or drinking on the beach. An interesting mx of TAMU CC college kids, beach bums, rich and poor.
posted by Jacen at 1:48 PM on December 4, 2012

I am a liberal young professional who grew up in the northern Dallas suburbs and spent a few years in Austin for college. I also lived in Houston for a summer after law school. I've, at the very least, visited all of the other major cities in Texas. I like culture and restaurants and diversity and like-minded folks. I feel completely out of place in smaller and less diverse cities (e.g., my current location).

If it were up to me, I'd pick Dallas (Dallas proper, not the suburbs), followed by Houston (inside the loop, not the suburbs). Austin is nice, but you should note that the people in this thread who are dismissing the idea of living elsewhere in Texas are either (1) less than familiar with places like Dallas and Houston or (2) not from Texas at all. Sure, Austin's great for a few years of undergrad or a week's stay for SXSW, but responses like "Austin is the only remotely liveable place for an intelligent person in Texas" wildly overestimate both the city's awesomeness and the rest of the state's shittness.
posted by SpringAquifer at 2:47 PM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

After six years of life in Corpus, I'd be happy to share a shoe box with a pile of fresh camel dung in the Sahara if it meant I didn't have to go back to Corpus Christi ever again.

City management and government is terrible. It's an industrial shit-hole. The beaches are mediocre at their best. Street and road maintenance is non-existent. The people are a horrible balance of self-entitled and uneducated. Municipal planning is so absent as to be suspicious. If all that doesn't kill you, the humidity just might.

If you'd like my unfiltered opinion instead of the sugar-coating I gave it here, feel free to memail.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 5:58 PM on December 4, 2012

Listen to SpringAquifer. As a Texan who moved to New England(ish), I have been disappointed and surprised by how others view Texas. It is a red state, but it is a huge state and has diversity in just about every respect from landscape to political opinions. I think liberal=>Austin is over-simplifying a bit.

If you choose to live in a city in Texas, you're going to find people you can get along with. If it weren't Texas, how would you choose the place you want to live? Unless politics are the most important thing in your life I doubt you would just choose the bluest county. What scenery do you like? (Personally West Texas doesn't do it for me, but East Texas has a piney woods forest!) What do you want to do (go to concerts, breweries, museums, etc.)? I encourage you to be more thoughtful than OMG! BUSH!

You will need a car and most places are built with the assumption that everyone has a car (for example, I've found that renting a place to live in the NE they consider parking to be a special bonus feature--in Texas it's mostly a given, unless you're living really downtown). The heat may be disturbing, but everywhere has AC. I miss sunshine.
posted by kochenta at 7:17 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing Austin. (We live in Dallas)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:39 PM on December 4, 2012

I was going to read all the answers before chiming in, but I can't do it. I'm probably nthing a dozen other people and contradicting at least that many.

I'm a native Texan who has lived elsewhere in the country and traveled a bit. I was born and raised in Houston, became an adult in Dallas, and indulged the prodigal daughter urge in Austin. Since returning in '07, I've visited my two prior cities and several others, so my info is somewhat up-to-date. I continue to have family and friends scattered about the state, which freshens things up a bit more. Based on all of that, here's my feel for your query:

I think you should move to whichever of the big four sounds grooviest and then drive around between and beyond them to figure out where you really want to dig in. Maybe it'll be the same place you're originally roosting, maybe not. It'll be a fun discovery process and show you the best of this immense state and all the variety it has to offer. And maybe confirm some of the unfortunately true bad parts as well, but that's just inevitable.

As for specific reads on specific places, here's my offering:

Austin has, as I'm sure others have said, kind of jumped the shark. There are now so many people here that we're having to deal with all kinds of development and infrastructure issues that weren't part of the original vision of the city, and it reduces livability in some big ways. Traffic, condo blight, eradication of historic enclaves, dispersal of creative types, much higher standard of living than other Texas cities, and pollution all feature prominently in day-to-day life here. We also have a ridiculous allergy problem due to being a perfect mid-point between coastal and plains environments. When you ask a lot of people about what's fun, they'll respond with something that boils down to "shopping" (sure, it's somewhere fun and probably quirky, but it's still shopping). It does not have BIG CULTURE and does have some "douche" culture. Austin goes to bed early.

That said, it's still a beautiful city. It has a tenacious arts scene with a lot of character(s). It's laid-back. Good music. Mind-boggling array of festivals. Lakes, rivers, hills, springs, trails...it has everything an outdoorsy city soul could want. Some sports - UT football is the biggest, but there's baseball and soccer, amongst other things (Formula One as of this year, apparently). And it's smack dab in the middle of the rest of the state (mostly), so it's a natural starting point for exploration. The smaller municipalities in the immediate vicinity have a lot to offer: Bastrop, Smithville, Lockhart, Elgin, Greune, San Marcos, Fredericksburg, New Braunfels...the list goes on.

Houston is my hometown, so I'm a little biased. I will never live there again because I remember how it used to be, but I still love visiting. It has an impressive, daunting, superlative commitment to the arts. Truly incredible. It has nightlife. It has a thriving creative community. Great food. Low-ish standard of living for what you get in return. Some truly endearing neighbourhoods (Montrose is where my heart is, even though 3rd Ward was technically "home"). Also has great festivals and concerts. The Rodeo & Livestock show shindig surprises newcomers with how much fun it can be. I adore everything around Hermann Park - the zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the big hill. Bayous are charming. Sports are huge. Super close to Galveston, Victoria, Corpus, and Louisiana. Houston is up late.

On the downside, it's a massive city with the problems those tend to have - real violence, actual ghettos, insane traffic, and stupid suburbs. I'm not sure it's a negative or not, but people are completely serious about the humidity - it is intense. I love it, even though it's even more tropical than when I lived there, but I know it can bring other people down. Really hot. Also, it's in line for hurricanes and tornadoes aren't unheard of. Floods.

Dallas is a complicated place. The city proper is blue as can be. It has really invested in culture and the arts, from the big art museum downtown to the gentrified-funkiness of historic Deep Ellum. Standard of living is good. Food options are surprisingly amazing. Lots of musical acts stop there even if they hit one of the other TX cities....or visit Dallas alone. Six Flags. State Fairgrounds. Close to Fort Worth (surprisingly fun and approachable). Dallas loves to party and really enjoys sports. Dallas is up very, very late.

It also has real violence and segregation. The suburbs are actively horrible. Traffic isn't as bad other places, but not great, either. There are some seriously stuck-up, racist people who live in very specific areas of Dallas, and you encounter them randomly in the rest of the city. Tornadoes. FUCKING HOT. SERIOUSLY FUCKING HOT. Pardon the sudden vulgarity, but anyplace that can reliably be 115f downtown in July needs to give very clear warning, just in case that's not all right with someone. It also has this hilariously over-the-top wind thing going in the cooler part of the year that other people can't abide but I found amusing. If it rains, there are places that always flood. Very, very flat. Dallas Cowboys.

That's what I know for those three of the big four. I don't know much about San Antonio, other than it's a fun place to visit if you have money and has spent a lot of effort/dough on being charming.

Try to let us know what you decide!
posted by batmonkey at 9:49 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I grew up on the East Coast (Philadelphia) and I lived happily in Dallas for a number of years. It's a real city with things like an opera and good museums. Dallas always felt more libertarian than conservative to me and I wasn't ostracized for having liberal views. Dallas amused me.
posted by 26.2 at 10:19 PM on December 4, 2012

Response by poster: All very helpful! I am marking this puppy as resolved. Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses!
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:48 PM on December 4, 2012

There is a great lefty blogger, http://juanitajean.com/, who lives in Richmond Texas. She says:

My name is Susan DuQuesnay Bankston. I live in Richmond, Texas, in the heart of Tom DeLay's old district. It's nuttier than squirrel poop here.

You may want to read her blog for a while to get ideas about places outside Austin. She can turn a phrase though.
posted by andreap at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2012

Totally late, AppleTurnover, but when I first read your question I couldn't put my finger on the below piece from John Nova Lomax in the Houston Press. It comes in a long line of friendly (and not-so-friendly) jabs between Texans proud of their hometowns (usually Dallas, Houston, and Austin). So, for posterity:

Six Stupid Reasons to Move to Austin.

I think Austin and Houston are swell.
posted by GPF at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2012

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