Texas: The Lone Star State, home of the Live Music Capital of the World, where everything is bigger, where near everything is better, and where the word "pride" may just not cut it. This true Southern state is not just great in size, but in countless other areas as well: a variety of nature, a whole country's worth of weather packed into one state, tons of things to do, plentiful places to explore, and, of course, its rich and unique history.
It's no wonder Texas Pride is not so much an attitude but a way of life-particularly in the places below. That's because out of the hundreds of places we looked at in this latest analysis, these 10 were the cream of the crop; the cat's Lonestar-covered pajamas; the "Red Headed Stranger" of Willie albums. They were the best. So, without further delay, allow us to present the 10 best places in Texas:
1. City of Fredericksburg
2. City of Midland
3. City of Levelland
4. City of Hereford
5. City of Odessa
6. City of Pampa
7. City of Hewitt
8. CDP of New Territory
9. City of Hutto
10. City of Sugar Land
What is so darned special about Fredericksburg? Is Sugar Land as sweet as it sounds? Keep on reading for these answers and more, as we not only take you through the method of our analysis, but stop by each place on our list to see what makes it shine, deep in the heart of Texas.
How We Did It
Just like our other Big Deal Lists, we needed some measurable criteria to come up with our top 10 ranking. Of course, if we judged our list on things like natural beauty, city pride, or, say, number of HEBs or boot shops per capita, we may have ended up with one long list of ties, because every place in Texas worth its salt is packed with these. So instead, we relied on these seven equally good, and slightly more measurable criteria:
- Total amenities
- Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student-to-teacher ratio)
- Total crimes
- Tax rates (sales tax and income tax)
- Commute time
- Weather (temperature and air quality)
From there, we looked at the U.S. Census data for all of the places in Texas with populations over 10,000 people. Now, in most of our lists-Connecticut or Kentucky, for example-this generally ranges anywhere from about 35-65 places. As you Texans know, though, everything is bigger in this gigantic state-there is just more space! So in the end, we ended up looking at a Texas-sized 242 places.
Then, each place was ranked from one to 242 in each of the seven criteria above, with one being the best possible score. After that, we averaged each ranking for an overall Big Deal Score, with the lowest score being the winner.
For all ya'll Texans who don't see your home in our top 10, feel free to hop down to the bottom to see our list of the top 50 places. Otherwise, keep reading as we take you on a virtual tour of our winners, starting with No. 1, the most German Texas place you ever did know, Fredericksburg.
Source: Wikipedia user Photolitherland
This uniquely German city in Gillespie County, Texas, did well in nearly all of our criteria, but when it came to weather, unemployment rate, a median home price of $204,700, and education, this city did simply wunderbar.
Fredericksburg's average summer temperature was a cool 79 degrees and it had an air quality score of just 35 (the lower, the better)-which, if you're from Texas, the land of 90 degrees and up, you know this is almost unheard of. Something else nearly unheard of-Fredericksburg's unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. This is 43 percent lower than the rest of the state. Finally, with a student to teacher ratio of just 12 to 1, Fredericksburg was among the best in Texas in terms of education.
Source: Wikipedia user Hellorawr
Midland may well be the quintessential West Texas city. Not only is this historically oil-based city the hometown of none other than previous First Lady Laura Bush, but in our analysis, it scored major points for the lowest unemployment rate in the state-just 4.1 percent-and for its shorter than average commute time of just 19 minutes (take that, Greatwood with your near 40-minute drive!)
Midland also had a higher median home price than over half the places in our analysis-$126,600-and ranked pretty well for its 1,816 total amenities according to Yelp, which put it in 66th place for this criterion. If you think this doesn't sound all that impressive, remember, this analysis ranked 242 places, so that means Midland had more amenities than 176 of the others on our list. Way to go, Midland.
Source: Source: Google Maps
Also located in West Texas, Levelland ranked well in our analysis for its relatively low cost of living-a 78, compared to the average of 100; a low student to teacher ratio of just 13 to 1, and some of the best weather in the state. Don't get jealous, Houston, but Levelland had an average summer temperature of 77 and an air quality score of a low 26. That's a dry 77, too.
Levelland was among the best when it came to unemployment and a low sales tax rates as well, 4.3 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Of course, all of Texas shares an income tax of 0 percent, so the sales tax really does make all the difference, and in Levelland, that difference is pretty awesome.
Source: Wikipedia user Billy Hathorn
Hereford may be known as the Beef Capital of the World for its large number of cattle fed in the area; it also known locally as the Town Without a Toothache for its high level of naturally occurring fluorine in the water (don't ask); but after our analysis, it may want to add "Coolest City in Texas" to its list of names.
That's because with an average summer temperature of just 73 degrees, it quite literally, was the coolest place in Texas-or at least in the 242 places we took a look at. Hereford also scored points for its unemployment rate of just 5.1 percent, a cost of living score of just 78, and a commute time of just 20 minutes on average.
Source: Flickr user mookielove
This Ector County city, just outside of Midland, is probably best-known for its recent spotlight in the movie "Friday Night Lights"; but perhaps it should be known for its high number of amenities (16,955), low cost of living (77), and an unemployment rate of just 5.3 percent.
Odessa also ranked well for its average summer temperature of just 79 degrees, which residents may argue may not always feel like this, but we assure you, these numbers don't lie.
Source: Flickr user Charles Henry
Located just about as north as you can get in North Texas, it may not be surprising that this city of nearly 19,000 ranked well for a low summer temperature, averaging at 75 degrees, and clear skies, with an air quality score of 21 (the lower the better). What may be surprising, though was that this city ranked as the very highest in our analysis for quality of life.
With plenty to do, and clear weather to do it in, it's almost a shame that almost 96 percent of residents are busy at work every day-as this city's unemployment rate was just 5.5 percent. At least with a short average commute time of 18 minutes, there's a chance for residents to get home early to enjoy that North Texas weather.
Source: Google Maps
Just outside of Waco, Hewitt has all of the benefits of its larger neighbor city, without actually having to. be in Waco. In fact, Hewitt ranked among the best when it came to its overall quality of life, with a median household income 33 percent higher than the rest of the state, combined with a cost of living of just 81, where the national average is 100.
Hewitt also had just 1,111 total crimes per 100,000 people, making it the 15th safest place on our list. Not bad at all, Hewitt.
8. New Territory
Source: Source: Google Maps
New Territory may be appropriately named, as in this analysis at least, it is certainly breaking new territory-especially when it comes to affluence. With a median household income of $115,373, New Territory was among the best-paid in our analysis; and with median home and rent prices of $225,400 and $1,314, respectively, it is clear that this place in Fort Bend County has some desirable real estate. This, plus a student to teacher ratio of just 14 to 1, combine to make New Territory the No. 1 place in our analysis in terms of overall quality of life.
The only downside? With most of its residents working outside of town in Houston, New Territory had one of the highest average commute times in our analysis-39 minutes.
Source: Cityt of Hutto
Just outside of Austin, in Williamson County, Hutto scored well in many criteria in our analysis-plus, it has the benefit of being just outside of Austin where there's always something going on.
With over 2,700 total amenities, Hutto came in as the 40th in this criteria, beating out over 200 others places. It also had some of the lowest student to teacher ratios, 14 to 1 and highest rent prices in our analysis, a median price of $1,385 per month, indicating a high desirability to live in the area.
To top it off, Hutto only saw 913 crimes per 100,000 people in the last year, making it the sixth safest in our entire list.
10. Sugar Land
Source: City of Sugar Land
Finally, bringing our list to a close, was the sweet city of Sugar Land. This city within a city (it is within Houston) is one of the most affluent and fastest-growing places in the state-and for good reason.
According to our numbers, Sugar Land has over 3,280 total amenities, a median household income of over $101,000, and median home and rent prices of $230,800 and $1,330, all of which combine to give Sugar Land an overall rank of 41 in quality of life. Remember, folks, that's 41 out of 242. Of course, it could have been higher; but as most people know, you get what you pay for-and in Sugar Land, you get a lot. Hence the cost of living score of 95, the highest in our top 10, which is one reason Sugar Land did not get a higher score.
Deep In The Heart Of Texas
The stars at night may be big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas-but after this analysis, their luminous may have some competition with these shining places. Puns and cheesiness aside, these 10 places are near enough to make even a non-Texan proud, with some of the state's best education, highest incomes, crime rates, and so much more.
(click to enlarge table)
Featured Image Source: Flickr User Justin Jensen