Texas is experiencing something of a renaissance. Whereas the 1980s, thanks to the influence of popular movies like Midnight Cowboy and shows like Dallas, cemented an image of Texas in the national consciousness as a place of wealthy oil barons and leathery, boots-wearing businessmen, today, thanks in part because of the cultural influence of Austin, Texas is finally being seen for what it is: a place of tremendous diversity and vitality, a vast, expansive land with a vibrant population where entrepreneurs, hillbillies, artists, musicians, filmmakers, cowboys, politicians, old and young rub shoulders freely.
This list was arranged to reflect the diversity of this one-of-a-kind state. It includes some of Texas’ largest cities and some of its smallest, its best-known and most obscure, from the salt-smelling shores of the coast to the rolling green waves of the northern Panhandle, encompassing a lifetime of great memories.
10. Fort Worth
Livability.com, which showcases the best places to live in America, voted downtown Fort Worth the best downtown in America in 2014, lavishing some much-needed appreciation on an underrated north Texas city too often outshone by its cousin to the east. Whatever you’re looking for, whether barbecue, dancing, art, or business, there’s always something happening downtown. The All-Western Parade sees livestock, horses, and wagons parading through the streets annually to kick off the beginning of rodeo season, while the city’s 13 parks make it one of the greenest big cities in Texas. Millions of tourists a year visit the 35-block entertainment district, Sundance Square, or grab a pint in the Stockyards, the city’s nationally famous historical district. And, if you’re thinking about staying, Fort Worth’s suburbs are considered some of the best in the nation.
9. San Marcos
With a population of 45,000, San Marcos is one of the larger cities in the Texas Hill Country but remains small enough that it never feels overwhelming like Austin can. Scenic, old-fashioned, and at times inexpressibly beautiful, San Marcos was the backdrop for several of the most memorable scenes in Richard Linklater’s highly acclaimed 2014 film Boyhood. The protagonist (played by Ellar Coltrone) suffers a series of misfortunes in the first half of the film, but his fortunes begin to change for the better when he and his family move to a house in San Marcos. One pivotal scene is filmed in an alleyway directly in front of the iconic Hays County Courthouse. Located on the banks of the San Marcos River, the city is a popular destination for Texans seeking a weekend getaway in the Hill Country—tubing down the river is practically a state pastime. San Marcos has been listed among the “Best Places to Raise Your Kids” (by Business Week) and the “Most Exciting Cities in America” (by Business Insider).