The 10 Best College Towns in Texas

College towns are some of the best places to live across the country due to their growing communities and thriving downtowns. Along with educating students, institutes of higher learning impact the culture and economy of the surrounding areas. The presence of a university draws in students from all over the world, making for diverse cities and towns. 

In addition, the school will typically give back to its community in terms of service and funding to attract and retain top students. A strong university will drive the economy by providing employment, revitalizing neighborhoods through donations, and drawing in business partners for collaboration.

Along with economic benefits, college towns are great places to live for non-collegiate residents due to their affordability, diversity, and educated populations. This diverse community leads to more exciting stores, restaurants, and recreational activities. 

Youthful college towns also tend to be more supportive of arts and music, ensuring that there’s entertainment around every corner. There are endless activities from sporting events to music festivals to cultural celebrations. The nearby bars and restaurants compete for the lowest prices to stay within the college budget. 

Although Texas is best known for barbecue, rodeos, country music, and the oil industry they have more than their fair share of top schools. There are over 140 universities in Texas welcoming over 1 million students to the state. Texas college towns top national lists due to their social environment, affordability, and opportunities for academic and economic success.

Here are 10 of the best college towns in Texas.

Midland, TX

Midland or the “Tall City” is best known for the towering skyline. The city is continuing its upward trajectory as the third-fastest growing city and highest income per capita in the United States. Midland’s success in the oil industry means that they can offer world-class attractions to residents. 

Like most towns in Texas, Midland is home to many delicious restaurants ranging from barbecue to Tex-Mex. Exciting music and nightlife options can be found around every corner. For those interested in Texan history, the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, George W. Bush’s childhood home, and the Museum of the Southwest are open to the public.

The Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center is famous for its Broadway productions, musicals, and entertainment for the surrounding area. The McCormick Gallery at Midland College also helps to promote the arts and encourages community participation and support.

Schools in Midland: Midland College

Stephenville, TX

Stephenville, Texas
CletusDitto, Stephenville Texas, CC BY-SA 3.0

Stephenville combines the homey feeling of a small historic town with big-city entertainment options. The historic downtown has a variety of delicious food, parks, and live music. 

Stephenville is the sixth city to receive the designation as a Texas Music Friendly Community. The town is recognized for its development of the music industry through festivals and state-of-the-art venues. 

The nearby Tarleton State University also emphasizes music and performing arts, allowing students and residents to intermingle in a music-loving community. The university encourages students to work throughout Stephenville from manufacturing companies to local businesses.

Stephenville is known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, with plenty of professional rodeo competitors and a successful college team at Tarleton. The town hosts the Annual Cowboy Capital Pro Rodeo, one of the most significant events driving tourism and economic development.

Schools in Stephenville: Tarleton State University, Ranger College

McAllen, TX

McAllen, Texas
Anthony Acosta, Cityscape of McAllen, Texas, CC BY-SA 4.0

McAllen has grown from a farming community to a truly diverse bi-national destination. On the border of Mexico and the US, the community has become a blend of Hispanic and Texan cultures.

With today’s population nearing 800,000, McAllen is one of the fastest-growing cities and has found success in tourism, business, education, and retail industries. Residents also have their choice of nearly 700 restaurants within city limits.

The city’s rich culture is thanks to talented artists and many arts, music, and theater amenities. Residents have their choice of entertainment, from catching a show at the McAllen Performing Arts Center to visiting the International Museum of Art & Science.

McAllen is also known as a popular birding location, drawing in people from all over the globe. The World Birding Center cites over 500 bird species and 330 types of butterflies in the area.

Schools in McAllen: South Texas College

Richardson, TX

Richardson, Texas
Michael Barera, Richardson (plaza), CC BY-SA 4.0

In 2016, Richardson was ranked as the third best place to live in the US by USA Today and 24/7 Wall Street. As the International Business Capital of Texas, part of this desirability is due to a thriving economy. The city is home to more than 5,000 businesses, including significant telecommunication and insurance companies.

Another primary source of employment is the UT Dallas campus. The university also attracts more than 6,000 international students from over 100 countries, which adds to Richardson’s already diverse company.

Residents of the town have their choice of recreational activities, including theaters, breweries, farmers markets, parks, and more. Richardson is also home to nationally recognized festivals such as Wildflower! and the Cottonwood Arts Festival in the spring.

Schools in Richardson: University of Texas at Dallas

College Station, TX

College Station, Texas
Pmelton87, Lofts at Wolf Pen Creek in College Station, CC BY-SA 3.0

True to name, College Station is a popular college town with plenty to offer for all residents. The population has risen from 25% from 2010 to 2019, largely thanks to Texas A&M University, often abbreviated as TAMU.

Texas A&M was the first public institution of higher education in Texas and one of the largest statewide. Kyle Field is the fourth largest college football stadium and provides plenty of exciting sporting events for College Station residents. 

TAMU is a widely respected research university and received triple designation as a Land-, Sea-, and Space-Grant institution. The university is partnered with big names like NASA and the NIH, bringing broad research endeavors to the city.

College students blow off steam in the Northgate District, known for its vibrant mix of bars and restaurants. The area has grown rapidly thanks to the patronage of students, professors, and families from TAMU.

Schools in College Station: Texas A&M University, Blinn College

Arlington, TX

Arlington, Texas
Nicolas Henderson, Globe Life Park Final Game, Arlington, Texas, CC BY 2.0

Home to the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, and Dallas Wings, Arlington is every Texan sports fan’s dream. The UT Arlington Mavericks compete in NCAA Division I for 15 varsity sports, bringing home many conference titles. 

Outside of athletics, UTA students and faculty contribute to their community with over 680,000 combined volunteer hours annually. The school brought in $125 million in research funding, which benefits the surrounding area’s economy.

Arlington residents know how to have fun with Hurricane Harbor, the International Bowling Campus, and the original Six Flags at their doorstep. Theatre Arlington is one of the largest community theatres in the nation and provides quality shows and classes year-round. Students love to take advantage of the many free concerts, museums, and parades throughout the year.

Schools in Arlington: University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington Baptist University, Tarrant County College, Kaplan College

Canyon, TX

Canyon, Texas
Renelibrary, Downtown Canyon, CC BY-SA 4.0

As a Texas Main Street City, Canyon has top tourist destinations, entertainment, unique shopping, delicious food, and a friendly community. The vibrant downtown area has been revitalized, attracting new businesses and becoming a center for community events.

The West Texas A&M University Campus is also a popular destination, with 176 acres to explore. The state-of-the-art facilities and student organizations host events for the surrounding community throughout the year.

Nature lovers in Canyon have easy access to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the second-largest canyon in the United States. The beautiful scenery has plenty of options for camping, picnicking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

Canyon is home to the musical TEXAS, the most attended outdoor drama across the country. The internationally recognized show tells the story of settlers of the Texas Panhandle through humor, musical numbers, and even fireworks.

Schools in Canyon: West Texas A&M University

Denton, TX

Denton Square is a cultural and political hub with local shops and restaurants that have been in business since the 1940s. This thriving area is a center of art, antiques, games, used books, and more.

The 15-acre Shiloh Field Community Garden is the largest community garden in the US and provides locally grown farm-to-table produce for hungry families in the surrounding area.

The two local colleges, UNT and TWU, are the largest employers of the city. Students continually find additional ways to contribute to their community by creating music, art, drama, and films.

Denton is also home to many festivals that attract over 300,000 people to the city each year. Along with a variety of music festivals, there are events year-round celebrating storytelling, day of the dead, holiday lighting, and thin line film.

Schools in Denton: University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University

Austin, TX

Austin, Texas
Airainix, Biking in Congress Avenue, CC BY-SA 3.0

A diverse mix of government employees, students, and blue-collar workers call the capital city of Texas home. Along with being a major business school, UT Austin provides employees to fuel technology and defense development. This rapid economic growth has led Forbes to name Austin as the #1 metropolitan area for jobs.

Austin is renowned for its delicious barbecue, Tex-Mex, breweries, and food trucks. Local favorite Franklin Barbecue has sold out of brisket every day since its establishment in 2009. Austin is also known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” with a plethora of musicians, venues, nightclubs, and festivals.

The local community has adopted the catchphrase “Keep Austin Weird” to promote the diversity of the area. South Congress is beloved for the coffee shops, eccentric stores, and local businesses.

Schools in Austin: University of Texas at Austin, St. Edward’s University, Austin Community College, Concordia University, Huston-Tillotson University

Lubbock, TX

Lubbock, Texas
Redraiderengineer, LubbockSkyline2013, CC BY-SA 3.0

Lubbock is a big player in the West Texas arts scene due to its support of rising and established musicians. Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock and went on to become a household name in rock.

Texas Tech brings in 40,000 students to the Lubbock community and was recently named a diversity champion by INSIGHT. The school was recognized for its work in promoting an inclusive environment for all students.

The diversity on campus also extends to the rest of the community. Students have their choice of recreation including cultural attractions, upscale restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs of the Depot District.

In the summer, residents attend the 4th on Broadway event, cited as the largest free festival in Texas. The community comes together to enjoy a parade, food stalls, live bands, fireworks, and concerts.

Schools in Lubbock: Texas Tech University, Lubbock Christian University, South Plains College, Wayland Baptist University

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