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Best Cities, States & Places

No. 6: Austin, Texas

ROCKERS, TACOS AND CHIPS

Population: 1,506,425
Population Growth Since 2000: 17%
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class: 36.5%
Cost-of-Living Index: 92.8 (100 being national average)
Median Household Income: $52,882
Income Growth Since 2000: 12.2%

Don’t think for a minute that the laid-back, rockers-and-tacos atmosphere of downtown Austin is all this metro area has to offer. In fact, Austin and the surrounding region offer a strong economy, a solid, moderately priced housing market, a growing population and enough natural beauty to justify staying outside even if the weather weren’t great -- which, by the way, it is.

VIDEO EXTRA:

Take Our Walking Tour Through Austin

Already home to the University of Texas, the state capitol and a bustling music scene, Austin has lately expanded its economy to include digital media, green energy and biotech, creating 114,000 in the area in the last five years. Meanwhile, downtown Austin is in transformation mode. Redevelopment includes the Second Street District and more than a dozen residential developments. Among them: 360, where a two-bedroom, two-bath condo with a lake view starts at about $400,000.

City life not to your liking? Head to Round Rock, an 18.5 mile hike up I-35. This family-oriented suburb boasts topnotch public schools along with a local economy that includes Dell, three hospitals and a brisk business in sports tourism thanks to the playing fields it rents out for tournaments. As for housing, it’s a deal: For $270,000, you can buy a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house in the Teravista community and enjoy its rolling hills, 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and a pool.

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Down the road apiece, in the tiny town of Lago Vista, residents enjoy access to Lake Travis in the spectacular Texas Hill Country setting. Once mostly a resort community for retirees, this 11-mile stretch of land increasingly appeals to young families who like the small-town atmosphere and don’t mind commuting to Northwest Austin or to Round Rock.

NEXT: No. 7 -- Fayetteville


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