No. 6: Austin, Texas

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.

ROCKERS, TACOS AND CHIPS

Population: 1,506,425

Population Growth Since 2000: 17%

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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%

Take Our Walking Tour Through Austin (opens in new tab)

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.

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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Jane Bennett Clark
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
The late Jane Bennett Clark, who passed away in March 2017, covered all facets of retirement and wrote a bimonthly column that took a fresh, sometimes provocative look at ways to approach life after a career. She also oversaw the annual Kiplinger rankings for best values in public and private colleges and universities and spearheaded the annual "Best Cities" feature. Clark graduated from Northwestern University.