Most of the year I keep myself busy being a stay-at-home dad and “closet” personal finance blogger. Those two activities are usually more than enough to fill-up my limited spare time…
But when summer finally comes, I tend to slow down on the blog updates and spend time traveling with my family.
Last year we visited some friends in the Houston, TX area and had a really great time! Mrs. Tako and I both thought Texas could be a good place to raise a family. Except that it’s a *really big* state, and we only saw one small corner of it.
We needed to see more before we made any big decisions…
As you might remember, we’ve been hunting for a good location to move to for several years now. Nothing has seemed quite right. Texas fits the bill on many fronts — Warm weather, fairly low taxes, affordable housing, plenty of diversity, and lots of good food.
This year, we decided to check-out different parts of Texas. We decided to kick-off our adventure in Dallas-Fort Worth!
Of course, being a Southwest shareholder I had a moral imperative that we must fly on Southwest… So we travel-hacked it and paid with points! Woohoo!
Like our other home-hunting vacations, we tend to skip the tourist traps and focus on what makes a town great. Tourist activities are good for pulling money into a city, but they’re not what actual residents need to live a comfortable life.
Good housing, good schools, plenty of culture, local activities, parks, and libraries are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of a great place to live.
Thankfully we had some local help on this trip — Paul from Asset Based Life (who lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area) was kind enough to point us to some wonderful towns just outside of Dallas. Thanks Paul!
First on this list of towns to check out was Plano. Plano is one of the more ethnically diverse cities in Texas, so we decided to sampled some of the local ethnic food…
Yum. Yes, that’s jalapeno and fried garlic on top of delicious slabs of tuna. For reals. That’s Texas sushi y’all. It’s different from what I’m used to, but I must say — the combination works.
I didn’t have a big enough stomach to try all the unique sushi Texas was serving-up, but with concoctions like “Garlic Tuna Steak”, I’m anxious to try again.
Even though my stomach was full, I couldn’t resist stopping at a local matcha shop (being something of a medium-level matcha aficionado).
Who knew there was a shop dedicated to serving up delicious matcha beverages and desserts?
Other towns in DFW certainly don’t have the same level of ethnic diversity as Plano, but they do have other charms — such as the beautiful and walk-able downtown of McKinney where we stopped for a afternoon stroll.
Little local restaurants, shops, and boutiques give towns like McKinney tons of that small-town charm.
Not all small towns have that small-town feel however…. Frisco was next on our list, and it had a “out with the old and in with the new” kinda vibe. Everything was new and really big!
Fountains, artwork, and a large “mall” space made-up Frisco square. For a small town, it seemed like an absolutely gigantic and underutilized public space. It was deserted. Maybe they hold apple-bobbing contests in the large fountain during festivals or something.
It could have been the heat keeping people away too… After-all, it was a sweltering 98F that day!
Most places in Texas have AC, so we decided to duck into the local library/city hall to cool off. Again, Frisco likes to do things really big. The city library was housed in this gigantic four story building that includes their city hall and other city services.
Frisco and towns like it around Dallas are growing crazy-fast. New construction seems to be the norm. New houses are going up like hotcakes.
I could have sworn there was one less house here when I parked my rental car… Hmm. To say Dallas is growing fast is an understatement.
Grapevine was one town we visited that showcased its pioneer roots really well, even though it’s growing really fast.
There is plenty of new construction going on everywhere, but the historic feel of Grapevine definitely gave it a lot more personality.
Is personality in a town something important? I honestly don’t know the answer to that. We’re kind of a quirky and weird family, so maybe finding a place that’s quirky and weird will help us “fit-in” a little better? I’m not certain. Maybe it’s not important at all.
So far this trip has given me plenty of food for thought! Speaking of food….
We met-up with Paul @AssetBasedLife for some ‘real’ Texas BBQ, and he fed us ridiculously well. The brisket and bacon wrapped jalapenos were absolutely delicious! Thanks Paul!
That’s it for today! We’ve still got another week of traveling left to go, but in the meantime if you’re interested in non-travel related blog posts, I have plenty of posts on investing, dividends, saving, and even a few of my favorite recipes!
[Image Credit: Wikipedia]