Surprise! We’re on Vacation!
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]
20 thoughts on “Surprise! We’re on Vacation!”
Looks like you’re having a blast already – see you next week!
Yep, we’re having a great time! See you in Austin!
It was our pleasure! It was great to finally meet you and the lovely Ms. Tako in person (as my kids said, “He’s like a secret agent”).
You’ve certainly covered the very wide spread of DFW on your trip, and hopefully somewhere within it or one of its sister Texas cities will catch your eye. Happy hunting and safe travels!
Thanks Paul! Your hospitality was fantastic! 😀
Happy vacation-Toronto is diverse, friendly lots of good schools, cold in the winter.A bit pricey but USD is higher than CAD
Thanks Tigermom! Toronto sounds great! I’m actually surprised by how diverse Canada is. It’s really changed over the last 20-30 years! Immigrating North probably isn’t in the cards for us, but I definitely appreciate the suggestion! 🙂
Welcome to Dallas. It looks like you went to Mitsuiwa for the matcha. 🙂 For touristy things downtown Dallas would be fun to go for at least half a day (Klye Warren Park, JFK memorial, Old Red Courthouse, Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum, etc.) There are also no shortage of food options in the metroplex. Carrollton, Coppell, Las Colinas, and Richardson are some areas to consider as well to put down roots.
Thanks Sally! Yes indeed we went to Mitsuwa! Fun stop, but kind of expensive!
Thanks for all your suggestions! We checked out a bunch of those cities & towns as well! (We actually stayed in Richardson) 🙂
Conveyer belt sushi is really good. I live in Murphy which is just east of Plano. I’m curious what bbq place you went to. I’m guessing ten fifty based on the plating. Glad you enjoyed your time here in North TX.
Wow, you’re a great guesser fiberguyr1! Ten50 is indeed the bbq place we went! Thanks for reading! 🙂
Looks like you guys are having a great time. Enjoy your vacation! 🙂
You visited the area I used to live. I lived in a town close to and similar in demographics to Plano. I lived in Allen which coincidentally is the town that the El Paso shooter lived.
When I lived there, the Dallas area had the reputation of being home to rich, Christian, White racists. I have never lived in Seattle but I visited there often in the 1990s and it was much more tolerant and racially diverse. When I lived in Allen in 1990s, I thought the Dallas Metroplex was a great place to live but after traveling and living on the West Coast for several years, I don’t think I would be happy back in the Metroplex.
I’m not really sure about Allen, but Plano seems to be one of the more diverse towns in the DFW area. That’s my impression anyway. It appears that a lot has changed there *very* quickly.
Texas is very interesting. I’m waiting to see how the state continues to develop. I just heard the story contrasting Texas to California. They’re almost opposite. Low tax and low regulation. Let’s see how it plays out over the next 20 years.
My brother went to Texas ATM for a few years. We visited and weren’t impressed. It was too much driving and there were chain stores everywhere. Portland had a lot more personality, but it’s probably different now. We should visit again soon.
Regarding chain stores and plenty of driving — that still seems to be true. It’s a big state and everything is really spread out. Along the highways at least, the chain stores seem to dominate.
I feel almost compelled to sing “Texas Our Texas” or “Deep in the Heart of Texas”. But I also feel compelled (as a native Houstonian) to note that Dallas sucks enormous green donkey balls. Haha. J/k, it is a mostly friendly rivalry between the cities.
Haha, thanks Financial Velociraptor! 😉
Just curious – your preference to live and raise a family:
Dallas Fort Worth or Houston? and why?
We don’t really have any preferences at this time, just checking out all the different options. There’s tons of variables – weather, schools, housing costs, food costs, traffic, diversity, utility costs, activity options for kids, and so on.
I think it’s fair to say that most people choose a city because that’s where their job is. When a job is no longer the deciding factor, the decision becomes much more complicated. 😉