Travel Guides

Texas, “The Lone Star” State: Location Guide

Texas is famous for its BBQ, longhorn steers, iconic live music events, scorching summers with pleasant winters (in most parts of the state), and massive size. The state’s famous slogan – “Everything is Bigger in Texas” – applies to lots of things, including healthcare job opportunities. Nurses and other medical professionals are in high demand and have loads of job options at top medical facilities throughout the Lone Star State. With so many nursing jobs and allied health jobs in Texas, it might be difficult to balance employment options with personal desires when trying to choose the ideal place to live. This guide gives you a starting place in the great big State of Texas.

Top Locations to Live in Texas

Texas is the second-biggest state by area and population, and it’s seen an influx of residents over the last decade for many reasons. Top motives to move to the Lone Star State include the numerous job opportunities in healthcare and many other industries, lower housing costs, below-average cost of living, lack of personal income taxes, great food, good schools, diverse outdoor activities year-round, vibrant culture and friendly people. Of the 150 most populous metro areas in the nation, 10 are in Texas. Medical professionals looking for a new home should consider four cities that topped the list of Best Places to Live in Texas 2022-2023.

Dallas

Home to nearly 1.3 million residents and often referred to as the “Big D,” Dallas offers big-city excitement and affordability compared to many other metros of similar size. Dallas/Fort Worth ranked second on the Best Places to Live in Texas list and #32 on the U.S. News Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2022-2023.

Nurses and allied health professionals looking for trendy shops and some of the best museums and galleries in the state find them in Dallas. They can easily find live music most nights of the week, and sports fans have plenty of pro teams to root for, including the Cowboys, Mavericks and Stars. Local cuisine tops the charts and it’s home to some of the best parks, generally within a 10-minute walk for about 70% of the population.

Healthcare workers with children have access to more than 350 public elementary, middle and high schools. Kid-friendly activities include an indoor water park, local zoo, and Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, just 20 miles away. Dallas has 18 colleges and/or universities, including four on the Best Colleges list, for continuing education opportunities. Notable neighborhoods in Dallas include: 

  • Lake Highlands is a sprawling neighborhood with dozens of subdivisions that essentially cover most of northeast Dallas. It boasts a family-friendly atmosphere, relatively affordable housing, and quick access to big-city amenities. Residents enjoy an abundance of trees and more than 870 acres of parks and trails, many leading to nearby White Rock Lake. Housing in this neighborhood tends to be single-story ranch homes, but other options are available. It’s an ideal neighborhood for young couples, families and healthcare professionals looking for a little small-town charm in their Dallas address. The average commute time for this area is 29 minutes.
  • The Medical District is geared primarily toward the students and healthcare professionals who want to live close to the numerous medical facilities that make up a significant portion of this neighborhood. Savvy builders brought new housing to the neighborhood largely to serve medical staff. Nurses and allied health professionals now find modern, newly built apartments and very few detached, single-family homes. All the main medical centers are within walking distance of each other. The Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station DART bus and rail stations provide easy access for those who don’t live nearby or to take residents to hit Dallas hotspots.
  • Deep Ellum: Located near Downtown in east Dallas, Deep Ellum has a colorful history, unique culture, and wide, tree-shaded sidewalks that make this neighborhood highly walkable and likable. Although the area previously had a bad rap as a dangerous place to visit after dark, crime has greatly declined. However, Deep Ellum remains the heart of Dallas’ music scene, with a thriving nightlife and some of the city’s top music venues, bars, and restaurants. This neighborhood boasts a range of housing options, from modern lofts, townhomes, and condominiums to a dwindling number of detached, single-family homes. The average commute time from this area is 23 minutes.
  • Pleasant Grove: Until Dallas annexed it in 1954, Pleasant Grove used to be an independent town. Now, this southeast Dallas neighborhood boasts low-cost housing and a multicultural harmony residents embrace. Medical professionals can easily access the rest of the city on the DART Light Rail or via a short drive. Downtown and many medical facilities are just 15 minutes away. Pleasant Grove is home to the 266-acre Crawford Memorial Park, amazing nature trails, and the Great Trinity Forest, the largest urban forest in the nation. Most of Pleasant Grove contains detached, single-family homes, and the average commute is 35 minutes.
  • Bluffview: Once a 215-acre dairy farm, Bluffview became one of north Dallas’ most desirable neighborhoods, with much of the area built to preserve its natural beauty and countryside feel. The National Register of Historic Places granted Bluffview historic district status in 1985. It’s a relatively upscale neighborhood that actually sits on a bluff, giving it a bluff view of Bachman Creek. Many homes sit on large yards, making it popular among healthcare professionals with children. About 70% of the houses are detached, single-family homes, but the neighborhood also has a few condominiums. The average commute is 22 minutes.

Houston

With nearly 2.3 million residents, Houston is the most populous city in Texas and the fourth-most populous city in the nation — it’s also quite popular. Located in southeastern Texas, Houston ranked third on the Best Places to Live in Texas list and #58 on the 2022-2023 Best Places to Live in the U.S. list. It’s home to the Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical campus, with more than 50 healthcare, research, and educational institutions providing lots of job opportunities for nurses and other healthcare workers.

Houston’s economy, affordable housing, and an array of world-class attractions continually lure people to the city. Residents and visitors alike flock to major attractions, such as the Museum District, the Houston Zoo, Space Center Houston, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. There are also free attractions like the 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park west of downtown Houston and the 7,800-acre George Bush Park on the far west side of Houston. Both offer various hiking, biking, and/or jogging trails. Houston has it all, with over 10,000 restaurants covering everything from award-winning barbeque to international cuisine of all types. It has a vibrant shopping scene, and like Dallas, it’s home to numerous pro sports teams, including the Texans, Astros and Rockets, among many others.

For healthcare professionals with children, Houston is also a great place to raise a family. It has 247 public elementary, middle and high schools, including several on the Best High Schools in Texas list. It also has 13 colleges and/or universities, including four on the Best Colleges list, for those wanting to continue their education. The metropolis has one of the nation’s most racially and ethnically diverse populations, making it a more inclusive community than some. Notable neighborhoods in Houston include: 

  • Downtown Houston: Located at the heart of the city’s Inner Loop, Downtown Houston offers a unique residential market that’s doubled in recent years. Housing options are mostly upscale condos and urban or historic lofts, many in mid-rise or high-rise buildings. Living Downtown offers tons of amenities, with streets lined with restaurants, retail establishments, bars, sports venues, cultural attractions, and entertainment venues. Downtown Houston also has a surprising number of parks and green spaces to enjoy time outdoors. It’s easy to get around Downtown using its extensive network of pedestrian skywalks and tunnels, making the bustling area safer and more accessible. Residents can easily access other areas like the Museum District, the Medical Center, and EaDo (East Downtown) by METRORail, Greenlink buses, and Houston BCycle.
  • Montrose: Comprising only 7.5 square miles, Montrose is a smaller neighborhood that packs a big punch. It’s frequently referred to as one of Houston’s most walkable neighborhoods and one of the city’s cultural hubs. Residents enjoy numerous top-rated restaurants, cafes, pubs, dive bars, galleries, museums, and interesting antique and consignment shops. Montrose is known for its bohemian flair and inclusiveness, attracting all walks of life. It’s especially friendly to the LGBTQ+ community and contains many of the city’s iconic LGBTQ+ bars and clubs. New and old housing have meshed to offer a unique combination of historic mansions, charming craftsman-style bungalows, luxury condos, and modern lofts and townhouses. Montrose’s central location puts it just minutes away from key areas like Downtown Houston and the Medical Center, and it offers short commutes via primary roads and freeways.
  • Midtown: Directly south of Downtown Houston is the mixed-use neighborhood called Midtown. This re-emerging area enjoys proximity to some of Houston’s top retail, dining, and entertainment hotspots, not to mention some of the city’s best nightlife. But it also boasts three acres of urban space, with a playground and parks for your two-legged and four-legged kids. Midtown is another highly walkable neighborhood, with gyms, coffee shops, and many trendy spots to explore. It’s also one of the most affordable areas in Houston’s Inner Loop, with various housing options, from economical patio homes and townhouses to upscale condos and lofts. Commuting is made easy in Midtown due to its location near major freeways and roads and easy METRORail access via the Red Line to prime locations, including Downtown and the Medical Center.
  • The Heights: An already popular historic district, The Heights recently exploded with a vibrant lifestyle filled with eclectic restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Locally owned retail shops and boutiques vie with antique stores and shopping centers with 1920s facades. The Heights is also family-friendly with fun outdoor dining, ice cream shops, parks, and nearby walking trails. Real estate options offer a unique blend, with well-preserved Victorian manors next to quirky craftsman-style homes. Although developers have recently started building patio homes and townhouses, single-family homes remain the most common housing option. The Heights boasts an excellent commute via major highways to Houston’s Inner Loop, Downtown, the Medical Center, and Galleria.
  • Medical Center: The Texas Medical Center is the world’s largest medical center. The Medical Center neighborhood includes one of the highest concentrations of clinical facilities, research institutions, and medical and nursing schools. However, it isn’t just home to healthcare facilities. It’s also a thriving community for doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals, plus anyone lured by the top-ranked elementary, middle, and high schools zoned to the neighborhood. The Medical Center’s central location provides an easy commute for residents who don’t work at one of the many healthcare facilities or are seeking nearby hotspots. Direct access to three major highways and three METRORail Red Line stations enhances accessibility to a wide array of entertainment options, such as the Museum District, NRG Stadium, Hermann Park, and the Houston Zoo. Housing and architectural styles vary, including single-family homes, mid-rise and high-rise condos, upscale townhomes, and private gated communities.

San Antonio

More than 1.4 million residents call San Antonio home, where they enjoy a unique mix of big-city flair and small-town friendliness. San Antonio ranked fourth on the Best Places to Live in Texas list and #83 on the 2022-2023 Best Places to Live in the U.S. list. It’s home to iconic attractions like the Alamo and the River Walk, excellent museums, thrilling theme parks, and diverse restaurants and shops. San Antonio is also the gateway to the lush oasis known as the Texas Hill Country and hosts the San Antonio Spurs. The city strives to remain one of the most affordable major urban centers in Texas, with notable neighborhoods including Alamo Heights, Stone Oak, and Downtown San Antonio.

Austin

Home to around 965,000 residents, Austin is the smallest city in this guide. However, it’s significant for being the state’s capital and hosting several famous multi-day live music events. Austin is actually known as the Music Capital of the World, so healthcare professionals who enjoy live music should love living here. Noteworthy events include the annual 10-day South by Southwest (SXSW) festival and the Austin City Limits Music Festival held during two consecutive three-day weekends in October. The city’s many parks are popular for hiking and biking and race fans enjoy Formula One’s Circuit of the Americas raceway. Austin ranked first on the Best Places to Live in Texas list and #13 on the 2022-2023 Best Places to Live in the U.S. list. Notable neighborhoods in Austin include Clarksville, Mueller, and Riverside.

 

Cost of Living in Texas

Texas’s overall cost of living is about 6% lower than the national average. Essential items that cost less than the national average include groceries, healthcare, and utilities, but housing costs make the most significant difference. Average housing costs are nearly 16% lower in Texas compared to the national average. However, nurses and allied health professionals considering buying a home must remember that the state has the seventh-highest median property tax rate in the country. On the flip side, Texas doesn’t collect state income tax and doesn’t tax most traditional grocery items, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and supplements, wound care products, and many baby products.

Cost of living comparisons in the cities featured in this guide include:

  • Dallas: Overall cost of living less than 2% higher than the national average, with housing costs about 7% less.
  • Houston: Overall cost of living is lower by about 3.5%, with housing costs nearly 20% less than the national average.
  • Austin: Overall cost of living about 19% higher than the national average, with housing costs almost 60% higher.
  • San Antonio: Overall cost of living more than 10% lower, with housing costs about 24% less than the national average.

 

Top Hospitals in Texas

Healthcare is one of Texas’ top job sectors. Vivian Health had more than 8,100 permanent RN positions and over 3,500 travel nursing jobs in Texas listed on its job board in June 2022. It also posted more than 750 permanent allied health jobs and nearly 1,200 travel allied health jobs. These positions were available at top medical facilities across Texas like these:

HCA Healthcare: Formed in 1968, Hospital Corporation America (HCA) was one of the first hospital companies in the U.S. It’s now one of the nation’s leading healthcare service providers with 185 hospitals and approximately 2,000 ambulatory sites of care, including urgent care centers, freestanding ERs, surgery centers, and physician clinics, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Headquartered in Nashville, HCA Healthcare employs more than 275,000 medical professionals. It currently has 47 Texas locations, including these top facilities:

  • Medical City Dallas is an 899-bed Grade A hospital in Dallas recognized for its commitment to providing quality patient care in its cutting-edge medical facilities. It’s regionally ranked #15 in Texas and #4 in Dallas/Fort Worth and Magnet® recognized for its nursing excellence.
  • HCA Houston Healthcare Medical Center is conveniently located in the heart of the Houston Museum District and has been meeting the growing health needs of the communities it serves since 1975. It’s a Grade A hospital with a 400,000-square-foot facility boasting an 18-bed emergency room open 24/7.
  • Methodist Hospital in San Antonio opened in 1963 as the first hospital in the now internationally acclaimed South Texas Medical Center. It’s regionally ranked #15 in Texas and #1 in San Antonio and rated high performing in eight adult procedures and conditions.

Other notable locations include Houston Healthcare Clear Lake, Houston Healthcare Kingwood, and Houston Healthcare Tomball, among others.

Houston Methodist Hospital: Formed in 1919 as The Methodist Hospital with only 30 beds, Houston Methodist Hospital is now a leading academic medical system in the Texas Medical Center near Downtown Houston. It’s the flagship of the Houston Methodist health system, which has 324 locations throughout the Greater Houston Area. These locations include hospitals, outpatient clinics, cancer centers, emergency care centers, outpatient labs, and specialty physician group offices. The eight hospitals scattered throughout Greater Houston have more than 2,000 beds, 24,000 employees, and 6,700 affiliated physicians combined.

For the ninth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report regionally ranked Houston Methodist Hospital the #1 hospital in Texas and the Houston area. As one of the top 20 hospitals in the nation, Houston Methodist is the only nationally ranked hospital in Texas. It ranked #16 on America’s Best Hospitals 2021-22 Honor Roll with national rankings in 10 adult specialties and high-performing ratings in 17 adult procedures and conditions.

Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, and several of the health system’s other locations, received a Grade A rating from Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade in Spring 2022. Its nursing staff has earned Houston Methodist Hospital Magnet® status four times since 2006. Houston Methodist Hospital also has been recognized as one of the top 50 hospitals nationwide by Healthgrades for three consecutive years, from 2020 to 2022.

Baylor University Medical Center: As the largest hospital in Dallas, Baylor University Medical Center serves as the flagship of the Baylor Scott & White Health system. When Baylor University Medical Center opened in 1903, it only had 25 beds. Now, it’s a nationally recognized center for patient care, research, and teaching in the Southwest. Baylor University Medical Center currently has 914 licensed beds, serving over 300,000 people yearly.

Baylor University Medical Center is nationally ranked in three adult specialties, regionally ranked #5 in Texas and #2 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and rated high-performing in 4 adult specialties and 12 procedures and conditions. It’s achieved the distinguished Magnet® status, the highest national recognition awarded to hospitals or ​medical centers for their excellence in nursing. Baylor University Medical Center was designated for the fourth time in May 2018 and is seeking its fifth designation.

Other notable hospitals in the Baylor Scott & White Health system include All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Austin, and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Irving.

 

Average Nurse and Allied Health Pay Rates in Texas

In mid-June 2022, the average salary for RNs in permanent jobs was $35.84 per hour in Texas and travel nurses averaged $2,582 per week. Allied health professionals earned an average of $27.71 in permanent roles and $2,173 weekly as travelers. Although these averages were less than the national average, housing costs and the overall cost of living in Texas are comparatively lower. The state also doesn’t collect any personal income taxes. With all these perks, medical workers can afford a slightly smaller salary compared to states like California. Nurses and allied health professionals earn significantly more than the national average in the Golden State. However, California’s overall cost of living is 50% higher than the national average and housing costs are more than double. It also has the highest income tax rate in the country. Despite all the financial drawbacks, sunny California still remains one of the most popular places healthcare professionals seek employment, for obvious reasons.

 

Popular Texas Attractions

Nurses and allied health professionals who make Texas their home on a temporary or permanent assignment find plenty of attractions to enjoy on their days off. Texas’s sheer diversity of attractions makes the state a stunning place to live, work, and play. No matter your favorite pastime, there’s probably one or more attractions you find appealing. From buried Cadillacs in Amarillo to pristine beaches all along the Gulf Shore and from stockyards in Fort Worth to spaceships in Houston, the Lone Star State has it all and more.

The Alamo: As the most important historical monument in Texas history, the Alamo remains one of the most popular destinations in San Antonio. It should be on everyone’s to-see list, even if history isn’t their thing. The Battle of the Alamo took place in 1836, and although Mexico outnumbered and brutally defeated Texas, it caused an impressive surge in the Texan army’s size and morale. The Battle became a symbol of heroic resistance in the struggle for independence. The U.S. admitted Texas in 1845, sparking the Mexican-American War in 1846, but Mexico finally gave up its claim on Texas in 1848, drawing a natural border at the Rio Grande. Visitors can read about the Alamo’s history on the illustrated Wall of History exhibit, walk through the Alamo Church and Long Barrack, see restored historic cannons and priceless artifacts, and experience hands-on demonstrations and living history of the 1830s. The San Antonio Missions, including The Alamo and the four missions inside San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2015. This status makes them the first and only UNESCO site in Texas.

San Antonio River Walk: The 15-mile-long River Walk is frequently listed as the #1 attraction in Texas. With its number of annual visitors, it definitely counts as one of the most popular attractions. The San Antonio River Walk flows through about five miles of Downtown San Antonio, with the Downtown and Museum Reach sections open 24-hours a day. There’s no cost to walk along the River Walk, soaking up the history and ambiance, but certain activities require a fee. Visitors enjoy boat rides, fine dining, shopping, museums, and leisurely strolls along lush paths lined with Cypress trees.

Padre Island National Seashore: The seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, protecting one of the longest stretches of undeveloped barrier islands worldwide. Padre Island National Seashore is part of the National Park Service. It covers about 70 miles of coastline, tidal flats, dunes, and prairies teeming with wildlife. The park provides a safe nesting ground for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and is home to around 380 bird species. Visitors enjoy a wide array of recreational activities, including hiking, biking, swimming, windsurfing, snorkeling, kayaking, birding, camping, and communing with nature.

Fort Worth Zoo: Whether you’re an animal lover or you have kids who can’t get enough of the monkeys, giraffes, elephants, and rhinos, Fort Worth Zoo is the place to be. Voted the Best Zoo in America in USA Today’s 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards, Fort Worth Zoo is home to over 540 animal species from around the globe. It’s also the oldest continuously operated zoo in Texas. The Fort Worth Zoo is open daily, year-round, with half-price admissions on Wednesdays.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park: Dubbed the Grand Canyon of Texas, Palo Duro Canyon State Park features a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment in the heart of the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo. It’s the second-largest canyon in the U.S., roughly 120 miles long with an average width of six miles but reaching 20 miles wide in some places. Visitors can explore the canyon in their car or on foot, mountain bike, or horseback. It features 30 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails and offers outdoor musicals in the Pioneer Amphitheater during the summer.

 

For Foodies

The massive size of Texas translates to a massive array of food choices to tempt foodies’ taste buds. BBQ is a Texas staple, and Dallas is home to several of the state’s best barbecue joints. If you’ve never had Texas-style barbecue, you’re in for a treat. Texas BBQ often features brisket, beef ribs, sausages, and pork ribs cooked over oak, mesquite, hickory, or pecan. Dry rubs are the norm, with bases made of dry mustard and chili powder customized to the pitmaster’s preferences. Pitmasters also may use flavorful mop sauces for basting and/or marinating.

Houston offers some of the best culinary destinations in Texas, including mouthwatering burgers at myriad burger joints. It’s also known for having the best Tex-Mex, a regional version of Mexican cuisine with a Texas twist. However, some Houston eateries forego Tex-Mex and serve authentic Mexican dishes dubbed Mex-Mex.

Austin is a well-known foodies’ paradise with a wide range of food truck parks throughout the city serving everything from tacos to Korean cuisine. Great restaurants also line San Antonio’s famous River Walk for foodies to enjoy, including many fine dining establishments featuring chef-driven creations.

 

Texas Public Transportation

Despite the state’s large size, its metro areas suffer from traffic congestion just like other state’s metros. As the second-most populous state in the nation, Texas attempts to lower highway congestion and improve commute times and air quality through public transportation. Currently, the average one-way commute in Texas takes 26.1 minutes, just under the national average of 26.4 minutes.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the state has eight metropolitan transit authorities (MTAs), 32 urban transit districts, and 36 rural transit districts. The four cities featured in this guide fall under MTAs. However, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin utilize metropolitan rapid transit authorities, while Dallas uses regional transportation authorities.

 

Best Time of Year to be in Texas

Texas, as a whole, receives an average of 36 inches of rain annually, slightly less than the national average of 38 inches. It also averages two inches of snow statewide, compared to the 28 inches the U.S. averages overall. Winters are generally pleasant in most areas of the state, but Texas summers are sultry. The most enjoyable months to be in Texas are March, April, and May, while the most uncomfortably humid months are June, July, and August. This guide’s featured cities have very similar weather conditions.

  • Dallas: April, May, and October are the most pleasant months and July and August are the least comfortable, primarily due to heat and humidity. Dallas receives an average amount of rainfall and about one inch of snow annually.
  • Houston: Being closer to the Gulf, expect above-average amounts of rainfall, zero snow, and a humid subtropical climate influenced by the nearby shore, with infrequent tropical storms. March, April, and October are the most pleasant months in Houston and July and August have stifling humidity that make them the least enjoyable.
  • San Antonio: April, October, and November are the most pleasant months and July and August are the least comfortable, again due to rampant humidity. San Antonio receives slightly below-average annual rainfall, occasional tropical storms, and no snow.
  • Austin: Residents of Texas’ capital enjoy mild winters with the occasional cold snap, relatively average amounts of rainfall, and no snow. March, April, and October are the most comfortable months, with moderately sultry weather in July and August making them the least pleasant.

 

If you’re looking for a new job in the Lone Star State, Vivian Health can help. Our platform helps connect healthcare professionals with top employers in Texas or any state by focusing on information transparency, a speedier hiring process, and matching the ideal candidate with the perfect job. We empower nurses and allied health workers to find top-notch job opportunities by creating a free profile and using our job board to make finding their dream job quicker and easier than ever.

moira
Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Content Writer & Editor. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract positions.

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