Photo by Jenn Duncan

Texans still looking for the best place to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast without breaking their banks might want to head to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Three DFW cities rank highly on a new list of the best places to go for Thanksgiving, while Austin lands in the top third.

The study, published by WalletHub, compares the top 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, including the cost of Thanksgiving dinner, number of delayed flights, and even forecast precipitation.

Atlanta, Georgia ranks No. 1 on the list, with Orlando, Florida; Las Vega, Nevada; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Gilbert, Arizona rounding out the top five.

The top-scoring Texas destinations are Plano (No. 7), Irving (No. 9), and Dallas (No. 13). The other cities around Texas to make the list are:

  • Garland (No. 24)
  • Corpus Christi (No. 25)
  • Laredo (No. 31)
  • San Antonio (No. 32)
  • Austin (No. 33)
  • Arlington (No. 44)
  • Houston (No. 53)
  • El Paso (No. 64)
  • Fort Worth (No. 84)
  • Lubbock (No. 85)

The average American spends about $301 during the five-day Thanksgiving period, according to a list of Thanksgiving fun facts compiled by WalletHub. Annually, Americans as a whole spend an estimated $835 million on Thanksgiving turkeys, with 46 million turkeys killed for the holiday.

In addition to the cities’ overall ranking, WalletHub revealed the cities’ rankings for the individual categories they were evaluated by. Five of those categories include Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions, Affordability, Safety and Accessibility, Giving Thanks, and Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

Surely the big Cowboys game with Jonas Brothers' halftime show factors into the DFW "celebrations and traditions" score, right?

Dallas and Irving are tied at No. 4 on the list for having the best Thanksgiving Weather Forecast (which calls for a high of 61 this year, according to WFAA).

Other Dallas rankings include:

  • No. 13 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 18 for Affordability
  • No. 93 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 37 for Giving Thanks

No. 32-ranking San Antonio has these rankings on the list:

  • No. 46 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 2 for Affordability
  • No. 66 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 85 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 26 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast

No. 33-ranking Austin was pretty average in each category:

  • No. 41 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 19 for Affordability
  • No. 42 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 82 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 36 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

Houston ranked in the top 10 for Affordability but didn’t score highly in any other category:

  • No. 48 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 7 for Affordability
  • No. 88 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 58 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 43 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

Fort Worth was in the top 5 for weather but hit the bottom 10 for safety:

  • No. 87 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 31 for Affordability
  • No. 95 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 52 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 4 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

You can view the full list and find more information about the 100 best U.S. places for Thanksgiving here.

Photo by Carlos Alfonso on Unsplash

Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report

Global accolades

If you live in Austin, you can confidently say you live in one of the best cities on the planet — at least according to one new study, which also provides definitive proof that we're better than Dallas (not that we needed it).

Austin ranks No. 43 on the new list of 100 best cities in the world. Two other Texas cities also make the list: Houston, at No. 42, and Dallas, at No. 47.

The annual ranking quantifies and benchmarks the relative quality of place, reputation, and competitive identity for the world's principal cities with metropolitan populations of one million or more. Vancouver, Canada-based Resonance Consultancy Ltd., which specializes in marketing, strategy, and research for the real estate, tourism and economic development sectors, conducted the study.

This year, London tops the list, followed by Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Dubai.

At No. 43 Austin, is quickly becoming America’s new hometown, according to the report. Highlights for Austin include:

  • A No. 40 ranking for Global 500 headquarters
  • A No. 38 employment ranking, as tech giants like Oracle move headquarters to the city
  • The No. 23 ranked University of Texas at Austin
  • South by Southwest, the annual summit of business, music, and creativity

As for No. 42 Houston, the report describes the city as an “educated, diverse, and hard-working” powerhouse. Highlights for Houston include:

  • A population increase of almost 300,000, thanks to both domestic and international immigration
  • A No. 26 global ranking for Culture, with more than 145 languages spoken at home
  • A No. 31 ranking for Restaurants, with a flurry of post-pandemic launches
  • A top 10 global GDP per Capita finish
  • One of the top five Googled cities over the last year

With a metro population of 7,320,663, Dallas (No. 47) is a home to “economic reality,” the report says. Highlights for Dallas that helped earn it a spot on the list include:

  • No. 6 global ranking in Airport Connectivity, thanks to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
  • Sixth largest LGBTQ+ community
  • No. 24 ranking in the world for Global 500 companies
  • A No. 42 ranking for Convention Center that the study says is likely to ascend now that Dallas City Council has approved plans for a new $2-billion, 2.5-million-square-foot facility to be built adjacent to the current one by 2028
  • A No. 82 Programming ranking due to institutions like the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the renowned Nasher Sculpture Center, plus theaters, symphony and opera venues, restaurants, and bars

On the list overall, only 25 U.S. cities made the cut, and only New York was ranked in the top 10. You can view the full list and find more information about the 100 best cities here.

Photo by Brian Birzer

Austin named the No. 9 best city for families in new report

Applause for Austin

Here's good news for the 20 percent of Austin families who are raising children: A recent report names the Capital City one of the most family-friendly places in the United States.

In StorageCafe's recent analysis of 100 large and mid-size cities to raise a family, Austin places at No. 9 overall. StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation, evaluated 29 factors including public school rankings, childcare cost, neighborhood safety, and community amenities to determine the best cities to live in for families with children.

Austin ranked second for public school ratings, and touted a mid-range affordability factor, with child-care costs rated as “moderate.”

"As one of the favorite moving destinations in the U.S., Austin’s real estate scene is by no means cheap, but compared to other buzzing urban hubs, it still provides access to comfortable living," the report says.

"Zooming in specifically on the cost of homes, prices are in fact above average, hovering at about $642,000. However, family incomes are some of the most generous on our list ($121,000/year), thanks, in part, to Austin’s status as the tech and innovation hub."

Mid-size cities dominated the list, and Texas snagged five of the top 20 spots.

At No. 1 is the Dallas suburb of Plano, which earned outstanding grades in the area of education. Of the cities considered, Plano’s public schools were rated the highest, and the city claims a 96 percent graduation rate.

Another factor that raised Plano’s profile is affordability. While home prices are above average in Plano ($533,000), the median income ($116,000/year) is higher, as well. Healthcare availability was another factor, with Plano boasting the second highest number of healthcare establishments per capita.

“Plano has long been recognized as one of the country’s most family-friendly cities. We’re proud to offer all the amenities families seek in a place to live – a top-tier education system, a reasonable cost of living, a fantastic parks system, all in a safe and clean environment," says Mark Thompson, executive director of Visit Plano.

Coming in at No. 10 overall is Lubbock, which ranked 25th in public school ratings and ranks among the lowest prices for groceries, childcare, homes, and apartment rent.

El Paso and Laredo, with overall rankings of 12th and 15th, also offer low cost of living, although it’s offset by lower median income. Public education in both cities was rated in the top third.

Judging by this report, it looks like bigger cities aren’t necessarily better for families with children. San Antonio (55), Fort Worth (56), Dallas (63), and Houston (69) ranked in the bottom half of the 100 cities considered.

Photo courtesy of Zillow

Austin boasts some of the biggest houses in the country, new ranking shows

Size matters

If everything’s bigger in Texas, that should include our homes, right? Well, a new study shows homes in the Lone Star State are among the biggest in the country — but not the biggest.

Texas appears at No. 11 on American Home Shield’s list of the states with the biggest houses. In Texas, the average home is 2,170 square feet, well behind top-ranked Utah (2,800 square feet).

But don’t despair, fellow Texans. Six Texas cities, including Austin, land on American Home Shield’s list of the top 20 major cities for home size. This list looks at average home sizes in the country’s 50 largest cities.

After reviewing more than 500,000 U.S. home listings from Zillow, American Home Shield concluded that Austin's average home boasts 2,081 square feet, ranking No. 7 in the nation and No. 2 among large cities in Texas.

The Texas cities on the list are:

  • No. 5 Fort Worth, 2,255 square feet
  • No. 7 Austin, 2,081 square feet
  • No. 11 Houston, 2,041 square feet
  • No. 16 El Paso, 2,004 square feet
  • No. 17 San Antonio, 2,002 square feet
  • No. 20 Dallas, 1,930 square feet

In case you were wondering, the big city with the biggest houses is Colorado Springs, Colorado (2,760 square feet), while the tiniest houses are in Honolulu (825 square feet).

“Several factors can dictate how large the average home is in a certain state or city,” says American Home Shield, which sells home warranties. “One of the primary factors is the age of the housing stock. American homes have gotten larger over time; states with a higher percentage of new homes tend to have larger homes on average.”

Photo courtesy of St. Stephen's Episcopal School

4 Austin-area high schools sit at head of the class as Texas' best in 2022

A+ rating

Four campuses in the Austin area are earning extra credit as the best high schools in Texas.

In the latest rankings from education review website Niche, three local schools rank among the state’s best public high schools, while one private institution makes the grade among the state’s best private high schools.

They are:

  • Austin ISD’s Liberal Arts & Science Academy, No. 2 among public high schools
  • Eanes ISD’s Westlake High School, No. 6 among public high schools
  • Round Rock ISD’s Westwood High IB World School, No. 8 among public high schools
  • St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, No. 4 among private high schools
Separately, Eanes ISD shines as the No. 1 school district in Texas, according to Niche.

“Some of the biggest decisions that parents face have to do with their children’s education,” Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche, says in a news release. “We strive to put as much power in their hands as possible so they can make informed decisions with confidence.”

Niche says that while traditional rankings rely heavily on metrics like test scores and academic performance, its rankings combine ratings from current students, alumni, and parents with data from the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate teachers, resources, facilities, extracurricular activities and more.

Here’s how other Texas schools and school districts fared in this year’s Niche rankings.

Dallas area

  • Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented, No. 1 among public high schools
  • Dallas ISD’s School of Science & Engineering, No. 3 among public high schools
  • Carroll ISD’s Carroll High School, No. 7 among public high schools
  • St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, No. 1 among private high schools
  • Greenhill School in Addison, No. 3 among private high schools
  • The Hockaday School in Dallas, No. 5 among private high schools
  • Cistercian Preparatory School in Irving, No. 8 among private high schools
  • Carrollton ISD in Carrollton, No. 3 among best school districts
  • Lovejoy ISD in Addison, No. 5 among best school districts
  • Coppell ISD, No. 6 among best school districts
  • Frisco ISD, No. 7 among best school districts
  • Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, No 8 among best school districts
  • Highland Park ISD, No. 9 among best school districts
  • Prosper ISD, No. 10 among best school districts

Houston area

  • Houston ISD’s Carnegie Vanguard High School, No. 4 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Debakey High School for Health Professions, No. 5 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, No. 9 among public high schools
  • Katy ISD’s Seven Lakes High School, No. 10 among public high schools
  • The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, No. 6 among private high schools
  • The Village School in Houston, No. 7 among private high schools
  • The Kincaid School in Houston, No. 10 among private high schools

San Antonio area

  • Keystone School in San Antonio, No. 9 among private high schools
  • BASIS Texas Charter Schools in San Antonio, No. 4 among school districts

Rio Grande Valley

  • South Texas ISD in Mercedes, No. 2 among school districts
Rendering courtesy of Steelblue/Trammell Crow

3 Austin companies make Forbes list of best employers in Texas

Stratospheric recognition

A new list from Forbes and Statista places three Austin-based companies among the state’s major employers, both those based in Texas and those with a significant presence here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all three were tech companies, including Google (No. 14), Dell Technologies (No. 29), and NXP Semiconductors (No. 30).

NASA in Houston took home the No. 1 title.

To come up with their ranking, Forbes and Statista surveyed about 70,000 Americans working at employers in the U.S. with at least 500 employees each. The final list features 1,382 highly recommended employers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Here are the 30 best large employers in Texas, as determined by Forbes and Statista.

Austin area

  • No. 14 Google (based in Mountain View, California; major corporate hub in Austin)
  • No. 29 Dell Technologies, based in Round Rock
  • No. 30 NXP Semiconductors (based in the Netherlands; major corporate hub in Austin)

Houston area

  • No. 1 NASA (based in Washington, D.C.; Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake)
  • No. 2 University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • No. 3 Oceaneering International, based in Houston
  • No. 4 MD Anderson Cancer Center, based in Houston
  • No. 11 Bechtel (based in Reston, Virginia; major corporate hub in Houston)
  • No. 13 Clear Creek ISD, based in League City
  • No. 20 Air Liquide, based in Houston
  • No. 23 Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, based in Pearland
  • No. 25 Houston Methodist, based in Houston

Dallas-Fort Worth

  • No. 7 University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
  • No. 8 Capital One (based in Richmond, Virginia; major corporate hub in Plano)
  • No. 16 University of Texas at Dallas
  • No. 17 Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas
  • No. 18 Lewisville ISD, based in Lewisville
  • No. 19 GM Financial, based in Fort Worth
  • No. 21 City of Plano
  • No. 22 Fidelity Investments (based in Boston; major corporate hub in Westlake)
  • No. 28 Jordan Health Services, based in Addison

San Antonio

  • No. 5 University of Texas at San Antonio
  • No. 9 H-E-B (based in San Antonio; more than 300 stores in Texas)
  • No. 12 University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

Throughout Texas

  • No. 6 IKEA (based in Sweden; five stores in Texas)
  • No. 10 Costco (based in Issaquah, Washington; 35 stores in Texas)
  • No. 15 Hyatt (based in Chicago; hotels throughout Texas)
  • No. 24 Microsoft (based in Redmond, Washington; offices in Austin, Dallas, Friendswood, Frisco, Houston, San Antonio, and The Woodlands)
  • No. 26 Sherwin-Williams (based in Cleveland; more than 300 stores in Texas)
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2 trailblazing Texans to be honored with history-making award at Austin museum

local history ripples

There are many conceptions of Texas around the world, but most can agree that Texans do have a knack for making history. An annual acknowledgement by the Texas State History Museum Foundation (TSHMF) will celebrate the contributions of two very different Texans who used their leadership skills to coordinate huge wins for their respective teams.

Retired Navy Admiral and former University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven and former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach will be honored with the History-Making Texan Award at the 19th Annual Texas Independence Day Dinner, taking place March 2, 2023, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Photo courtesy of Bullock Museum

The History-Making Texan Award winners will be celebrated at the Bullock on March 2.

McRaven’s contributions and Staubach’s are similar by nature of leading teams — one commanded troops and the other played an integral part in the Dallas Cowboys into a wave of undeniable success — but the similarities mostly stop there.

McRaven led troops to rescue the ransomed Captain Richard Phillips, search for Osama Bin Laden, and ultimately capture Iraqi politician Saddam Hussein. The Four-Star admiral has advised U.S. presidents in his retirement and written several books, mostly imparting wisdom around changing one’s own life, and hopefully the world around them.

Staubach took a more entertainment-based path to greatness, rising to fame as a star player while lifting the rest of the Cowboys with him. The team had nine consecutive winning seasons with Staubach, of 20 total. Aside from giving Texans yet another point of state pride, Staubach spent his retirement and influence on real estate and philanthropy.

“Our recipients reached the pinnacle of accomplishments and eminence in their fields. Importantly, they were selected as honorees based on their personal character and commitment to improving the lives of others,” said dinner chair and TSHMF trustee Lisa Cooley in a press release. “They stand as role models to emulate, and we look forward to sharing their dramatic and inspiring stories with our guests.”

The dinner supports the Bullock Texas State History Museum with ticket sales and underwriting from nearly 500 attendees annually. Austin’s Jan Felts Bullock, wife of Bob Bullock and museum trustee, joins Dallas’ Cooley as honorary chair. In 2022, the award went to pianist James Dick and philanthropist Lyda Hill.

More information about the foundation and the History-Making Texan Award is available at tshmf.org.

SXSW rolls out next round of music showcases for 2023, including 29 Austin artists

300 more

Obviously, 190 music showcases is not enough for South by Southwest. That’s 19 a day? Make it another 301. On December 7, SXSW announced the second round of 2023 showcasing artists, bringing the current total to almost 500 acts performing March 13-18, 2023, in Austin.

Of those newly announced artists, 29 are from Austin, and eight more are from Texas, keeping the local numbers relatively high compared to the whole world. This round contains almost 10 percent Austin bands, while the first round contained nearly 7 percent.

Some of the more widely recognizable Austin acts announced in the second round include:

  • Good Looks: Vocalist and guitarist Tyler Jordan cites an increasingly venerated Austin band, Spoon, as an influence. Good Looks is guitar riff-driven, wistful, and a little Southern in sound.
  • Graham Reynolds (solo), Graham Reynolds & The Golden Arm Trio: A prolific composer and bandleader, Reynolds’ name pops up all over Austin films and awards ceremonies. He appears solo and with an eclectic jazz trio.
  • Kalu & The Electric Joint: Frontman Kalu James arrived in Austin from Nigeria at 18 and has made a strong name for himself (and guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt) through psychedelic, vaguely jazzy, and decidedly funky jams.
  • Pleasure Venom: One of the rawest acts in town, Pleasure Venom is well-known for punk hits (and honest takes) that don’t hold back. The band is consistently making news between lots of live shows and festival appearances.
  • Primo the Alien: Solo artist and producer Primo the Alien is bringing the 80s back with synthy electro-pop. She attaches it all to a double persona that’s both candid on social media and a delivery system for sensory overload onstage.
  • The Tiarras: A triple-threat band of sisters, The Tiarras are always thinking about family and stepping into their power. They’ve tackled topics like lesbian and Latina representation, and although they’re young, they’re seasoned pros.

The remaining Austin bands in the second round are: Andrea Magee, Big Wy's Brass Band, Billy King & The Bad Bad Bad, Caleb De Casper, Daiistar, Del Castillo, El Combo Oscuro, Font, JM Stevens, Johnny Chops, Marshall Hood, Otis Wilkins, Pink Nasty Meets El Cento, Rett Smith, Rod Gatort, Schatzi, Shooks, S.L. Houser, The Tender Things, Thor & Friends, Trouble in The Streets, and West Texas Exiles.

Showcases are the base unit of the SXSW music experience, so to speak. They may be solo or part of a multi-day affair, especially when sponsored by large entities like Rolling Stone. Attendees with music wristbands get priority, but all wristbands get access if space remains.

Even as the lineup seems to bulge at the seams, a press release states that there are more to come. A full schedule of showcasing artists, where users can select events for their customized schedule, is available at schedule.sxsw.com.

Austin's Central Library announces open call for artists for future gallery exhibits

Beyond Books

People can learn a lot at the library. Besides all the books, magazines, online resources, and in-person programming, Austinites enjoy a buffet of rotating art exhibits that populate the gallery at the Central Library downtown, publicizing local artists and teaching visitors about the culture around them.

Now the ever-changing Austin Public Library is looking for another new exhibit sometime in 2024 between January and September, and inviting artists to apply through February 28.

Good news for artists who crave freedom, and frustrating news for artists who love something to bounce off of: This engagement offers few to no parameters. There is no explicit theme, but the library does claim a mission in a press release about the call for artists.

“The mission of the Central Library Gallery is to support local artists and art communities, raise awareness of contemporary and diverse forms of art, and to provide exhibitions in which a wide variety of identities and interests are represented,” said the release.

The Central Library website lists four current exhibitions: Hannah Hannah lends some expressionist portraits, Release the Puppets tells stories in a classic and playful medium, the Austin American-Statesman explores Austin communities of color through photographs, and a traveling exhibition documents Pride parades of the past.

The call is addressed to “artists, collectives, curators and beyond,” further widening the possibilities, but still restricting them to applicants residing in Texas. Applicants should consider the size of the gallery (2,700 square feet) and a few logistical stipulations, including that pieces may not be hung from the ceiling, and that walls may be painted.

When the jury — made up of local artists and others in the industry — announces a winning proposal in March 2023, the artist will be offered a stipend to complete the work. All project costs are the exhibitor’s responsibility, so this stipend is not unlike an advance, except that the project will not continue to generate revenue at the library.

Applications are open now through 11:59 pm on February 28, 2023. Applicants may make their proposals via submittable.com.