Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth began as a stop on the Chisholm Trail, and for years the city was dominated by its stockyards and a reputation for rowdy partying. Today, the party continues but at a friendlier pace, due in part to retirees seeking the sun that shines here 242 days per year.
Nearly 90 percent of the 2 million residents the metro live in Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth (682,000), Arlington (371,000) and Euless (52,000), named among the Best 100 Small Cities in 2008 by Money magazine.
The economy here is strong. Fort Worth is the corporate home of American Airlines and Radio Shack, among other companies. The job market has fueled population growth, and many newcomers hail from afar: almost 60,000 residents were born in Asia, one consequence of engineering jobs being filled by people trained in China, South Korea and Japan.
Most of the population growth since 2000 has been among Hispanics, with more than 150,000 Mexico-born residents in the area. The growth is fueling renovations of vacant buildings. Homeowners unable to renovate can get an assist during the annual Cowtown Brush Up, when hundreds of volunteers go out with donated paint and materials to spruce up local homes.
Higher education abounds here — Tarrant County College (enrollment: 32,000); University of Texas, Arlington (25,000); and Texas Christian University (8,300) — but this isn't a college town. After work, people head over to Sundance Square, a 35-block entertainment district with beautifully preserved 19th century architecture. Another hit is Billy Bob's Texas, a honky-tonk as big as a Wal-Mart Superstore with live bull riding inside the bar.
Fort Worth offers opera at Bass Performance Hall, the Museum of Modern Art (designed by Tadao Ando) and the Amon Carter Museum.
The metro has an extensive system of parks. Bicyclists can go for a 35-mile ride on dedicated paths along the Trinity River, or hit a 20-mile trail that runs to Lake Mineral Wells. But Fort Worth also has serious traffic congestion and, despite the pleasant weather, ozone levels among the highest in the country. This is a rough place to live if you have asthma or allergies.
Fort Worth has low number of doctors and hospital beds but Dallas makes up for that. The metro has rates of heart disease, violent crime and property crime well above national averages.
Still, locals are also likely to say that they are satisfied with life. That's the cowboy way.
Published January 2012