Why Denton, Texas Is One of the Coolest Suburbs in America
Denton was chosen as one of Apartment Therapy’s Coolest Suburbs in America 2019. We showcased the burbs nationwide that offer the most when it comes to cultural activities, a sense of community, and simply a good quality of life. For more on how we define “cool” and what exactly counts as a suburb, check out our methodology here. To view Apartment Therapy’s other Coolest Suburbs in America 2019, head here.
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Denton, Texas, is like “Cheers”—it’s a small city where everybody knows your name. It’s a suburb with an immense sense of pride, where locals sport “I Heart Denton” bumper stickers on their cars and wear t-shirts emblazoned with hometown pride.
We’re home to more than 120,000 people and two universities, so we can be a transient group. We’ve been named on the Top 100 Best Places to Live, and we have a thriving downtown community, arts community, and music scene. Pizza joints host experimental musicians in their basements and wine bars tout award-winning jazz musicians on weeknights. Our downtown, which has family-owned small businesses lining our Courthouse Square Historic District, has won awards for being one of America’s best main streets,
Even better, all of this comes at a nice, reasonable cost of living. With Dallas and Fort Worth both just a 30-minute drive away, we have affordable housing, a lower cost of living, and a city structure that you can actually be a part of. Want to sit on a local commission or board? Volunteer. Your time and talents are wanted here.
All of that being said, Denton is a growing community that’s finding itself. With new restaurants and bars popping up over the last few years, continued growth downtown and beyond, it feels more and like you can stay in the city and not venture out much.
Median rent price:
$1,203, according to RentCafe.
Median house price:
$274,821, according to Zillow.
Price per square foot:
$133 in Denton vs. $139 in Dallas, according to Zillow.
33, according to Walk Score. This is Texas. Most errands require a car.
Median household income:
$52,164, according to Census data.
131,097. We’ve been in the top 25 fastest-growing cities for a decade!
What the suburb is known for:
The city is known for its arts and music scene. University of North Texas is one of the best art schools in the South, and one of the best music schools in the nation. Naturally, there is a thriving art and music scene in Denton, and culture throughout town. Chances are Grammy Award-winning artists are playing at your local brunch spot on Saturdays!
The city may be known for music, but there are more beer taps in town than musicians. Between beer alley, (a mashup of local brewers and bars) and incredible craft beer shops, we’ve got more beers on tap than you could ever work your way through. Rounding out our favorites are Denton County Brewing Co., which shares an alleyway with the Bearded Monk, a craft beer haven. Both are behind Eastside, a local bar with as many as 100 beers on tap. All this is down the street from Oak St. Drafthouse and Cocktail Parlor, the original bar with a wall of taps; and Midway Mart, a little gas station that has carried some of the hardest-to-find beers for more than a decade. A block over is Harvest House, which supplies nitro brew on tap and squeezes the best local juices for their cocktail menu. Across the street is Denton’s OG craft brewer, Armadillo Ale Works. The list could go on, but let me assure you: Denton drinks beer!
Place that makes you happy to live there:
The Denton Independent Maker Exchange (DIME) store and Salted Sanctuary Soap are two amazing boutique shops that support local makers and artists. They have beautiful storefronts and well-curated prints, jewelry, bath, and home goods.
Favorite activity for families:
Twilight Tunes at Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square is my personal favorite. The courthouse lawn is turned into the backyard for the city. The Denton Main Street Association brings in local bands and musicians, and everyone gathers with picnic baskets and lawn chairs, drinking local craft brews and eating ice cream from Beth Marie’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream.
Favorite hangout for young professionals:
Paschall Bar, a cocktail haven and speakeasy overlooking the downtown square, or Harvest House for happy hours that melt into great live music on the outside stage.
Favorite place to catch a movie:
Movie Tavern (an Austin original that has spread throughout the country). It’s the best place for queso and chips during your movie, and the strictest no-cell phone policy around.
Favorite outdoor lounge spot:
Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square is basically the backyard of the city. People picnic, slackline, and generally chill beneath the old pecan trees. The courthouse steps are perfect for eating old-fashioned ice-cream cones from Beth Marie’s or sipping a prickly pear soda from Atomic Candy.
Favorite date spot:
With ambient lighting, beautiful cheese boards for sharing, and super comfortable booths, Barley & Board is the perfect date spot. They always have the best playlist going and a perfect mix of craft beers and cocktails. When the weather is nice, I recommend sitting next to the giant windows that open onto the square and letting the fresh air and sounds of the city wash over you.
Average commute/traffic report:
Favorite local bookstore:
Recycled Books, the big purple bookstore that is the cornerstone of the north side of the square, is amazing. The store specializes in unique and vintage collections and has a vast selection. They carry books for everything (even clowning!). Their record collection is almost unrivaled in town and their quirky floors and back rooms are maze-like, with wonders and treasures around every corner.
Favorite place to get coffee:
Shift Coffee, Golden Boy Coffee Co., and Cryptozoology are all barista-owned shops that are committed to excellence in your brew. Beloved by locals for more than a decade, Jupiter Coffee House is making a comeback after a tragic fire in downtown Denton in 2017.
Favorite bar for when you want to be around people:
Denton is a bar-centric and social town, with plenty of places to go if you want to see and be seen. Throw a rock downtown and you’ll hit a bar full of people you know. Armadillo Ale Works—which boasts both a coffee shop and a craft brewery—is the perfect place to hang out family-style with friends from around town. It also happens to be next door to one of our favorite restaurants, Boca 31.
Favorite alone spot:
Greenhouse Restaurant & Bar, just a few blocks away from the city square, is perfectly dark, has an awesome jazz night, super tasty bites, and creative drink specials.
Favorite free cultural activity to take part in:
Thursday night music and art at UNT on the Square features the best musicians from the award-winning music programs. You get a chance to take in artwork, or listen to an amazing jazz ensemble, or a trio of flutes!
This is Texas, so you must eat your weight in tacos. Luckily, we have excellent tacos, including La Estrella Mini Market. Stumble your way down McKinney Street, and into some of the best taquerias in town.
Odd Bird Co., a Turkish robe and loungewear-centric shop, is tucked away behind the square and sources awesome scents, candles, accessories, and loungewear.
Most walkable area:
The downtown core is walkable for several blocks in all directions; however, the citizens of Denton have been petitioning for a more walkable city.
Favorite bike trails/parks/outdoor activities:
The Rail Trail runs straight through town, connecting to multiple neighborhoods, while the Clear Creek Trail goes deep into the heart of nature. Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center also holds classes on all things natural, from natural gardening to beekeeping.
Favorite spot for an Instagram:
Denton has an amazing mural scene. The sides of old buildings and hidden coves are all covered in incredible works of art by local artists. All of them are fantastic Instagram stops.
Hannah’s, an upscale restaurant with locally-sourced fare from nearby farms, has an awesome and affordable brunch. The burger is top-notch.
Favorite free activity:
Denton’s Arts & Jazz Festival is a massive festival with seven stages, roving musicians, an arts and crafts fair, rides for the little ones, and your favorite fair food—all for free in the heart of Denton.
Favorite grocery store:
Kroger is king in Denton. We have a few of them, so pick wisely. The parking lot for the Kroger on University Street is a death trap. The Kroger on Loop 288 is much better, and known as “Cheese Kroger.” The best is “Fancy Kroger,” on Teasley Lane in South Denton.
Favorite place for a workout:
Summit climbing gym is in the heart of downtown and boasts climbing walls, yoga classes, and strength-training equipment. Authentic Yoga Life is a favorite yoga studio for all the super sweaty feels after a heated yoga class.
Favorite place to take an out-of-towner:
Out-of-towners must visit LSA Burger Co., both for the delicious burgers and the incredible view. The outdoor rooftop area, which that has the best view of the square, somehow makes your burger taste even better. LSA Burger Co. also commissions local artists for a rotating mural wall that makes an excellent Insta background.
Worst place to find parking and easiest place to find parking:
The square, especially anywhere downtown during Jazz Festival. The easiest place to find parking is literally anywhere that isn’t downtown.
What the neighbors say:
“The best thing about living here is that Denton has so much pride. It is evident, and it makes a difference.” —Melissa, local artist and longtime resident.
“Denton just feels like home, it’s just big enough to have what I want and small enough to know everything.” —Dustin, entrepreneur, resident for 10 years.
“Denton is like an onion, you never know all of it—it keeps slowly peeling back the layers over time and revealing new and fascinating things.” —Glen Farris, resident for 16 years.
Favorite annual event:
Favorite events are the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival and Wassail Weekend. This is what makes Denton feel like Stars Hollow on “Gilmore Girls.” Local high school groups perform on street corners, the community band plays, and a city councilperson flips the switch to light up a colorful Christmas tree.
What I miss about the city living in a suburb:
Having awesome grocers nearby. Luckily, Dallas and Fort Worth are just a hop, skip, and a jump away (or more realistically, a 30-minute drive down a toll road). I can get my fix at a giant cheese shop, a local seafood shop, and some of the best high-end grocery stores around. I also pick up my Trader Joe’s essentials, like the Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend that I can’t seem to live without.
What I never miss about the city:
The cost of living. Home prices here are much more reasonable in Denton, along with literally everything else. You can get a round of drinks or a great meal, for what you’d pay for a single cocktail in the big city.
Favorite local home store:
Denton Trading Company has unique furniture finds and the best pillows in town, along with some incredible artwork and funky accessories.
Favorite local garden store:
Meador Nursery is a local nursery with the best varieties of roses, herbs, and flowers. I can spend hours browsing their greenhouses full of roses.
Favorite local diner:
Loco Cafe boasts the best biscuits in town and phenomenal baked goods.
Favorite neighborhood for yard sales:
Southridge has homes from the 50s and the best yard and estate sales. You can score seriously cool barware and furniture.
Favorite house/garden walk:
Bell Avenue Historic District and Idiot’s Hill are my favorites, with winding streets, tall trees, and a mix of beautiful homes.
Favorite dog park:
There is only one in town, but it has a great name: Wiggly Field!
Located downtown, Captiva is beautiful and does fantastic hair color and facials.
Favorite resale and antique store:
Faded Blue Vintage has vintage furniture, cool artwork, and fantastic lighting. Denton Vintage & Modern is the place to go for mid-century modern steals.
Why do you think your suburb is cool?
Denton is the opposite of what people think of when they hear the word “suburbia.” We’re a small city that feels like a small town—in the best way possible. Denton’s an easy place to get involved in your community—if you want to make a local difference, you can! There are multitudes of organizations that are welcoming and ready to have you join. Not only that, but between the two universities and the massive metroplex, there is plenty of culture at your fingertips.