Why Round Rock, Texas Is One of the Coolest Suburbs in America

published May 22, 2019
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Round Rock 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.

Quite a few people who have their sights set on living in Austin end up in Round Rock, Texas. The reasons for this switch are all but self-evident. From culture to recreation, the suburb has a ton to offer.

New restaurants like Y’all’s Cafe and Fuego Latino Gastro Pub provide something for every palate. You can catch free, live music in downtown’s Prete Main Street Plaza during the warmer months, and spots like the Ruby Hotel are cozy but modern, which is something you could also say about the Round Rock in general.

Round Rock also caters to sports fans. As the self-proclaimed “Sports Capital of Texas,” city officials have spent decades advancing athletic endeavors by building sports facilities and fostering athletic programs. The city’s Triple-A team, the Round Rock Express, is celebrating its 20th season; and a new multipurpose complex has hosted national tournaments for rugby, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, and even Quidditch. Plus there are miles of nature trails and thousands of acres of public parkland just a short walk away.

Even with all of those perks, Round Rock remains a relatively affordable option. Niche recently listed the city as the fifth best place to buy a house in the U.S., while just a few years ago Livability put the city among the top 10 most affordable places to live.

So it makes sense Round Rock is one of the fastest-growing cities of its size in the United States, according to WalletHub. Thankfully, Round Rock still has a small-town vibe. You’ll find plenty of southern hospitality here, from longtime residents to the new folks moving in next door.

Round Rock may not be known for keeping it “weird” like that other cool nearby place, but it’s pretty solid.

Median rent price:

$1,148, according to RentCafe.

Average home value:

$284,653, according to the Williamson Central Appraisal District.

Price per square foot (compared to city):

$132 in Round Rock vs. $218 in Austin, according to Zillow.

Walkability score:

22, according to Walk Score.  

Median household income:

$76,295, according to Census data.


116,120, according to Round Rock city estimates.

What the city is known for:

The story of outlaw Sam Bass and his famous shootout with lawman Sheriff A.W. Grimes is a Round Rock legend. A group reenacts the shootout every year at the city’s July Fourth Frontier Days Celebration, which brings thousands to Old Settlers Park.

Hidden gem:

Local photographer and longtime resident Henry Huey recommends checking out the tree tunnel near Dell Diamond, just off the trail in the north corner of the east parking lot. Also check out the Katy trestles, which are the remnants of an old bridge, along the eastern part of Brushy Creek Trail.

Place that makes you happy to live there:

Old Settlers Park off U.S. Route 79 is 640 acres of natural bliss. Taking a walk through the park on a mild spring or fall evening will do anyone good.

Favorite activity for families:

During the summer, grab a swimsuit and dive into Rock’N River Water Park. For indoor family fun, get your Scooby-Doo on at Escapology escape room in the Sky Ridge Plaza next to Flix Brewhouse.

Favorite hangout for young professionals:

Sushi Nini’s happy hour is the real deal. Try the carrot top roll.

Favorite place to catch a movie:

Flix Brewhouse is not part of the hugely popular Alamo Drafthouse family of theaters, but it’s practically a cousin. Sip on a craft brew, have a slice of pizza, and enjoy the movie.

Favorite teen hangout:

Kawaii’s Shaved Ice on North Mays Street keeps the summer heat at bay. Try the dreamsicle.

Favorite outdoor lounge spot:

URBAN.Eat.Drink in downtown Round Rock has a great view, which includes Round Rock’s iconic water tower.

Favorite date spot:

Salt Traders Coastal Cooking is both sophisticated and easygoing, with a menu centered around fresh seafood from the Gulf Coast. Get the conversation started with a 2850 Rita or a Pisco Punch.

Average commute/traffic report:

Capital Metro bus service has been a hit since its launch a couple of years ago. The two most popular routes now run for extended hours and with extra stops, although they don’t run late in the evening. If you’re driving, do your best to stay away from Interstate 35, which can quickly turn into a parking lot between University Boulevard and Austin. U.S. Route 79, which cuts east through town, is decent driving outside of rush hour.

Favorite local bookstore:

It isn’t a local chain, but Half Price Books, at Interstate 35 and state Highway 45, offers a wide variety of literature.

Favorite place to get coffee:

Star Coffee on Main Street. Grab a cold brew coffee and hit the ground running.

Favorite bar for when you want to be around people:

Expect a lively crowd at Rockey’s Piano Bar on Main Street.

Favorite alone spot:

A nice corner nook at the Round Rock Public Library.

Favorite free cultural activity to take part in:

The three-hour beekeeping class at Round Rock Honey is fascinating. When is the next time you’ll get to put on a beekeeping suit?

Signature food:

Grab a donut at Round Rock Donuts. People take pilgrimages to enjoy these delectable treats.

Favorite boutique:

The Dowdy House on East Main Street features a variety of jewelry, home decor, and antiques. You’ll find things here you can’t get anywhere else.

Most walkable area:

The city spent millions of dollars to make downtown more walkable. Head up and down Mays Street, or west on Main Street.

Favorite bike trails/parks/outdoor activities:

The Brushy Creek Trail is among the best in Central Texas, if not the state. Take one of the multiple entryways and you’ll quickly forget you’re in a bustling city. For the kids, head to Play for All Park.

Favorite spot for an Instagram:

It’s got to be the namesake Round Rock in Brushy Creek, just off Chisholm Trail Road. Start your selfie tour here.

Favorite brunch:

Sunday brunch at Jack Allen’s Kitchen is the best in Round Rock. Order a bloody mary.

Favorite free activity:

The disc golf course at Old Settlers Park is rarely busy, which means you can play the course at your own pace. Full disclosure: It’s challenging.

Favorite grocery store:

The H-E-B grocery store on University Boulevard is conveniently laid out, for easy shopping.

Favorite place for a workout:

CrossFit Round Rock takes a holistic approach to fitness. Set your health goals and actually meet them.

Favorite place to take an out-of-towner:

To feel like a kid again, catch Round Rock Express baseball game. For even more fun, buy tickets for a game with a fireworks finale.

Worst place to find parking and easiest place to find parking:

Downtown parking can be a hassle on weekend nights, but you should be able to find a spot within a couple of blocks of your destination. Luckily, most of the city has ample parking.

What the neighbors say:

Round Rock residents say they like being close to good food and entertainment, while keeping a respectable distance from gridlock traffic and expensive mortgages.

John, who has lived in Round Rock for about a decade and works for a local insurance agency, points out that Round Rock offers something nearby for any kind of lifestyle, from young and single to married with children.

Will Hampton, city communications director, says his neighbors often tell him that Round Rock is a great place to raise a family.

Residents also point to the sports facilities, friendly bars, great restaurants, and sprawling parks as local favorites. Finally, residents say that because Round Rock is a fast-growing city, there’s always an exciting new restaurant or attraction opening.

Favorite annual event:

The Muddy Miler Family Adventure, held in May at Old Settlers Park. You’ll never have this much fun getting so dirty.

What I miss about the city living in a suburb:

Austin’s music scene is tough to beat. Living in Round Rock puts you a little further away from that action.

What I never miss about the city:

You often hear Round Rock described as a “big little town,” where everyone is part of the community. That’s what brings a lot of people here.

Favorite local home store:

The Wag-A-Bag convenience stores have grown up with the city. Stop by and get what Williamson County Commissioner Russ Boles calls “the perfect Dr Pepper” at the soda fountain.

Favorite local garden store:

Snooper’s Nursery & Garden Center off Old Settlers Boulevard has good prices and knowledgeable staff.

Favorite local diner:

City Communications Director Will Hampton recommends Y’all’s Café off Interstate 35 and Hesters Crossing Road. “The food is just amazing if you like Southern, down-home cooking. The gravy is a revelation,” Hampton says.

Favorite dog park:

The Dog Depot Dog Park on Deerhoof Drive has areas for big and small dogs. There’s even a dog agility course.

Favorite salon/spa:

Janna at Flaunt Salon will take care of you. Schedule a cut and walk out feeling good.

Favorite resale and antique store:

While not exactly a purveyor of antiques, check out Piranha Records in the Round Rock West shopping center off Interstate 35. Owner John Aleman can find what you need, particularly if you’re a fan of funk, Motown, or Houston hip-hop.

How would you sell your suburb to the coolest person you know?:

There’s much more to Round Rock than meets the eye. The downtown area has its own personality, with new restaurants popping all the time. It’s also a place where you don’t have to travel to get away from everything. With miles of hiking and bike trails, including 37 parks within city limits, it’s convenient to get into nature. In general, Round Rock is its own town, with its own rich history and identity.

Credit: Apartment Therapy