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19 Things to Know Before Moving to Dallas, TX

By: Susan Finch
March 15, 2021

Ready to pack up and explore the big D? Here's what to know before you move to Dallas.

1. What’s it Like Living in Dallas?

It's time to go big or go home when moving to Dallas. Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the US. With a population of 1.35 million people, Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas. Among this large population, 37% of residents speak Spanish as influenced by their close proximity to Mexico.

Dallas was founded in 1856 and quickly became an industrial city. In fact, the first skyscraper west of the Mississippi, the Praetorian Building, was built in Dallas. Dallas’s industrial roots can still be seen today as it’s home to one of the largest airports, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and major Fortune 500 companies like Southwest Airlines, Exxon Mobil, and AT&T.

Dallas is also the birthplace of a few American food staples like German chocolate cake and frozen margaritas.

Today, the city is teeming with impressive job opportunities, diverse culture, dining, and scores of new developments to find the apartment of your dreams.

2. Cost of Living in Dallas is Affordable

Among the three major cities in Texas, the cost of living in Dallas is more pricey than Houston, yet less expensive than Austin. However, living in Dallas is significantly cheaper than other similarly-sized large US cities.

According to Payscale, the cost of living in Dallas is 2% higher and housing is also 5% higher than the national average.

Here’s an idea of how much things cost when moving to Dallas, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $174.87
  • Loaf of bread: $3.16
  • Doctor’s visit: $112.04
  • $2.59 for a gallon of gas

Recently, the average rent in Dallas dipped to $980 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,180 for a two-bedroom apartment. To live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Dallas, you should shoot for an income of at least $35,280 a year or $17 an hour. For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to earn at least $42,480 a year or $20 an hour.

The median income in Dallas is $52,580, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. By comparison, the median income is $61,874 in the rest of Texas.

3. Celebrate! There’s No Personal Income Tax in Dallas

People new to Texas are pleasantly surprised that there isn’t any personal income tax in the state. The lack of income tax is baked into the Texas Constitution. However, it makes up the difference with costly sales and use taxes.

Homeowners also pay sky-high property taxes. Depending on your situation and investments, you may not need to file a state tax return at all.

The benefits of no personal income tax aren’t just about cost-savings. Texas and the Dallas area are also more appealing, looking to bring their entrepreneurial pursuits to the area.

4. Who's Moving to Dallas?

Renters from Texas, Houston and Austin, and New York are searching for apartments in Dallas. In contrast, people living in Dallas are considering staying local. They’re looking to move to Austin or Houston or make the trek to Denver.

For more information, read our Renter Migration Report.

5. Dallas Public Transit

Dallas' traffic isn't for the faint at heart. However, you can get around it by hopping onto DART. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit system operates buses, light rail, and commuter trains throughout the metro area.

DART services popular destinations. These include SMU, DFW International Airport, and American Airlines Center. A local monthly pass costs just $96 a month. However, Dallas’s car culture is strong, and neighborhoods and suburbs are spread out. You'll need your own wheels if you want flexibility.

Unless you live in a walkable neighborhood near work and have a well-used Uber account, you'll probably still need a car in Dallas. Avoid the traffic whenever you can. Save car rides for day trips and zipping into the suburbs to see friends and family.

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, expect to spend about $5,113 on transportation as a single adult. Families of two working adults and a child need at least $9,378. Despite the costs incurred from commutes and enjoying everything Dallas has to offer, it's still an affordable metropolis.

6. Dallas is a Massive City

Dallas is larger than you can probably imagine. The area covers 383.4 square miles. It gives the concept of sprawl a whole new meaning.

In the first half of 2020, the industry market in Dallas outpaced Chicago and the Inland Empire in California. As the fourth-largest industrial market in the country, the economy is strong. As a result, newcomers are eager to settle in the Lone Star State.

The combination of job growth and a reasonable cost of living in Texas is attracting new residents in droves. A study found that the Dallas-Fort Worth area will add another 1,393,623 residents from 2020 to 2029. Currently, Texas added more new residents than any other US state.

Fortunately, there are plenty of trendy, family-friendly, affordable, and quiet Dallas neighborhoods to choose from. You can find an apartment near DART public transportation, walk from your complex in Downtown Dallas to your job, or head out to the suburbs for a quieter way of life.

7. Master Your DFW Knowledge

You may hear the words, “Dallas-Fort Worth” or “DFW” roll off people's tongues. However, they’re talking about a different area than Dallas. This sister city is about 35 miles away It’s also different in comparison to Dallas’ culture and lifestyle.

Dallas rose out of a railroad town. It quickly turned into a booming business and trading center. Fort Worth was a gunslinger Western town and the epicenter of cattle drives. You may even still hear locals refer to it as "Cowtown."

Today, Fort Worth offers its urban charms. However, its residents are proud of its history, "Where the West Begins."

The vibe in Dallas is also different and decidedly more metropolitan with bars, nightlife, and booming business. Despite their cowboy hat reputation, Dallas is also fixated on making a fashion statement.

Over in Fort Worth, locals take a more casual approach to life. They enjoy a laid-back vibe.

8. Dallas' Economy is Booming

Business is booming around Dallas with plenty of companies and jobs to choose from. Top industries around Dallas include technology, financial services, and defense. If you look to the entire DFW area, you'll also find significant manufacturing, oil, and gas sectors.

Start-ups are also setting up shop around Dallas. You'll find IT Consulting, healthcare, and real estate agencies around every corner. Chances are high that if you're seeking a career-climbing opportunity, you'll be welcome in Dallas.

9. Dallas Has Diverse Neighborhoods

Downtown Dallas is ideal for city dwellers who want to live, work, and play in the same neighborhood. It's also one of the few areas of Dallas where it's easy to walk around and find all the amenities you want, from bars to museums.

Uptown features townhouses, mid-rise Dallas apartments, and high-rise condos outfitted with swimming pools and on-site fitness centers.

The Bishop Arts District features pubs, restaurants, and bustling nightlife. You’ll be able to sample a compelling mix of cuisine there. It's also the place to hit up if you want to take in the arts at the Bishop Arts District or Kessler Theater.

Jazz lovers gather at Deep Ellum for thriving nightlife and performances at the Dallas Comedy House. Its funky vibe draws students, young professionals, and families looking for mouth-watering barbecue at Pecan Lodge.

Suburban life is rich and plentiful around the Dallas area. Frisco is home to the Dallas Cowboys indoor practice facility and the Stonebriar Shopping Center. You'll find rapid development in this enclave 30 miles north of Dallas.

Locals look to Richardson for proximity to the DART light rail system that takes you into Dallas. This Dallas suburb is also home to the University of Texas at Dallas. It’s a 20-minute drive straight down I-75.

Learn more about Dallas' best neighborhoods to live in, from trend-setting to tranquil.

10. Sports are Bigger in Texas

Don't mess with Texans' love of all things sports. Dallas is a sports town where the Cowboys reign and college sports stir up a frenzy. You'll find six significant teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Stars, Wings, and FC Dallas. The Big D is also host to packed sporting events like the Mexican National Team US tour.

If you don't want to join the crowds at the stadium, hit up your local pub. Whether it's a dive bar or a micropub, you're likely to find your neighbors rooting for the home team.

11. Colleges are Scattered Across Dallas

Dallas is one of the best places to live in Texas for its college and university backdrop. The general Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to 38 colleges. Those include Southern Methodist University, Texas A & M, The University of Texas at Dallas, and the University of Dallas.

If you're looking for a college-friendly neighborhood, try Know-Henderson. The area is home to Southern Methodist University (SMU). It boasts an eclectic vibe. Tailgating is the norm around the neighborhood where locals take their college football seriously.

It's easy to see why college students and professionals settle into the neighborhood for its loyal football fans, thriving nightlife, and a short commute to downtown. There's also a diverse mix of shopping and restaurants to take a break from the books.

12. Get to Know Dallas Culture

Dallas offers its share of culture and arts that can compete with the best metropolitan areas. Situated in the northeast corner of downtown Dallas, the Dallas Arts District boasts the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation. It spans 68 acres and 19 blocks.

In addition to an impressive museum scene that includes the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, you'll also find live entertainment, restaurants, tours, and art exhibits throughout the neighborhood.

Hometown fun is also part of Dallas’s history. Texas's State Fair takes place in Dallas every year from the last Friday in September and ends 24 days later.

The fair has taken place since 1886 with only short interruptions during World War I, World War II, and the coronavirus pandemic. Come for the games and cruise through the rides before grabbing a deep-fried bacon cheeseburger or fried flan.

Dallas is proud of its Texan roots, as well as its diversity of cultures and lifestyle. This urban melting pot is rich with live performances, ethnic eateries, and religions from all walks of life. Whatever you're looking for, you'll find it around Dallas.

13. Indulge in Dallas' Food Scene

Dallas' restaurants are an essential food experience you can't miss. Sip on a margarita and enjoy fundido and garlic shrimp tacos and other Tex Mex creations at Mesero. Stop by Hutchins BBQ & Grill for brisket, barbecue, and savory sides.

You can also savor some chicken fried steak at Matt’s Rancho Martinez. Even Julia Childs loved this Texas Staple.

For something more old-school and down to earth, Norma's Cafe features award-winning chicken-fried steak with creamy gravy and cornbread on the side.

You can still get your favorite mealtime staples. However, Dallas' food scene has also evolved from Tex Mex favorites to fine dining and trend-setting options. The city is a haven for restaurants and discerning foodies looking for the next big thing on an evening out.

14. Prepare for Tornados and Hail

You already know about the scorching summers and humidity in Dallas. However, tornadoes are also a reality around Texas. Make sure you know where all of the emergency exits in your apartment are and have an emergency plan for the next twister.

Most apartment complexes around Dallas come with parking. However, it's worth seeking out covered garages before you sign your next lease.

The hail can come down hard enough to damage cars. A covered garage will save you from dents, wear, and tear while living in Dallas.

15. Dallas Traffic is the Real Deal

Traffic snarls throughout the DFW area and locals face longer commutes than most similarly-sized cities. You may not mind the long commute with your favorite podcasts fired up. Or, you can pick and choose your next apartment carefully.

Our advice? Consider splurging to live near DART and your workplace to save yourself tons of time and money on car expenses.

16. Don Your Boots and Cowboy Hats

Dallas is earning a reputation for its growing fashion scene, but the rumors are true. You can don cowboy boots and hats all over town, and no one will blink an eye.

It's also not really considered unprofessional to show up at a meeting with your favorite Texas gear on. Whether you're wearing a suit or going out at night, a cowboy hat and boots are always a perfect complement.

17. Celebrate Live Music in the Big D

Dallas boasts a thriving live music scene where you can find concerts and entertainment year-round. Head to the foundry for live music and cocktails with a laid-back vibe.

The iconic House of Blues offers a Southern-inspired menu while you listen to live music. And the movie house turned Granada Theater welcomes acts from Bob Dylan to Dolly Parton.

18. Explore Over 350 Parks

Outdoor lovers feel right at home in Dallas, especially if you don't mind the summer heat. The city boasts one of the nation's largest municipal park systems. There are over 23,644 land prices across 382 parks, 7 lakes, and 4,658 acres of water.

After a long work week, check out over 145 developed trail miles for a jog. Or, go for a bike ride to soak up the city skyline and greenspace.

19. Go Shopping at the First Shopping Complex Center in the Country

Dallas is home to the first shopping center in the country. Highland Park Village was developed in 1931 with a Mediterranean Spanish-style. It soon became the prototype for shopping centers across the country.

Shop for your favorite big brand names and retailers like Jimmy Choo, Anthropologie, and Chanel. After your shopping spree, stay for a bite at Bird Baker or Yo! Lobster to refuel before hitting the shops again.

Finding Your Dallas Apartment

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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