Cost of Living Index (100 is U.S. Avg., lower is better): 98
Civic Engagement Index (100 is U.S. Avg., higher is better): 108
Crime Rate Index (100 is U.S. Avg., lower is better): 34
Quality of Schools: 9/10
9. Canyon, TX
As the gateway to one of the most popular tourist attraction in the state – Palo Duro Canyon State Park (pictured above) – Canyon, Texas is an outdoor enthusiast's dream. Besides that, Canyon offers good schools, affordable and diverse housing options and access to West Texas A&M University and all its cultural and educational amenities, making this Texas Panhandle town one of the 10 Best Small Towns.
Both Canyon and neighboring Amarillo are served by the Canyon Independent School District, which manages five campuses in Canyon, including Canyon High School. The school district's stellar reputation is one reason so many families have relocated there in recent years. The town of 13,300 is also home to West Texas A&M University. WTAMU hosts a number of theatrical, musical and arts programs throughout the year as well as continuing education options for adults and summer camps for kids.
Academically, the university offers students access to 58 undergraduate programs, 39 master’s programs and a doctoral program through its five colleges and graduate school. The school also serves an economic driver for Canyon, helping entrepreneurs launch new businesses through the West Texas A&M Business Development Center, and university researchers manage the Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility, which is one of the largest testing facilities in the world for wind turbines.
On many weekends, you'll find residents cheering on the West Texas A&M Buffaloes, or Buffs for short. The university participates in a number of NCAA Division II sports, including football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball and track and field. Weekends also bring an opportunity for residents to get outside and play. The Canyon Parks and Recreation Department manages 300 acres of neighborhood and public parks and ball fields.
Then there is the vast playground that is the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The park offers hiking, horseback riding, camping, mountain biking and serves as the majestic backdrop for the outdoor stage play "TEXAS." At 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the country, next to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Closer to home, downtown Canyon bustles with activity. Residents frequent the mom and pop shops, quaint restaurants and professional businesses. The downtown square also plays host to community festivals and events throughout the year, such as the annual summer concert series and the July 4th celebration.