Living in Bryan – College Station, Texas, brings a pleasant blend of small-town appeal and big-scale ambitions. You can thank the presence of Texas A&M University for that. It is a college town, but that doesn’t just mean a strip of bars and tailgate parties on football Saturdays. This is a growing and thriving community with an emphasis on education. The university’s influence is the major engine behind that growth. If you’re thinking about moving to College Station, TX, here’s what you need to know:
Bryan – College Station is a Prime Location
Bryan – College Station is the heart of Brazos County, and the larger general area is referred to as the Brazos Valley. This is Central Texas. The location is ideal for trips to bigger cities. That’s easy access to big events and attractions.
- 80 miles to Houston
- 100 miles to Austin
- 170 miles to San Antonio
- 180 miles to Dallas
College Station’s population jumped 25% from 2010 to 2019, according to census estimates, and Bryan’s population grew 13%. The population of the Bryan – College Station metro area is 267,906 (BVEDC).
This is not primarily a rural community, though agriculture is in its roots. (The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, which opened in 1876, was renamed Texas A&M University in 1963. The “A&M” now stands on its own.) Pastures and livestock pepper parts of the cities, and more farmland appears as you get into the surrounding communities. It’s not an urban area, at least not how that is defined in larger cities. Call it somewhere in the middle, like a suburban community with agriculture sprinkled in.
The university provided College Station with its name. In 1877, the U.S. Postal Service called the area College Station because of the train station by campus. College Station was incorporated in 1938. Bryan goes further back and was incorporated in 1871.
The flagship campus is in College Station, but A&M has a presence in Bryan as well. A&M’s Health Science Center and RELLIS Campus call Bryan home. The line between the cities blurred more in August 2020, when the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents officially declared Bryan-College Station the home of A&M, as opposed to just College Station.
Making the Grade
If you’re moving to College Station with kids in tow, you’ll have plenty of prestigious education opportunities. Good schools are a plus for those living in College Station. The College Station Independent School District gets an A+ rating on niche.com. It scores high marks in such categories as academics, teachers, clubs and activities, diversity, college prep, and health and safety. Niche has CSISD ranked as the 16th-best district in Texas. There are 10 elementary schools, three intermediate schools, three middle schools, and three high schools in the district.
Over in Bryan, there are 14 elementary schools, two intermediate schools, two middle schools and four high schools. The district has an overall B- grade on niche.com. There are also several private schools and charter school options.
Higher Education in Bryan – College Station
Blinn College is a community college based in nearby Brenham. Blinn has a Bryan campus with more than 6,500 students (fall 2020 semester). Many students start at Blinn and then transfer to Texas A&M. Blinn also ties into A&M’s RELLIS Campus, which offers degree programs from other universities in the A&M System.
The size and scope of Texas A&M can’t be overstated. It is one of the largest universities in the nation, with the flagship campus’ record fall 2020 enrollment of 65,684. That’s roughly double the size of the student body in 1980.
The university boasts some of the nation’s top programs in engineering, business, and agriculture. There are fascinating programs throughout the campus. A great example: the College of Architecture’s Department of Visualization – the Viz Lab — where students learn the art of animation. Graduates go on to work for the best animation houses in the country, including Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks.
Until 1965, Military training was required for all students, and there remains a strong military presence on campus with the Corps of Cadets. Now, more than 2,000 current students learn military leadership skills in addition to their studies and are often commissioned as an officer after graduation. More officers come from A&M than any other university outside of the service academies.
Cost of Living & Taxes in this Part of Texas
For anyone curious about moving to Bryan – College Station, here’s a nice bonus. Texas is one of the few states that has no state income tax. On the other hand, property taxes, which are set locally, make Texans grumble because they are generally higher than in other states. WalletHub ranks Texas the seventh-highest state for property taxes.
The cost of living is lower (81.8) than the national average (100), according to Sperling. It’s lower than Austin (104.3), Dallas (103.9), Houston (96.5) and San Antonio (89.7), too. Transportation costs are particularly lower in College Station (75.7) than in these cities.
“The fact that we have Texas A&M and Blinn College and close to 70,000 students living in the area creates competition,” said Glen Brewer, president/CEO of the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses looking to attract student patronage lower their prices. As competition lowers the prices on everything from groceries to gasoline to clothing to entertainment venues, all of us in the area benefit.”
It’s Texas, therefore it’s hot and humid. For those used to more reasonable climates, moving to College Station may be a major adjustment. Prepare to endure the constant 90- to 100-degree summer temperatures. Winters are mild, and we often see a comical difference in our December electricity bills from the AC-heavy summer months.
Though Houston is frequently affected by often-devastating hurricanes, you won’t have to worry about flooding in Bryan – College Station beyond occasional flash floods during particularly heavy storms. Snow is extremely rare. Sleet and icy roads affect us every so often, but not the fun stuff. An extraordinary exception: a December 2017 night which will be the source of “Remember when …?” stories for years.
There’s not much to gripe about here. Sure, busy areas bunch up at rush hour. And yes, getting out of Kyle Field traffic on football game days can be a challenge. But compared to the gridlock in Austin, Houston and Dallas, locals should count their blessings.
For air travel, Easterwood Airport is a small operation compared to larger Texas options. But there is major convenience in that you can catch flights to Houston and Dallas, then connect to worldwide flights.
Best Places to Live in (or Near) College Station
For those who can afford high-end living, there are a number of gorgeous golf-course communities. These include Miramont and Traditions in Bryan and Pebble Creek in College Station. Other luxury neighborhoods include Indian Lakes and Saddle Creek in College Station. Retirees looking to settle down in Aggieland can find patio home communities within upscale neighborhoods as well.
But living in Bryan – College Station can be more reasonable. Some midrange options better suited for young families include Castlegate and Castlegate II in south College Station. Also check out Austin’s Colony in Bryan, where houses start in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range.
Growth in south College Station has been the most obvious in recent years. However, Bryan has had plenty of expansion as well, including new neighborhoods Greenbrier and Oakmont.
There is an abundance of parks, from charming little neighborhood spots to larger city options. The same goes for swimming pools, making the area attractive for young families.
As you might expect, young people living in College Station have plenty of apartment options. A series of private dorms that veer into “luxury living” have popped up outside the borders of campus in the past 15 years. Resort-style pools are an obvious draw for college students, and one complex even has a lazy river.
The Job Market in College Station
Texas A&M is the largest employer in the area, and it’s not even close. The BVEDC reports A&M employs more than 17,000 people. The runners-up, with more than 2,000 people, are the Bryan and College Station school districts.
College Station ranked No. 16 among small towns in the Milken Institute’s Best Performing Small Cities 2020 list. The list tracks job growth and economic performances in sectors including manufacturing, medical services, tourism, and retiree communities.
Brewer said the job market prospects are strong, despite the downturn brought by COVID-19.
“We are hearing that while job offers are still flowing in from around the state and the country and beyond, there are more and more offerings available here at home,” he said. “There are several incubators that are available for grads who want to create their own companies here. Some nationwide companies have offices here that are looking to hire and train here with an option to move elsewhere at a later date. There are always going to be certain job specialties that are not available here in Central Texas, but we are finding that more opportunities that used to only be found elsewhere are starting to be available here.”
The Housing Market
The area is growing, and with that comes higher home prices. According to the BVEDC, the median price of a sold house jumped from $204,665 in 2014 to $250,293 in 2017.
Sperling’s ranks College Station’s median cost higher than Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. That requires a further look, however. Prices in suburbs around Dallas (Allen, Frisco, Plano, Richardson) and Houston (Pearland, Sugar Land, The Woodlands) exceed those bigger cities’ median numbers, and they exceed College Station’s.
The bottom line: Housing prices here can be an eye-opener.
“A lot of people are very surprised when they start shopping for real estate in the Brazos Valley,” said Bret Richards, broker/owner partner at Coleman & Patterson Real Estate. “While there is a lot of ‘small-town feel’ that comes with College Station and especially Bryan, our real estate prices push similar values to the larger metropolitan areas of the state.”
Richards credits the desirable location. Other factors include Aggie alumni moving back to the area or buying game-day houses and parents investing in real estate for their children to live in during their college years. He adds that the market has stayed strong with companies using teleworking and people seeking to leave bigger cities. Out-of-staters are always attracted by the no-state-income tax bonus, too.
As for apartment costs, rent for a two-bedroom apartment in both cities can range from $790 to $990 per month.
Best Food And Restaurants
There was a time when local residents and students got excited about the arrival of a chain restaurant. We have nothing against those well-known establishments. However, the dining scene has grown tremendously since then, with locally-owned restaurants that overshadow the national brands.
One of the most well-known figures in the restaurant scene is Tai Lee, known as Chef Tai. Chef Tai is chef-owner of several well-regarded eateries including Urban Table, Paolo’s Italian Kitchen, and Solt. His Chef Tai’s Mobile Bistro was voted as “America’s Favorite Food Truck” in 2011 by Food Network.
Casual Dining Option
But casual dining is king. Got a hankering for a cheeseburger? Hard to go wrong with Chicken Oil Co., which has been serving them up along with chicken fried steak and chicken strip dinners since 1977. Find some adventurous burgers at Proudest Monkey, a hip little restaurant in Downtown Bryan. Try a Guac-a-Doodle Blue, with guacamole and blue cheese, and the Yuppy Fries, topped with olive oil, garlic, and parmesan. Another must-try for burger lovers is a bit different, in that it’s part of a laundromat. Harvey Washbangers offers bold options like a jalapeno-cream-cheese burger, a chorizo-topped burger, and a Cajun burger with fried crawfish. Throw in an extensive selection of craft beer, and there’s hardly a better place to knock out a couple loads of laundry.
Mexican and Tex-Mex options are plentiful, including Papa Perez, Cilantro, and Casa Rodriguez in Downtown Bryan. Two Bryan spots made Texas Monthly’s 2020 “Ultimate Tacopedia” list: Raspas El Payasito and Taqueria Poblana, the latter of which is in a convenience store. You’ll find heavy lunchtime crowds at taco favorites Fuego, Torchy’s, and Mad Taco in College Station.
Local restaurants have also made Texas Monthly’s roundup of the best barbecue joints. These include Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan and 1775 Texas Pit BBQ in College Station. Other reliable ‘cue options are C&J Barbeque in both cites, All the King’s Men in Downtown Bryan, J. Cody’s in Bryan, and Cooper’s in College Station.
And there is a touch of Louisiana flavor with Shipwreck Grill and OMG Seafood in Bryan. Don’t miss The Remnant of Nawlins. It’s an authentic Cajun restaurant run by the Thomas family, who call the area home after fleeing New Orleans to escape Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Sports and Events
Aggie football is the biggest game in town, by a mile. Texas hosts the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Texans, and the Texas Longhorns as well as many other major college programs. Yet, the biggest football stadium is in College Station. With a capacity of 102,733, Kyle Field is the fourth-largest college football stadium in the nation.
Aggies love their football, and a game at Kyle Field is a different experience. The 12th Man refers to the student body. This is in honor of E. King Gill, a student who was called down from the stands in 1922 to suit up during a game in which the Aggies suffered a slew of injuries. As Gill stood ready to support his team, so do A&M students, who stand the entire game.
The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band often steals the show at halftime with its precision marching and formations. And then there are the yells. (Aggies don’t cheer, they yell. And there are no cheerleaders, but yell leaders.) Students and fans put their hands on their knees, lean forward and bellow a loud variety of yells (example: “Beat the hell outta [whoever the opponent is]”).
Thousands gather at Kyle Field the night before a game for Midnight Yell Practice.
Other major A&M sports include:
- Men’s and women’s basketball (the women won the national championship in 2011)
- The strong baseball and softball teams
- And the men’s and women’s track teams that have won nine national titles since 2009.
Entertainment and Festivals
A variety of festivals dot the calendar. Check out the Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival in Downtown Bryan. It brings wineries and breweries from around the state for samplings and a steak dinner. Speaking of wine, the Messina Hof Winery in Bryan presents festivals and other tasting and dining events.
The Brazos County Expo hosts several rodeo events each year. Quite possibly the most famous is the Brazos Valley Fair & Rodeo, which adds a carnival and concerts.
Regional country acts come through a few local venues. A&M’s MSC Opera and Performing Arts Society brings touring musicals to campus, along with performers that in recent years. The Blue Man Group, Jerry Seinfeld, Carol Burnett, Tony Bennett, and Willie Nelson have all stopped in College Station.
Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen come through every few years. They are longtime friends and A&M graduates. The pair wrote “The Front Porch Song” (aka “This Old Porch”) about their days in Bryan – College Station.
More to See and Do in College Station, TX
History and Culture
Texas A&M is home to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Though Bush was a Yale grad, his time in Texas led to his affection for Aggieland. The library opened in 1997, and presents a variety of events each year. Take in history and politics, or enjoy the family events, including a big Fourth of July celebration with fireworks.
Bush and wife Barbara had an apartment at the library complex. They could often be seen at A&M games and other events. In 2017, Bush was joined onstage at Reed Arena, home of A&M’s basketball and volleyball teams, by the living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and son George W. — for a historic benefit concert for hurricane victims, with exhilarating performances by Lady Gaga, Lovett and Keen, Sam Moore and Alabama.
Both George H.W. Bush and Barbara have their final resting place on the library grounds, along with their daughter Robin.
A somber area of the A&M campus is the Bonfire Memorial. The towering, student-built bonfire was lit prior to the annual football game against rival Texas. But at 2:42 a.m. on Nov. 18, 1999, it collapsed during construction, killing 12 Aggies and injuring 27. Bonfire has not returned to campus since the tragedy. The smaller “Student Bonfire,” not sanctioned by the university, takes place off-campus each year, though. The memorial honors the fallen Aggies with 12 portals that share stories of their lives. Thousands gather each year on Nov. 18 at 2:42 to pay tribute.
And then there’s the huge Christmas theme park. South College Station is home to Santa’s Wonderland, an all-things-Christmas attraction. You’ll find horse-drawn carriages, hayrides through holiday lights, ice skating, games, food, and stores. It’s a massive operation and has turned into a regional attraction, bringing in crowds from around the state.
The revitalized Downtown Bryan area will be a favorite part of living in Bryan – College Station after you move here. Here you’ll find lively restaurants, shops, bars, and the Queen Theatre, restored to its glory in 2018. Festivals including the monthly First Friday event, Texas Reds, and the Downtown Street and Art Fair keep downtown humming all year.
Rami Cerone graduated from A&M and opened Italian restaurant Caffe Capri in 1995. Back then, downtown was a far cry from today. He recalls vacant buildings, a lack of street lights, and little business traffic. The revitalization efforts in recent years have been remarkable.
“Downtown has become a destination,” Cerone said. “I remember when I was in college. In College Station you drove up and down Texas Avenue and University Drive because that was the place to go. Now, downtown is a destination. It surprised me when I counted, there are almost 20 restaurants downtown. People want to come downtown and walk around and find something to eat.”
A well-known area is the Northgate entertainment district. Just across the street from campus, you’ll find a strip of bars and restaurants. The Dixie Chicken, which opened in 1974, is the most famous. Current and former students flock there for beer and burgers, with classic country music playing. You’ll see families there during weekend lunch hours. Just next door is another longtime favorite, the low-key, dive-bar charm of Duddley’s Draw, which opened in 1977. Take a stroll through Bottlecap Alley, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Living in Bryan – College Station
The combination of small-town charms, central location, high-quality education, low cost of living and Texas A&M make moving to College Station an excellent choice for families and students. Housing prices may alarm some recent college graduates. But keep in mind that there are other economic benefits that can offset some of those costs.
Moving is a constant part of life here, with students’ annual arrivals and departures. Life Storage offers self storage units in College Station to help with all the moving supplies and boxes.
The College Station storage facility is on Harvey Road, past the Highway 6 intersection and Veterans Park, and near the popular Koppe Bridge Bar & Grill. They currently have over 145 reviews and a 4.8 rating (out of 5.0) on Google.