When I was in high school, I lived just outside of Tulsa, OK; a city of around 1 million people. Tulsa had things a typical major city had, concert venues that attracted well-known artists, minor league sporting events (Baseball, Football, Hockey), a night life, tons of shopping, great eating places and trendy little districts. All and all, it was a great city for young people and had something for everyone.
After I graduated high school, I moved to Tyler, TX and was in for major culture shock. This place, Tyler, was described to me as a “big city” in East Texas and maybe it was to Tyler’s 100,000 residents and small town neighbors. To me, this was a over-glorified town and definitely not geared for the 25,000 college students who flock here for a good education at the two major colleges. I had visited college towns, like Stillwater, Norman, San Marcos, etc. and Tyler was absolutely nothing like them. The reason for this was the large population of retirees and old money in the town that took tradition over entertainment any day. Almost nothing is open past 10:00pm, due to city ordinance, and anything that was open past that point was probably a gas station or fast food. This was a shock. No bars, ice houses, music venues (even small stages) so, what the heck do young people do here?!
Let’s fast-forward to now. While Tyler is still very traditional in its small town setting, improvements have been made by the cries of young, bored adults. Tyler has become a, what I like to call, a “damp” county (they sell beer and wine in stores, but no hard liquor). This has also opened up opportunities for a couple of Brew houses and Ice Houses to pop up, here and there and those are open til at least 11:00pm up to 1:00am. So, good stuff for the 21+ crowd. We have one major club for dancing, but it’s mostly Country and Western music, so if that’s not your style, you may not like it too much. There have been a few places, restaurants mostly, who have been having concerts on their patios but there are no actual music venues. The Liberty Theatre, a non-profit organization, has since opened on the Tyler square and has a feature every week like old films, plays, speakers and occasionally music artists. There are even festivals around the area from time to time that can be quite fun. The biggest problem with Tyler’s fun stuff to do is that it is poorly advertised. If you are moving here, it’s best to make friends with a local person to figure out where to go and when events are coming up. Locals always know someone who knows someone putting on events, so they’re your best bet for finding hidden gems. If you must go at it alone, I recommend looking up Tyler’s E-Guide (you can pick one up at several restaurants around town or just visit their website: http://eguidemagazine.com/ ) or the City of Tyler website to look up upcoming events. The E-Guide also tells you of new places that pop up and occasionally will have a review. This is true of any smaller city. Look for publications about the city, whether it be their newspaper or magazine (Tyler has 3 magazines, I think), they are generally full of good information about the city and what is going on. Another thing you can do is google various blogs from local residents of the area you’re moving to. In this blog in particular, I aim to sniff out the things worth going to and share my experience with my readers. Tyler may be filled with older people and families, but there are also a ton of people around my age, who just want something more to do than stare at their TVs all night.
I recommend, that if you want to find something to do in a small city, enlist a partner-in-crime (preferably, make friends with a local person) and take a look around. Just know that in small cities, you can make your own fun, even if you’re just going to paint the town beige in stead of red.