(Disclaimer: If you are one of my friends who live in Wichita Falls, Texas, and you are NOT military, close your eyes and scroll down a bit until you see my first point. I am not interested in losing your love.)
People are often surprised to find out that we asked to return to Sheppard AFB a second time after we were forced to live here four years ago.
Things my friends have actually said to me:
“Why would you want to go back there? It’s the armpit of America!”
“I guess it’s OK at Sheppard AFB if dry fields of grass and oil pump-jacks are your idea of scenic.”
“Are you trying to get swept away by a tornado?”
“When I look on Yelp for the best restaurant in Wichita Falls, it says Chili’s.” (Not true, friend! But we do have a Chili’s … in case that’s your thing.)
As you can see, there are a lot of negative thoughts associated with Sheppard AFB and living in Wichita Falls, Texas. So I thought I’d take a minute to tell you (at least) 10 reasons why we love being stationed at Sheppard AFB. Maybe it will help you feel less dread when you receive orders. Maybe this list will even help you feel excited!
A Thriving Downtown
Downtown Wichita Falls used to be a ghost town of old empty buildings. However, in recent years, it has undergone a huge revitalization and is really a great place to pass the time. There are a lot of local shops with handmade goods (we love little h creative), cute little art galleries, antique shopping galore (Try Alley Cat! You can wander in there for days!), great locally owned coffee shops (Odd Duck and 8th Street Coffee House), and quirky places that are visitor favorites like Keeno’s Beef Jerky and the Worlds’ Littlest Skyscraper.
Downtown Wichita Falls Farmers Market
There is no better place to be on a Saturday morning than downtown at the farmers market. It’s open every Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday from May through October and every first and third Saturday during the winter. Throughout the summer, there are special themed events for kids and adults. Our favorites are Salsa Day (free fresh salsa samples made from all sorts of recipes -peaches, watermelon, and more traditional), Watermelon Fest (free watermelon slices), and Peach Day (free peach cobbler). There are tons of great local farmers with beautiful produce, honey, fresh herbs, handmade soaps, artisan ice pops, live music, and food trucks galore!
If you are thinking Wichita Falls is a little town with no real culture to offer your family, think again. The arts scene here is bursting with talent and lots of opportunities for families. We have the Wichita Theater that puts on fantastic musicals and plays. It also offers a dinner theater a couple of times a year. There is also Backdoor Theater which hosts more adult themed shows like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as Improv nights and other fun events.
The Wichita Falls Ballet Theatre puts on the most fun production of The Nutcracker that I have ever seen! There also is the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra and countless opportunities to watch jazz musicians, pianists, choirs, and musicians at Midwestern State University’s campus (did I mention we have a state university in town for all of your education and college sporting event needs?) that are all free! Every single time I go to the theater in Wichita Falls, I am astounded at the talent in this community! I think you will be, too.
Delicious Local Dining Options
Wichita Falls is home to many chain restaurants that you know and love like Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, Starbucks, and Texas Roadhouse. But there also are a variety of locally owned places that offer delicious fare! Try Opa’s Schnitzel Haus for some authentic German cuisine and really big beers. There are two great brew houses that are family friendly and serve excellent food: Backporch Drafthouse and Bricktown. We even have a new locally owned brewery called Sidecar Brewery that is amazing! There are more barbecue places than I can list, along with great date night restaurants. We love Salt and Pepper for Mediterranean food and Pelican’s for Surf and Turf. We also love 2011 Bistro, Gidget’s Sandwich Shack, and Highlander Public House downtown. And there are too many more to list!
No place does Christmas lights like Wichita Falls! The university hosts the Burns Fantasy of Lights where there are tons of sparkling displays that families can walk through while sipping hot cocoa. The neighborhood around the university is also ablaze with millions of lights. You can walk through, drive through in your car, or get a tour aboard a tractor/train/golf cart contraption for a small fee. The whole neighborhood is twinkling. It’s magical!
Close Proximity to Bigger Cities
Craving big city shopping, dining or hubbub? It’s only two hours to Ft. Worth or Dallas to the south (which I have learned from my native Texan friends are two separate and distinct cities). Oklahoma City is just a short two-hour drive to the north. We like to go down south for long weekends and visit Great Wolf Lodge, Six Flags, the zoo, amazing children’s museums, and special shows and events. Also, in case you are a huge fan of Fixer Upper on HGTV (like me), it’s only a three-hour drive to Waco and Magnolia Market. Not too shabby!
Family Fun in the Sun
There are plenty of great places in town to take your family – or just yourself – to cool off during the hot Texas summer months. Sheppard AFB has a pool with water slides and an adorable splash pad for children. There is a large water park nearby (Castaway Cove) as well as several smaller ones in surrounding communities (Boomtown Bay in Burkburnett and the Iowa Park Pool and Spray Park). Admission varies, but each has awesome season pass deals every year that will keep your family cool at a decent price.
We have a Target
Yes, I know how important this is. And yes, we have one!
Low Cost of Living
Housing is very inexpensive here. I love our house, and we’d never be able to afford something like this in a bigger city. In general, the cost of living is low. In fact, Wichita Falls was recently ranked as one of the top 10 cheapest (and best) places to live in America.
We love this town because of the people. They love their town, they are involved, and they care about what happens here. They are also kind and welcoming to all of us “military folk.” People say “Yes, ma’am,” rush to open doors for each other and are polite drivers. I like to tell the story of the time I was pregnant with my first child and a man rushed to open an automatic door for me! Such a gallant knight! It must be a Texas thing to be so darn nice.
So, if you see you are headed to Sheppard Air Force Base for your next PCS, don’t feel apprehensive. There is plenty of fun for the whole family in Wichita Falls. I hope you love it as much as we do!
Have you been stationed at Sheppard AFB? What is your favorite place in Wichita Falls?
(Special thanks to the city of Wichita Falls Facebook page for giving me free reign to borrow pictures for this post!)