What Are the Best Things About Space City?
There is an old saying among transplants in Houston: "I'm not from here, but I got here as fast as I could." With all the great things to love about the city, it is no wonder why the population continues to grow at a faster rate and in greater numbers than any other metropolitan area in the country. Here are just some of the reasons to love Space City.
In a state known for stellar Tex-Mex, Houston definitely earns its keep. With nearly 500 stand-alone Tex-Mex restaurants and hundreds more taco trucks, you're never far from a delicious plate of spinach enchiladas, savory breakfast tacos or a glass of aguas frescas. The Tex-Mex culture is so ubiquitous, in fact, that it is not surprising to see it pop up in unexpected places — like Vietnamese/Tex-Mex fusion restaurants or Korean/Tex-Mex taco trucks.
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Every winter, roughly 2.5 million people attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo over the course of its month-long run — and for good reason. In addition to the popular rodeo/concert series, the event also features attractions like the World Championship Bar-b-que Contest, carnival rides, and a petting zoo, just to name a few.
Houstonians look forward to the event all year, gladly dusting off their cowboy boots to take full advantage of the occasion, and whole families get in the spirit by dawning their best cowboy hats and denim. It's the perfect occasion for Houstonians to embrace (unabashedly) their Texas roots.
Texas Medical Center
The Texas Medical Center — Houston's "other Downtown" — is the largest medical complex in the world, covering 50 million square feet and employing more than 100,000 people. It's home to the #1 ranked cancer hospital in the country and the #4 ranked children's hospital, as well as some of the best bio research facilities on the planet.
People come from all across the world to seek medical treatment at the Texas Medical Center or to study in one of the many medical or nursing schools housed there. But Houstonians can access the TMC's care and training right there in their backyard.
Few things are more humbling than standing next to the Saturn V. The massive rocket helped the U.S. explore the moon and send the first-ever space station up into orbit. It now sits in a shelter at the Johnson Space Center, just a short distance away from Mission Control and one of NASA's largest research facilities. The rocket serves as a reminder of Houston's critical role in America's earliest space missions, and its continued position as a national space hub.
Visitors can tour many of these sites by visiting the on-site Space Center Houston. It is one of the best museums in the Houston metro and sees thousands of visitors a year. The center is located just a 45-minute drive from Downtown Houston in the Clear Lake area — an area unsurprisingly home to many current and former astronauts.
The Green Spaces
For the fourth largest city in the country, Houston has a remarkable abundance of parks, scenic bike trails and other outdoor spaces. Several large parks can be found throughout the city — Memorial Park near the Galleria, Hermann Park near the Med Center, George Bush Park near the Energy Corridor. Need a break from the concrete jungle of Downtown? Head over to Discovery Green to sprawl out on a grassy knoll, or maybe take a bike ride down Buffalo Bayou or White Oak Park trails. Little parks can be found sprinkled in Midtown, the Heights — even Montrose. There is no shortage of green, tree-lined places to sneak away from the roar of traffic and the bustle of 4 million people, if only for a little while.
While Houston has earned a reputation for its aggressive driving culture, the city has made a concerted effort to expand its bike lanes and hike and bike trails. The result is more safe spaces for Houstonians to get outside and get moving.
The Vietnamese Food
Houston is home to the largest U.S.-based Vietnamese population outside of California. Roughly 35,000 Vietnamese Americans call the city home, making up 1.7 percent of its total population. While you can see hints of Vietnamese culture throughout the city, the most concentrated influence is in the Midtown and Chinatown areas, where Vietnamese restaurants teem with to-die-for pho, bahn me sandwiches, rice vermicelli, and creamy Vietnamese iced coffee.
Vietnamese cuisine also influences other types of foods throughout the city — and not just Asian fusion restaurants. Even some taco trucks have incorporated a Vietnamese spin on a Tex-Mex classic.
Among the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., Houston is the most ethnically and racially diverse, according to a report published by Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas — more diverse than New York and Los Angeles. That's because of all those major cities, Houston has the most equal distribution of the four major races/ethnicities in the U.S.
Houston's major industries — oil and gas, medicine, and aerospace and aviation — not to mention the 14 major colleges and universities that reside there, draw people from all over the world to live, work and study. Not surprisingly, this ethnic, racial and cultural diversity results in plenty of opportunity for cultural exchanges, such as international festivals.
The Low Cost of Living
Houston salaries stretch further than in any other major city in the nation, according to a report by Forbes. This is thanks, in no small part, to low housing costs. The median rent price in Houston is $1,500 a month — compared to $1,750 in Chicago, $2,995 in New York and $3,200 in Los Angeles. You can get a lot for your money in Houston, especially if you're willing to venture outside the 610 Loop.
Other factors also contribute to the lower cost of living. Thanks to Texas' diverse energy sources, for example, electricity and gas are also cheaper than in many other parts of the country. The state is also an agricultural powerhouse, leading to plenty of year-round options for high-quality local produce, often at lower costs.
The (Practically Non-existent) Winters
While much of the rest of the nation hunkers down with some warm cocoa to ward off biting winters, Houston stays fairly warm almost year round. It is common for Houston to see 70-plus degree temperatures nine months out of the year, falling to averages around 50 degrees only during the coldest months of December through February.
Houston's mild winters are a welcome reprieve from the city's brutal summers. And the nearly year-round warm weather offers Houstonians the opportunity to take advantage of the city's many parks and bike trails 12 months a year.
Nowhere is Houston's diversity more apparent than in its cuisine. Houston has more than 10,000 restaurants with food representing over 70 countries. Some of the best spots to eat are in the Midtown, Montrose, and Galleria areas. But because of the absence of zoning laws in Houston, tasty eateries can be found pretty much everywhere.
Every August 1 through Labor Day, many of the city's best restaurants participate in Houston Restaurant Weeks, where epicureans can sample fine dining options for an often significantly reduced price. What's more, a portion of the proceeds goes toward benefiting the Houston Food Bank. With so many great options to choose from, Houston Foodies look forward to it every year.