One of the most vibrant cities in all of America, there is much more to Houston than the oil industry. A major metropolis, Houston is the most populated city in Texas, as well as the fourth-most populous in the entire United States, and plays host to a number of famous landmarks.
The birth of Houston Texas
Houston was founded in 1836, and officially recognised as a city less than a year later. Initially it was a part of the Republic of Texas, a recognised independent country that existed from 1836 to 1846, and was named after its founder; General Sam Houston, a soldier who turned the tide of the Mexican-American war, and went on to become president of the Republic of Texas. The 20th Century saw huge spikes in population and business interests, and the city now hosts such major American institutions as The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (aka NASA HQ) and the Texas Medical Center, the largest such establishment in the world.
The Houston Climate
Like the rest of Texas, Houston reaches scorching, humid temperatures in the summer. Over a third of the year sees thermometers tip over 32°C, and the skyline is comparable to that of Los Angeles thanks to the industrial nature of the city; expect smog. Thankfully Houston is located outside of the state’s infamous Tornado Alley, meaning there is minimal risk of such an act of God occurring during your visit, though occasionally such strong winds will blow in. On the flip side, however, Houston’s winters are considerably milder than many areas of the USA.
The demographics of Houston, Texas
Houston is multicultural, thanks in large part to the diverse business interests and the four colleges located in the city. According to the most recent US census, 50% of the population identify as white, 23% as African-American, and 6% as Asian. Due to the city’s location close to the Gulf of Mexico, Houston also has a substantial Hispanic and Latino population; 43% of citizens identified this way during the latest census.
Houston is regarded as a wealthy city, ranking ninth in the country in overall standings from a recent study – snapping at the heels of none other than New York. The richest city based outside the East and West coasts of America, Houston’s high-ranking educational establishments and wide range of business interests ensure that it continues to grow in stature as one of the premiere cities to visit in the USA today.
Not far from downtown Houston you’ll find the museum district, which boasts nineteen different attractions. These establishments will cater to every taste, comprising a range of interests that include the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the Museum of Natural Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Jung Center, the Center for Photography and even the Houston Zoo.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for more interactive entertainment, the theater district may capture your imagination. Covering seventeen blocks in downtown Houston and attracting two million visitors annually, a diverse range of performance art is available. There is sure to be something appealing in the Theater District, whether it’s taking in a show at the Alley Theater, the Symphony Orchestra, the Ballet or the Grand Opera (the only such company in the USA to be awarded the trinity of Grammy, Tony and Emmy). Alternatively be sure to check out the Bayou Place Entertainment Complex, home to multiple restaurants, movie screenings, billiard tables and bars, or the luxurious shopping and entertainment of the River Oaks District.
Of course, like all major American cities, Houston also hosts a number of sports teams with fanatical followings. The city’s NRG Stadium will play host to Super Bowl LI, and the locals will be crossing fingers and toes that the Houston Texans will be able to participate. If baseball is more your speed you can head to the Minute Maid Park to check out the Houston Astros, or head to the Toyota Center to take in a basketball game with the Houston Rockets. The BBVA Compass Stadium is home to the cities soccer teams; Houston Dynamo representing the MLS, and Houston Dash, the women’s team.
Getting Around Houston, Texas
Houston hosts two airports; William P. Hobby (HOU), which serves domestic flight paths and is located just 11 miles from downtown, and the considerably larger Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), based 20 miles from downtown and brings visitors from overseas in and out of the city.
Once safely ensconced within Houston, METRORail is the easiest way to explore with city without a car. A day pass is available for just $3, which allows access to all rail and bus services on the METRORail network, and trains can take you anywhere you may need to be from downtown, including the major NRG Stadium, the museum and theater districts or the Texas Medical Center. Houston also boasts a fleet of 2,400 taxis, with a flat fare of just $6 anywhere within the downtown area.
If you prefer to hire a car, prepare yourself for traffic. Houston is a busy city with a substantial number of commuters and regular construction projects, so rush hours are frequent and lengthy. As a result, be prepared to place your foot on the accelerator on the rare occasions that an opportunity presents itself – Houstonians do not take kindly to dawdling drivers! Honking your horn is also considered a huge lapse in etiquette, and is strictly inadvisable.
Eating out in Houston, Texas
Texas may have a reputation as the land of BBQ and steakhouses, but Houston has much more to offer. Seafood fresh from the gulf coast is a regular delight, and the city boasts a number of fine Italian, Tex-Mex, Chinese and Vietnamese options. Don’t panic if you’re looking forward to something more traditional, however; there are no shortage of burger and hot dog joints.