Moving to Houston
Houston is not only the largest and most populous city in Texas, it's also the fourth-largest city in the country. This booming city is known for its compact downtown area, which offers an excellent variety of museums, restaurants, and entertainment attractions. If you're thinking about moving to Houston, you will find it useful to know about the city before you arrive. This in-depth guide will cover everything from the best places to eat to the city's top neighborhoods so that you'll find it easier to plan your move to Houston.
Living in Houston
H-Town, as many locals call it, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. It's also a progressive city that has, in recent years, attracted a lot of millennials. In fact, the median age of Houston residents is 33 years old. Even though the city has grown (and continues to grow) rapidly, it is still incredibly affordable, and, compared to other major cities around the country, it has a very reasonable cost of living. Houston is even more affordable than many other cities in Texas. For example, houses in Houston are, on average, less expensive than houses in Austin.
When you move to Houston, you can expect to receive a warm welcome. Houstonians are known for being very friendly. If you ever need directions to a place or recommendations for a good restaurant, don't be afraid to ask. Residents will be more than happy to help you. Plus, if you become an active member of your community, you'll discover how easy it is to make new friends in a city like Houston.
If you're planning to move to Houston, you better like the heat. The city experiences long, hot, humid summers. Just how hot do these summers get? From June to August, the average highs are in the low to mid-90s. On average, more than four days every year exceed 100 degrees. If you're living in Houston during the summer, you'll want to have reliable air conditioning in your home and car and ample quantities of sunscreen.
Though the summers in Houston can be brutally hot, the city makes up for it with mild winters. Between September and November, the average highs in Houston linger in the 70s and 80s, and the highs drop to the 60s between December and February. However, Houston's winters are not always mild. The city has experienced snowfall in the past. In fact, the city has recorded measurable snowfall 38 times between 1895 and 2018. In addition, Houston has an average of 13 days per year when the temperature is at or below freezing.
If you're moving to Houston, you should expect to occasionally experience extreme weather. The city receives an ample amount of rainfall throughout the year and experiences most of its precipitation during May, June, and October. Since the city is rather flat, many neighborhoods are at high risk of localized flooding. In addition, because Houston is near the Gulf of Mexico, the area does have to deal with hurricanes, and spring thunderstorms have generated tornadoes in the past.
The Top Neighborhoods in Houston
No matter what kind of housing budget you're working with, you'll be able to find a home in Houston. Before starting to look for the best neighborhood for you, however, it helps to know about the area that locals refer to as the Inner Loop.
Houston is divided by highways, and Interstate 610 creates a large circle around the city and, hence, the Inner Loop. Inside the Inner Loop, you'll generally find trendy neighborhoods with soaring apartment complexes that are popular among singles and working professionals. Outside the Inner Loop, you'll find suburbs with white picket fences and large family-friendly homes.
West University Place (or West U, as residents call it) is considered to be one of the best neighborhoods in Houston for raising a family. This upper-middle-class neighborhood is inside the Inner Loop, located just a few blocks from Rice University and about 15 minutes from downtown. When you drive through West U, you'll see lines of stately homes with manicured lawns. Although most of the homes in this neighborhood can be fairly expensive, you can occasionally find bargains on original mid-20th-century homes that need to be remodeled.
If you want to live in a neighborhood that offers the advantages of suburban living without actually having to move to the edge of the city, check out the neighborhoods of Garden Oaks or Oak Forest. In Garden Oaks, you'll find ranch-style homes and bungalows on large lots. Oak Forest offers a similar selection of homes, but the lots tend to be slightly smaller. When these neighborhoods were first created, they were suburbs of Houston. Since then, the city has expanded around them and now Garden Oaks and Oak Forest are considered to be two of the city's trendiest neighborhoods.
With only 146 lots on eight tree-shaded blocks, the small neighborhood of Linkwood is often overlooked. The neighborhood's civic club started allowing the construction of two-story homes only about 15 years ago, which means that you'll still find plenty of affordable one-story brick homes on large lots. Because the neighborhood is small, it has a cozy, close-knit atmosphere. Most of the residents know each other and participate in community activities together. Linkwood has its own wine club, civic club flag, and newsletter.
If you want to get out of the Inner Loop and into the suburbs, you'll find that The Woodlands is like its own small city. This master-planned community has business parks, upscale malls, hotels, a hospital, a convention center, and even an outdoor music pavilion. As the name suggests, The Woodlands was built in a heavily wooded area. Though Houston has since engulfed much of the surrounding area, The Woodlands has retained some of its rural charm due to its 6,000 acres of protected green space, which includes 125 parks and 200 miles of walking and bike paths.
The Best Schools in Houston
Whether you're interested in primary schooling for your children or secondary education for yourself, you'll find that Houston has a variety of excellent schools. The city has 17 school districts and a total of 283 schools, which are operated by the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school district in the state. Due to its size, the school district is able to provide its students with many resources that smaller school districts are unable to provide. In fact, HISD has been praised for its aggressive Advanced Placement program. The city is also home to more than 300 private schools.
Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, located in northwest Houston, has been ranked as one of the city's best school districts. The district has a total of 91 schools, including 56 elementary schools, 18 middle schools, 13 high schools, and four alternative schools. Although it's a large school district (having more than 113,000 students), it has maintained a 17:1 student-teacher ratio. It also offers a variety of programs, including gifted and talented classes, special education programs, and Advanced Placement courses.
If you're looking for secondary education opportunities, consider enrolling at the University of Houston (UH), the third-largest university in Texas. UH is a public research university with nearly 44,000 students. The university has 282 degree programs, including 111 bachelor's degrees, 121 master's degrees, 47 research doctorate degrees, and three professional doctorate degrees (in pharmacy, optometry, and law). With more than 300 programs and degrees, the university certainly has one that will interest you.
Another option for higher education is the prestigious William Marsh Rice University (more commonly known as Rice University). This private research university emphasizes its small student body and low student-faculty ratio. The university has eight schools, including schools for engineering, architecture, natural sciences, social sciences, music, and humanities. Since the university has close ties to NASA, it has educated a number of space scientists. Students can select from more than 50 majors and 24 minors. Rice University also offers graduate programs in two broad categories: research-oriented programs and professional programs.
Employment in Houston
One reason Houston is growing so quickly is that the city has a booming job market. Energy (natural gas and oil, in particular) is one of Houston's most prominent industries. However, renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, have begun to make up significant parts of the city's energy industry. The region is home to more than 5,000 energy firms and the headquarters for 17 energy-related Fortune 500 companies. The city is also the beginning and end point for several gas and oil pipelines.
In addition, the city does much more than merely produce energy. The manufacture of gas and oil extraction equipment also accounts for a large part of the city's economy. Though manufacturing for the energy industry comprises a significant part of the market, it's not the only part. The city is home to more than 10,700 establishments that manufacture everything from metals to electronics. Much of Houston's success in manufacturing is due to its seaport, which is one of the largest in the world.
Education is also one of the city's largest industries, and the University of Houston plays a major role. In fact, the university alone has generated around 24,000 local jobs, bringing in about $1.1 billion in revenue every year. In addition, thanks to the Johnson Space Center, NASA's largest research and development facility, Houston plays a leading role in the aerospace industry. The Johnson Space Center employs more than 14,000 contract personnel and around 3,000 federal civil service workers.
The massive Texas Medical Center is the focal point of the city's health care industry. This institution has more than 65,000 health care professionals who treat more than 5 million patients who come to the city for medical care from across the world. This industry is projected to continue growing at a steady rate. Cooperation between five major institutions in the area will create a new 30-acre research campus at the Texas Medical Center. This biomedical hub will focus on medical advancements in genomics and regenerative medicine.
Where to Eat in Houston
With more than 11,000 restaurants in the city, dining out might be one of the most popular activities in Houston. If you enjoy trying new kinds of food, you'll love the great variety of cuisine that the area offers.
The city is known for Tex-Mex cuisine. If you're looking for the best Tex-Mex, you can't beat the place where it all began: The Original Ninfa's on Navigation. While you're there, order the tacos al carbon; this meal comes with your choice of one or two tacos served on flour tortillas with guacamole, pico de gallo, and chile con queso. Other popular menu options at the restaurant are the handmade tamales, fajitas, and enchiladas.
In addition to Tex-Mex, Houston is famous for its barbecue. You'll discover many places around the city that offer finger-licking good barbecue. If you're looking for one of the best, though, try Gatlin's BBQ. This award-winning restaurant combines high-quality meats and sauces with classic Southern hospitality. Though plenty of people come for the ribs, you'll also find great brisket, turkey, and pulled pork and chicken. For your side dishes, you can't go wrong with classic options such as baked beans, potato salad, dirty rice, and smoked corn. Don't forget to save room for dessert; Gatlin's BBQ makes a fantastic bread pudding and peach cobbler that you won't want to miss.
If you're in the mood to try something trendy, check out Benjy's. This contemporary restaurant has an exciting variety of New American dishes to explore. If you stop by for dinner, consider trying one of their wood-fired pizzas. Another popular dish is the Crunchy Chicken, which is made with pumpkin butter, turnips, and squash. Benjy's serves brunch during the weekends and offers plenty of classics, including mimosas, French toast, and the Breakfast Plate, which comes with scrambled eggs, applewood-smoked bacon, French toast with blueberry jam, and roasted potatoes.
Of course, there are plenty of outstanding casual restaurants around Houston, as well. If you're craving a burger, head to Bernie's Burger Bus. Here, you'll find a menu filled with unique burger options. Consider ordering the Homeroom, a cheddar cheeseburger with crispy bacon, onions, chipotle aioli, and a fried egg. Another good choice is the Hall Pass, a chicken burger with bacon, garlic-roasted tomatoes, lettuce, fried onion strings, and goat cheese and sun-dried tomato guacamole.
The Best Breweries in Houston
Houston's craft brewery scene has flourished alongside the city's food scene. After enjoying a meal at one of the city's best restaurants, stop by one of the many popular breweries for a cool and refreshing drink.
One great choice is 8th Wonder Brewery. Signature brews here include the Dome Faux'm, a throwback cream ale, and Rocket Fuel, a porter with a hint of creamy sweetness. Since the taproom for 8th Wonder Brewery is just a few blocks from several professional sports stadiums, it is a convenient place to stop for a drink before or after a game.
If you're interested in trying something different, check out Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company. Creativity is this brewery's goal, so you will definitely find plenty of classic brews that feature interesting twists. Popular drinks from the heritage series include Crush City IPA, which has a smooth body and herbal notes, and Sam's Daily, a cream ale with a crisp finish. If you're interested in learning more about the brewing process, stop by for a tour and take the opportunity to sample all of Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company's drinks.
When you visit Karbach Brewing Co., you'll be able to enjoy a great meal with your beer. The Karbach Restaurant + Patio puts together excellent dishes that pair perfectly with its beers. Some of the most popular meals are the Gulf Coast fish and chips, beer can chicken, the chopped beef sandwich, and the Brewmaster Burger, which comes with RC Ranch Texas Wagyu beef, Karbach bacon, tomato jam, grilled red onion, arugula, and blue cheese on a challah bun. When you need to wash your food down with something refreshing, consider ordering the Love Street, the Hopadillo, or the Weekend Warrior.
Transportation Around Houston
When you move to Houston, you should bring your car with you. The city is automobile-dependent, and residents are highly encouraged to own cars. The area experienced such rapid growth that the population quickly exceeded the capacity of the existing infrastructure. As a result, Houston isn't very walkable. Since so many residents drive, the city has constructed a vast network of roadways. In addition to the Interstate 610 loop, major thoroughfares include Interstate 10, which runs east and west, and Interstates 69 and 45, which run north and south.
Although Houston's residents love their cars, the city has been working hard to expand its public transportation system. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) provides the city with a fleet of public buses and a light rail. The local bus network has more than 1,200 buses that run 75 local routes and make nearly 8,900 stops. The light rail system consists of three color-coded lines. The Red Line runs north and south from NRG Park to Northline. The Green Line services the east side of Houston, and the Purple Line services the Third Ward.
Since many residents have expressed interest in alternative transportation options, the city has also worked to expand its bike lanes. Houston has 160 miles of dedicated bikeways and is continuing to extend this network. The city also has a growing bicycle-sharing program. Houston BCycle, the local nonprofit running the program, was started in 2012 with 19 docking stations. Since then, it has grown to 56 stations, and more are on the way.
If you need to fly out of Houston, you can choose from two major public airports. Of the two, George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the largest. It's situated about 19 miles north of the city and offers flights to a variety of domestic and international destinations. Your other option is the William P. Hobby Airport. Although older and smaller than the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the William P. Hobby Airport is closer, located about 10 miles southeast of the city. It offers short- to medium-haul domestic and international flights.
The Parks in Houston
Since Houston has plenty of sunny days throughout the year, it's easy to see why the city has such great parks. One of the city's most popular outdoor spaces is Hermann Park, which offers 445 acres of space and activities that the whole family will enjoy. Children will love running around the playground, taking rides on the Hermann Park Railroad, and learning about local fruits and vegetables at the Family Garden. You can also rent pedal boats to take out on McGovern Lake, practice your swing on the golf course, or take a stroll through one of the numerous gardens.
Located in the heart of downtown Houston, the 12-acre Discovery Green always has something exciting happening. Head to the outdoor Anheuser-Busch Stage or Fondren Performance Space to see a concert or performance, or have some fun at the shuffleboard court, the Hagstette Family Putting Green, or the bocce ball courts. Let the kids burn off some energy at the John P. McGovern Playground, or cool off at the Gateway Fountain or the Mist Tree. If you get hungry, visit one of Discovery Green's two dining options: The Grove and The Lake House Waterside Cafe.
The 124-acre Buffalo Bayou Park makes it easy to explore Houston's natural beauty. If you're looking for some outdoor fun, consider renting a bicycle, kayak, or canoe at the park. You can also set out on your own two feet to explore the Kinder Footpath, which runs alongside the banks of the bayou. Kids will have a great time at the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark and the Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area and Picnic Pavilion. Even your four-legged family members can join you for the day if you visit the Johnny Steele Dog Park.
Things to Do in Houston
Of course, Houston offers much more than just outdoor parks. The Houston Zoo is one of the country's most popular zoos. It's home to more than 6,000 animals from 900 different species. One of the zoo's most popular exhibits is the African Forest, where you can see zebras, gazelles, rhinoceros, giraffes, ostriches, chimpanzees, and gorillas. You can also head over to the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat to get an unobstructed view of the elephants from the boardwalk.
Another popular destination for animal encounters is Houston's Downtown Aquarium, which is home to more than 200 aquatic species. If you're interested in learning more about the animals that inhabit the marshes and bayous of the Gulf Coast, head to the Louisiana Swamp exhibit to see turtles, alligators, spotted gar, bullfrogs, and more. At the Gulf of Mexico exhibit, you'll see an oil rig habitat with nurse sharks, snappers, and other wildlife. Other popular exhibits include the Shipwreck, Rainforest, Sunken Temple, and Stingray Reef.
Whether you want to learn something new or you're interested in sampling local art and culture, Houston has a variety of outstanding museums that are just waiting to be explored. In fact, if you go to the Houston Museum District, you'll find yourself in Houston's cultural hub and surrounded by opportunities to explore subjects ranging from science to history. Currently, the Houston Museum District encompasses 19 museums, and some of the most popular attractions are the Children's Museum of Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Annual Events in Houston
No matter the season, you're sure to find an exciting event to attend in Houston. One of the city's most popular annual events is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The event lasts for 20 days, running from the end of February until the beginning of March. While the rodeos and concerts are the event's most popular attractions, they're not the only activities you can enjoy. The event also features a parade, the 5K and 10K Rodeo Run, barbecue competitions, trail rides, a wine show, a livestock and horse show, and much more.
It is a well-known fact that everything is bigger in Texas. While some cities may celebrate a restaurant week, Houston celebrates Houston Restaurant Weeks, running from the beginning of August to the beginning of September. More than 250 restaurants participate in this event, giving you the opportunity to dine on prix fixe meals. Best of all, the event supports the Houston Food Bank. You not only get to try some excellent cuisine, you also get to help out a worthy cause.
If you enjoy art, you won't want to miss your chance to check out the Bayou City Art Festival at the end of March. The three-day festival showcases the work of more than 300 talented artists from around the world. You'll be able to view an incredible variety of art, including glass, paintings, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, photography, clay, and wood. The event also features concerts, roaming performers, and the Children's Creative Zone, where kids can work on creating their own masterpieces.
Sports in Houston
If you love cheering on professional sports teams, you'll find no shortage of opportunities in Houston. The city has a sports team for all major professional leagues except hockey. If you want to see a baseball game, take a trip to Minute Maid Park to watch the Houston Astros. If basketball is your sport of choice, visit the Toyota Center to check out the Houston Rockets. You can even watch some professional rugby games at Aveva Stadium, where the Houston SaberCats compete in Major League Rugby.
At the BBVA Compass Stadium, you can watch games featuring the Houston Dynamo, a Major League Soccer club, and the Houston Dash, a club in the National Women's Soccer League. You can also enjoy plenty of football action with the Houston Texans at the state-of-the-art NRG Stadium. However, football isn't the only sport that you can see at the NRG Stadium. The stadium also hosts the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and several college football games, international soccer matches, and motorsport competitions.
Top Things to Do Near Houston
While Houston certainly offers plenty of things to see and do, if you ever need to escape the city for a few days, you'll discover an impressive variety of unique attractions within just a few hours' drive in any direction. One of the most popular getaway destinations for Houston residents is Galveston. Located less than an hour away from Houston on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Galveston is known for its beaches, amusement rides, and entertainment. You can easily spend the entire day visiting all of the exciting attractions or relaxing on the beach.
If Galveston feels a little too busy, head to Mustang Island State Park for a more laid-back beach escape. Located about 3.5 hours away from Houston on Mustang Island, this state park offers more than 5 miles of coastline that you can walk along to find a pleasant spot to sit back and relax. Mustang Island State Park is also a great option if you're looking for something more active. The park has hiking and mountain biking trails, a campground, and the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail.
Slightly less than an hour north of Houston you'll find Sam Houston National Forest. This immense section of protected land covers 163,037 acres and is one of the state's four national forests. It's also a popular destination for people who are looking to enjoy some outdoor recreation. Explore the forest by hiking along the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail, or spend some time at one of the three developed campgrounds, fishing and boating on Lake Livingston and Lake Conroe, or biking on the multiple-use trails.
It's easy to see why Houston is such a popular and rapidly growing city. It's a vibrant area that offers attractions that will appeal to everyone. With this helpful guide, you now have all the information you need to plan your move to Houston.