With a population of over 2.3 million, Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. It offers everything that other major metropolitan centers do: professional sports, world-class entertainment, and globally recognized educational options. As a port city and energy industry leader, the city is a hub for recent arrivals to the United States, and its diverse population — ethnic minorities make up almost half of Houston’s population — is remaking the image of what a Texan city looks and sounds like.
The absolute worst time to rent an apartment in Houston is September. August is also not great. If you start your search anytime before then, you should find that you have a much easier time finding a place to live that you can be happy with.
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Houston is famous for its sprawl, and its traffic rivals Los Angeles as a source of frustration (and conversation) for local residents. Finding the best possible accommodations often becomes a matter of geography — an apartment close to your workplace or school can reduce your commute time by a huge margin.
Houston is a major metropolitan center that was designed with the car in mind. However, the freeway system has not kept pace with population growth, and the traffic conditions in Houston are now less than optimal. To avoid sitting in your car for hours, try the METROrail: a 24-mile light rail system — along with the METRO bus system — that’s a reliable and fast alternative to the I-10 gridlock.
In a city the size of Houston, there is no end to your entertainment options. Taking in an Astros, Texans, or Rockets game is a great way to experience the locals’ passion for their sports. A thriving theater district downtown appeals to culture buffs, and the Museum District, which encompasses 19 museums, galleries, and cultural centers, is one of the best repositories of art in the country. For shopping, the Houston Galleria is the biggest mall in the state and offers ice-skating year-round, a rarity in sweltering Texas.
Houston, we don’t have a problem: For anyone with an interest in space exploration, Houston is a fascinating city. Space Center Houston is the visitor’s area affiliated with NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Films, exhibits, and tours give you a firsthand experience that can't be replicated anywhere else in the country. The Downtown Aquarium is also a major draw, with more than 400 aquatic creatures on exhibit. Don’t miss the Houston Museum of Natural Science, especially if you have children: The dinosaur bones and butterfly enclosure are major draws. For people who enjoy carnival rides, games, and the amusement park experience, there is the Kemah Boardwalk. Rice University has one of the most scenic campuses in the South, and also well worth a visit.
Houston’s food scene reflects its multicultural diverse population. Spend a week eating out and you’re just as likely to find your favorite new pho spot as you are a plate full of barbecue ribs. Want inventive, authentic Mexican cuisine? Try Hugo’s. Want to try the cuisine of one of the city’s fastest growing populations? Hit up Afrikiko for West African favorites like peanut butter soup. The city’s Vietnamese restaurants — like the elegant Saigon Pagolac — are legendary. On the fine-dining scene, restaurants like Oxheart iand Underbelly look to local produce, animals, and culinary history for inventive takes on “Texan” cuisine.
Houston isn’t just margaritas and Lone Star (though there’s plenty of both). In recent years, cocktail aficionados have flocked to bars like The Anvil and Poison Girl for classic pre-Prohibition drinks, and inventive house drinks. Public Services, located in the 1884 Cotton Exchange building, is a new hotspot by the owners of Oxheart. If you're a wine drinker, bars like Camerata at Paulie’s offer eclectic, curated lists along with laid-back, unpretentious surroundings. If you want to try a beer from local breweries Karbach or 8th Wonder, you should head to the Hay Merchant in Montrose, which has one of the broadest varieties of beer in the city. Or try Petrol Station, a converted service station in Garden Oaks that was one of the first craft beer bars in the city.
Austin might get all the glory when it comes to culture, but Houston’s theaters, galleries, and especially its lauded museums are among the best in the state. The Museum District is home to the gargantuan Museum of Fine Arts, the crowd-pleasing Museum of Natural Sciences, and The Menil Collection, one of the most important private collections in the country, among others. (Don’t miss the Rothko Chapel, either, which was designed by Mark Rothko to house several of his works in a meditative space.) The most acclaimed theater in the city is the Alley Theatre, which counts Tony awards among its accolades. The Houston Symphony Orchestra, which performs downtown at the Jesse H. Jones Hall for Performing Arts, is one of the nation’s most respected, and The Houston Grand Opera is the only company in the country to have won a Grammy, an Emmy, and a Tony.
Houston’s love of BBQ extends to its event calendar, and the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest takes place every February. WorldFest, Houston’s International Film Festival, draws filmmakers from across the planet to the Bayou City every April. The city also hosts a massive Fourth of July event each year known as the Freedom Over Texas Festival. The Houston Shakespeare Festival runs in August, and has nearly half a million audience members attend each year. Houston also loves its beer, and Big Brew Houston is a weeklong beer festival that takes place at the end of October. With more than a thousand beers featured each year, even the most dedicated beer lover should be able to drink his — or her — fill.
Bigger is better in Texas, and true to form, Houston is home to the largest shopping mall in the state. With over 400 stores, two luxury hotels, three office towers, and a skating rink in 2.4 million square feet of space, The Houston Galleria is more than a mall: It’s an attraction. If outlet shopping is your idea of a good time, then you need to pay a visit to the Conroe Outlet Center in Houston for some truly outrageous deals. If you're more interested in seeing what you can find in small local shops, then you should head to Rice Village, the area of town around Rice University. The eclectic mix of stores ensures that there is something to suit all tastes in this character-filled part of town.
Houston is home to several professional sports teams. The Houston Texans compete in the NFL, and brought NFL back to the city in 2002 after the departure of the Oilers. The Rockets, led by bearded superstar James Harden, are the city’s NBA franchise, and the Astros compete in Major League Baseball. Rodeo is a hugely important sport in Texas, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a time-honoured tradition. The Shell Houston Open is one of the most important non-major golf tournaments on the PGA tour, and always attracts the best in the game. Over the past several years it has become an even more important tournament, as the last event before the Masters. A win gives golfers a chance to get on the course at the most prestigious major, while also winning a very large purse.
Hermann Park is a large urban park at roughly 455 acres. Many of the city’s attractions including a theater, golf course, and zoo are housed within the massive park. There are a lot of great opportunities to get out on the water near Houston. The Armand and Buffalo Bayous are excellent places to canoe or kayak. You can even fish right in the city, at places like Collins Park. If you head just out of the city, Lake Livingston is an excellent fishing spot. Another great way to get outdoors and see the country in Houston is to engage with the cowboy culture and take a ride. The Cypress Trails Stable is a great place to get set up to go exploring Texas by horseback.