Houston: Fascinating Facts and Information for Visitors
Many superlatives can be used when addressing the subject of Houston.
When astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, what was the first word he uttered? "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Houston is nicknamed the Space City, and for good reason. Many of our astronauts have had much of their training here at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.
Currently, we are the fourth largest city and the fifth largest metropolitan area in the country. That might be changing soon; according to a Houston Chronicle report, we will take Chicago's spot as the third most populous city by 2030.
The Astrodome was the first domed sports stadium in the entire world! It is an iconic feature of the landscape and at one time was called the "8th wonder of the world". While larger stadiums have been built it will always have the designation of being the first! Houston is currently the only city with two domed stadiums.
Texas Medical Center
The Texas Medical Center is the largest in the entire world! There are 21 hospitals plus some 58 other related institutions located in this medical complex. From research to teaching future doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and other medical personnel, this is the place to be if ever in need of treatment.
The medical industry is big business here, with five of the top ten employers involved in this field of endeavor. It is like a city unto itself serving people from not only these parts but also from around the world. Cutting edge therapies help cure people who might otherwise not survive.
Two of the world's largest hospitals are here. They are the Texas Children's Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Over seven million visitors come to the Texas Medical Center each year for treatment. It is what first attracted me to living in Houston when I became an operating room nurse at Methodist Hospital in the Medical Center.
It was a thrill and privilege to watch Dr. Michael E. Debakey perform heart transplant surgery from a viewing room above the O.R. back in 1969. That was the first year successful heart transplants took place. He had pioneered many of the inventions leading up to that groundbreaking event.
Energy Capital of the World
Houston is known to many as the "Energy Capital of the World." The maze of petrochemical industries located near the Port of Houston is incredulous to view.
Our Port of Houston is first in the amount of international tonnage moved through here. Its economic impact for our city and this entire region is tremendous. It accounts for many jobs in our area.
The Energy Corridor consists of 300+ companies situated in west Houston along Interstate 10. Three of the top ten employers in Houston have to do with the oil and gas business. Several companies have their world headquarters right here in our city. The oil and gas businesses plus thousands of energy-related companies employ a huge number of people in our metro area which impacts the entire world.
Livestock Show and Rodeo
Did you realize that the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo are the largest in the entire world? Enough said! Yee-haw!!! It is a major annual attraction which is not only a boon economically but their focus on giving scholarships to deserving students has impacted countless lives. Tens of thousands of them have been granted to date.
Our theater district is world-class! One need travel no further than Houston to find stellar entertainment.
We have four large venues downtown and smaller ones sprinkled throughout our large metropolitan area. Houston has a professional opera company, symphony, ballet, and live theater. We also have performing arts ranging from Broadway hits to chamber music to jazz as just a few examples.
Few cities outside of New York have such a variety of venues that this city has to offer its citizens or visitors.
Practically every type of sports one can imagine except for those necessitating snow is here in Houston. We even have ice skating rinks! It may be seasonal at Discovery Green Park and a few other locales. A permanent one is indoors at the Houston Galleria. Softball and soccer fields abound in various parks around town as do golf courses, both public and private.
Our professional sports teams and where they play are the following:
- Basketball ~ NBA Houston Rockets play at the Toyota Center.
- Hockey ~ AHL Houston Aeros also perform at the Toyota Center.
- Baseball ~ Houston Astros play at Minute Maid Park.
- Football ~ NFL Houston Texans play at Reliant Stadium.
- Soccer ~ The Houston Dynamo team, plays at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Besides, there are high school and collegiate sports venues and many types of minor leagues and clubs. Annual sporting events give us even more reasons to celebrate fun and games in our home town.
Well-known architects have built many of our golf courses. Also, famed golfers such as Jack Nicholas, Bruce Devlin, Tiger Woods, and Greg Norman have likewise had their hand in creating them. Prestigious golfing tournaments have been played here on different courses. The bargain pricing to play makes it desirable for golf enthusiasts to plan vacations here.
Museums and Public Art
Houston has a beautiful Museum District located just north of the Texas Medical Center and south of downtown. There are countless museums in and around our metro area which cover a variety of subjects, including art, history, photography, crafts and so much more. You will find over 150 of them!
The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is the 6th largest museum in the United States, and it is currently expanding. It also has has the 2nd largest endowment fund of any cultural institution in the country!
Public art abounds in and around our fair city. One need not look very far before it is evident that we appreciate all types of art. Sculptures, murals, and even graffiti art can be seen in our parks as well as in and outside of buildings.
Downtown Houston is only about a 45-minute drive to the Gulf of Mexico coast in Galveston, Texas.
Within 25 miles or so, there are many natural lakes where a person can go boating or fishing. Lake Houston and Clear Lake are two that people like to frequent. Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston are north of Houston.
There are boat tours on some of our bayous. We have four bayous that run through our city as well as many creeks and tributaries. That is why we are also known as the "Bayou City."
Many of the newer subdivisions are built around human-made lakes. Quite a few of our parks also have lakes. In conclusion, there is no shortage of aquatic activities in or near Houston.
Restaurants in Our Metro Area
Houston's business environment is excellent and therefore spills over into all kinds of other areas. Would you believe that we have some 11,000 restaurants? It is true! One can find just about every type of cuisine here because of the melting pot of humanity that Houston had become since its early days of settlement by the Allen Brothers back in 1836. One could literally choose a different restaurant in which to dine every day and it would take over 30 years to experience them all.
When we vote, there are three languages on the ballot: English, Spanish and Vietnamese. People speak some 90+ dialects in Houston, and there are festivals each year celebrating the different cultures. Some street signs in various areas of town have not only English but other languages marking the location as well.
As one might imagine, with all of the different cultures living in the Houston metropolitan area, there are also a significant number of foreign governments doing business here. We have the 3rd largest consular corps in the nation, with over 92 different governments represented.
There are 25 different independent school districts in the Houston metro area, not including other private schools of which there are many. When it comes to higher education, there are more than 60 colleges and universities offering advanced degrees. Vocational and technical schools are numerous.
Cost of Living
Our low cost of living is enticing to companies as well as people moving here.
- For housing alone, we pay 21% below the national average according to statistical data. Since land costs are lower one gets a much better bargain when it comes to housing than in many places. Judging from many of the mega-mansions springing up in many parts of town, this is no longer a secret!
- We also pay no state income tax and have right to work laws in place.
- Utility prices are lower than in many places.
- Gasoline prices to keep our vehicles running are also lower than many other locales.
- Unemployment statistics regularly fall below the national level.
- Outside of NYC (with a far greater population), Houston had the most Fortune 500 companies wanting to do business here. We also have the 2nd most significant number of Fortune 1000 companies only again trailing New York.
Green Spaces and Climate
From large parks to pocket-sized parks, we have more green spaces for our citizens and visitors than any other metro area of comparable size. 366 is the number of Houston metro parks!
Bikers have many miles of uninterrupted spaces in which to ride their bikes on our hike and bike trails, which are continually expanding. There are 128 miles of them in Houston and even more in the surrounding counties.
Houston is a very green city by way of vegetation. Our subtropical climate affords everything from the growing of tropical palm trees, banana, and ginger plants to towering pine trees and even cactus. Certain types of flowers grow in our yards and gardens on a year-round basis. Humid and tropical breezes generally bring an average of almost 50 inches of rain annually.
Summers have sizzling temperatures often in the 90s or even some days topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In late fall, winter, and early spring, the temperatures are moderate and delightful. One can enjoy al fresco dining almost year-round in this climate. Houston is one of the most air-conditioned cities in the United States.
- Houston is the only major U.S. city without zoning codes? It's true! That accounts for attractions like the Beer Can House, among others.
- There is an extensive air-conditioned tunnel system in downtown Houston. It runs for over seven miles. Ninety-five blocks are connected, and employees of business need not get out in the heat when going from a company to their parking garages. Polished marble floors are evident in places, and there are a variety of lunch spots provided, which are all underground. Tours are available Monday through Friday for varying prices depending upon how many people are going at one time.
- Statistically, we have one of the youngest populations in the nation. The median age is 33.
- We have two main airports, George Bush Intercontinental, and William P. Hobby. Also, thirty-one smaller airports are accommodating corporate jets to private airplanes all over our area.
- Unlike more densely populated places, our two million-plus citizens are spread out from the downtown area with available lands in which to expand in all directions save the Gulf of Mexico. That is about the only limiting natural hindrance to growth. We have quite a bit more elbow room in which to enjoy the good life under the vast open Texas skies.
- Magazines like Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler have touted Houston as a destination in which to travel. It is hard to keep such good news quiet for long.
With seasonal events included, there are endless activities and attractions that are here to enjoy. Perhaps now you know why my husband and I enjoy living here. One could devote a lifetime to exploring what our expansive Houston metro area has to offer.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Peggy Woods