Houston is still a whiskey-and-trombone town, and proud of it. We aren’t trying to be Paris, France. If that was what we wanted we’d just skip over to Bush Intercontinental Airport and hop on over the pond. We like us, and we like you. We have a sense of humor, even about ourselves. It’s easy since we’re pretty sure we’ll have the last laugh.
Here for you is a list of 20 things to love about Houston. If you live here or are from here you’ll know these are awesome. If you aren’t from here, maybe you can see how wonderful Houston is.
20. NASA. No, I can’t move it farther up the list because it’s not really Houston any more. However, the legacy is and will always be Houston. The phrase is “Houston, we have a problem.” Which is good for a certain movie actor, since “Cape Kennedy, we have a problem” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
19. The Galleria. Any shopping venue that draws international tourists who stay at the hotel attached to the mall and never, or rarely, leave that mall during their visit has to be something. Plus, you know, Nordstrom’s.
18. Higher Education. Houston has something for everyone in post-secondary schools. Rice is an excellent major private university. The University of Houston is another well-respected research university. Texas Southern University is only the best-known of the HBCUs in town. Religious schools abound, as do junior and community colleges. Plenty of other schools round out a full plate of colleges and universities.
17. The petrochemical industry. Between bringing in big money and providing a good living for blue collar workers, the petrochemical industry is a vibrant, sustaining part of everything Houston. Its very grit is part of what shapes the essence of Houston – rough, tough, strong, confident, and resilient.
16. Air conditioning. Nobody does it like Houston. You can practically catch a chill in some of the malls and museums, which is pretty striking considering that the temperature outside is approaching “surface of the sun” for about six months of the year.
15. Amateur athletics. The Texas Bowl is a highlight of the college football season. There are lots of opportunities for the average Joe to enjoy a game of golf or a run, as well as fantastic high school football and basketball, and the full range of other high school sports from baseball to swimming to lacrosse, and everything else.
14. Traffic. I’m not kidding, either. Although Houston traffic can be outrageously heavy, it’s rarely gridlocked unless there’s a major catastrophe, and those are rare. They’re so rare because Houstonians are notoriously courteous drivers. Everyone knows the rules, even the unwritten ones, and everyone has the same goal in mind – a smooth commute.
13. Nature. The climate and estuaries on Galveston Bay provide habitat for many species of birds, fish, and other animals. Houstonians appreciate that biodiversity, so we protect it through various entities such as The Houston Arboretum and Armand Bayou Nature Center that provide education in and protection to specific areas, as well as organizations that provide education and protection in general, such as The Galveston Bay Foundation and Houston Wilderness.
12. The Museum District. Everything from Egyptian mummies to environmental art to interactive children’s installations are waiting for people to appreciate them in the museum district. Just because we’re down-to-Earth doesn’t mean we’re uncouth, ya’ll.
11. Performing arts. The Houston Grand Opera is world-class, and the Houston Ballet and Houston Symphony added to the opera provides plenty of high-toney entertainment. Broadway touring shows and local companies provide plenty of other live entertainment. The Theater District provides plenty of beautiful, fun venues.
10. Diversity. You don’t hear about it a lot because it’s not something Houston or Houstonians work at. It just happens. We come from everywhere, and we aren’t really that into getting all het up about where someone’s from or what religion they are or what they look like. The youth of Houston as a city helps Houstonians stay focused on what people do, instead of who their people are.
9. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Yeah, you can claim that you’re too sophisticated for the rodeo, but that just shows you haven’t been to this one. Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, and Alan Jackson aren’t the whole lineup. Bruno Mars. Mary J. Blige. Styx. Pitbull. It’s not your grandfather’s rodeo.
8. Travel. If you want to go somewhere else, Houston is a great place to start. Non-stop flights to six continents and dozens of countries, as well as nonstops all over the US make it easy to get where you need to go. Two cruise ports make great couples getaways or family vacations quick, easy, and affordable.
7. Galveston. It’s far enough away to make you feel like you went somewhere, but easily close enough for a long day trip. Since Ike they’ve really been classing up the joint, too. The Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens, the San Luis, and a ton of great restaurants make it a great day trip or weekend stop. Not to mention a fine destination vacation for out-of-towners. Did I mention the beach?
6. Food. Houston has a diversity of food genres that fits the diversity of Houstonians, but what makes all of it great is the availability of fabulous ingredients fresh, fresh, fresh. The Gulf of Mexico offers up a bounty of seafood fresh daily. Local farms and ranches provide fresh meat, game, and fowl, and the climate provides for fresh produce almost year-round. That ingredient trifecta improves the quality of everything made with them, and are a nice draw for excellent chefs who know about the importance of great ingredients.
5. Professional Sports. It’s like a smorgasbord of major- and minor-league pro sports. The Texans. The Astros. The Rockets. The Dynamo. The Shell Houston Open. The Aeros. The Skeeters. The Houston Marathon. The Houston Rodeo. Auto racing. Wrestling. Tennis. Softball. Houston has the big-time in whatever sport floats your boat.
4. Herrmann Park. 445 acres including The Houston Zoo, the golf course, the railroad, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the lake, the reflection pool, Lake Plaza, Miller Theater, and all the other accoutrements of a great urban park, plus easy access via metro rail or car make Hermann Park a grand destination that draws in people from the suburbs and provides a welcome respite from the urban pace for inside-the-loop dwellers.
3. Houstonians. People in Houston are down-to-Earth. They take care of each other in a very basic way. The way that makes you go buy a new couch and give the old one to your neighbor’s nephew not because you want to protect the environment or because you want to support the economy, or even because you need an excuse to buy a new couch, but because your neighbor’s nephew needs a couch. The way that makes you spend half a morning making enchiladas for a coworker with a sick child, just because they need dinner, even though you don’t really like that coworker. The way that makes you let a car in front of you at the 288/45 merge, even though he obviously didn’t read the merge signs for the last mile.
2. The Medical Center. This is an easy no-brainer. When you have medical facilities that people come to from around the world to get great treatment in great conditions, you have something worth keeping. I’ve got my beefs with hospitals around here, because spending a lot of time with anyone makes it easier to find their flaws. Still, in terms of technical skill, you just can’t do better.
1. January. Average highs in the mid-60s is the kind of weather other places dream of in January. Just cool enough to make the mosquitoes lay down a little and let you take out a sweater. Warm enough for pretty much anything you want. Generally perfect.