Mutt City. Space City. Bayou City. The Big Heart. Houston is true to all of these sobriquets and more.
International immigration in the past decade has contributed to explosive population growth and made Houston the most ethnically diverse big city in the country, with more than 145 different languages spoken at home, according to the latest census—more than even New York.
“You’ve heard me say it before, ours is the most diverse and welcoming city in the country, one a growing number of people want to visit to experience our food, our culture and our people,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Combine that get-go with affordable housing—the average selling price of a home is $140,300 compared to $222,300 in Atlanta and $257,800 in Austin—favorable zoning and no income tax, and what do you get? Among many other things, a food scene to rival any in the country. Houston’s 10,000-plus restaurants make it “the next global food Mecca,” according to chef, innovator and Ugly Delicious host David Chang.
Where to start? Houstonia Magazine recommends Killen’s STQ, its restaurant of the year, along with barbecue at the Pit Room and dessert at the Oaxacan-inspired Xochi. Perhaps not in that order, or all on the same day.
Houston, fourth largest city in the U.S., is also home to the fourth largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the country (20) behind New York, Chicago, and Dallas—and to five Fortune Global 500s. Not only does the city dominate in energy, it’s a leader in health care, manufacturing, engineering, finance and outer space—home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, which houses NASA, the site of Mission Control, and the training base and home for the nation’s astronauts. The recent development of the Houston Spaceport, a hub for innovation, education and commercial spaceflight, is the future of the region’s space industry—and brings us all a step closer to space tourism. For now, Houston’s 20 million annual visitors (2016)—of which 3.2 million were international travelers—arrive and depart by more conventional means.
Change comes fast, and Houston embraces it. The Houston-Dallas high-speed rail project marks a new paradigm for a car-centric state: a privately funded rail line that would zip passengers between Dallas and Houston in about 90 minutes at up to 200 mph. The Texas Bullet Train will drive the development of a new economic corridor combining the fiscal might of two of the most important metropolitan areas in the country.
Post-Harvey, Houston has a new plan for its downtown. Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm that hit Texas on August 25, 2017. It caused $125 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. City government is at the forefront of the resilience movement of the 21st century and is redefining how cities deal with these severe storm events. In late 2017, the Houston Downtown Management District unveiled “Plan Downtown,” a 20-year plan to redevelop the city’s downtown and improve visitor appeal, business climate, livability and connectivity. It features a five-mile Green Loop transit circuit, enhancing walkability and accessibility to the city’s six cultural districts. Events, concerts and festivals make art accessible and often free of charge to communities, attracting visitors and providing a platform for local and international talent.
In the Houston Museum District, galleries galore are cheek by jowl with a performing arts theater, ballet, the symphony and more. A new Innovation District will act as the city center for tech and entrepreneurship, drawing innovative and entrepreneurial Millennial bees downtown.