Today I am going to give you my inside view of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States. The “Bayou City” recently surpassed New York to become the most culturally diverse city in the United States. There are over 90 languages spoken in Houston and 92 foreign governments that have representatives who call “H-Town” home. Our city is the number one job creator in the country, which comes as no surprise since 26 Fortune 500 companies – including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil, Sysco, Apache and Halliburton are located in the city. Our beloved city is also conveniently home to some fabulous restaurants, sports teams, schools and great people!
When it comes to climate, the saying around the city is, “If you don’t like the weather now, just wait 10 minutes and it will change.” Typically, Houston weather is warm (particularly very hot during the summer months) and humid. June through August is especially hot and humid, often with scattered afternoon showers and thunderstorms. Winters here tend to be quite mild and temperate. The nickname “Bayou City” is due to the four major bayous passing through our metropolis, as well as the Houston Ship channel. Galveston Bay and the Buffalo Bayou together form one of the most important shipping hubs in the world.
Houston has a number of airports – the two largest are George Bush Intercontinental (IAH / KIAH) and Houston Hobby Airport (HOU / KHOU). IAH offers nonstop services to 69 international destinations, while Houston Hobby is currently constructing an International Terminal; with plans to offer superb international service in the later part of 2015. There are also a number of smaller airports located all around the city; from Sugar Land, to Ellington Field and out to Galveston. The Sugar Land Regional Airport and Ellington Field serve as reliever airports for the Houston Airport System. Houston is also the home to the global headquarters for Universal Weather and Aviation Inc., the parent company of Air Culinaire Worldwide. Private aviation is a colossal part of the Houston landscape. With an abundance of oil and gas wealth, sporting events, the medical center and the city’s role as an import/export hub – aviation is a quite a booming business in Houston.
The Houston Texans (football), Astros (baseball), Rockets (basketball) and Dynamo (soccer) are major sports teams in “Clutch City”. In addition, Houston is formerly the home of the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans), the Aeros hockey team and the late WNBA team called the Houston Comets. A great time to come to Houston is during The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the world’s largest rodeo event—held at NRG Stadium every year from the end of February to the end of March. The annual event features over 20,000 livestock exhibits and nightly concerts featuring country music heavyweights. Fried Twinkies, Oreos, carnival rides, barbecue, barrel racing, bull riding and “Boot Scootin’” are just a few of the attractions you will have to opportunity to enjoy during rodeo season. Make sure to bring your boots and hat! For all the football buffs out there, Houston will be hosting the 2017 Big Game at the official home to the Houston Texans. Additionally, for college basketball followers, Houston will be hosting the 2016 NCAA Final Four.
If sports and the rodeo aren’t your thing, there are also many other outdoor activities available to you year-round. The Water Wall, the Cockrell Butterfly Center, The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center (a nature sanctuary that spans 155 acres 4 miles west of downtown) and the Houston Zoo are all fun outdoor activities for you to enjoy while you are here. The Johnson Space Center and the Space Center (which is the visitor center) also inhabit one of our adored outer boroughs. Not to mention, Houston’s close proximity to the Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston and Surfside Beaches.
Fun Fact: In 1969, “Houston” was the first word spoken from the moon. The Apollo 11 mission established a place in history for the city, when astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke the now famous line, “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.”
When being in air conditioning is an extreme must, “Space City” (another of Houston’s many nicknames) offers a number of wonderful options for indoor activities. The Houston Ballet, Alley Theater, Houston Grand Opera and Theater Under the Stars are some of the main cultural draws in the area. Houston has one of the largest museum districts in the country, with 20 extremely impressive museums and institutions. Of these establishments, some of the most visited are The Children’s Museum of Houston, The Menil Collection, The Health Museum, the Holocaust Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Other fun alternatives would be the Art Car Museum, Beer Can House and the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.
Fun Fact: Houston is one of only a few U.S. Cities with residential professional companies in the four performing arts: ballet, opera, symphony and theater.
In addition to the amazing museums throughout the area, Houston boasts a very impressive medical center. The Texas Medical Center has 21 world renowned hospitals, including M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (the leading hospital in the country specializing in cancer) and is the largest medical complex in the world.
Fun Fact: There are more heart surgeries performed at the Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world. The first successful artificial human heart implant was performed here by Dr. Denton Cooley (1968). Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital is the birth place of Life Flight™ (1976).
With all the cultural diversity the city has to offer, comes a thriving and equally varied food scene. Houston has some of the best gastronomic options in the country, with a wide variety of restaurants and culinary leaders at its helm. Houston is a frequent stop for Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives; and Bizarre Foods host, Andrew Zimmern, has graced our fair city with his presence a time or two. One of the heavy hitters in the Houston food world is the Houston Texans’ biggest fan, all-star Chef Chris Shepard who runs the plays at Underbelly. You can visit The Next Iron Chef contestant, Bryan Caswell of the critically acclaimed Reef, for amazingly fresh seafood. For a burger or a Houston staple of Tex-Mex food, frequent his other restaurants Little Bigs or El Real Tex Mex. Chef Monica Pope of Beaver’s and local hot spot Sparrow Bar + Cookshop is among the talented chefs in town, being one of the first of her peers to appear on national television, in Top Chef Masters Season 2.
Houston also has four James Beard Award semifinalists. Pass & Provisions’ own, Terrence Gallivan & Seth Seigel-Gardner, Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Justin Yu of Oxheart, have all been nominated for Best Chef Southwest 2015. The previously mentioned Chris Shepherd of Underbelly took the win for James’s Beard Best Chef Southwest in 2014. The 2015 Best Chef Southwest Award landed in the hands of the Aaron Franklin, for Franklin’s Barbecue in Austin, Texas.
When visiting the city, there are a few things that you have to try. Mexican/Tex-Mex, because there is no better place for Tex-Mex than Houston. (I’ve tried the cuisine in many different cities and countries, and nothing compares to Houston!) As if it weren’t the obvious choice, you have to get Texas barbecue while you are here. The best places to get a downhome barbecue experience in Houston are Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland, and Gatlin’s BBQ in the Heights. We’ve got you covered for sushi, with Austin native, Tyson Cole’s restaurant Uchi, as well as Kata Robata. For Italian fare, we’ve got Tony Vallone’s Tony’s and Ciao Bello.
Some people may say that I am slightly biased when it comes to my love for Houston—and I am—but I have traveled to and lived other destinations, and couldn’t be happier to call Houston my home (except when its 110 F and humid!). Houston is home not only to me, my company, my family and friends, but to a wealth of diversity, opportunities and amazing experiences. The city is booming, growing and evolving every single day. The cranes are up, the movers-and-shakers are here, we have a vibrant urban landscape and an equally vibrant and diverse food scene. Even the Houston sports teams and their players are vying for attention on the national stage. Houston is the place to be!
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