background

Moving to Houston? Here’s What You Need to Know

by Team NextBurb 29 January 2021

Moving Guides By City Texas

The city of Houston needs little introduction: it’s home to NASA’s astronaut training center, the country’s largest energy companies, and a community of diverse entrepreneurs and innovators.

Here’s our overview of the Energy Capital of the World.

Downtown Houston
Downtown Houston

Quick facts about Houston

  • Ever since oil fields were discovered in Texas, Houston has been the center of the United States energy industry.

    Today, more than 4,600 energy-related companies call Houston home, playing their part in the extraction, refinement, manufacturing, and distribution of oil across the globe. Houston is now also a leader in the development of renewable energy resources, leading innovations in wind and solar technologies.
  • Want the most bang out of your buck? Houston is more affordable than almost every other big city in the nation but offers salaries high above national averages.

    The city boasts significantly lower costs of energy and produce because of its proximity to multiple energy resources and local farms.
  • Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse large metro area populations in the United States.

    Its status as a hub for the medical and energy industries draws families and individuals from all over the world to live and work close by.

    Across the city, you’ll find unique experiences like innovative fusion cuisine and cultural celebrations and festivals.

What to Know About Houston

Population & History

Houston was founded in southeast Texas in 1837 and is named after Sam Houston, a Texan general who helped win Texan independence from Mexico.

Located on bayous (inlets from rivers leading to the Gulf of Mexico), Houston quickly became a major trading city. During the 20th century, it also gained prominence in aeronautics, manufacturing, energy, and space industries.

Today Houston is best known for its medical and research centers and the Johnson Space Center, NASA’s center for human spaceflight.

The metro area, which covers over 1,000 sq. miles, is home to nearly seven million residents, making it the fourth most populated urban area in the United States.

Weather in Houston

Houston has a humid subtropical climate.

Temperatures reach above 90℉ every day for almost one-third of the year, with a record high of 109℉.

High levels of humidity often increase the effects of heat as well (in short, you’ll definitely want air conditioning in your home).

In the winter, temperatures average around 53℉, with occasional lows below 32℉.

In addition to occasional supercell thunderstorms that form from warm air from the Gulf of Mexico, Houston has problems with air pollution and flooding.

Climate conditions trap ozone and pollution above the city, making it the twelfth most polluted in the country. Houston experiences frequent flooding from heavy rains and hurricanes.

It is also located in an area where runoff from higher-elevation areas of Texas flows towards the Gulf of Mexico, adding to the risk for overflow into the city itself.

Top Attractions in Houston

Houston is unique because of both its diverse, international community and its long-standing identity as a southern city.

Whether you want to watch a rodeo, attend a concert, or taste food from all over the world, the city has you covered.

Here are some of the top places to see and things to eat in Houston.

Places to Visit

A life-sized display at Space Center Houston
A life-sized display at Space Center Houston
  • Explore Space: The highlight of Houston experiences might have to be Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of the NASA headquarters in Houston.

    Adults and kids alike will be amazed at the interactive displays, exhibits about the planets, one-of-a-kind experiences with actual space stations and rockets.

    Visitors can walk through life-size replicas of space shuttles and Skylab, the first American space station, and go to the Johnson Space Center to see rockets, flight simulations, and places where astronauts actually train for missions.
  • Go back to the Wild West: While Houston may not flaunt its cowboy history as much as other Texas cities (Fort Worth, we’re looking at you), it celebrates its heritage at events, hotels, and restaurants in and around the city.

    Most popular is the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which takes place for 19 days in either February or March every year.

    You can watch bull riding, calf roping, and barrel racing at the NRG Stadium before heading to the carnival for food, rides, and a chance to view prize-winning animals from all over the country.

    During the rest of the year, visit eclectic shops like The Hat Store, where you can watch 10-gallon hats shaped and steamed by hand. Taste of Texas and Goode Company BBQ serve up ribeyes and jalapeno cheese bread to rival any cowboy’s meal.

    To round off the adventure, head to honky-tonk heaven at Armadillo Palace, where you can two-step the night away.
  • Explore the Arts District: Houston’s reputation as an international, diverse city doesn’t fall short when it comes to the arts.

    It has professional opera, ballet, theater companies, and a symphony, which all regularly perform throughout the year. Houston’s museum district is southwest from downtown and is home to twenty museums, galleries, and community centers open to the public.

    The Houston Museum of Fine Arts preserves and displays over 63,000 artifacts and works of art from all over the world. Wander its halls to see everything from impressionist art by Claude Monet to an interactive tunnel with walls that change color by contemporary artist James Turrell.

    Also in the museum district are the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Children’s Museum of Houston.
  • Cheer on a game: Houston is home to several professional sports teams: the Houston Astros (MLB), Houston Texans (NFL), and the Houston Rockets (NBA), to name a few. NRG Stadium (home to the Texans) is located with the other sports arenas right downtown and was the NFL’s first stadium with a retractable roof.
MinuteMaid park, home of the MLB Houston Astros
MinuteMaid Park, home of the MLB Houston Astros

To Eat

Fusion food: Houston is home to an ever-diversifying group of cultures and traditions that make its culinary scene like none other.

The city’s large Vietnamese population and proximity to Louisiana result in Viet-Cajun food, in which Vietnamese and Creole spices and flavors are combined to create spectacular dishes like garlicky lobster and stir-fry from Crawfish & Noodles.

Along the same vein, Casian King serves spicy shrimp with french fries and Vietnamese hot sauces. Check out Oh My Gogi! for Tex-Mex classics served with kimchi and hot sauce.

Tex-Mex (heavy on the Tex): Houston’s take on Tex-Mex cuisine involves BBQ, country-fried steak, and loads of cheese.

Need we say more? Pop into Alamo Tamale for perfected tamales with hot and mild salsas, or check out Laredo Taqueria for breakfast tacos galore.

For more refined Mexican cuisine, go to James Beard Award-winning Hugo’s, which serves the classics with a sophisticated twist, whether it’s by making mole from candied apples or serving ceviche made with blood orange.

Seafood of all kinds: Right on the bayous of the Gulf of Mexico, Houston is a fantastic place for fresh seafood.

Try duck gumbo at Rainbow Lodge or go to a local favorite, Christie’s, which has served its delicious homemade remoulade sauce with all kinds of fresh fish and shellfish since the early 1920s.

Mexican restaurant Caracol serves seafood marinated and spiced to perfection.

Outdoor Experiences in and around Houston

Within the Houston metro area’s large urban sprawl, you’ll find a surprising amount of green space and places to run, kayak, and picnic outdoors.

While temperatures during the summer might keep you indoors, the city’s mild fall and spring weather are perfect for outdoor adventure. Only an hour away from downtown Houston is Galveston Island State Park, with hiking paths, views of the water, and wildlife.

Buffalo Bayou Park is just outside downtown and has trails and bridges for walking, running, and biking–all with spectacular skyline views.

Just outside city limits, Lake Conroe offers motorboat and kayak rentals to families who want a day out on the water in the warm Texas sun.

A bridge in Hermann Park
A bridge in Hermann Park

Living in Houston

Houston’s top employers

Since the early 1900s when oil fields were discovered in Texas, Houston has built a reputation as the Energy Capital of the World.

Today, Houston’s energy companies dedicate millions to the technologies, extraction, and selling of crude oil, producing over 2.6 million barrels a day.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Chevron are three of the nation’s top energy employers and are all located in Houston.

Houston is also a leading city in the health industry and is home to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is widely considered the premier center for cancer research in the world.

Houston’s other top employers include Walmart, H.E.B., Kroger, McDonald’s, and United Airlines.

Working from home in Houston

With growing industries and a tradition of entrepreneurship, Houston is a great place to consider for relocation or remote work.

Coworking spaces across the city provide opportunities to network and meet other industry professionals or simply to reserve a place where you can hunker down to focus.

Station Houston, for example, offers more than just office space to tech startups and freelancers; it also has a mentorship program and networking events.

WorkFlourish provides carefully curated office and meeting spaces to its members, along with an extensive in-house library.

For artists and makers, TX/RX has job training along with studio memberships for woodshop and printmaking spaces along with traditional meeting rooms.

For your home office internet needs, Houston’s top wireless providers include AT&T, Xfinity, and Spectrum.

The cheapest plans for these providers all start at $40/month, with the potential for higher speeds up to 1 Gbps from AT&T, Xfinity, and Earthlink.

Cost of Living

Houston’s cost of living falls just under national averages.

Housing is especially low, which is great news for buyers in the area. Healthcare and utilities are also low compared to national rates.

The median home price for a 2-bedroom is $217,146, and the median rent for a two-bedroom is $1,677/month.

The combined sales tax in Houston is 8.25%, which is 1.13% above the national average of 7.12%.

Fortunately, the state of Texas does not have an income tax. Property taxes are higher than the national average, but affordable housing prices in the city tend to balance out the cost fairly well.

Transportation & Commute

Houston offers a METRO bus and light rail train system to its residents and visitors for public transit across the city.

Bus routes are far more extensive than the train system and reach into most corners of the city for only 1.25/ride.

METRO’s light rail trains connect downtown Houston with the Medical District, Midtown, and the Museum District for commuters and tourists.

Houston also offers a Park and Ride bus system for commuters from the suburbs, who can park and commute to busy downtown areas on weekdays.

The Houston metro area is served by the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), located a 25-minute drive or a 60-minute train ride north of downtown Houston.

Named for the 41st United States President, this airport is a large hub for major airlines, including United, Republic Airways, and SkyWest, and Spirit Airlines.

Passengers can catch nonstop flights to most major cities in the U.S. as well as international destinations in Europe, Mexico, and Africa.

Best Places to Live in Houston

A historical mansion in Galveston, TX
A historical mansion in Galveston, TX

Best neighborhoods for families with kids

  • The Woodlands: One of the best suburbs of Houston, The Woodlands was designed as a planned community with a layout that encourages social interaction and easy access to local businesses.

    The town’s design includes integrated park spaces and has allowed shops and restaurants to thrive and grow. Its school district is also one of the best in the Houston area.

    The Woodlands is a 30-minute drive north of downtown with a median home price of $332,710.
  • Fulshear: For a growing neighborhood 40 minutes west of Houston, consider Fulshear.

    This historic community has new developments near creative restaurants and shopping districts with a median home price of $427,958.

    Fulshear has excellent schools and many homes located near Flewellyn Creek, parks, and walking trails.
  • Friendswood: 35 minutes southeast from downtown Houston, Friendswood has a small-town feel and top-rated schools.

    You’ll find great shopping and dining with amenities like dog parks, local shops, and clean streets.

    Friendswood has a strong sense of community and safety, and the median home price is $273,783.

Best neighborhoods for young professionals

  • Humble: A great affordable option outside Houston is Humble, a friendly community with restaurants, unique coffee shops, and an expansive nature center and parks.

    Humble is only 25 minutes north of Houston, with a low median home price of $170,156.
  • Galveston: For spectacular waterfront access and an eclectic shopping district, consider Galveston. Located on an island on the Gulf of Mexico, this town is part close-knit community, part resort destination.

    For all of these amenities, the median home price is still wonderfully low at $225,762.

    The only drawback is that Galveston is a little further from Houston at an hour’s drive away.
  • Stafford: With affordable home prices and quick access to Houston, Stafford is another fantastic Houston suburb.

    It’s only 29 minutes southwest from the city center and has plenty of its own shops, restaurants, and local culture for entertainment on the weekends.

    The median home price of Stafford is $215,485.

Higher Education

Houston is home to about a dozen academic institutions for higher education, the first and foremost being Rice University, a private school just southwest of downtown.

The University of Houston is another nationally ranked school in the area with several campuses spread out across the city.

Practically across the street from Rice, the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) provides training for doctors, nurses, and dentists at the Texas Medical Center.

Rice University’s campus
Rice University’s campus

Crime in Houston

Houston’s crime rate is 80% higher than the national average.

While most of its residents view it as a safe city, Houston also has a few of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country, including Sunnyside, located south of downtown, and Dowling & McGowen, an intersection just outside the city center.

Most parts of Houston are safe and friendly, and it’s best practice to know and avoid dangerous areas by researching parts of the city beforehand.

Keeping your vehicle locked and your valuables hidden on your person will also prevent danger.

Are your considering Houston as your next home?

With a longstanding reputation as a leading city in business and medicine, Houston’s diverse, thriving lifestyle offers its residents an energetic scene of arts, culture, and innovation that is always evolving and changing.

Summer temperatures might be hot, but access to beautiful beaches and creative fusion cuisine might just make the heat worthwhile. With affordable housing, unique cuisine, and world-class museums and parks, this city has just about everything to offer to families and professionals alike.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

Share this article