There’s a lot of information that ambitious prospective residents should know before moving to Houston. By Population, Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S, and according to this report from the census, Houston grew by 10.7% between April 2010 and July 2019. Furthermore, the city is expected to see another population surge between 2020 and 2029; about 1.2 million more.
It’s not hard to see why Houston is an attractive city for many people. A booming job market combined with low cost-of-living and sunny weather year-round make Houston a great choice for building a life and raising a family. However, Houston’s propensity for extreme heat, vulnerability to hurricanes, and legendary long commutes can also be turnoffs for people who prefer mild weather.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the amazing experiences and amenities Houston has to offer. While its neighbors like Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio have received most of the attention over the past few years, Houston has carved out a place for itself as a city for both families and single people. Houston is also one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in the country, making it an excellent choice if you are seeking to experience new cultures. Here are some of our favorite things about Houston. And just so you have a full picture, we’ll also be discussing some of the drawbacks if you decide to move here.
Already made your decision to relocate to Houston? Skip ahead for some sound moving advice and resources.
1. Living in Houston is more affordable than in many other major metropolitans.
In general, Houston’s cost of living is far lower than other major metro areas like New York or San Francisco. Combine this with high salaries and no state income tax, and you might find yourself with more money in the bank each month if you move to Houston.
A study released by The Zebra in February 2020 also named Houston the city that gives you the most house for your dollar. However, you should note that, geographically, Houston is a very large city and housing prices will vary widely based on neighborhood. In a big city like Houston, living close to work can save you money on gas and commute time, but it might cost you more in living expenses if you live closer to downtown or in the higher end neighborhoods.
Cost of Living Pros and Cons:
- Pro: House prices are less expensive than Austin and Dallas.
- Pro: Energy costs are competitive due to fewer regulations than other states and even other cities in Texas, like Austin.
- Con: You might pay more for insurance in Houston.
- Pro: There is no state income tax.
- Con: There are relatively higher property taxes in Houston and a sales tax of over 8%.
2. Figuring out where to live in Houston is simple.
Like New Orleans, Houston is home to many inner waterways, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as the Bayou City. These bayous provide natural barriers that carve out some of Houston’s most desirable neighborhoods and suburbs.
But the most geographically significant marker in Houston is “the loop.” The 610 highway creates a circular barrier within Houston, delineating neighborhoods and providing a geographical reference for destinations throughout the city. The Inner Loop is home to downtown Houston along with the city’s more densely populated areas and contains most of the city’s social activities from sports games to new restaurants, city parks, and theatre. Housing inside the loop will generally consist of apartments and townhomes, in contrast to outside the loop where single-family homes are the norm.
Whether you wish to be inside or outside the loop is perhaps the first decision you should make. Proximity to work, daily commute, and housing costs will all be major factors in making this decision.
Like any city, Houston has its fair share of ultra-posh neighborhoods with high-end entertainment, low-income neighborhoods, and everything in between. When picking a neighborhood in which to settle, consider where you plan on spending most of your time. For example, if you work in Spring but live downtown or vice versa, you will have to contend with at least 30-45 minutes of commute time each way. Living inside the loop will give you quick access to some of the city’s best nightlife offerings.
Best Houston Neighborhoods:
- The Heights — Located in the Inner Loop, residents pride themselves on being hip “Inner-Loopers” in this Houston neighborhood. Known for being one of Houston’s posher neighborhoods, The Heights is full of quirky nightlife, excellent bars and restaurants, and a wide selection of fitness studios.
- East Downtown (or EaDo) — This niche neighborhood is very urban and was initially filled with Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants. When these immigrants resettled elsewhere in the ’90s, this region was plagued with vacant buildings and businesses. But thanks to some savvy developers, the area is seeing considerable revitalization, vibrant street art, and has become an essential residential sector of downtown. Living in EaDo will put you within walking distance of several of Houston’s sporting arenas and restaurants, making it easy to catch a baseball or soccer game on the weekends. For this very reason, EaDo can get very congested and noisy on game days.
- River Oaks — Home to large mansions and estates, this is Houston’s most high-end neighborhood inside the loop. Even if you can’t afford to live in this neighborhood, a quiet Sunday evening drives through to look at the houses can be very enjoyable.
- West University — Just west of Rice University is the quaint town of West U. This quiet and walkable neighborhood is one of the most family-friendly inside the loop.
Best Houston Suburbs:
- The Woodlands — This suburb of Houston is home to a little over 90,000 residents and has a median home price just above $365,000. Just like its name implies, The Woodlands has a lot of nature and green space, along with some quaint shopping centers. The cost of living might be high, but the good schools and relatively safe neighborhood may make this area an ideal choice for a young family. If you work in the oil and gas industry, living in The Woodlands will give you an easy commute to companies like ExxonMobil and Repsol.
- Sugar Land — Fort Bend County is one of the largest growing counties in the country and the quaint Texan charm of Sugar Land certainly contributes to this growth. With a town square for shopping and community events located in the center of the community, it’s small-town meets suburban living.
- Katy — This tiny suburb is home to nearly 16,000 people and is more affordable than The Woodlands for housing. As more companies move to the nearby Energy Corridor and Memorial City area, Katy is quickly becoming more popular. Katy’s school district is also one of the top-ranked in the city!
- Cypress — This area is currently one of the hottest markets in the city of Houston. There’s a ton of new development, pretty trees, and one of the highest-ranked school districts in Texas, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.
- Bay Area — As one of the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, Bay Area suburbs including Clear Lake, League City, and Galveston County are seeing some major regrowth. Areas that were closed after the hurricane are being reopened and communities are rebuilding with the help of many area organizations. This area has beautiful views but is one to consider only if you’re comfortable navigating hurricane-force weather from time to time.
3. It is possible to buy a house in Houston on a modest income.
Houston’s wide selection of reasonably-priced housing is probably one of its biggest draws. In Houston, the median house price is just under $200k and houses are often large with ample yard space to comfortably accommodate family life.
On average, homes within the loop are priced significantly higher than those in the neighboring suburbs. Previously shabby neighborhoods inside the loop have seen a surge of development into trendy urban communities over the past few years.
When selecting a neighborhood, commute times, and flooding risk should be two of the biggest considerations. If you’re new to the Houston area and looking to relocate there, using a well-versed realtor will be more critical than ever. Within one neighborhood, you will have some sections within flood zones and some that are generally unaffected. Beware of home prices that seem too good to be true. Unusually low prices on otherwise beautiful homes may indicate that the house has recently flooded or is highly susceptible to flooding. Home buying has also dropped significantly in Houston since the outbreak of COVID-19 and it’s unclear what long term effects the pandemic will have on the market.
Read Also: Renting vs. Buying in Houston
4. The population in Houston is booming thanks to the job market.
Houston’s job market is also a huge selling point for the city. With booming Oil and Gas, Aerospace, Medical, and Tech industries, Houston is a great option for engineers, scientists, and medical professionals. The city’s loose zoning laws also cause the line between business and residential districts to be blurred. It’s not uncommon to see offices and businesses in close proximity to residential housing.
Houston is home to the largest medical center in the world. Graduates from the world’s most prestigious universities come to the Med Center for positions at the many hospitals including the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center or to further their education at Baylor College of Medicine.
Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport is also a major hub for United Airlines, which makes it a great place for people who work in or are seeking employment in the airline industry.
The influx of young talent has also created an entrepreneurial environment in the Greater Houston area. A new and thriving startup scene has emerged with co-working spaces like Novel Coworking and Station Houston ready to provide flexible office space for these entrepreneurs.
The growing economy feeds into an overall positive atmosphere throughout the area, which plays into a more positive quality of life. The better the economy, the fewer people have to worry about job security and being able to keep the lights on. No city has a perfect economy, but Houston could be a fine respite if you have struggled to find a decent paying job elsewhere.
Top Houston Industries:
- Aerospace and Aviation
- Life Sciences / Medical
5. You can bring your car when you relocate to Houston.
While this reason to move to Houston is masked as a pro, for many, it’s a con. As a whole, Houston isn’t the most walkable city. While certain neighborhoods are walkable, it’s nearly impossible to walk from one to another with ease. However, with low fuel prices and affordable street parking, it makes driving a bit more tolerable.
Beware: while street parking pricing remains constant, it fills up quickly during events, leaving expensive private parking as the only other option. Privately-owned parking lots typically charge significantly higher rates during games and other events, and the closer you are to the venue, the higher prices get.
Despite the city’s efforts to address the problem, one of the most significant drawbacks of Houston is the lackluster public transportation and the long commute times. If you live inside the 610 loop, utilize the metro rail as much as possible to avoid driving into the downtown area. If you must drive, having a car with a decent stereo and working air conditioning will help, but avoiding long commutes or peak travel times is definitely key.
Typically, traffic into downtown between 7 am and 9 am, and traffic leaving downtown between 4 pm and 7 pm can be nightmarish. If you must drive, there are several hotspots that you should try to avoid, such as The Galleria area.
- A bus and a light rail system that connects downtown and midtown.
- Greenlink FREE circulator bus in downtown.
- Minimal bike lanes that are in the process of being expanded.
- Bike paths along Houston’s Greenway system connect areas like The Heights to downtown.
- Car-sharing services like Enterprise Carshare and Zipcar.
6. Students have access to all of Texas’ top Universities.
Depending on where you choose to live in the Houston metro, there are various school districts to investigate. The Houston Independent School District happens to be one of the largest. Actually, HISD is the largest in the state of Texas and operates 283 schools. The larger the district, the more resources available to students. In fact, HISD has earned many accolades and was honored by the US News Best High School report because of their aggressive AP program expansion.
While your primary education will be limited to schools located within the Houston area, secondary education for students is ample due to the many top-rated universities in the state. College-age students and residents of Houston will have the option of all colleges within Texas and will qualify for a significantly discounted in-state tuition rate. While not a state school, Rice University, located adjacent to the Medical Center and West U, is considered the Ivy League of the South.
Top Texas Universities:
- The University of Texas — Located in Austin, TX
- Texas A&M — Located in College Station, TX
- The University of Houston — Located in Houston, TX
- Texas Tech University — Located in Lubbock, TX
7. Houston food scene is legendary.
While Houston’s TexMex and BBQ options are every bit as good as their reputations suggest, Houston has so much more to offer. Anthony Bourdain called Houston, “a Wonderland of Strange and Diverse.” The city features ethnic cuisine from all over the world, James Beard award-winning chefs, and dishes so unique you’ll only find them here. Take Viet Cajun Crawfish— a fusion of the Gulf’s Cajun favorite with a Southeast Asian twist that you will only find in Houston.
In this city, you can eat at a different restaurant every night for a year without running out of options! Classic American, vegan, Thai, Indian, Italian (the original Carrabba’s is in Houston), you name it! Houston’s profusion of taco trucks serving up classic street tacos make grabbing a quick, cheap, and tasty snack easy and enjoyable.
Houston also has a wide variety of pubs, cafes, and cocktail bars. After taking in a game at BBVA Stadium or Minute Maid Park, you can walk over to Rodeo Goat for one of the best burgers in town, then stroll over to Miss Carousel for a delectable cocktail. Or if you’re more of a beer person, you can also grab a tall glass at True Anomaly Brewery just down the block.
Places to Eat in Houston:
- Local Foods
- Rodeo Goat
- Mala Sichuan
- Aga’s Restaurant
- Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
- Pho Binh Noodle and Grill
- The Pit Room
- Killen’s Steakhouse
- Les Noodles
- MF Sushi
Places to Drink in Houston:
- 8th Wonder Brewery
- Holler Brewing Company
- Miss Carousel (craft cocktails)
- True Anomaly Brewing
- Saint Arnold’s
- Spring Street
- Blacksmith Coffee
- Catalina Coffee
- Black Hole
- Anvil (craft cocktails)
- Julep (craft cocktails)
Pastry War (tequila bar)
8. Self care is a significant part of Houston culture.
If you’re moving to Houston from a city like New York or San Francisco, you might be wondering about the city’s fitness offerings. Rest assured that the city is teeming with yoga, pilates, CrossFit, and a variety of studios to meet your tastes. While boutique fitness is thriving, you’ll also find big names like SoulCycle, Equinox, YogaWorks, and Lifetime Fitness throughout the city. You can even take free fitness classes at Discovery Green throughout the week.
Houston also takes center stage for some major endurance events. The Woodlands and Galveston both host Ironman Texas each year while the city of Houston shines in January as 40,000 runners take on the Chevron Houston Marathon which held the Olympic Trials in 2012.
When it’s time to unwind and recover from your workout regimen, Houston also has amazing massage and skincare establishments. River Oaks Advanced Bodyworks offers the best massages in the city, including deep tissue and hot stone. They also offer fascia stretch therapy that will leave you feeling refreshed. For your skincare needs, Beauty and Beyond Houston is a top pick.
Top Workout Spots:
- Revolution Studio
- BIG Power Yoga
- Defy Pilates
- Inner Me Studios
- Facet Seven Fitness
- Crossfit H-Town
- Crossfit Black Wolf
- YogaWorks Midtown
- Black Swan Yoga
- CrossFit Eado (the biggest CrossFit box in Texas)
Top Places to Run or Walk:
- Memorial Park
- Hermann Park
- Rice University
- Buffalo Bayou Park
- TC Jester Park
- White Oak Bayou Park
- Spotts Park
9. There are thousands of things to do in Houston.
Life in Houston Texas is a unique blend of Texas traditions and a more modern city lifestyle. What makes Houston an ideal place to live are all the various places to go and things to see and do, many of which you won’t find in other cities. 365 Things To Do In Houston is a great source of current information about Houston’s events.
Events for All Ages:
- Museum District — Though you need a car for most things in Houston, you won’t need a car to explore the museum district. Museum fans can walk to different sections and visit up to 19 museums within a 12 block radius. Plus, every Thursday most offer free admission!
- Theater District — This section of downtown has seen a lot of revitalization over the last decade, providing many residents with access to incredible shows in the handful of venues located here.
- The Galleria — Didn’t think a mall could be an attraction? The Galleria in Houston welcomes over 30 million visitors each year! With over 400 stores and restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you occupied for hours, including an indoor ice skating rink.
- Underground Tunnel Tour — Houston lacks a large scale subway system, but it is home to the most extensive collection of pedestrian tunnels in the world. Take a tour and learn how these tunnels came to be.
- Space Center Houston — Houston is home to the NASA Johnson Space Center, and while most residents can’t visit NASA, the Space Center Houston is a chance for visitors to learn more about its discoveries.
- Downtown Aquarium — Fish and an underwater adventure aren’t the only things you’ll see at this aquarium. Enjoy the Houston skyline from their Ferris wheel or visit their white tiger exhibit.
- Houston Zoo — With over 6,000 animals and insects on permanent display, this zoo is worth visiting more than once. Their mission is to help educate and change practices to preserve and protect wildlife.
- Children’s Museum — This museum is made for kids! With rotating exhibits and countless activities, it’ll keep them entertained all while learning.
Houston Sports & Athletics:
- Professional Teams — There are plenty of professional sports teams to cheer on. Some teams include the Houston Rockets in the NBA and the Houston Texans in the NFL. Houston is also home to the 2017 MLB World Series winner, the Houston Astros.
- College Sports — Houston is a great town to be a college fan, too. With two hometown universities, Rice and the University of Houston, you can always catch a home game.
- High School Sports — Head out to the suburbs of Katy or The Woodlands for some real-life Friday Night Lights.
- Houston’s Astrodome — Will this well-known sports dome be torn down? Since many call it the Eighth Wonder of the World, maybe not. Despite years of vacancy, the Texas Historical Commission made the site a designated State Antiquities Landmark in 2017.
- Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo — Sometimes people who live in Houston forget that they live in Texas. But for 20 days out of the year, Houstonians celebrate Texas heritage and culture at this Livestock show and rodeo.
10. Outdoor activities are enjoyable year-round.
This moving guide wouldn’t be complete without some mention of weather and quality of life in Houston. Houston weather is beautiful year-round and spending a day outside with a light jacket in the middle of January is not unusual. Many restaurants and bars feature large patios and outdoor dining for this very reason. However, there are some weather-related factors to consider.
First, Houston gets more rain than other Texas cities. Daily showers during the wet season (May, June, and July are typically the rainiest months) are not uncommon. You will also need to adjust to extreme summer heat and humidity.
Stay stocked up on bug repellent and sunscreen for the days you plan to be outside for an extended period. Keeping your house and car’s air conditioning in good shape will be key to getting through the hotter months. Additionally, you’ll need to prepare for hurricane season (June 1 – November 30) as Houston’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes it particularly susceptible to damage from Hurricanes. Overall, Houston is a great city for outdoor entertainment.
Things to Explore Outdoors:
- Hermann Park — With 445 acres of space, Hermann Park is one of the most important green spaces in Houston. Complete with a railroad, there are plenty of activities for families and people of all ages.
- Memorial Park — With more square footage than Central Park in NYC, Memorial Park is a hub for runners, tennis players, and boot camps to congregate. A recent renovation has expanded the trails to create more space to enjoy the outdoors.
- Discovery Green — This urban green space in the heart of Houston hosts more than 600 free events each year. It is home to many large-scale events including the Houston Korean Festival and many 2017 Super Bowl festivities. You’ll also find a rotation of interactive art exhibits throughout the year.
- Buffalo Bayou Park — Enjoy a break from the heat underneath the Dandelion Fountain (aka the Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain), which is a popular destination within the 160 acres of green space in this park. Taking a pup on your strolls? Visit the Johnny Steele Dog Park located near Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard.
- Rice University — Located on the edge of Houston’s Medical Center is flanked by large oaks and a three-mile running and walking trail. On-campus you’ll find the famous Turrell Skyspace exhibit.
- Levy Park — This new park in the Upper Kirby neighborhood has a little something for everyone! With weekly events, a dog park, and splash park, it’s the perfect summer refuge.
11. Houstonians are very neighborly.
Houston has seen its fair share of hardships over the past few years; most notably, severe destruction from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Houstonians came together in a big way to help each other recover from the devastation. The positivity that Houstonians displayed during this tragedy speaks to the city’s character and resilience. Despite being the fourth largest metropolitan in the country, Houstonians still give off small-town warmth and friendliness. It won’t be hard to find your tribe in Houston.
Notable Houston Charities and Nonprofits:
In keeping with Houston’s community-centered culture, the city is full of notable charities doing amazing work like:
- Houston Food Bank
- Best Friend’s Animal Society – Houston
- Galveston Bay Foundation
- The Beacon – Legal aid for the homeless
- Writers In The Schools
12. Moving to Houston is a breeze with the right resources.
Whether you’re moving to Houston or around Houston, being able to track down moving supplies is an integral step to a successful move. At Life Storage, we sell various moving supplies and moving boxes that can be picked up at storage locations across Houston. If you need to rent a storage unit to streamline your move, free moving truck rental is also included.
How has moving to Houston impacted your life for the better? Are there some hidden gems in your city that we missed? Let us know on Twitter, @LifeStorage!
- Revised August 5, 2020, with new information from Houston expert, Colleen Williams.
- Revised on March 22, 2019, with new information from Houston expert, Lindsay McClelland.
- Originally published in 2013.