Many outsiders may not have Houston on their radar screen as such a diverse city and cultural hot spot. Here are 8 facts to set the record straight:
1. It’s arguably the most diverse city in the US.
Based on a study analyzing Houston census data from 1990 to 2010, researchers from the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and Hobby Center for the Study of Texas concluded that Houston was the most racially/ethnically diverse city of the ten largest US metro areas. The report explained that Houston was particularly unique because all four major racial/ethnic groups (i.e. Black, Anglo, Latino, Asian) had substantial representation in the city. In other words, Houston was a majority-minority city.
The report’s findings are were notable but not surprising when you consider nearly 1 out of 4 residents are foreign-born and more than 145 languages are spoken at home. What was surprising, though, was how swiftly the shift occurred. The US Census has projected America will be a majority-minority country by 2050. Houston, however, has reached that milestone 30+ years ahead of schedule.
2. It’s the largest US city to elect an openly gay mayor.
Beloved local Annise Danette Parker served as Houston’s mayor from 2010 until 2016.
3. Our culinary range is phenomenal.
In Houston, not only can I dine out every day of the year without repeating a dish, I can do so without ever eating barbecue, steak or Tex-Mex. That may seem unfathomable to most folks, but not to Houstonians. Thanks to our demographics we have cuisines from more than 70 different countries and American regions, though you wouldn’t know it since they’re rarely featured in mainstream media.
Enter chef bae Anthony Bourdain. In his Parts Unknown episode, Bourdain showcased less-touted, but equally delicious ethnic dishes during his visit to Houston. By pointedly avoiding the stereotypical foods the city is known for, he allowed audiences to see the culinary range Houstonians both relish and take for granted.
4. It’s the 4th largest city in the US.
Houston trails NYC, L.A. and Chicago in population size, but it’s quickly closing the gap. With job opportunities, low taxes and affordable housing attracting both students and professionals, Houston clocked an annual growth rate of 2.3% between 2000 and 2013. At that pace, Houston is projected to pass Chicago as the country’s third largest city by 2025.
5. And it’s not a one-industry city.
Although Houston is dubbed the Energy Capital of the World, its weathered enough “boom and bust” cycles to learn that it can’t keep all its eggs in one basket. Since the 1980s, the city’s economy has diversified considerably and emerged as quite the powerhouse. Besides energy, Houston is a leader in the chemical, healthcare and transportation industries. In addition, we have a solid presence in the areas of aerospace, engineering, computer science, education, exports/imports, manufacturing and professional business services.
6. It’s home to the largest medical complex in the world.
The Texas Medical Center has the largest concentration of healthcare, education, and research facilities in the world. With 56 member institutions, including MD Anderson Cancer Center and Texas Children’s Hospital, (the world’s largest cancer and children’s hospitals, respectively) the medical center consistently ranks among the best in expertise, research, treatment and patient care.
7. An international vacation is only a blink away.
Due to our geography, Houstonians are a stone’s throw away from great international vacation spots. In two and a half hours I can reach Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Belize. A three-and-a-half-hour flight lands me in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Honduras. And in four and a half hours I can touch down in San Juan and Punta Cana. That is record time. And what’s even better is that I can get to all of these places on an affordable, non-stop flight. Hallelujah!
8. It’s ranked #1 among the nation’s 10 most populous cities in total parkland acreage.
Houston may be hot and humid, but that doesn’t keep us housebound. We have over 52,000 acres in parkland and dozens of options for outdoor activities, thus we make it a point to get outside when we can. If you’re into live music you can catch a show at Miller Outdoor Theatre, Discovery Green or Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. If you’re more low key, you can check out Urban Harvest’s farmers market. If you’re looking to be active you can paddle Buffalo Bayou, skateboard or try a social bike ride like Critical Mass Houston. The options are endless.