Thinking about moving to Houston? Here are a few facts you should know about the city—some important to understanding Houston’s culture, some just for fun… or maybe those are one in the same.
The final battle of the Texas Revolution was fought in the Houston area. On April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston led the Texian Army against the Mexican Army. Inspired by their recent crushing defeat at the Alamo, the Texians defeated General Santa Anna’s forces in only eighteen minutes, allowing the formation of the independent Republic of Texas. (Texas wouldn’t go on to join the Union until 1845.)
The city was founded in August 1836, months after Texans won their independence from Mexico. John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, two New York real estate promoters, purchased a large area of land where they could establish “a great center of government and congress.” They named their city-to-be after the beloved General Houston, who they anticipated would be the first President of the Republic of Texas.
Houston is enormous. By population, Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, after New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The total area is larger than New York City, San Francisco, and Boston combined.
Houston has a powerful economy and is a great place for jobs. In 2013, Houston was the nation’s number one city for job creation. The city was the first in the nation to recover all the jobs it lost during the economic downturn. Even in down times, the city’s economy and job market are remarkably resilient thanks to its diverse economic sectors, including energy, healthcare, biomedical research, aerospace, and advanced manufacturing industries.
Houston is home to a total of twenty-six Fortune 500 company headquarters, more than anywhere else in the nation except for New York. Many companies are part of the energy sector, including oil and natural gas. They include Conoco Phillips, Marathon Oil, Sysco, Apache, and Halliburton.
Houston has the largest concentration of healthcare organizations in the world. The largest medical center in the world is the Texas Medical Center, also the largest employer in Houston. The non-profit Texas Medical Center includes twenty-one hospitals, eight research institutions, and fifty related organizations. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is one of the top cancer hospitals in the world, and spends billions on research on cancer cures.
Your paycheck will stretch further than in any other major American city. While the average salary in Houston may be lower than some cities on the East and West Coasts, the cost of living is so high in those cities that any economic benefit is canceled out. Houston, on the other hand, has a very low cost of living relative to average salaries, meaning your standard of living will be higher in Houston than other major metropolitan area.
Houstonians dine out more than residents of any other city, according to Zagat. Maybe it’s the lower cost of living relative to paychecks that allows Houstonians this luxury… or maybe eating out is a priority because of the food. The city has been called “one of the country’s most exciting places to eat” by the New York Times thanks to its innovative restaurant scene. And don’t forget the spectacular range of cuisines, including Vietnamese, Mexican, Cajun, and barbecue. Seafood is a particular specialty, thanks to the city’s location on the Gulf of Mexico.
Houston’s official nickname is Space City. This is because it is home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center, where the agency conducts research, spaceflight training, and flight control.
Unofficial nicknames include Bayou City, H-Town, Clutch City, and Crush City. Bayou City refers to the fact that the Houston area has ten major bayous, or slow-moving rivers. H-Town is a popular nickname within the music community, and lends its name to the annual H-Town Blues Festival and the H-Town Arena Theatre. Clutch City is a sports nickname, adopted after the Houston Rockets won the 1994 and 1995 NBA championship—a proud response to a Houston Chronicle headline that called the city “Choke City.” Crush City refers to the Houston Astros’ 2015 season, when the team finished with the second most home runs in major league baseball. (Like the rest of Texas, Houstonites really like sports.)
The city boasts four professional sports teams with names related to NASA’s presence. These include the Astros (baseball), the Aeros (hockey), the Rockets (basketball), and the Comets (WNBA). The Texans (football) and the Dynamo (soccer) buck this trend. Because what could say “Houston” better than combining sports with space exploration?
Fun sports fact: Clutch the Bear, the Houston Rockets’ mascot, was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006 as one of America’s most recognizable sports mascots. A non-Houston fun fact: there is such a thing as the Mascot Hall of Fame.