In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy had to leave Kansas before she could fully appreciate it. After visiting the beautiful land of Oz, she realized all the things she loved most in the world were back in Kansas. Like Dorothy, I left Houston in search of a new place to call home. Besides Louisiana, I had never traveled outside of Texas. I was sick of the heat and thought any place must be better than this.
I traveled to Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, New Mexico, Arizona, and California looking for a new state to call home. After realizing there is a reason Whataburger is only sold in Texas, I repeated my search in Dallas, Austin, and considered San Antonio. Dallas is home to the Cowboys, Austin has the State Capital, and San Antonio – the Alamo. Each of these great cities represents some of the best Texas has to offer, but the city of Houston has the right combination of elements to set it apart from the rest.
In addition to being ranked by U.S. News as “One of the Best Places to Visit in Texas,” Houston is listed as one of the fastest growing cities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 Houston had a population of over 2.3 million. That number is steadily growing. Houstonians affectionately refer to their city as “H-Town,” are active in their communities, and display an abundance of pride.
Visitors to the city either love it and make plans to become permanent residents, or hate it and vow to never return. The one thing about Houston they can all agree on, besides how high the temperature gets, is that Houston is absolutely unforgettable. Leaving Houston gave me a greater appreciation for my hometown. There is truly no place like it, and no matter where life takes me, Houston is the only place I will ever call home.
Here are five reasons to stop by for a visit:
5. Diverse Culture
If you enjoy meeting people from different cultures and believe the world is most beautiful when painted in a multitude of hues – come to Houston. Its demographic represents a mosaic of culture among its people, and their diversity is truly one of the best things about the city. It welcomes people with open arms and allows them to be themselves. Instead of suppression, new cultures are embraced – especially if it provides opportunities to try delicious new cuisines.
4. Specialty Restaurants
Houston has a plethora of restaurants from which to choose, but cultural favorites like Thai Cottage which specializes in authentic Thai cuisine, and Kim Son which serves traditional Chinese and Vietnamese dishes are two of my favorites. Thai Cottage has been sharing their tasty dishes with Houstonians since 1997. The only time its customers are disappointed is when they are closed. Make sure to order the Spicy Wings of Paradise – level 5 if you want to clear your nasal passages or level 3 for just the right kick. Do not leave the city without stopping by one of their 9 locations, and don’t forget the Thai Tea.
Kim Son has been in business for over 30 years, has 3 Houston locations, and was voted “Best Vietnamese Restaurant” by the Houston Press. My favorite location is the one on Jefferson located in Downtown Houston. Excellent customer service, traditional décor, and tasty dishes make this restaurant the place to be after an Astros game. Step outside your comfort zone and try one of the Vietnamese dishes. I recommend the Triple Delight (Đồ Nướng Thập Cẩm), a combination of Vietnamese Beef Fajitas, Chicken, and Honey Glazed Shrimp, or the Marinated Pork Vegetable Bowl (Bún Thịt Nướng), a healthier choice of meat and vegetables on a bed of rice noodles tossed with fish sauce.
3. Arts & Entertainment
One of the great things about Houston is that it is centrally located so that visitors have easy access to smaller cities like Spring, Sugar Land, League City, Kemah, Pasadena, and Pearland. When it comes to entertainment, Houston delivers. Houston is home to several entertainment venues like the Astrodome, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Minute Maid Park, Nasa Space Center, and Kemah Boardwalk.
The Houston Astrodome is the first dome-shaped structure of its kind that served as a sports stadium. It originally opened in 1965 and was home for the Houston Oilers (now
Tennessee Titans) until 1996, and the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo until 2002. Judy Garland was the first artist to perform at the Astrodome and George Strait was the last. One of the most memorable performances was by Tejano superstar Selena at a sold-out show in 1995. Over 66,000 fans attended what would be the last televised concert before her death less than a month later. The Astrodome still stands and many Houstonians have joined the fight to keep it that way.
Baseball fans feel special when watching the Astros play. The retractable roof is majestic when opened and shows off Houston’s gorgeous skyline. Home runs are even more exciting when the homerun train travels to the opposite side of the field and fireworks go off.
2. Medical Center
The Houston Medical Center is famous for research and healthcare. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is one of the leading cancer treatment centers in the country. Patients from all over the world come to M.D. Anderson for the latest in cancer research. Memorial Hermann is the leading trauma center. Its Life Flight helicopter transports patients with life-threatening injuries to the trauma center where doctors use the latest technology to save lives.
The one thing Houston has that cannot be duplicated is the heart of its people. Houstonians love their city and support fellow Houstonians to make the city the pillar of strength it is. There is no greater display of their commitment to community than the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey which devastated the city this September.
Houstonians are used to hurricanes, but Harvey delivered the worst they had seen in quite some time. Nearby cities which never flooded were inundated with record amounts of rainfall and submerged in water. Homes, vehicles, lives, and memories were lost, but Houstonians responded by working together. Who wouldn’t love to be in a community like that?
What are you waiting for? It’s time for a visit.