|Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation, is located 45 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The city is about three hours from the hill country around Austin and a short flight to both the Caribbean and Mexico. With international passenger service from Houston Intercontinental Airport and domestic passenger service from Intercontinental and Hobby Airport, Houston is the air gateway to the Southwest. Direct flights are possible to most U.S. cities.
Long known for its energy industry, Houston has diversified into the rapidly growing areas of science, technology, and medicine, fields that complement the city’s petrochemical, engineering, finance, retailing, and construction industries. Among the largest employers are computer companies and biotechnology firms.
Like many large cities, Houston is essentially a patchwork of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own character, ethnicity, and atmosphere. Residents may choose from many lifestyles among neighborhoods adjacent to the Medical Center. A wide range of housing is available for lease or purchase in the Houston area. The choice of homes, apartments, townhouses, and condominiums is also plentiful near the Medical Center and its adjacent university campuses. Housing costs vary depending on the size and type but are generally affordable since overall the cost of living is below that of most large U.S. cities.
Houston is one of only a handful of cities in America with a civic-sponsored Opera, Ballet, Symphony and Theater. Arts patrons can enjoy exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Arts Museum, and the Menil Collection. More art, music, and drama events are staged at other museums and theaters, including year-round free performances at the Miller Outdoor Theater. The Museum of Natural Science, the Planetarium, the IMAX Theatre, and the Museum of Health & Medical Science are all located in Hermann Park, near the Medical Center. Children particularly enjoy the SplashTown, the zoo, and the Children’s Museum. Space Center Houston, adjacent to NASA, is a unique, high-tech experience featuring space exploration, and is only 30 minutes south of Houston.
Diverse shopping opportunities are also available, including one of the nation’s largest indoor shopping complexes, the Galleria. Houston is also considered one of the nation’s culinary capitals, with hundreds of varied restaurants representing a wide array of ethnic cuisines.