Houston Image gallery
Sesquicentennial Park, Downtown, Houston
In a state known for its outsized personality, ego and geography, Houston is the biggest bad boy on the block. Big, brash, hazy Houston may be the fourth-largest city in the US (and Houstonians are rooting for it to edge in at number three), but it's hardly one of the most celebrated – even in Texas.
Sure, Houston's got issues, but could this city be just a tad bit underrated? The proud locals would stop their cowboy boots (or their Jimmy Choos) and said say, 'Heck yes.' Celebrated for its arts and international flair, maligned for its air pollution, sprawl and Enron-sized scandals, Houston is a cosmopolitan metropolis to some and a big hot mess to others. An entrepreneurial business-first spirit combined with a Wild West mentality toward city planning means that Houston's stupendous growth has been largely unfettered by zoning and other planning restrictions. The result? A surreal hodgepodge of strip malls, diverse residential areas and 'downtown' areas in addition to the traditional center. Yet delights abound: with a map, a little curiosity and plenty of friendly locals to give advice, you'll find that Houston's cultural scene is as rich as its oil industry.
Visitors and even residents find Houston to be a confusing sprawl. However, most of the areas of interest lie in the 6 miles between the Galleria mall and downtown. While Houston's major sights could be seen in a weekend, this city pays off to those who stop and meander through its laid-back, eclectic and downright pretty central neighborhoods.
The beauty of Houston lies in its dual personality: laid-back pickup-truck-and-boots town meets high-powered, high-cultured metropolis. During the day, chill out in your flip-flops, take in museums and shopping, and hit happy hour under a palm-shaded patio. By night, revel in culinary or operatic bliss – the burgeoning foodie scene and the Houston Grand Opera are nationally renowned.
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