All The Things Houston Gets Right (That Other Cities Need To Learn From)

Houston, TX has a unique position. It not only literally sits between LA and NYC, it’s also an in-between place culturally and socially. With it’s central location, busy ports, and thriving tech sector, the city may just be America’s 3rd (or 4th, we see you Chi) most influential city. And yet, we’re too far from anyone to be overly influenced.

We have our own slang. We have a different mindset. We have a drastically unique culture. In fact, I’ve often said the city’s motto should be, “Houston is different.” There is no city in the U.S. that holds such a distinct vibe — separate from the rest of its Southern state cousins and Big Mama state of Texas, while still maintaining very present resemblances to Abuela Mexico. If you’ve never visited, you’re missing out, and after reading the seven ways Houston gets it right, you’ll surely want to check it out dine here (pronounced exactly how it’s spelled).

7. We mind our bidness.

I’ve heard quite a few transplants from other states express the ill-informed opinion that there is nothing to do in Houston. That there’s no excitement and no thrill to the city. Well, allow me to retort:

  1. That’s wildly incorrect.
  2. That perception is because Houston is a place to come get your grown woman/grown man on. We don’t have time for a lot of the b.s. we see in the news from other cities.

Remember that time Houston was beefing with that other city? No, you don’t, because we didn’t. It’s too hot to be wildin’ out like the coastal cities or northern cities, and even if it wasn’t, we can’t afford to catch a case because we have to go to work in the morning. Even when individuals within in the city have issues with each other, they either fight or leave each other alone. I honestly have never seen anyone in real life throw a drink on someone in a club, and that’s probably because that’s the dumbest way to start a fight.

No joke: Love and Hip Hop Houston apparently did not work out for that very reason. In the words of Slim (the original Thugga), “Ain’t too many punks dine here in Houston, Texas.”

It’s hard to get a Houstonian riled up about much. Even our celebrities can feel at ease. I’ve seen Bun B at CVS. Slim Thug goes to my church. I see Paul Wall, like, everywhere. Even when Beyoncé comes to town, she goes to eat and then goes to the museum. Houston natives seem to understand that these people are just really good at their jobs like the rest of us. Let them be. We all just wanna live our lives.

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6. Shopping

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Highland Village, one of Houston’s shopping hotspots

Houston is a shopping haven because, unlike larger or more popular cities, the shopping centers are incredibly diverse. There are your big malls like the Galleria and Memorial City Mall, but there are also highly discounted outlet malls, shopping centers with big names like Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters, free-standing department stores, and unbeknownst to many, a huge thrift shop scene.

The city is also a great place to start a boutique. The wide variety of people who go shopping in Houston, including new transplants and travelers, will almost guarantee you a patronage. If you’re looking for a bargain or popular item that may be out of stock in most places, chances are it’s somewhere in Houston.

5. Supporting those who show local love

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Drake donning an Astros jersey during Houston Appreciation Week

No city has it 100% right when it comes to supporting their homegrown talent, but Houston is well on its way, and we are 100% enamored with anyone who loves Houston. There are bumper stickers everywhere that say, “I ain’t from Houston but I couldn’t wait to get here.” We love those people! And don’t be someone who goes on TV and talks about how great Houston is, or someone who boosts local talent. You won’t be able to get rid of us.

Exhibit A: Drake.
Exhibit B: JJ Watt.

These are two guys who are not from Houston but will be the first to say they owe Houston a lot, professionally. Not only do they love Houston, they prove it by how much they give back to the city. Drake’s “Houston Appreciation Weekend” is more than pool parties and strip club meetups; he hosts charity events and gives free food at games. JJ Watt raised a ridiculous sum of money during Hurricane Harvey and consistently does charity events. You don’t have to be from here, but if you love the city, the city loves you back.

4. Art/culture

Houston graffiti artist at work.

Houston is home to more than 150 museums and cultural centers in the Greater Houston area. In addition to the big ones – Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Houston Museum of Natural Science – there’s a museum for just about every culture you can think of, every profession, and there’s always a place for an up-and-coming artist to display his or her work. As if that wasn’t enough, Houston hosts music festivals and cultural festivals all year long, in all quadrants of the city. From the fried chicken festival to the Filipino Heritage Festival to the Third Ward Beer Festival to the Renaissance Festival, there will be something to do on your big Houston weekend, especially in the fall months.

In addition to the more “organized” events, Houston has a cool way of preserving what other cities seek to destroy: street art. The Houston Urban Experience Mural Festival not only supports graffiti, it works with businesses to give artists entire walls to paint, and puts together a biking tour of all the walls that have been decorated. This is only in addition to the walls that stay painted year-round.

3. Food!

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Houston’s restaurant scene is just absolutely bomb. Our native restaurants like, Ninfa’s, Tony’s, Pappa’s, and Goode Company are among the reasons Houston is one of the 20 fattest cities in America. You can’t not eat when you come here. As wonderful as our sit-down restaurants are, native Houston fast food chains are also notable, and have increased their notoriety to be some of the hottest places celebrities come eat when in the city.

Tex-Mex is proof that God did, indeed, bless Texas, all the way from Pappasito’s to the taco trucks. Timmy Chan’s Chinese food is cheap, good, and inexplicably always piping hot from the time you get it to the time you get home, take a shower, put on a movie, and sit down to eat. And then Frenchy’s… Lawd hammercy — Frenchy’s, man. Known as one of Queen Bey’s must stop restaurants when she comes home, the fried chicken fast food joint is probably the most delicious chicken not made by one of my family members.

If you’re in town and not interested in sitting in a stuffy restaurant, come chill in the little green building in Third Ward, get a “campus” meal with a roll, dirty rice, and a red soda…and a boudin link, if you’re really hungry.

2. “We got us.”

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Out of all the things I disagree with 45 on, the one thing he’s said that he had absolutely correct was that Houston showed the country how to act during Hurricane Harvey. Houston got a lot of heat in the press from people who have no idea what they are talking about as far as when Houstonians “should have” evacuated, who should have opened what building as a shelter, and what could and could not have been prevented. But as usual, Houstonians kept minding their business and taking care of each other, as always. And this isn’t the first time. During Hurricane Rita, there were countless stories of neighbors MacGuyver-ing their homes so everyone, including the homeless, the bedridden, the sick, and their elderly, could come in and be safe while they waited on aid from the Government to arrive (or not arrive).

Houston doesn’t wait for disasters to pull together, either. Charity is a way of life here. Volunteering is something our children grow up doing, and aspire to do more of when they get older. Local grassroots philanthropy, the Hive Society, has been in action for years, and when Harvey hit, not only did they serve as a hub for donations, they conducted a 1,000-person volunteer event at the Houston Food Bank, which already feeds 800,000 of Houston’s food insecure a year.

Those are just a few organizations: There are charities for women, for children, for men, for animals, and the list goes on. You will likely find a successful Houstonian saying he or she wanted to be successful for one reason only: to give back.

1. Diversity

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The University of Houston scores a 83 out of 100 in terms of diversity.

Let me be clear: Houston is NOT a melting pot. Houston is a salad bowl. We see our differences. No one tries to assimilate to another culture or ethnicity, and no one tries to make others behave like they do. We all retain our identities and roots and we love everyone else’s. Houston is one of those places where we laugh at the stereotypes about our race, and we can make jokes with people we know and love because those same people can make jokes about us. To be a “Southern” city, we aren’t living in constant fear of wildly racist attacks on others, and we’re liking to gang up on someone who is discriminating on someone else, for any reason. For goodness’ sake, there is a giant Catholic university in what we lovingly refer to as Houston’s “gay-borhood.”

There aren’t many zoning laws in Houston, and it’s for the best. The poor, the rich, the middle class, the white, the brown, the black, the old, the young, the gay, the straight, the bi, the non-binary…we all live and work around each other with very minimal issues. Here, it’s shocking to find someone who doesn’t think this way, and that person would find it hard to find community. I had an honest moment this year when I realized my friend group looks like the United Nations and always has, and that’s pretty amazing. Until this year, I had never left the country, yet somehow, I was considered “cultured” because, growing up in Houston, you’re surrounded by so many cultures that you probably know at least one other language, and you’ve probably been to a dozen international festivals or event.

Houston isn’t perfect. There are some days when every native Houstonian, either out of boredom with routine or annoyance with traffic, wants to move elsewhere for a fresh start. But the more I travel, the more I realize how many ways Houston is doing community and culture correctly. If the food, culture, Houston Rodeo, Houston Zoo, outstanding medical center, NASA, wildflowers, and the wild peacocks (that’s right) don’t get you, the people surely will.

For more information on all the amazing things about Houston (because there isn’t enough room and I am sure I missed something), check out the Visit Houston Web site.

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