I started my adult life in Houston just two weeks out of college. It was so big and flat compared to my hometown of Austin with rolling hills, short commutes and Town Lake running through city center.
But in these 20+ years, Houston has stolen my heart. The sprawling metro, unrelenting traffic, crazy humidity and flat topography can certainly be a negative but I choose to focus on the positive. Here are 3 things to be thankful for in Houston, in my book:
1. A city with heart and a sense of community
If you've lived in Houston any time at all, you've seen how the city comes together – in good times and in bad. When outsiders or the media recognize this as well, I always think, "Every city isn't like this?" It's all I know.
Our summer storm, Hurricane Harvey, tested the limits of Houstonians as well as our waterways, streets, and homes. We've never experienced the likes of a 51-inch rain event. But it also bonded us as a city. Story after story reminded us of the power of community we saw across the city: locals helping strangers evacuate homes in power boats, stepping up to volunteer en masse at shelters and often being turned away due to too many caring folks, as well as just being there to pitch in when First Responders, Red Cross, and other institutions were stretched beyond their means.
Many local businesses jumped in as well, providing thousands of meals for days to those staying in shelters. Peli Peli is a great example. The owner didn't know how they could make it happen but just stepped up to help. In response, hundreds of volunteers showed up to package and distribute these 20,000+ meals. True community and teamwork in action.
And of course, Mattress Mack at Gallery Furniture is in a category of his own! In the early days, he was one of the first businesses to get involved and opened his gallery showroom as a shelter, letting families in need get fed and sleep on their brand-new furniture.
Houston-based Mattress Firm donated $1 million of pillows, mattresses, and blankets to those who lost their homes. H-E-B quickly trucked in food supplies needed on bare store shelves and served 40,000 meals on the H-E-B mobile kitchen. And the list goes on…
And then there's the good times! Houston certainly knows how to come together to celebrate, whether it's hosting Super Bowl LXI with 10,000 friendly volunteers or honoring our Houston Astros at their World Series victory parade. November 3, 2017, broke all kinds of records in our city including single-day ridership on METRO (395,000 people) between rail and bus plus a combined 125,000 rides on three METRO rail lines, which beat the record set in February during the Super Bowl. Not to mention the estimated 750,000 to one million people downtown to watch the parade – when the city was expecting around 500,000. In fact, they reacted quickly to the numbers and actually lengthened the parade route!
2. The walkable Houston Museum District
Metro Houston boasts 19 museums and institutions within a 1.5-mile radius, which is second only to Manhattan for the largest number of museums in a small area. It is divided into four walkable zones that host a Museum Experience day each quarter to introduce folks to everything that zone has to offer. The museums range from Children's Museum of Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Center for Photography, The Health Museum, Contemporary Art Museum Houston to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Something for everyone, for sure. And best of all, 10 museums are free every day!
3. Great restaurants for every taste bud
The big question in Houston every day – "Where do you want to eat?" From downtown Houston restaurants to George Bush Park, the city boasts more than 10,000 places to eat in its 655 square miles. According to VisitHouston.com, the culinary choices represent more than 70 countries and American regions. We also have a reputation for dining out more than residents of any other city – 4.1 times per week compared to the national average of 3.1. Obviously we're just trying to visit every restaurant in town!
The Houston restaurant scene also is an anomaly. While data from NPD Group shows a decline in restaurant numbers across many cities, Houston (and Dallas) experienced a 2 percent growth. We Texans love our food!
Of course, there are many reasons to live in Houston, but these are just my quick three as I think about my day-to-day life in this big city. Feel free to leave a comment about what you're thankful for living in Houston.