A Guide to Moving to Houston

Houston skyline

If you’re planning to move to Houston, get ready to live large.

The biggest city in a state known for its size, Houston is home to several big oil companies, as well as the world’s largest medical center – the Texas Medical Center – and NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. True to its agricultural roots, it also hosts the biggest livestock show in the world, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, according to the city’s website.

In 2012, Forbes named Houston the coolest U.S. city. The city snagged the distinction because of its job growth – more than double the U.S. average, according to the Houston MSA Regional Economic Update – along with its large number of young residents, its robust nightlife and its lax building rules, which lead to an eclectic “zoning-free mashup of a streetscape.”

Where to Live in Houston

Houston Metrorail Line

Houston also has a METRORail that runs through Downtown Houston.  Photo By: Roy Luck via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Houston has something for everyone – from swanky downtown lofts to charming Victorians to sprawling suburban ranch homes. One thing to keep in mind: Houston is known for its traffic – it’s one of the 20 most congested U.S. metro areas, according to the Traffic Scorecard from traffic information company INRX. Therefore, real estate agents often advise newcomers to look for a place near work. However, some house hunters on a budget choose to live farther from the urban core to get more housing for their money.

Here are five major areas in Houston that represent an array of neighborhoods to suit newcomers of various life stages, personalities and budgets:

  1. Downtown – The city’s biggest business district, downtown Houston offers lofts in renovated historical buildings, as well as condos and apartments within walking distance of bars, clubs and restaurants. Residents enjoy easy access to performances at venues such as the Alley Theater, the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts and the Toyota Center.
  1. Uptown – About six miles west of downtown, Uptown is bordered by the 610 Loop to the east, Woodway Drive to the north, Chimney Rock Road to the west and Richmond Avenue to the south. The area is home to many businesses and a variety of housing options, from high-rise condos and townhomes to newly built luxury homes. It’s known for shopping – from The Galleria, the biggest shopping mall in Texas, to ritzy boutiques and local stores.
  1. Midtown – Near many major employers, Midtown has been designated a State of Texas Cultural Arts & Entertainment District. It offers living arrangements that include low-rise lofts and trendy townhouses. They’re all within walking distance of theaters, art galleries and museums, including the Station Museum of Contemporary Art and the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.
  1. Neartown – An area with a Bohemian vibe, Neartown features brightly colored townhouses and thrift and vintage stores. The Neartown Association compares the area to New York City’s Greenwich Village.
  1. Houston suburbs – A variety of suburbs provide many more living options. Three Houston suburbs – The Woodlands, League City and Pearland – made a recent list of the top cities for young families compiled by personal finance website NerdWallet.com.

VisitHoustonTexas.com has a detailed list of Houston neighborhoods, and the Houston Association of Realtors offers neighborhood-by-neighborhood home searches.

What to Do in Houston

Once you’ve picked a place to live, there’s plenty to explore in your new city. Here’s a sampling of what Houston has to offer:

  • Shopping: The Galleria mall draws 26 million visitors a year to its 400 stores, ranging from Ann Taylor to Gucci to Zales. It also houses a full-size ice rink, 12 beauty salons, a post office and a video arcade. Nearby Uptown Park includes fashion boutiques, spa services and upscale restaurants.
  • Dining: Houston is a foodie’s paradise, serving up an array of award-winning restaurants. It’s especially known for Mexican food and barbecue.

And, if you want even more ideas for exploring your new city, TripAdvisor.com supplies a list of 158 things to do in Houston.For example, you can check out historical hearses at the National Museum of Funeral History, cool off at the 64-foot Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park – a sculptural fountain near The Galleria – or leap as high as you want at the Cosmic Jump Indoor Trampoline Park.

John Egan is editor in chief at SpareFoot, the online marketplace where you can find and reserve a self-storage unit with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals.

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