Houston is the fourth-largest city proper in the United States and the largest in the famously large state of Texas (though the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the larger metropolitan area overall). It is also the largest city in "the South", the "South" here being the Southeast as defined by the U.S. government. Culturally, it is also more "Southern" than most of Texas as well. Once upon a time, it was even the capital of the Republic of Texas, but that didn't last long. It has many nicknames, amongst them "the Bayou City", as the bayous are a major feature of the city, and it was founded at what was allegedly the head of navigation of Buffalo Bayou, "Space City" (this one actually appeared on police cars once, due to the fact that NASA's Johnson Space Center is located in the city near Clear Lake), and "Magnolia City" (almost exclusively in pre-World War I documents). It's also famous for its oil tycoons and unforgiving climate.
For much of its history, Houston was quite small and unimportant. In fact, nearby Galveston was more important and larger for a long time. After Galveston was torn apart by a hurricane, the focus shifted to the more inland city of Houston, especially after the coming of oil. Despite the discovery of oil, Houston remained a smaller, lesser-known city up until after World War II when one of the greatest revolutions in demographic shifts brought about by technology happened: the "Air-Conditioning Revolution". This is not a joke. The coming of air conditioning made the once inhospitable Western and Southern climates of the United States more welcoming, and a massive population shift took place, as people moved from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt. Houston subsequently exploded like a weed, and it, along with other Sun Belt cities like Los Angeles and San Jose rose to prominence as some of the largest cities in the country. Houston spread in all directions, eventually surrounding some cities that incorporated to avoid annexation. These cities became enclaves, cities surrounded by the entirety of the city of Houston (this is common for other major cities in Texas as well). Despite being independent, these enclaves are really nothing more than self-important neighborhoods, and could largely be considered apart of Houston, except they aren't on paper. This has lead to controversy, as many of these enclaves, in both Houston and elsewhere, are some of the whitest, richest cities in not just Texas but the entire country. Discussing the merits of their existence leads to unpleasantness. The City of Houston has been so kind as to document its unbelievably rapid growth for us here.
Interestingly, it also has the largest collection of skyscrapers in Texas, including the tallest building outside a central business district, the Williams Tower. It also has probably the most spread out skyline in the entire United States, owing to the fact that it is the largest city in the country without formal zoning laws. This has led to a skyline that is more expansive than Los Angeles'note the Uptown Area by itself, home to the Williams Tower, is home to more than 23 million square feet of office space and is bigger than the downtowns of Los Angeles, Denver, or Pittsburgh, but less dense than Chicago and New York City. This has also, unfortunately, led to one of the most infamous cases of urban sprawl in the country, with suburbs spread out for miles in every direction. Much of the area (and by much, we mean all) north and west of the city remains unincorporated, mainly because of Texas' extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) laws, thus placing it all effectively within the city of Houston, and making it so Houston doesn't have to annex it. Recently, a large area to Houston's north, The Woodlands, has been trying to incorporate. Houston has been amazingly conciliatory (probably due to messy annexation fights when Houston consumed the master planned communities of Clear Lake City and Kingwood), but Woodlands residents have been hit with sticker shock and this may not happen.
Traditionally, its sports teams have been hapless, though its professional soccer team, the Houston Dynamo club, has apparently not gotten that memo, winning two MLS championships in its first two years of the franchise and only missing the MLS playoffs once. The Astros did host the first two World Series games played in Texas (unsurprisingly, they lostnote thereby allowing the Chicago White Sox, another erstwhile baseball Butt Monkey, to complete a sweep and win their first World Series in 88 years), the Rockets actually managed a couple of championships back in the 1990s,note but they were in the first two years of Michael Jordan's retirement, so … was that a skewed result? and Comets (WNBA, now sadly defunct) were their league's first dynasty. The Texans are the other NFL team from the state, once hapless like all the others until improvements made in 2011 turned them into the AFC South's new dominant power. It may be unwise to mention that Houston ever had another NFL team or what happened to them (for those wondering, here's a hint: Houston native Vincent Young used to play for them). The Astrodome is also obviously here, though that may not remain so for long: the place has seen better days and is dwarfed by the neighboring Reliant Stadium.
From the way people drive, one might assume that street racing is a popular participator sport amongst the populace. The reality is that in Houston proper, an officer issuing a speeding ticket is likely to get run over by another speeder, and as such, the local police don't even bother anymore. This is not true in the suburbs, though, and some of them are speed traps out of nightmares. Despite this (or maybe because of it), traffic in Houston is infamously bad, and its best to avoid the expressways during certain times of the day. The beltway is usually clear though (if you don't mind paying a toll).
Regrettably, despite the size, there's no highly developed light rail system (a 2004 line runs through downtown and parts south, but a major expansion of the system is getting continual delays) and the only theme park, AstroWorld, was closed in 2005 after years of poor maintenance by Six Flags and declining attendance.
That said, the city does have resident companies in each of the performing arts, and has some interesting takes on art: it's pretty much the art car capital of at least America. The city has a notable music scene, at least amongst rap and hip hop fans. Tejano music also rocketed to international fame here. Also, the city is fairly well known for its rodeo, the largest such event in the world. Those who know the city's history, though, find this amusing: Houston was never a cow town—it traded in cotton before Spindletop. After Spindletop, oil was its stock in trade and has pretty much remained so ever since, despite efforts to branch out into other sectors such as banking (the banks got bought out), aerospace (there's not as much money here as you'd think), and medicine (actually, those efforts have seen some moderate success).
When New Orleans sank beneath the waves during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Houston provided shelter for the bulk of the refugees. A number of them stayed. (And, because quite a few of them were … shall we say … rather hefty, Houston has now surpassed "N'awlins" as the fattest per capita city in the U.S.)
Media-wise, there's little set in Houston, and in fact, of the top five largest cities in the United States, it is probably the least publicized, with cities less than half its size (Miami, San Francisco, New Orleans, etc.) getting more screen time, but it does have the nation's oldest public television station, KUHT.
Oh, and it's the place to call when you want to inform Mission Control that you have a problem. And For the love of GOD,if you are a fan of anything in Dallas and you are in Houston, keep it to it yourself.
Greater Houston's regions (including its enclaves, areas in its ETJ, and connected suburbs) includes:
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Downtown is Houston's Central Business district. Located smack dab in the middle of the Greater Houston Area, it is bounded on all sides by large expressways that are always clogged with traffic. The Historic Center of the city, the oil boom led to a smorgasbord of skyscraper construction. Unfortunately, the 1980s oil bust and subsequent recession hit Houston like a sack of bricks, ending most large scale construction and ending the city's dreams of surpassing Chicago or New York. Now the area is trying to reinvent itself as a city center, with entertainment and residential housing. Notable neighborhoods include:
Houston Skyline District - Where all those awesome skyscrapers are located. Generally seen as Houston's most recognizable feature, most of its tallest buildings are there. Also here is the Houston tunnel system, a subterranean mall that connects most of the skyscrapers.
Historic District - The historic center of the city where the original city hall was built. Is now pretty much home to a bunch of unsightly, and short, government office buildings, with the occasional historic structure. Pretty much Houston's equivalent to Los Angeles's Civic Center
Main Street Square - built around the Metrorail station of the same name and a Macy's department store. Is home to a brand new, huge shopping mall, called the Houston Pavilions, and thriving nightlife.
Sports and Convention District - the most boring and lifeless district, unless you are a fan of one of the city's many hapless sports teams, specifically either the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, or Houston Aeros. Is home to Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center, and the Convention Center.
Houston Theater District - This is where its at! This area is home to a resident company in every major art discipline, including the Symphony orchestra. As the name implies, its home to theaters, but also performing arts centers, and the new Bayou Place Entertainment complex.
The area that makes up the extreme west of the Greater Houston region, it straddles the Katy Freeway (Interstate 10). Has grown into one big majority white suburb. Most of the area is in Houston but not of it (its in the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction but has not been annexed). Communities include:
Katy - One of the few incorporated cities besides Houston in the area. Was a small railroad town once, but the railroad has moved on to greener pastures and it rarely gets rail traffic at this point. Is the last thing you will see in the Greater Houston area going westward. Is most well known for being home to the Katy Mills Mall, one of the premier shopping centers in the Houston Area. Ticks off Houston for existing and cutting off western growth. Houston got them back by surrounding them with its ETJ and thus cutting off their growth period.
Fulshear - One of the newer established communities in the area, having been founded in 1977, it is riding the wave of urban growth that Houston has wrought and cutting them off from yet more land grabbing.
Energy Corridor - one of the major urban centers for Houston's spread out skyline, it lines Interstate 10 all the way up to the Beltway. Its all in Houston, though some of it is only limited annexation *
which means its in Houston yet not really. Houston gets the tax money and the right to say they own it, but don't have to provide services, like police
. Is called the Energy Corridor because it is home to a lot of Energy related (read oil) companies, including BP America (now you know where you can go to protest someone), ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell Oil Company. Unless you're an admirer of modern skyscraper architecture or are just passing through to get to all the fun stuff, then the best thing to do around here is go to one of the truly huge parks located here (and by huge, I mean they are, together, the largest urban parks system outside the national park system): George Bush Park and Bear Creek Pioneers Park
Cinco Ranch - Boring white rich suburb. Moving on...
Galveston Bay Area
The Galveston Bay Area or just the Bay Area, is the region immediately surrounding the Galveston and its offshoot, Trinity Bay. Ironically, the region includes little of Houston and doesn't include any part of the city of Galveston itself. The area on the Eastern side of the bay is rural and almost entirely undeveloped, while the Western side of the bay is where everyone can be found living on top of each other. Unlike Tokyo Bay, there are very few port facilities found on the Bay itself. This area can basically be divided up into Four sub-regions: "East Houston", Clear Lake Region, the Galveston County Region and the Eastern Shore.
"East Houston" is not part of Houston at all; they are a collection of towns and cities, large and small, that separate Houston from the bay. Though they aren't part of Houston, they are really just in denial, especially Pasadena, as they have largely merged with the growing city. Cities and communities in the East Houston area include:
Pasadena - Largest city in the Greater Houston Area (that isn't named Houston). Was named after Pasadena, California by its founder because he found the climate here similar to the climate there. Is sometimes conflated with Houston because the two are literally joined at the hip. Took part of Clear Lake from Houston and closed the city off from the bay via the south. Known for being poorer than most of Houston's suburbs, except for the Clear Lake area, for having massive industrial parks near the shipping Canal and for having a notorious history of corruption. Only a small part of the city touches the bay.
Deer Park - Located between La Porte and Pasadena, notable for its huge oil refineries, a primarily white, middle working class makeup, and...not much else.
La Porte - Despite the name, there is no port here (It is extremely close to Morgan's point, mentioned below, and it's hard to tell when you leave one and enter the other if you work the BC Terminal). The only thing of note about this working class community is that the San Jacinto Monument, the World's tallest monumental column, even surpassing the Washington Monument, is located nearby and can be seen from Interstate 10.
Morgan's Point - A small bedroom community that used to be a resort town and retreat for Houston's wealthy. Now, not so much. Sits at the mouth to the Houston shipping canal, it is home to the Barbours Cut Terminal, a huge shipping container complex for the nearby ports and the only thing keeping this little town relevant.
Shoreacres - A small community located just south of La Porte, along the coast of the Bay. One of the wealthier towns in this area, and almost entirely white.
South Houston - If there is any city that needs to stop existing and just join Houston already, its this one. South Houston is very small, very poor community sandwiched between Houston and Pasadena, there was, at one point, a North Houston almost directly opposite this one, but it generally doesn't exist anymore.
The Clear Lake Area is a cluster of communities in the area of Clear Lake, Clear Creek, Taylor Lake, and Galveston Bay. These communities are known for three things: NASA, wealth, and white people. Got that? Cities and Communities in the Clear Lake Area:
Clear Lake City - A master-planed community that is pretty much a text book definition of suburbia. When anyone remembers this area, its usually to bring up the fact that there was a nasty annexation fight when Houston decided to take it back in the 70s. The fight failed, and most of the community was annexed by Houston. The remainder was annexed by the city of Pasadena, though its a relatively small portion. One of the largest master planned communities in Houston. Oh, and the Johnson Space Center is located here as well. I suppose that's important.
Nassau Bay - A more upper class, majority white bedroom community located across the street from the Johnson Space Center along Clear Lake.
Webster - Located next to Nassau Bay and Clear Lake City, is known for nothing in particular except being small and riding on the coattails of the nearby Space Center.
Kemah - A small community located on both Clear Lake and the Galveston Bay. Has become well known in the Houston Area thanks to its famous Kemah Boardwalk and is a popular tourist destination.
League City - Largest city in this sub-region (not counting Houston and Pasadena, which administer Clear Lake), is primarily in Galveston County, with a small portion in Houston's Harris County. Like much of the Clear Lake region, very wealthy, and overwhelmingly white. Pretty much a large suburb of Houston.
Seabrook - Located directly across Clear Lake from the city of Kemah, and with a shore on Galveston Bay. Not as wealthy as other areas of the Clear Lake Area, but just as White all the same. Has a large boating community.
Taylor Lake Village - The richest community in the entire Clear Lake Area, and possibly the entire Galveston Bay Area (and one of the whitest too), is pretty much a hideout for the wealthy.
El Lago - A small mostly white community that has a unique claim to fame: it was one of the hideouts for famous pirate captain Jean Lafitte, a hero of the Battle of New Orleans from the War of 1812.
Clear Lake Shores - A community so small, it really has no purpose other than to be another rich white community. How many does that make now?
The Galveston County sub-region, not including Galveston, is poor, crime ridden and really not a place one would choose to live, excepting a few select communities. This area includes all of Galveston County outside of the Clear Lake Area and the city of Galveston. Cities and communities in Galveston county include:
Texas City - The largest city in this part of the region, with a rather presumptive name. Is pretty much Flyover Country for people on their way to Galveston. Mostly remembered for its massive refinery complex, one of the largest abutting the bay (yuck!) Oh, and the entire city blew up once.
Bacliff - an unincorporated area that has fallen on hard times and is pretty indicative of this sub-region, a regular Wretched Hive. Known for a spectacular inability to incorporate itself, the community is wracked with crime and poverty, and has a very unusually high number of registered sex offenders
San Leon - Another Unincorporated area that has fallen on hard economic times and is relatively lower class. Tried to incorporate with Bacliff and the now largely nonexistent community of Bayview to form one large city, but this proved to be an Epic Fail
Dickinson - A city known for primarily being a reasonable place to live compared to its compatriots in Galveston County
La Marque - AKA, that area that isn't part of Texas City (for some reason), but is no better off for it.
Bayou Vista - A small town of less than 2,000 people, but better off than the rest of the towns in its immediate area
Tiki Island - A small village that doesn't even push 1000 people. Is also the most well off area in this sub-region. Go figure.
Hitchcock - A smaller city that is a bit of a kleptomaniac: if one actually looked at a map of it, you would think it was pretty large. Nope, it just annexed a lot of land. The city itself doesn't make 10,000 people. Just as poor as its neighbors.
Santa Fe - not to be confused with the New Mexican city of the same name, this small city is slightly better off than its neighbors, and just as white as them as well.
The Eastern Shore is the least populated area, home to lakes, swamps, marshes. That's it. Cities and Communities on the Eastern Shore include:
Baytown - The other largest city in the Greater Houston area not named Houston, is located across the bay from everywhere else. When leaving or exiting Houston via East Freeway, this is first (or last thing) you pass through. Nothing to see here but oil refineries and a bridge.
Beach City - located not far away from Galveston, it is far away from any ocean, or the Gulf of Mexico for that matter. Was pretty much created so it wouldn't join Baytown. There is also no real beach there, so you better get on to Galveston.
Anahuac - A small rural community far from Houston, notable for being close to bankruptcy.
Sugar Land Area
Centered around the city of Sugar Land, the Sugar Land area has no real set geographical boundaries, unlike many of the other regions of Houston. Roughly, it is everything outside of the Beltway, South of Westpark Tollway, and west of Fort Bend Parkway (and not in Houston). Home to some of Houston's nicest suburbs, it represents the area that marks the last thing you see of Greater Houston going towards Victoria, Texas and Corpus Christi. Much of the area has already incorporated and is thus out of Houston's reach, much to the city's chagrin. Houston Neighborhoods and independent cities in the area include:
Sugar Land - One of the largest cities in the Greater Houston Area, its is also one of the wealthiest and fastest growing as well, and is at least important enough to get its own upscale mall (that's when you know your important, when you get a mall.) Used to be a company town run by Imperial Sugar, who had a huge sugar refining operation there, hence the name. This lasted until the 1950s, when the city finally established a municipal government instead of joining Houston, and the city lost what made it so unique in the first place. Nowadays, the city is the very definition of Cutand Paste Suburb. Hell, more than half the current city is master planned communities (which its county, Fort Bend County, leads the nation in) and its poised to annex even more. Pretty sure Houston regrets not annexing the little town earlier.
Greatwood - Large Master-Planned Community (get used to hearing about these) to the south of Sugar Land. Destined to join Sugar Land in the near future.
New Territory - is pretty much in the same rut as nearby Greatwood: large master - planned community on the verge of being annexed by Sugar Land
Mission Bend - one of the few unincorporated Areas in Houston's ETJ, thus maintaining Houston's link to Fort Bend county, a majority White suburb (as if there is any other kind around here)
Four Corners - Same as Mission Bend, but with a weirder name
Meadows Place - originally just Meadows, this is yet another example of a city could just join Houston tomorrow and no one would notice. Was in the ETJ of nearby Stafford, but, like so many other cities that will be called out here, incorporated to avoid joining Houston. Has less than 5,000 people.
Missouri City - one of the most weirdly named areas in all of Greater Houston, and for this region, that is saying something. Started as a major railroad hub, and like so many other communities in Houston, it scrambled to incorporate to avoid annexation (a running theme around here). Is interestingly possibly one of the few Houston suburbs to experience large scale White Flight; as middle class Blacks moved into the area, middle and upper class whites packed up and left. Now, the community is mostly middle class African American (finally, some variety).
Sienna Plantation - A prime example of real life irony, it is a majority white upper class suburb, situated on land that was once home to numerous plantations (hence the name), and is in the ETJ of Missouri City, a majority Black city. Wrap your head around that.
Stafford - Originally a plantation owned by a William Stafford, this city, despite its small size, incorporated in the fifties before Sugar Land. Sandwiched between Houston and Missouri City, one gets the impression that it exist just because. Is actually quite ethically diverse, being a mix of Whites, Blacks, and Asians. Despite being a suburb of Houston, more people actually work here than live here, if you can believe it.
Rosenberg - A small town located in Fort Bend County that really isn't just a Cutand Paste Suburb. The last thing you will see going out of the Greater Houston Area going towards Victoria (of any consequence). Still overwhelmingly white though.
Richmond - not to be confused with Richmond Virginia. A small town that literally straddles Rosenberg, one wonders why they don't merge into one city. During Reconstruction, there was a major "war" largely centered here between Democrats and Reconstructionists put in power by Blacks. The city had a single mayor from 1949 to 2012, Hilmar Moore, possibly the longest serving public official in the history of the United States.
A large amorphous area that includes a large swath of Houston, it is a perfect summarization of Houston as a whole: you have got wealthy well to do areas, poorer, crime ridden areas, and everything in between. Separating downtown from the Katy and Sugar Land Areas, Southwest Houston includes the following neighborhoods:
Uptown - Also called the Galleria Area, if there is an area every visitor to Houston visits just once, its Uptown. Uptown Houston is a large commercial district (so large in fact that it rivals and even surpasses many downtown areas in size, hell it rivals downtown Los Angeles and is the 17th largest business district in the United States!) centered on Houston's premier shopping mall, the Galleria. The Houston Galleria is the largest shopping mall in Texas and eighth largest in the United States, and is ritzy as all hell, but it is just one component in what is essentially the Beverly Hills of Texas (except actually part of the city it is mostly associated with). High Class is the name of the game here and everything about this area caters to it. Oh and did we mention the size of the skyline? Really, this is the most spread out component of Houston's skyline bar none, strattling almost the entirety of the 610 Loop from Southwest Freeway to Interstate 10 though it lacks the thick skyscraper buildup of downtown...right now. The most recognizable structure, viewable from almost anywhere in Greater Houston, is the Williams Tower, tallest building outside any Central Business district when it was built and a behemoth that literally towers over everything around it. All in all, this area has done pretty good for a neighborhood that, up to the 1960s, was nothing but farmland.
Alief - A huge community separating the Katy Area from the Sugar Land Area. Most of Alief is in Houston, but portions of it are still in Harris County's unincorporated area, though, they are in Houston's ETJ, so they might as well be part of Houston anyway. Ending at Westheimer Road in the north, it is the large area of Southwest Houston that is outside the Beltway. Like many areas of Houston, it suffered from white flight in the 70s as Whites moved out to get away from Blacks, who were trying to get away from Mexicans. Later, large amounts of Asians from China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, Laos, and Indonesia also settled here. In some places you can even find dual language signs. Unfortunately, all these demographics changes led to an increase in Poverty and Crime as well, which afflict the area to this day. Like so many areas of Houston, it fought annexation, but Houston said "Gotcha, Bitch!" and consumed most of it.
Westchase - One of the centers of Houston's skyline, along with Downtown, Uptown, and the Energy Corridor. Is a large, urban business development straddling the Beltway and to the direct west of Uptown. Several large business, including those associated with the petroleum industry (such asHalliburton), have offices here. Mostly a boring business area that just adds to Houston's skyline.
Greenway Plaza - a large mixed use development built between Downtown and Uptown, it is yet another center for Houston's amazing skyline and only exist because of Southwest Freeway. One of the key parts of the complex is the Lakewood Church, formerly the Compaq Center. The church is huge, the largest in the United States by most estimates.
Meyerland - A large community just outside Loop 610 but far inside the beltway, Meyerland is the center of Houston's Jewish community. Primarily white inner city neighborhood (well, that's different from what we have been hearing about up to this point) and much wealthier than many areas of Houston. The neighborhood even hired its own private security force (but still has a drug problem).
Reliant Park - formerly known as the Astrodomain (yeah, really), its that large area that is home to Houston's most famous sports and convention venues: Reliant Stadium, Reliant Center, Reliant Arena, and Reliant Astrodome (the only structure to keep Astro in the title). Six Flags Astroworld, a well known theme park, used to sit across the Interstate Loop form here, but it has since been closed and torn down. Reliant Astrodome may well be on its way to the same fate.
Hiram Clarke - Located just outside the loop, Southwest of Reliant Park, anyone visiting Houston should be forewarned: This is one of the roughest areas of the city, a regular Wretched Hive, and visiting isn't recommended. Drugs and crime are rampant here, and some areas lack even sidewalks. If a rapper from Houston refers to an area called "the Clarke", this is what he means. Essentially ghetto central.
Gulfton - Large community located directly to the West of Bellaire, separating it from Sharpstown and located to the South of Uptown. One of the most densely populated communities in Houston, the area is home to many apartment complexes. Originally a prosperous, primarily White neighborhood, the Oil Bust that tanked the economy of the city tanked the neighborhood too. Gulfton's population exploded and it gained a primarily immigrant makeup, in particular Hispanics (more particularly, illegals). Gulfton is now a struggling, poor, crime ridden neighborhood, dealing with the aftereffects of poor urban planning and the exploitative nature of its creation, gaining the area the unflattering nickname "the Gulfton Ghetto".
While this area could really be considered apart of Southwest Houston, it is so well known in Houston and has such a clearly defined identity that it deserves its own special mention. There was a time when Sharpstown represented one of Houston's most well known (and well off) suburbs, but those days are long past. When Hurricane Katrina hit, this is where most of the refugees ended up, and crime rose in proportion too. Neighborhoods include:
Sharpstown - Where it all started. It was one of the United States' first car-based master-planned communities, a novelty at the time, and its growth was facilitated by the coming of the Southwest Expressway. Nearby, the Sharpstown Mall was built, which was Houston's first indoor shopping mall. Though originally majority White, soon Blacks and Latinos flocked to the area, as well as Asians, creating one of the largest Asian American Communities in Houston. Unfortunately, with this type of demographic change, usually comes the undesirable aspects of life: crime and poverty, and Sharpstown fell victim to both. This is reflected in the Sharpstown Mall, which was renamed the Sharpstown Center, and soon gained a reputation as the "ghetto mall" of Houston. Sharpstown Center continued to decline into bankruptcy, after which it was renamed Plaz America's and now caters to the ghetto Latino population instead of the ghetto Black population. In a since, nothing has really changed and nothing of value was lost.
Harwin Drive - Houston's bargain mile. A place where you can get anything you want at a very good price...as long as you're ok with it possibly being fake. Anything designer that you could pay an arm and a leg for at any of Houston's malls can be got at Harwin for much less, and anyone looking for something nice, yet cheap should look here first. Once again, as long as one is willing to risk getting a counterfeit [[Assassin'sCreed everything is permitted]].
The area to the east of Southwest Houston. Not good enough? Okay, everything between Clear Lake City and Downtown. Still not good enough? Okay, a large amorphous area that is roughly Houston's Southeastern Portion, excluding Clear Lake, made up of various neighborhoods. That's the best you will get. The neighborhoods here include:
Texas Medical Center - Yet another center of Houston's almost monolithic skyline, TMC is the largest medical center in the entire world. The surrounding area has numerous high rise residential buildings as well. Every year, millions of patients visit the medical center seeking treatment from thousands of doctors, and the area is still growing.
Houston Museum District - One of the city's chief attractions, the area is home to 19 museums that attract millions of visitors each year. Two institutions, Houston Zoo and the Houston Museum of Natural Science are located in nearby...
Hermann Park - Houston's most visited public park, Hermann separates the Medical Center from the Museum District. Besides the attractions already listed, the area is also home to Houston Garden Center, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Hermann Park Golf Course. There is also a reflecting pool (like the one in Washington, D.C.) and a statue of, who else, but Sam Houston!
Third Ward - The Historic Center of Houston's African American community, known in among rap culture as "the Trey". Historically economically depressed, the old ward system that was used in Houston (and is still in use today by New Orleans) hasn't actually been an official part of Houston government since 1905, but the old ward designations are still used to refer to the old neighborhoods regardless. The neighborhood has been experiencing gentrification recently, leading to push back from local community leaders.
Riverside Terrace - At one point a primarily Jewish neighborhood, then a primarily African American one, it is now experiencing gentrification that is transforming it from a decrepit neighborhood, to a healthy, diverse one.
Washington Terrace - Another historically black neighborhood, currently undergoing gentrification.
University Oaks - a small community located just south of University of Houston, it gained infamy for its racial covenant that prevented any one, not "of the Caucasian race" from moving in.
The most rural area of Greater Houston (as everything else is suburbs), Brazoria County is named after the Brazos River (note there is another county in Texas called Brazos County named after the same river, so don't get them confused). The main expressway here is Texas road 288 (or the South Freeway, or just 288) that carries thousands into and out of Houston every day (be forewarned, that this road is a haven for speed traps). The area also known as Brazosport includes areas both in and just outside the county, and includes the Communities:
Pearland - The largest community south of Houston that the city is just kicking itself over not annexing, there are no pears here (anymore)! Once a small, sleepy town where people grew fruit, the city has literally exploded: it was the second fastest growing city in Texas, the fastest growing in Greater Houston, and the fifteenth fastest growing in the nation. While the Eastern part of town still maintains its old small town feel, the western part is a gigantic suburb, which you can easily see travelling on 288. Recently, the area got an upscale, open air shopping mall, indicating that they have truly hit the big time. Also, just as an aside, this is the worst speed trap in the Houston area. Keep that in mind when driving on 288.
Fresno - not to be confused with the Californian city with the same name, Fresno is a large unincorporated area in Houston's ETJ. Originally a small rural community, Houston's explosive growth led to a transformation, as numerous housing developments have sprung up. Houston hasn't gotten around to annexing them yet though.
Friendswood - A small city that gained its name from the fact that it was founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Friendswood is actually in Galveston county, but isn't in the bay area so it will be placed here. It is really just another majority white suburb now, no different from nearby Clear Lake or Pearland.
Brookside Village - One of the most pointless towns in this area, you would be forgiven for thinking it was part of Pearland. Brookside is a suburb that doesn't even push 2000 people, and really could just as well be part of Pearland. For example, all of its students go to schools in Pearland, that is how small it is.
Arcola - Another town of less than 2000 people, it can be forgiven because it is relatively remote (as in, it is not surrounded by another city)
Iowa Colony - a small village that was such a horrible speed trap, Texas enacted a law limiting how much money a municipality could get from speeding ticket. It would take the cake for weirdest name for a town in Greater Houston, except it got its name from the company that founded it, who were from Des Moines, Iowa.
Manvel - Another kleptomaniac town whose city limits don't conform to its size, it is huge for a small town out in the boondocks with less than 4000 people.
Alvin - Hometown of baseball hall of famer Nolan Ryan, the Nolan Ryan Museum can be found here. Nearby Texas 288 was named the Nolan Ryan Expressway south of Houston as well. Almost no suburbs here, so it has maintained that small town feel. Is actually the oldest incorporated city in Brazoria County.
Hillcrest - not to be confused with a certain Woodcrest, its a small town of less than 1000 people that is almost not even visible on a map and could generally be mistaken for being part of Alvin.
Bonney - A small town that is otherwise unnoticeable, except for the fact that it is surrounded by three prisons.
Angleton - county seat for Brazoria, and Flyover Country for anyone using 288.
Brazoria - a city from which the county got its name (or is it the other way around?). Actually got into a fight with Angleton over who would get to be county seat. It lost apparently.
Lake Jackson - second largest city in the county and almost 45 mins. from Houston. Despite this, unlike most of the surrounding area, it resembles some of Houston's nicest suburbs. Nolan Ryan Expressway ends here.
Richwood - Well, the name says it all folks. That said, it is curiously not a part of Lake Jackson, despite being right next to it, though it is not as bad as...
Clute - (don't ask about the name) a city that you literally can't tell where it ends and Lake Jackson begins. Gained a measure of fame when a Mammoth skeleton was found here.
Freeport - a small town that merged with Velasco, TX, the first capital of the Republic of Texas, it is now most remembered for the fact that it is surrounded by unsightly oil refineries that can be seen from Lake Jackson.
Surfside Beach - A key tourist area just west of Galveston, Surfside Beach is a great place to visit if one wants a beach without having to worry about all the annoying tourists in Galveston. A relatively upper class area.
Not an official name for anything, but the closest approximation to the actual function of the areas we are now dealing with, this is essentially all of the areas just outside of Downtown Houston, not bounded by the expressways, but inexorably part of it. Neighborhoods include:
East Downtown Houston (Ea Do) - Separating East End from Downtown, this area is the neighborhood just south of the Eastex Freeway (US 59) when passing the Central Business District (CBD). Old Chinatown, one of the two in the city, is located here. Also located here is the other (good) football team, the Houston Dynamo, and their stadium, BBVA Compass Stadium. The area is a weird mix. On the one hand, it is home to many industrial warehouses, some abandoned, some still in use, and is pretty much Houston's version of Skid Row, having a huge homeless population. On the other hand, the area is becoming a center for revitalization, gentrification, and revival. For example, a large artists community is springing up here.
Midtown - Everything between the Gulf Expressway wrapping around downtown's southwest, the Southwest Expressway, and Spur 527 (along with a few buildings to the south of Southwest, and a small area of condos, townhouses and the like north of Bagby Street). Originally split between the Third and Fourth Wards, the area was once an upscale residential neighborhood, till businesses pushed them out. It later morphed into Little Saigon, as Vietnamese residents arrived and this lead to a transformation of the neighborhood. Now, the neighborhood is a middle to upper class majority white neighborhood, with some remainder of its former history as a Vietnamese community, with a lot of businesses thrown in for good measure.
Fourth Ward - another area that kept its name as a former ward of Houston, the Fourth Ward was once Freedmen's Town, a community that was home to post-Civil War freed blacks. Until the 1920s, it was the center of Houston's black community. After this, the community took a nose dive, especially with the building of housing projects in the area. The community became wracked with crime, drugs, and decay, and Houston has long sought nothing less than to wipe it from the map and replace it with something far more palatable. To this end, Houston tore down most of the projects, and what remained was turned into a historical area. The area has recently been undergoing gentrification, forcing most of the old residents out, and today, it is the smallest neighborhood in Houston in terms of population. Most of the neighborhood's historical aspects are gone and it is slowly but surely becoming an extension of Midtown.
Afton Oaks - Large, upscale inner city, white community, located just east of uptown, right along side Loop 610. A very beautiful neighborhood befitting the region its located in, it has retains strict control over itself, including deed restrictions and private security. The community even forced Houston to reroute a METRO rail line.
River Oaks - another affluent community just affronting Buffalo Bayou and Memorial Park. This community is not only one of the richest in Houston, but one of the richest in the entire United States and has been so for years. Homes here start at $1 million and go up in value. World renowned River Oaks Country Club is located in this community, but don't expect to become a member unless your white.
Highland Village - Small community straddling Westheimer Road, between Afton Oaks, River Oaks, Uptown, and Greenway plaza. Very upscale, the area is most remembered for the Highland Village Shopping center, an upscale shopping area that caters to many of the surrounding communities.
Upper Kirby - Located between Greenway Plaza and Neartown, Upper Kirby is located just east of Buffalo Speedway (which is a street in Houston, really!). Is primarily a business area.
A large region of Houston located to the west of downtown, Midtown, and the Fourth Ward, inside the loop, between the Katy Freeway and Southwest Freeway, the area has been called the Greenwich Village of Houston. Very diverse with a distinct Bohemian flavor, gentrification has brought the area wealth, as it has become a favorite of yuppies, artists, musicians, and young professionals. The northern end of the area is home to a very out of place office complex, the American General Center, whose tallest skyscraper, the America Tower, is easily visible from I-10. Many Houston natives erroneously refer to the area as "Montrose": this is a misnomer, as Montrose is the name of a neighborhood inside of it. And speaking of that neighborhood...
Montrose - Montrose was originally an upscale streetcar suburb of Houston. During the 60s and 70s, the area became a miniaturized version of San Francisco, a center of the counterculture movement. It was also at this time that the area gained a reputation as the center of Houston's gay and lesbian community. Eventually, a substantial gay and lesbian community appeared, and gay bars dotted the neighborhood. The AIDS epidemic ravaged this community, and the gay population decentralized, though a fair number still remain.
Area south of east downtown, located between Downtown, the Port of Houston and Hobby Airport. Houston's very own Canal Street runs through here. It is here that Harrisburgh, the capital of Texas was once located. Here now is:
Second Ward - also called Segundo Barrio, the Second Ward is another one of the city's four original wards. About the 1920s, the ward made the transition to be primarily Mexican in makeup, which has remained true, more or less, ever since. Gained a negative reputation in the 70s and 80s, but is currently undergoing gentrification.
Magnolia Park - another Hispanic neighborhood, and one of the oldest in Houston. Was formerly a separate incorporated community (and white.)
Idylwood - a neighborhood considered the most forgotten in Houston. A rather pleasant place to live.
Eastwood - No, not that Eastwood. One of Houston's first master planned subdivisions, first designed in 1913. Went from being a professional's enclave, to poor and worthless, to a professional's enclave again.
Harrisburg - The twice, former, former capital of Texas. This was the Allen Brothers first choice when they wanted to found a city. Originally belonging to John Richardson Harris, the brothers had wanted to found a city on his land, but when he died, they couldn't gain title to it, so they moved a little ways up Buffalo Bayou and founded Houston instead. During the Texas Revolution, Harrisburg was the provisional Texas government's capital, till Santa Ana burned it down. After the Republic of Texas was founded, it became capital again, but for only less than a year (the capital moved around a lot before settling on Columbia, Houston, and then finally Austin). After losing its role as capital, the city's population dwindled massively, as did its importance. It would be annexed by Houston in 1926. Harrisburg is now mostly a majority Latino inner city neighborhood now. Oh, and Harris County (formerly Harrisburg County) got its name from this town.
The first major group of Houston's enclaves. These cities have been entirely surrounded by the city of Houston, thus it is not uncommon for people to mistake them for being a part of Houston. The Island cities are located in the Loop and would technically be considered part of Southeast Houston. Though the "cities" maintain their own separate identity, they are really nothing more than glorified neighborhoods. One wonders why they just don't join the city of Houston outright. The three island cities are:
Bellaire - Houston's largest island city and its largest enclave, has the nickname the "City of Homes", as it is mostly residential. This title is not really deserved though: it is the only enclave with a business district of any real size. Bellaire incorporated ten years after its founding, preventing Houston from outright annexing it. However, even after Houston had long annexed everything around it, Bellaire refused to join the city. After the 1980s, the city rapidly became one of the most affluent in the Houston area. It has also gained a reputation for racism, especially amongst its police.
West University Place - A city west of the University Place neighborhood and Rice University. Nicknamed the "Neighborhood City", rather ironic if you only see the city as a Houston neighborhood with delusions of grandeur. Though the area originally incorporated because Houston wouldn't run services to it, it has steadily refused to consolidate since then, even after being completely surrounded by the city. Is generally very upscale.
Southside Place - The single most pointless city in the Greater Houston Area. It is 0.2 SQUARE MILES in size. It is literally only a few city blocks. Really, why does it exist?
Houston's second major group of enclaves, and their existences are no more justified then that of the island cities. Originally a small town surrounded by farm land, area now know as the Memorial Villages first attempted to escape annexation by Houston (because to suburban whites, that's the equivalent of selling your soul) via incorporating as one large city, called Spring Branch, in the 1950s, This failed, and thus, over the course of a decade, the Memorial Villages came into existence one by one, and have stayed ever since, despite being surrounded by Houston. Even though they are all independent cities, the cities collectively maintain a police department and fire department. The villages are:
Hilshire Village - the tenth wealthiest location in Texas, Hilshire Village is the smallest village (only 0.3 square miles!). An overwhelmingly white rich enclave that has no real reason to not be part of Houston, it is one of the two villages north of the Katy Freeway, the other being:
Spring Valley Village - originally known as just Spring Valley, it changed its name to keep the naming theme going
Hedwig Village - a smaller village, straddling Katy Freeway's southern flank. It is the only village to have extensive business development
Bunker Hill Village - despite its name, it has had nothing to do with battles, except the Flame Wars over why it exist. The third largest village.
Hunters Creek Village - The largest village by pop., it is the fifth wealthiest location in Texas by per capital income.
Piney Point Village - the largest village by land area (just barely 2 square miles), this city is the richest area in the entire state per capital income. This is the truest sense of the term when one says hideout for the wealthy.
Inner Loop North
Everything inside the I-610 Loop, but north of Downtown and/or the Buffalo Bayou. Neighborhoods include:
The Washington Avenue Area - large area of Houston between the Bayou, Katy Freeway, Downtown, and the Loop, it also includes a small area just north of the Katy. Home to a number of neighborhoods, the area is named for its major thoroughfare, once a major economic arterial of the city. By the 90s, unfortunately, the area gained a reputation for being run down. Recently however, the area has experienced a revival,with a growing yuppie population. A few years ago, the area gained a reputation as a nightlife entertainment spot being home to many clubs, taking the title from Richmond Strip. However, it has evolved to something a little more sane: a place to dine out (because Houston needs more of those)
Memorial Park - one of Houston's largest municipal parks, Memorial separates Washington Avenue from the Loop. The park gets its name from the fact that it was dedicated to the soldiers who died in WWI. The park has facilities for tennis, softball, swimming, track, croquet, volleyball, skating, cycling and a running course, as well as a golf course. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center can be found here as well
The Heights Area - A large area made up primarily of three neighborhoods: Houston Heights, Norhill, and Woodland Heights. When people around Houston say "the Heights" they are usually talking about Houston Heights, and are conflating Houston Heights with the other two neighborhoods. However, these are all very distinct neighborhoods. Houston Heights started as a Streetcar Suburb of Houston in 1891 and was even an incorporated city, till Houston annexed it in 1919. Norhill wasn't developed until 1923, and Woodland Heights was started in 1907. Norhill has kind of remained the same over the years, as a relatively closed in community where every House is a bungalow. Woodland Heights is very similar to Norhill in this way, and the modest style of the homes in these two areas helped them as Houston changed demographically to avoid the steady decline occurring in surrounding communities and also help them in gentrification. Houston Heights wasn't so lucky: Economic and social decline hit hard, and the community became decrepit after World War II. Currently, the community is bouncing back due to gentrification.
Friday Night Lights has the state football championship played at the Astrodome, though the events upon which the film is based never went anywhere near Houston: the title game that year was not played in the Astrodome.
Futureworld (filmed at the Johnson Space Center facilities)
A partial example in Homestuck — the comic doesn't focus on the city, but Dave is generally agreed to be from Houston, because a map pinpoints his apartment as being right around there. At the least, he's canonically Texan.
Anna Nicole Smithnote For most of her life she claimed to have been born in Mexia, a town near Waco to the north where she lived as a child, in order to reinforce her "small-town girl" image (rather than admit to having been born in Houston, which was already a fairly big city in 1967).
The Alleged Car: METRO Light Rail, due to the number of traffic accidents it caused because of unclear signals, poor planning, and unavailability outside of the hospital and museum districts. The incident which made it this trope involved an ambulance responding to a truck being hit by the Light Rail, and while transporting the injured driver to the nearest hospital being hit by a Light Rail train itself.
The continual delays on construction caused by budget problems keep it from reaching its potential.
Consider this: The vast majority of Texans were either in agriculture or some profession which required a high amount of manual labor. In these professions a high caloric intake is necessary for a healthy life as the body actually burns it off. Since the local economic crash of the eighties and the subsequent economic diversification policies promoted by the state government, the majority of Texans now work in research, manufacturing and related industries, computer science or the service industry. Even farming has been industrialized, with machines doing most of work instead of laborers/animals. Cultural attitudes + accelerated industrialization + accelerated urbanization + faster pace environment since said industrialization and the ease of purchasing fast food = weight problems in local populace.
Interestingly, the reason I was going for is that there are more restaurants per Capita in Houston than any other city in the country (yeah, I did a double take when I saw that for the first time) and eating out is insanely cheap. Portion sizes are also incredibly large.
Around here you eat out with friends, and business deals often involve at least one meal. There's also a bit more variety, too. I've seen suburbs were they have Mongolian, Vietnamese, Russian and Indian food as well as generic American, Mexican and Chinese places.
Blatant Lies: Pretty much everything Houston's founders, brothers John and Augustus Allen, claimed in their original sales pitch to both settlers and the government of the Republic of Texas was demonstrably false.
The Church: And boy howdy, what a church. Lakewood Baptist is one of the most well-known and easily-recognizable churches in the entire city. As though it's previous stadium-seating campus (complete with in-house televising of its Sunday sermons on local channel 14!) weren't large enough, the church procured an actual stadium — the former home of the NBA team Houston Rockets and transformed it into their new house of worship. YMMV as to whether Lakewood Baptist, along with the other so-called "megachurches" throughout the area, qualify as morally upstanding or ungodly decadent institutions.
Company Town: Nearby Sugar Land was once one of these, entirely owned and operated by the Imperial Sugar Company.
Cool Spaceship: There was once a Saturn V rocket in full view of drivers on I-45 by NASA. It's since had a shelter built around it, as exposure damaged it.
The Space Center Houston amusement park is built around this trope.
Cut And Paste Suburb: Sugar Land, The Woodlands, Kingswood, Katy, the newer parts of Pearland, Sienna Plantation, Friendswood, Cypress, Klein, the list goes on and on.
Dangerous Workplace: Particularly in Pasadena and Texas City, known for their refineries and curious odors.
Texas City was the site of the biggest industrial accident in US history, when a Liberty Ship loaded with ammonium nitrate exploded in 1947 with the force of a small atomic bomb, killing almost 600 people.
Drives Like Crazy: It is joked that the Sam Houston Toll Road, a controlled access highway that loops around the city about five miles out from the city's proper loop, Interstate 610, is Houstonians' participatory version of NASCAR. Posted speed limits are about 65 mph, but you will be run off the road if you're doing less than 80.
Red means stop. Green means go. Yellow means go faster.
Fan Nickname: Well, not so much fan nickname, but some areas have picked up names, like Greenspoint "Gunspoint", The Woodlands "The Hoodlands", the list goes on.
"Space City", "Bayou City", "H-town", "the Big Heart" (post-Hurricane Katrina), Screwston (after the "Chopped and Screwed" style of rap music created by slowing down tempo).
The Labor Day Classic: Texas Southern University Tigers vs. Prarie View A&M Panthers. Not to mention the Battle of the Bands between TSU's Ocean of Soul and PV's Marching Storm.
Non-sports example: Houston's local US Federal Reserve district is headquartered in Dallas. Just imagine the shitstorm when they built a branch for the "Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas" just outside of downtown.
For the record, they quickly changed the name to something less evocative of Dallas.
Another non-sports example: the North Freeway, which carries Interstate 45 (that eventually reaches Dallas), had several names floated for it, including the Dallas Freeway. People didn't take that well.
This has seriously cheesed many locals (of whom a number are former NASA employees and contractors that specifically worked on the Shuttle program) to the point that petitions are still on-going to bring an orbiter, any orbiter, to the Space City.
Friendly Fandoms: With New Orleans. Houston has many citizens from New Orleans (more so post-Katrina) who brought their with culture (and food) with them. Likewise, New Orleans is synonymous with parties. There are some overlap with sports team fandoms with some New Orleanians supporting the Astros and Rockets (prior to getting an NBA team) and some Houstonians supporting the Saints during the interim from the O***s' departure to the Texans debut. Also Saints and Texans fans generally get along with games between the two merely awkward at the worst.
In Name Only: Both Sugar Land and Katy are Cut And Paste Suburbs, but each have history. Sugar Land was the Imperial Sugar company town (and it still maintains presence there, check the sugar labels at home), and Katy was named after the MKT railroad that went through town. The railroad in question was truncated in the late 1990s so there's only a spur there that doesn't get much traffic as it used to.
Not that any railroad sees much use in Houston these days. Try to ride Amtrak to the city and you'll spend half the journey aboard a bus.
Ivy League For Everyone: Averted with Rice University, considered to be part of the South's version of the Ivy League.
Mega Corp: Until quite recently, at least, Haliburton was headquarted in the city - and still has a massive facility hidden behind a treeline alongside the Beltway, just south of Bush International Airport. There's even a series of plaques outside Minute Maid Park (where the Astros baseball team plays) featuring the history of KBR and Haliburton, complete with a heavily-defaced image of Dick Cheney.
Nonindicative Name: "West Mount Houston" is the name of a road. There's nothing even resembling a hill in Houston, much less a mountain. The city doesn't have wards, but don't tell that to residents of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Wards (which do have their basis in the old boundaries of the city's wards). Cut 'n' Shoot is the name of a small town(yeah, really). Missouri City is nowhere near Missouri, and its residents didn't come from there, either. The same can be said for Iowa Colony (nowhere near Iowa) and Cleveland (granted, further north, but still nowhere near Ohio). There are no pears in Pearland (except for those at the Kroger's). There's no sugar in Sugar Land anymore, either (though as mentioned before, the city was a company town, and that company did refine sugar there until 2003). South Park is nothing like South Park and is nowhere near Colorado (though it is to the south of MacGregor Park and does predate the television series). Clear Lake is neither clear nor a lake. And none of this is anywhere near Houston County, Texas. Neighborhood names are frequently idiosyncratic at best.
Though West University Place is indeed a place immediately to the west of Rice University. The Woodlands is also full of trees (such that it's difficult to spot signs or businesses, and those unfamiliar with the area are likely to get lost).
Toilet Humor: The town of Clute is jokingly said to be named for the sound of a worker's turd hitting the water after he decided that defecating off the side of the bridge they were building was faster and easier (and possibly cleaner) than actually finding a portapotty. The town was actually just named after yet another founding guy, but that doesn't get any reaction from the tourists.
Noodle Incident: Cultural. Major hurricanes will be referenced by name without any other background.
Specific examples include:
"Allison" - Tropical Storm Allison (note the lack of the word 'Hurricane' here) dumped around 40 inches of rain throughout the Houston region, causing over 5 BILLION dollars of damage! The Texas Medical Center alone lost nearly $2 billion in lost/damaged equipment and samples. Allison is the only Atlantic storm name to be retired without ever being a hurricane.
"Ike" - The hurricane that left millions without power and empty store shelves for weeks, caused millions of dollars in damage, almost wiped out the Bolivar Peninsula and had Galveston Island see destruction unseen since 1900. In other words, the one that SHUT DOWN THE ENTIRE. FREAKING. TOWN.
"Rita" - Hurricane Rita (which was set for landfall mere months after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans) threw the city into panic and an attempted mass exodus ensued - attempted being the key word. The roads leading out of town were so congested that many cars ran out of gas simply waiting on the freeways to get out of town. The kicker? Rita veered north and missed Houston nearly completely. This incident was a large reason why so many people failed/declined to evacuate later when the above-mentioned Ike hit, reasoning that the outcome would have just been the same.
Sixth Ranger: Houston feels like this sometimes, compared to the other large cities in the United States, especially considering the fact that it is younger than most of them. Why is nothing set in Houston,damnit!?
Skyscraper City: Houston has one of the most extensive skylines in North America (only New York, Toronto, Chicago, Mexico City, Miami, and Panama City are larger), but because of its lack zoning laws, the skyline is much more spread out than in many of those places, thus its not nearly as apparent at first. To whit, that picture up there is only a very small portion of Houston's skyline (Downtown) and that's not even half of the skyscrapers, not even a third!
Theme Naming: Subverted. Houston's entire freeway system is built on a hub and spoke design, and is probably one of the most perfect examples of this in the world. But their naming system is... off.
For the Hubs:
There's the central hub, which is just four different freeways put together and has no official name
Interstate 610 Loop aka "Six-Ten", the "Inner Loop" or simply "The Loop", the only interstate loop.
Beltway 8, which is both the Sam Houston Parkway (frontage roads) and Sam Houston Tollway (tolled expressway).
And then there is...Grand Parkway. Another example of non-indicative names as it is neither Grand, nor a Parkway, and while still incomplete, is planned to be a loop.
For the Spokes:
Most of the Freeways emanating from Houston are named after directions: North Freeway (I-45 north of downtown), Northwest Freeway (US 290), Southwest Freeway (TX 59 south of downtown), South Freeway (TX 288), and East Freeway (now Baytown East Freeway, I-10 east of downtown).
However, there is no West Freeway, Northeast Freeway, or Southeast Freeway. Instead we have the Katy Freeway (I-10 west of downtown), Eastex Freeway (59 north of downtown), and Gulf Freeway (I-45 south of downtown), respectively. The reason for the Eastex and Gulf having their names is that they were the first to be built, and were both named via contest. Katy is simply named after Katy, Texas.
And there are the plenty of other Freeways in Houston that include: the ones named after cities they pass through (Crosby Freeway, La Porte Expressway, Tomball Parkway), the Toll Roads (Hardy Tollroad, Westpark Tollway, Fort Bend Parkway), andthe Spurs (Spur 527, Spur 5, and Spur 330)
Played Straight (originally averted), with the Memorial Villages. Originally, all but one had village in the name, but the last holdout, Spring Valley Village, added village to its name in 2007
Weather Dissonance: High in the 80's during fall and mild and temperate in the winter. And those mosquitoes? They'll start showing in April.
More like, they become prevalent in March-April. We have them year-round to one degree or another.
And apart from that - high 80's? Try the upper 90's and low 100's, complete with overwhelming humidity. There's a reason corporate personnel that wind up transferred to Houston from calmer climes often receive generous relocation bonuses.
The same. City ratings are run on officially reported numbers, which may have no bearing on actual numerical incidence. The Southwest Cholos, a prolific Hispanic and Latin American gang, are well entrenched there. Police presence in the area is also markedly lower than in other locations near Houston. Even audible repeated gunfire is ignored.
Sharpstown is similar.
There is a neighborhood known as Lakewood somewhere in the Houston area; it is, quite literally, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. It's basically Roanapur but somehow smack dab in the middle of Houston.
The Fifth Ward was also essentially Roanapur in Houston during the 80s and 90s, although there has recently been a sharp decrease. While crime is nowhere where it once was, it maintains a reputation as one of the hardest places to do police work in the Houston area and many major chains will not establish shops there.
Acres Homes, Independence Heights (not the good Heights), and Aldine. They all look like various versions of the third world. Acres Homes had no sewage systems until the 1970s.