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"Houston is kind of a melting pot. There are so many different cultures and ethnicities represented out there, even on my team. It's really cool: you'll see so many different things."

"Houston is undoubtedly my showcase city. I saved all my best buildings for Houston."
Phillip Johnson

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 American South. And while Texas is culturally distinct compared to the rest of the region, Houston is perhaps the most "traditionally" Southern city in the state. 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. The city is named after Sam Houston, one of the leaders of the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas' first president. He was Tennessee's governor before he moved to Texas just before the fighting broke out. Houston (the place) was also briefly Texas' capital before it was moved to Austin.

For much of its history, Houston was quite small and insignificant. 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 massive Spindletop oil strike in 1901 roughly 85 miles/140 km to the east in Beaumont. 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 a part of Houston, except they aren't on paper. This has led 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 is not a historical accident. It's been said that Social Security is the third rail of American politics, but that doesn't hold a candle to Houstonians' reaction to zoning proposals. More than one political career has been suddenly ended by embracing proposals that, while not zoning in themselves, could have led to it. This has led to a skyline that is more expansive than Los Angeles'note , 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.

Houston also has a very active sports scene with pro teams in almost every major American league (except hockey). Houston is home to the Houston Texans of the National Football League, the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball, the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association, and Houston Dynamo FC of Major League Soccer. The Texans are the youngest team in the NFL, having been founded in 2002; for many decades, the city was home to the Houston Oilers, but the team left town for Tennessee in the late '90s (kind of a sore topic for native sports fans, especially since the Oilers' new incarnation, the Titans, plays in the Texans' division, so bring this up at your own risk). The Houston area also has no fewer than five major college (i.e., NCAA Division I) athletic programs, four of which are located within the Houston city limits. The most prominent are the two whose football teams play in the top level of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision—the University of Houston Cougars and the Rice University Owls. Three more play in the Football Championship Subdivision, namely the Huskies of Houston Christian Universitynote  and the teams from the area's two largest historically black universities, the Panthers of Prairie View A&M University (the only one not in Houston proper) and the Tigers of Texas Southern University. The National Hockey League is the only major league not to have a presence in Houston at any point in its history; however, as one of the largest US media markets without a franchise, it is often a target for relocation or expansion rumors, particularly with the perennially struggling Arizona Coyotes being mentioned as a relocation candidate. In the 1970s, Houston had one of the more successful and finacially stable franchises in the World Hockey Assocation, the Aeros; however, the team folded in 1978 when they were excluded from the NHL-WHA merger discussions due to the WHA insisting that its Canadian franchises make the cut, and the NHL being reluctant about adding another Sun Belt team to the league, particularly when the LA Kings and then-Atlanta Flames were struggling.

Overall, major successes of Houston-based sports teams have been relatively scarce. While both the Rockets and the Dynamo won two championships each and the (now defunct) Houston Comets of the WNBA were that league's first dynasty, winning its first four championships, the Texans have never made it to the conference championship game, let alone the Super Bowl. The Astros have made the World Series five times, four of which have occurred since 2017. The Astros' first appearance in the Fall Classic (and their only appearance as an NL club) was in 2005, falling to the Chicago White Sox in a four-game sweep. Their second appearance was in 2017 against the LA Dodgers, winning in seven, their third was in 2019 against the Washington Nationals, falling in seven (although their AL pennant run was marred by a sign-stealing scandal); their fourth was in 2021 against the Atlanta Braves, falling in six, and their most recent appearance was in 2022 against the Philadelphia Phillies, winning in six. The Rice baseball team at least has made the playoffs for over two consecutive decades, but it only won a championship in 2003. This has led some to characterize the city's teams as hapless, although it's not for the lack of trying. Houston has had a very impressive list of players play for its teams, like Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and James Harden for the Rockets; Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio (whose entire career was spent here), and Jeff Bagwell for the Astros; Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, and Deshaun Watson for the Texans; Ken Stabler, Bruce Matthews, Earl Campbell, and Warren Moon for the Oilers; Brian Ching and Brad Davis for the Dynamo; Cynthia Cooper, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes, and Tina Thompson for the Comets; Carli Lloyd for the Dash (see below); and Olajuwon and Drexler were the biggest-name members of the Cougars' Phi Slama Jama era.

Among the two most prominent American women's pro leagues, Houston is currently represented in the National Women's Soccer League by the Houston Dash, owned and operated by the Dynamo. As noted above, the Houston Comets won the first four WNBA titles (1997–2000), but folded after the 2008 season.

Houston also has a proud history with its stadiums. The Astros' Minute Maid Park (once known as Enron Field; more on that later) and the Texans' NRG Stadium both have retractable roofs (which tend to remain closed due to Houston's notorious summer humidity), but any talk about Houston sports has to include the Astrodome. Billed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and opened in 1965, it was the first domed stadium in the world and gave rise to the use of artificial turf in baseball and football (hence the still-common nickname "Astroturf"). Nowadays, the Dome sits vacant next to the larger NRG Stadium and any discussion about its future will yield a heated debate. Rounding out the sports venues are the Rockets' Toyota Center, the Dynamo's and Dash's Shell Energy Stadium (also used for Texas Southern Tigers football), the University of Houston's TDECU Stadium, and historic Rice 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 it's 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). Mass transit-wise, Houston seems to be severely lacking for a city its size, although steps have been made to rectify this. A light rail system was built in 2003 and expanded in 2015 while the bus system has gotten overhauled a few times over the years as well. Still, Houston remains a car and highway city.

Entertainment and tourist attractions-wise, despite its size, Houston tends to lack much in the way of major theme parks and entertainment options. The city's major theme park, Six Flags AstroWorld, was closed in 2005 after years of poor maintenance and declining attendance, and most attempts to have another theme park in the city following it usually wound up in Development Hell. Other attempts to start up a theme park in the city back in the seventies and eighties however, such as Busch Gardens Houston and a theme park based on Hanna-Barbera's IPs would also fail miserably and would close after a couple of years for much of the same reasons. There are smaller amusement centers in nearby Galveston and Kemah, but you'll have to drive on over to San Antonio or Dallas if you want to hit up a full-blown amusement park. Most entertainment options in the city tend to be more low key and aimed more at locals instead, such as the Houston Zoo and the various museums scattered around memorial park, the Houston Space Center at NASA and a couple of smaller parks such as the indoor park Funplex (which has gained an infamous reputation amongst natives following the '80s for being a rundown Crappy Carnival) and the resident water park, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Splashtown.

Culture-wise, 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 America. The city has a notable music scene, especially in hip-hop, where it's one of the most influential cities in the South, known for chopped and screwed remixes and home to MC's like Pimp C, Bun B, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones (who?), and Megan thee Stallion. 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 (which has seen moderate success). Many energy companies are headquartered or else have significant facilities in the area, including ConocoPhillips and the infamous Halliburton. Even more infamous was Enron, which started as a merger of smaller energy concerns that wound up blossoming into one of the area's largest employers and one of America's biggest suppliers of energy (even buying the naming rights to the Astros' new stadium, Enron Field)... only for the entire company to go belly-up in 2001, amid major corruption (investigations into the perceived value of their stock revealed a massive web of widescale fraud and other sundry financial crimes), which became one of the largest bankruptcies in American history (surpassed by the WorldCom scandal — also a company based in Texas and another case of Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot — the year after, and then by Lehman Brothers going under in 2008).

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.) Houston got hit by its own hurricane—Hurricane Rita—about a month after Katrina, but the damage was nowhere near as bad. Twelve years later, they got hit with a far more devastating hurricane, Harvey.

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; this is likely due to the city being overshadowed by the bigger Dallas-Fort Worth metro and the weirder Austin as go-to representations of the state of Texas. 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 yourself.

Some of Greater Houston's most notable 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 - If there's a major event downtown, chances are it's happening here. Anchored by the George R. Brown Convention Center and the adjacent Discovery Green, this area is also home to Houston's pro baseball, basketball, and soccer teams; Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center, and Shell Energy Stadium respectively. Watch out for rampant construction as hotels and condos are popping up around these venues like crazy!
  • Houston Theater District - This is where it's at! This area is home to a resident company in every major art discipline, including the Symphony orchestra. As the name implies, it's home to theaters, but also performing arts centers, hotels, and the new Bayou Place Entertainment complex. We even managed to squeeze an Aquarium in there.

    Katy Area 
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 (it's 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. It's all in Houston, though some of it is only limited annexation note . 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 USA. 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, we mean they are, together, the largest urban parks system outside the national park system): the county-run George Bush Park and Bear Creek Pioneers Park, and the city-run Cullen Park.
  • West Oaks - Community just south of the Energy Corridor; contains the West Oaks Mall and dozens more suburbs.
  • Cinco Ranch - Sleepy white rich suburb east of Katy. Moving on...
  • Kingsland - Another wealthy white suburb. Seeing a pattern?

    Galveston Bay Area 
The Galveston Bay Area or just the Bay Area, is the region immediately surrounding 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 Ship Channel, and for having a notorious history of corruption. Only a small part of the city touches the bay.
  • Deer Park - Founded in 1892 and incorporated in 1948, Deer Park is located between La Porte and Pasadena, notable for its huge oil refineries, a primarily white, middle working class makeup. It was nearly wiped out by the Great Storm of 1900 which also ended Galveston's prominence; the town was revitalized in 1928 with Shell Oil breaking ground on a large refinery just outside of town (the first of the aforementioned huge oil refineries). The town bills itself as the "Birthplace of Texas"; the validity of the claim is debatable, but the treaty ending the Texas Revolution against Mexico was drafted and signed on land that would eventually become the city. The name derives from a deer park that existed in the area prior to the city's founding, although deer are now a rare sight in town.
  • 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. Sitting at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, it is home to the Barbours Cut Terminal, a huge shipping container complex for the nearby ports and one 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 - South Houston is a 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 typically 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 textbook definition of suburbia. When anyone remembers this area, it's 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 it's a relatively small portion. One of the largest master planned communities in Houston. The Johnson Space Center is located here as well. Interestingly, while still composed of a mostly white population, Clear Lake City also has a notable concentration of Asians, both East and South. This is likely due to many either working as or having descended from NASA employees.
  • 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.

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. Notable 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. 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.
  • Tiki Island - A small village that doesn't even push 1,000 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.

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 entering Houston via the 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 and Corpus Christi. Much of the area has already incorporated and is thus out of Houston's reach, much to the city's chagrin. Notable Houston neighborhoods and independent cities in the area include:
  • Sugar Land - One of the largest cities in the Greater Houston Area, also one of the wealthiest and fastest growing as well, and at least important enough to get its own upscale 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 it's poised to annex even more. Pretty sure Houston regrets not annexing the little town earlier. It's also home to the Astros' Triple-A affiliate, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.
  • 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 Americans.
  • 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 '50s 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.
  • Richmond - not to be confused with Virginia's capital, or any of several smaller Richmonds. 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.

    Southwest Houston 
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 notable neighborhoods:
  • Uptown - Also called the Galleria Area, if there is an area every visitor to Houston visits just once, it's Uptown. Uptown Houston is a massive commercial districtnote  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, straddling almost the entirety of the 610 Loop from Southwest Freeway to Interstate 10, though it lacks the thick skyscraper buildup of downtown, at least, for now. The most recognizable structure, visible 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.note 
  • 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. Like so many areas of Houston, it fought annexation for years, but Houston still consumed most of it.
    • Royal Oaks Country Club - By far the most upscale of the Alief neighborhoods due to being a gated community north of the Westpark Tollway/Alief-Clodine Rd and directly adjacent to Westchase's western border. Originally an airpark, this is one of the wealthiest communities in the city.
  • 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 businesses, especially those associated with the petroleum industry (such as Halliburton), have offices here. Mostly a boring business area that just adds to Houston's skyline.
    • Rivercrest - Two streets with some of the largest and most expensive lots in the Houston area; don't expect to live here unless you're worth upwards of $75 million.
  • Greenway Plaza - A large mixed use development built between Downtown and Uptown, it is yet another center for Houston's amazing skyline and only exists 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. Another key part of the complex is the Regal/Edwards Grand Palace movie complex, which is the largest cinema inside the loop and one of the most luxurious cineplexes in the United States, featuring a parking garage, a Marble Slab Creamery, and formerly a Landry's restaurant named Harlow's, though the food options couldn't be taken into one of the theater's screening rooms. The restaurant closed in 2016.
  • Meyerland - A large community just outside Loop 610 but far inside the beltway, being directly south of Bellaire, 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).
  • NRG Park - formerly known as the Astrodomain (yeah, really), and, until recently, as Reliant Park, it's that large area that is home to Houston's most famous sports and convention venues: NRG (formerly Reliant) Stadium, NRG (formerly Reliant) Center, NRG (formerly Reliant) Arena, and NRG (formerly 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. The Astrodome may well be on its way to the same fate. The site of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
  • Hiram Clarke - Located between the loop and the beltway, Southwest of NRG Park, and well south of Bellaire and Meyerland, 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. Only really noteworthy for Madison High School, which has seen several star athletes, including Vince Young, as its alumni. This infamous area is part of the "5 Corners District".
  • Gulfton - Large community located directly to the West of Bellaire, separating it from Sharpstown and located to the South of Uptown. Formerly Westmoreland Farms, it's one of the most densely populated communities in Houston, and the area is home to many apartment complexes and contains the small Shenadoah ranch-house neighborhood. 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, particularly Hispanics. 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"; it's one of the most infamous Wretched Hives in the southwestern states, though it is also home to several distribution companies and a few Latin restaurants.
  • Rice Village - A small shopping district located just west of Rice University. A dense and well-known retail location, it is a culinary madhouse, with various restaurants, including three French, two Japanese, two Chinese, two Italian, two Turkish, one Mexican, two Spanish, one Mediterranean, one Vietnamese, two Indian, and three Thai restaurants as well as sandwich shops, delicatessens, and specialty food and beverage stores.
  • Braeswood Place - Large deed-restricted community directly south of West University Place and Southside Place, west of the Texas Medical Center and east of Meyerland, and straddling Brays Bayou. Originally consisting of wealthy ranch-style houses, floods in 2001 devastated the community and prompted most of these houses to be torn down and replaced with newer housing.
    • Old Braeswood - An offshoot east of Braeswood Place that is even more affluent; this is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and has a multitude of historic homes including large ranch-houses (by Houston standards, which is saying something).
    • Link Valley - A small area that used to be one of the most notorious wretched hives in Houston, the police cracked down on this area and eventually had the majority of the rotting apartment buildings here torn down and replaced by townhouse communities; now a gentry neighborhood.

    Greater Sharpstown 
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. Notable 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 PlazAmerica's and now caters to the poor Latino population instead of the poor Black population. This mall did get a Cineplex Odeon movie theater attached in 1993 (the mall that took Sharpstown's business, the Galleria, saw its cinema close in 1994); this shuttered and was eventually reopened as a Latino focused theater called "Viva Cinemas". It only lasted a few months, but they also accused the nearby AMC Studio 30 (which is north of Sharpstown and east of Westchase) of taking their business unfairly and then ending their Latino offerings when Viva closed; this led to a lawsuit against the cinema chains regarding movie studio "clearance" that has prompted a federal Department Of Justice investigation, so PlazAmericas has that.
  • Harwin Drive - Houston's bargain mile; its west end is around Wilcrest Drive on the west side of Westchase, where it goes into Alief and becomes Alief-Clodine road, while its east terminus is on the southbound frontage road at Interstate 69, just east of Hillcroft. 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, everything is permitted.
  • Forum Park - At the southwest end of Sharpstown, being the last neighborhood for I-69 and Beltway 8 going south before the two freeways intersect (Forum Park's inside a V-shaped enclave with these two highways inside the Beltway). The good news about this neighborhood is it has a handful of nice, well-known car dealerships for Houston. The bad news is everything else; this is another Wretched Hive AND Prostitution Central in Houston, which helped drive a mall in the neighborhood out of business.

    Southeast Houston 
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. 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 - Also known as "Binz" after its main street. 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, 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. Like many areas in this region, the neighborhood has been experiencing gentrification recently, leading to push back from local community leaders.
  • Glenbrook Valley - The neighborhood directly north of William P. Hobby Airport. Noteworthy for becoming the first designated "historic neighborhood" outside the loop, it has several nice houses but is otherwise surrounded by yet another Wretched Hive of falling apartments and other not-so-ok neighborhoods, causing quite a few problems for the area, which was once referred to as the "Little River Oaks". One of those not-so-good neighborhoods is...
  • South Park - Between 288/Hiram Clarke and Hobby Airport, this is not that much different from "The Clarke"; this also has seen several rappers make note of it and the eastern border of Telephone Road, one of the most infamous streets in the city. One of those rappers, South Park Mexican, named himself after the neighborhood; he is currently serving in prison.
  • Southbelt - A large community adjacent to the Hobby area and Gulf Meadows that is close to the Clear Lake area.
    • Ellington - The alternate community, which also houses Ellington Airport (formerly Ellington Field), which was a U.S. military base. One of the few U.S. bases founded during WWI for pilot training still in any kind of operation, Ellington is now owned by the City of Houston, though various military and government functions, including NASA and the Texas Air Guard, still operate out of the facility. Recently, the wheels have begun turning to turn the facility into a premier Spaceport, and it has already been designated as such.

    Brazosport/Brazoria County 
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, 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 notable Communities:
  • Pearland - Pronounced pear-land, not pearl-land. 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 traveling 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 California 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. It's really hard to tell when you leave Friendswood and enter League City as you drive east on FM 518.
  • Iowa Colony - A small village that was such a horrible speed trap,note  Texas enacted a law limiting how much money a municipality could get from speeding tickets. 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 4,000 people.
  • Alvin - Hometown of baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan,note  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.
  • Bonney - A small town that is otherwise unnoticeable, except for the fact that it is surrounded by three prisons.
  • 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.
  • 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. Hometown of Selena, the Tejano music superstar murdered as she was starting to break into the mainstream (though her family would move to Corpus Christi, where she started her career). One of the doctors who helped deliver her was future US Congressman, presidential candidate, and conservative/libertarian icon Ron Paul.
  • 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.note  Gained a measure of fame when a Mammoth skeleton was found here.
  • Freeport - A small town that merged with Velasco, 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.

    Greater Downtown 
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 (EaDo) - Separating East End from Downtown, this area is the neighborhood just south of the Eastex Freeway (I-69) when passing the Central Business District (CBD). Old Chinatown, one of the two in the city, is located here. Also located here are the other (good) football teams, the Houston Dynamo and their owned-and-operated Distaff Counterpart, the Houston Dash, and their stadium, now on its third name of PNC Stadium. Also of note is a very large, old sign reading simply "WALD" which often shows up in Instagrams of Houston as an item of mystery note . The area has had its ups and downs. On the one hand, it is home to many industrial warehouses, some abandoned, some still in use, and was for a long time pretty much Houston's version of Skid Row, having a huge homeless population (most of them have since moved on to Midtown). 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 and growing all the time.
  • Midtown - Everything between the Gulf Freeway wrapping around downtown's southwest, the Southwest Freeway, and Spur 527. 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. It has also recently become pretty much ground zero for the homeless, so it never hurts to keep some pocket change when traveling through.
  • 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; 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 alongside Loop 610. A very beautiful neighborhood befitting the region it's located in, it 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 as well as the entire world 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 you're white. This community also includes the River Oaks Shopping Center on West Gray St that features two notable landmarks. One is the River Oaks Theatre, one of the three central neighborhood movie palaces from the early to mid 20th century (the Alabama down Shepherd south and the Bellaire in Southside Place/West University Place were the others), and this theater is the only one of the three still open (Alabama closed in 1984, Bellaire closed in 1992). It is now an arthouse cinema. This center is also infamous for featuring two Starbucks across West Gray from each other; these coffeehouses were the direct inspiration for Lewis Black's "Starbucks" rant (there are now three Starbucks with a Barnes & Noble bookstore built a block over after the Alabama's bookstore closed (Barnes & Noble serves Starbucks coffees in their cafes).

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, and gay bars dotted the neighborhood. The AIDS epidemic ravaged this community, and the gay population decentralized, though a fair number still remain and it is still a major LGBT center in Texas.

    East End 
Area south and east 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 and is currently undergoing gentrification.
  • Magnolia Park - Another Hispanic neighborhood and one of the oldest in Houston. Was formerly a separate incorporated community.
  • 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 very poor 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 Anna 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.

    Island Cities 
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 Southwest 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 enclavenote , 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 - At 0.2 SQUARE MILES in size, all it contains is three strip malls, a bowling alley, a bakery, a few small office buildings, and the area's Whole Foods Market, which was formerly the Bellaire/Bel Air, the third of the classic movie palace trilogy in Houston; all of this is along Bellaire Boulevard, which extends east of Bellaire and drops the name when reentering Houston. It is one of the most notorious speed trap zones in Texas, which it uses to fund its tiny existence.

    Memorial Villages 
Houston's second major group of enclaves, and their existences are no more justified than those of the island cities. Originally a small town surrounded by farmland, the 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. Some 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 War over why it exists. The third largest village.
  • Hunters Creek Village - The largest village by population, it is the fifth-wealthiest location in Texas by per capita 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 by per capita 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 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 is slowly evolving into something a little more sane: a place to dine out (because Houston needs more of those). Make no mistake, though, it's still a major Pub Crawl destination; anyone caught there on Fat Tuesday could attest to this.
    • Sixth Ward - The last of the town's historic wards, occupying the eastern end of Washington Ave. before it enters Downtown. Is said to have the largest collection of Victorian Houses left in Houston, in defiance of the town's usual "Out with the old, in with the new" mentality.
  • 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, a running course, extensive trails back in the woods for hiking, cycling, and trail running, and 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 undergoing gentrification.
  • Northside Village - Residential area east of The Heights and directly north of Downtown. One of Houston's many majority-Hispanic communities, it's something of a mixed-bag; the western side is moderately middle-class and looks like an extension of the Heights, but the farther east you go, the more run-down it gets. As of 2023, the main drag up Elysian looks a bit like the Heights after a Zombie Apocalypse, and there don't appear to be any attempts at gentrification anytime soonnote . Most of Northside's eastern third or so is occupied by a massive Industrial Park, contributing to the decidedly blue-collar feel of the neighborhood. Additionally, the Saint Arnold Brewing Company has a brewery here due north of Downtown.
  • Fifth Ward - One of Houston's Historic Wards, and probably THE most infamous of Houston's Wretched Hives. Well-known Hip-Hop group the Geto Boys (Trope Makers for Horrorcore and Trope Namers for Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!) hail from the Fifth Ward, giving you an idea of just how rough it is. The Ward lived up to its reputation especially from the '70s-'90s, but recent decades have seen a marked downturn in crime. Its rep persists, unfortunately, making most large business chains hesitant to set up shop there. However, that might be starting to change; just the last few years have seen the establishment of a Chase Bank, a Taco Bell, a Walgreens, and a CVS right on the main drag of Lyons, with a McDonald's a little down the road on I-10, so the Ward's luck might be turning around at last.
    • Frenchtown - The western edge of the Fifth Ward, running up the Eastex Freeway, and one with a unique history. As the name suggests, it was founded by a group of Louisiana Creoles fleeing The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. For decades they formed a little Francophone enclave in the majority-African-American ward, bringing Zydeco Music and building some of the oldest Catholic Churches in Houston. Frenchtown had assimilated into the wider Fifth Ward by the 70's, but to this day the area retains a uniquely French Creole flavor.
  • Kashmere Gardens - No, not THAT Kashmir. An often-overlooked residential area north of the Fifth Ward, noticeably nicer, but no less poor. Like the adjacent Northside Village, its eastern edge is heavily industrialized, most notably the MASSIVE Rail-Corridor on Liberty. However, the northern and western sides are quite possibly the most rural areas in all of Central Houston; driving up Lockwood or Homestead, one could get the feeling that one had been teleported to Liberty County, until one hits 610.
  • Denver Harbor - East of the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens and north of the Houston Ship Channel. An almost entirely industrialized area and not very scenic, though one can find the occasional Townhouse on the southern side. A majority Hispanic community, it contains a number of historical bungalow homes and cottages and was originally settled by blue-collar whites working in the nearby train yards and port facilities. Its name come from two of the original subdivisions that made up the community Denver and Harbor. In 1939, an unknown vagrant painted the word "Podunk" on the side of a water tower, referring to how out of the way the neighborhood was. The city repeatedly tried to paint over the sign, only for it to be repainted on within days. Eventually, the entire community got in on the joke and started calling themselves "Podunkers". As the community transitioned from being working-class White American to being working-class Hispanic American, the name fell into disuse.
  • Pleasantville - No connection to the film of the same name, this neighborhood in Houston, located between Denver Harbor and 610 Loop was annexed in the 1940s and is predominantly African American today. Surrounded by industrial areas and rail lines, the entire neighborhood is declining and has been declining for decades, wracked by poverty and crime.

    North Houston and Unincorporated Harris County 
Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The large amorphous area north of the I-610 loop, Interstate 10, and the Crosby Freeway, and to the North and East of Addicks Reservoir. Though large portions of Houston are located here, most of Houston is to the south of these demarcations; the majority of this area is unincorporated, but in Houston's ETJ, with the exception of three cities. The population in the ETJ region, including other ETJ areas thus far mentioned, about equals that of the city itself. Like Southwest Houston, the area runs the gamut, from poor lesser communities, to rich affluent gated subdivisions, and everything in-between. Cities, Houston neighborhoods, and unincorporated suburbs include:
  • Willowbrook - A major business district in the northwest of Houston. The area is home to another major Houston mall, the Willowbrook Mall. The mall and immediate surrounding area were annexed by Houston years ago, while most of the surrounding neighborhoods remained in the ETJ, as Houston was only interested in the Mall's tax money.
    • Cypress Crossing - Business area in north Willowbrook, home to a Hewlett-Packard campus, which was the home of Compaq Computer Corporation before they got bought out. The entrance to the complex is still named Compaq Center Drive, and has its own exit off of the Texas 249 freeway.
  • Tomball - A small town along SH 249 and FM 2920, northwest of Willowbrook and outside the Grand Parkway, it is one of only three incorporated towns north of Houston in Harris County. Noteworthy for its unusual name and picturesque small-town feel. Also noteworthy is their annual July 4 Celebration, which is easily as impressive as the one held in Downtown Houston. Though it's not quite an enclave, it is surrounded on three sides by Houston's ETJ, making expansion near impossible without Houston's approval.
  • Greenspoint - The least affluent business district of Houston and the only component of Houston's skyline in North Houston, if one does not count The Woodlands. It has earned the very unflattering name "Gunspoint" due to being a Wretched Hive; it really only exists for several businesses, hotels and anything requiring flying since George Bush Intercontinental Airport is east of Greenspoint. Much like Willowbrook, it is centered around a mall, Greenspoint Mall, and the business area is annexed by Houston while the neighborhoods are not. Greenspoint Mall has degenerated to the point where it has become the new "ghetto mall" of Houston, and visiting is not recommended for tourists.
  • Aldine - Another one of the most notorious Wretched Hives of Houston, this is one of the most decrepit areas of Houston alongside South Park and Hiram Clarke on the other side of town. Bush Intercontinental is to the north of this community. Despite being within the Beltway, the entire neighborhood, for the most part, is outside Houston city limits but sitting in its ETJ.
    • East Aldine - Of all of Greater Houston's majority-Mexican communities, East Aldine might take the cake. Driving down Aldine-Westfield, one might get the feeling that one has been unwittingly teleported south of the Rio Grande; in East Aldine, it's signs and billboards in English that seem out of place.
  • Humble - A city just east of Bush Airport, it is the second of the three incorporated cities in Northern Harris County, and unlike the others, it is a complete enclave, surrounded on practically all sides by Houston's city limits, not just ETJ. The city incorporated in 1933 after a massive oil boom due to its truly large local oil wells. Humble Oil Company, a predecessor to Exxon, was headquartered here. Not very wealthy or nice, compared to other Houston suburbs as the oil boom has long ended (though petroleum remains an important industry regardless), but it holds on greedily to its independence regardless.
  • Atascocita - Large unincorporated community east of Humble, and west of Lake Houston, an artificial lake which is entirely in Houston City Limits, and was created by flooding city owned land and damming it up. Atascocita is in Houston's ETJ but in 2005 signed a 30-year non-annexation agreement with the city, which annexed its business areas and began levying a sales tax on the businesses in return. Thereby, the neighborhood can expect independence till at least the 2030s.
  • Kingwood - Houston's largest neighborhood north of the Beltway, and subject to the most contentious annexation in Houston's history. In the 2006 census, after the annexation the master-planned community had 65,000 residents by itself, versus the 37,000 it had in 1990 prior to annexation. When Houston annexed the community in the '90s, the fight over it was so bitter that it led to the state tightening the annexation laws to make future annexations harder. There are still residents in Kingwood who haven't gotten over it, and probably never will. The community itself remains a nice suburban community of Houston. Just north of the community is Lake Houston Wilderness Park, a wooded parkland that encompasses 4,786.6 acres. It was formerly owned by the state of Texas, but is now owned by the city of Houston, despite the fact that most of the park is not in Houston city limits but its ETJ. Its the only park owned by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department that has overnight camping and lodging. There are over 20 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails available inside the park.
  • Spring - Large community north of Greenspoint and the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Unincorporated and entirely in Houston's ETJ, it's just another nice suburb of Houston. Pretty much all of the businesses located along Interstate 45 as it runs through Spring have been annexed into Houston via Limited Annexation.
    • Old Town Spring: As the name suggests, the oldest neighborhood in Spring, and one of the oldest and most interesting townships in all of Greater Houston. Began as a true Old West Railroad Town, complete with five saloons and a gambling house. The Depression hit it hard, but the Oil Boom of the '70s lead to a revitalization and rebranding as a sort of old timey open air shopping mall. To this day, most of the houses operate shops for antiques, novelties, perfume, and other tinctures. One might even say that the entire town is one big antique.
  • Jersey Village - The third and final incorporated city in Northern Harris county. It is closer into Houston than the other two. Incorporated in 1956, so Houston didn't have a chance to annex the area as it grew. Its existence forced Beltway 8 to be weirdly routed around it. Due to Houston's city limits and ETJ, it is incapable of further growth. It also has a reputation as one of the worst speed traps in all of Greater Houston, so mind the speed limit very well when traveling through here.
  • Cypress - Unincorporated community northwest of Jersey Village, alongside 290. One of the (historically) whitest (though it's becoming increasingly Hispanic) and most affluent communities in Northwest Harris County, it's notoriously difficult to determine where exactly Cypress begins and ends. Cypress is often lumped together with Fairbanks to its southeast, and much of Northwest Harris County is often called the "Cy-Fair Area" as a result. The two communities along with Jersey Village are served by the Cy-Fair Independent School District, one of the most exemplary school districts in all of Texas.

    East Houston and Unincorporated Harris County 
Not to be confused with the neighborhood of East Houston which is considered part of North Houston (yes it's confusing, work with us), this region has some rough boundaries; it's everything east Loop 610, south of the Crosby Freeway (inside the Beltway), east of Lake Houston and the 22.5-mile canal that links the lake to the city (outside the Beltway), and not included in the Galveston Bay Area. A combination of industrial and rural areas, it forms an important basis for the economic engine of the city, though, of it contains very little of the city of Houston (though more than half the area is in the city's ETJ). Notable East Houston neighborhoods, unincorporated suburbs, and independent cities include:
  • Houston Ship Channel and Port of Houston - The economic engine of the city in many ways, the Port of Houston is the one of the largest and busiest ports in the world, covering an approximately 25 miles worth of facilities along the Houston Ship Channel. The Channel was dredged in the early 1900s, being opened by Woodrow Wilson himself in 1914, allowing ocean-going ships to travel miles further inland and turning Houston's port into Texas's premier seaport, surpassing the natural ports of Galveston and Texas City. The depth of the channel would be subsequently increased in the 1930s. The Port of Houston is the 16th busiest in the world and administered cooperatively by the Port of Houston Authority and more than 150 private entities along the channel. The port's creation was a direct result of the Great Galveston Hurricane that utterly destroyed Galveston, leading to local residents to support the creation of the port and channel, seeing it as a safer alternative to the more exposed Galveston. The Port Authority was created in 1911 as the Harris County Houston Ship Channel Navigation District. The channel itself and the port facilities alongside it are in Houston city limits, mostly limited annexation, but some areas are fully annexed. On both sides of the channel, the port is surrounded by factories, warehouses, and refineries (the refineries alone make up the second largest petrochemical complex in the world). Most of these are contained in various industrial districts, including Bayport Industrial District, Battleground Industrial District, and Jacintoport. The facilities north of the channel, namely Jacintoport, are in Houston's ETJ, while Battleground, Bayport, and others located south of Houston are either part of or in the ETJ of Pasadena, La Porte, or Deer Park. Industrial facilities can also be found in Baytown. The port, including its terminals, such as Barbours Cut Terminal and the newer Bayport Terminal, form one of the most important port facilities in the U.S., despite being among the youngest of the world's major ports (it celebrated its centennial in 2014).
  • Clinton Park - A small community located to the east of Loop 610, Clinton Park was one of the first communities developed for African Americans in Texas, being marketed to middle class black families. It grew and prospered at first, due to segregation preventing Blacks from living in White neighborhoods and its close proximity to the Port of Houston, located to the south of the neighborhood; following integration, blacks no longer saw a reason to patronize the area, and it subsequently declined. The community has been described as "rurban", a mix of urban and rural characteristics, due to its sparse population brought about by its isolation, both geographically and socially, from the rest of Houston, only made worse since the loop was built. Today, the community remains poor with a declining population.
  • North Shore - Houston neighborhood annexed by the city in the 1950s, it's where that canal from Lake Houston mentioned earlier ends up connecting to the greater city. The last Houston neighborhood located in this region, it is the last thing in Houston city limits you see leaving Houston (or the first thing you see coming in) when you are traveling along interstate 10 or the Crosby Freeway. The community is spread out over a wide area, and home to a variety of subdivisions and other smaller neighborhoods.
  • Jacinto City - One of the only two really small cities in this subregion, Jacinto City is practically an enclave of Houston at this point. The city incorporated 1947 before Houston could annex it, so Houston just annexed around it. It was originally founded in 1941 as a community for shipyard workers and workers who worked in nearby steel mills and war factories. Today, it is still primarily a bedroom community for the nearby industries and port facilities. The small 1.9 sq. mile community is home to a little more than 10,000 people, most of which are working class Latinos and African Americans, and is bounded on the north by Interstate 10 and to the south by Galena Park.
  • Galena Park - Another small city and practical enclave of Houston, located directly to the south of Jacinto City, which it is physically adjacent to. Transformed from a farming and ranching town by the coming of the Port of Houston directly to the south of it and the later arrival of the oil refineries, it too has become a bedroom community for workers. Originally, prior to incorporation, the community was known as Clinton. However, when attempts to get a post office were stymied due to a Clinton, Texas already existing, the city changed its name to Galena Park, after the Galena Signal Oil Company which built the first refinery in town. The city incorporated in 1935 before Houston could annex it, thus Houston just annexed everything around it. Unfortunately, the city's economy has tanked in recent years, primarily due to the 9/11 attacks leading to increased port security which limited sailors ability to leave ships docked at port. Originally, the community was nearly all white and due to it being located directly adjacent to the entirely African American community of Clinton Park in Houston, the border between Galena Park and Clinton Park was entirely barricaded, and it remains so even now, an unfortunate holdover from the segregation era, though Galena Park is now mostly Latino and Hispanic.
  • Sheldon - Relatively small unincorporated community located entirely with the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Houston. Located along the Crosby Freeway, just north of where it meets the Beltway, its a small community of less than 2000 people, but will soon be located nearby several large companies, including one on the Fortune 500, due to a nearby business park and master planned community called Generation Park being built to its north.
  • Huffman - Small unincorporated community located directly to the east of Lake Houston along FM 1960 in Houston's ETJ, being the last or first thing you see if you take 1960 into or out of Houston via Dayton. The community is named after David Huffman, a Louisiana native who fought for Texas during its war for independence. Huffman and a group from Louisiana settled the area in 1840 after being given land for his service to Texas. Huffman covers apparently 39 sq. miles, but it's almost entirely rural, with scattered farms, subdivisions, apartments and businesses, and no real town core to speak of.
  • Crosby - Unincorporated, mostly white, relatively middle class community from which the Crosby Freeway got its name, located at the very edge of Houston's ETJ, it can be considered the eastern edge of Houston's influence. The community traces its origin all the way to Humphrey Jackson, a native of Louisiana who was one of the 300 original American colonists to settle in Texas, but the town itself was named for G.J. Crosby, a railroad engineer. Currently a small bedroom community of Houston of just over 2,000 people.
  • Barret - Another unincorporated community, this one sits outside Houston's ETJ, but only just barely. Originally named Barret Station, and still sometimes called that, it is located to the south of Crosby Freeway, directly to the south of Crosby itself. The community was founded by and named after Harrison Barret, a former slave freed by the conclusion of the American Civil War, originally from Louisiana. After locating and gathering as much of his family as he could, Barret settled his family on land east of the San Jacinto River, beginning a community originally known as Barret's Settlement. As the community grew, Barret eventually built a church, cemetery, and school. When a post office was built, the community was renamed Barret Station. To this day, this rural community remains majority African American and is relatively poor.

    Montgomery County 
Large county to the north of Houston's Harris County. It is the next most rural region of the Greater Houston Area outside Brazoria County, but even it is largely suburban.
  • The Woodlands — Large, very affluent community well north of Greenspoint. Houston has attempted to annex this neighborhood in the past but has been constantly rebuffed. Houston has recently agreed to not annex the master-planned community for a few decades, in the meantime allowing The Woodlands to potentially incorporate itself (while agreeing to payoff Houston for the lack of incorporation).
  • Shenadoah — The sister community to The Woodlands, and an incorporated town. Not to be confused with the neighborhood inside Gulfton in Southwest Houston, between Bellaire and Sharpstown.

    Far North Greater Houston 
Places so far north, they are only just in the Greater Houston Area. Primarily rural areas.
  • Huntsville - Large town in the Sam Houston National Forest, several miles north of Conroe/New Waverly. This town is home to a handful of major prison facilities for the Texas DOJ, including the Walls Unit, which has the state's execution chamber, the most active in the United States. It also has the diagnostics unit and the Wynn Unit. Also home to Sam Houston State University.
    • West Livingston - Home to the Polunsky Unit Prison, which is home to the state's Death Row unit; Death Row inmates are shipped west on U.S. 190 to the Walls Unit in Huntsville for the final hours prior to execution.

- Media either set or filmed in Greater Houston

(Famous) People Originally From Houston

Musicians and Bands From Houston

Alternative Title(s): Greater Houston