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Houston, Texas
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Houston, Texas

Houston redirects here. For other meanings of the word, please see Houston (disambiguation).

Picture of the Downtown Houston Skyline

Located in southeast Texas, Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States and one of the two largest economic areas in Texas. The city is the county seat of Harris County, the third most populous county in the country. A portion of far southwest Houston also extends into Fort Bend County.

As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 1,953,631, but a July 1, 2002 Census estimate placed the city's population at 2,009,834. Houston is one of the newest and fastest growing major cities in the United States. In 1900, the population in Houston was about 45,000, and it was the 85th largest town in the U.S. Now, quoted as the "Fastest Growing City in America" and "the Most Popular City to Relocate," there are as many as 5 million people living in the Houston Metropolitan Area. The city limits cover about 600 square miles in area, and it's also the largest city in the United States which does not have zoning laws.

Picture of the Uptown Houston Skyline.

Houston is world renowned for its energy industry (particularly oil), aeronautics industry and ship channel. The Port of Houston is the busiest port in the United States, second in the world as far as foreign tonnage. Because of the economic trades, many residents have moved in from other U.S. states, as well as hundreds of countries worldwide.

Officially, Houston has been nicknamed the Space City. "Houston" was the first word uttered on the moon, as Neil Armstrong reported back to NASA. It is known by the locals, however, as the Bayou City. (Other nicknames include "Clutch City", and "Magnolia City".)

Houston's Rice Stadium was home to the Super Bowl VIII, and Super Bowl XXXVIII was played at Houston's Reliant Stadium in February 2004. Because of the incredible turnout, the NFL says the city is almost guaranteed to host the 2009 or 2010 game as well.

Houston, Texas
City Flag City seal

Location in the state of Texas
City nickname: "Space City"
CountyHarris County, Texas and Fort Bend County, Texas
 - Total
 - Water

1,558.4 km² (601.7 mi²)
57.7 km² (22.3 mi²) 3.70%
 - Total (2000)
 - Density

Time zoneCentral: UTC-6
29°40' N
95°18' W
External link: City web page

Table of contents
1 History
2 Geography and Climate
3 Demographics
4 Areas of the city
5 Transportation
6 Economy
7 Famous Events
8 People and culture of Houston
9 Law and Government
10 Museums not located in the Museum District
11 Sports Facilities
12 Professional sports teams
13 Media and Journalism
14 Education
15 Houston in film and TV
16 Sister cities
17 External links
18 Sources


Main article: History of Houston

Historical Events:

Murders and disasters

Geography and Climate

Landsat 7 satellite. In the very center is Downtown Houston. Galveston is also clearly visible in the picture.]]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1,558.4 km² (601.7 mi²). 1,500.7 km² (579.4 mi²) of it is land and 57.7 km² (22.3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 3.70% water.

Houston's climate is classified as being humid subtropical. The city is located in the gulf coastal plains biome, and the vegetation is classified as a temperate grassland. It has a hot and humid climate because the winds from the Gulf of Mexico pick up a lot of moisture and deposit it in the area. Average precipitation levels range from 36 to 48 inches. The air tends to feel still, especially in the summertime. The humidity tends to make the air feel hotter than it really is. It is not uncommon for afternoon rains to occur in the city, and many Houston meteorologists almost never give out a zero percent chance of rain. The winters are cool and temperate, but are not as cold as in North Texas. Thunderstorms occur quite a bit during the summertime. Like many areas of Texas, Houston suffers from the Red Imported Fire Ant.

Houston has four bayous passing through the city. The Buffalo Bayou, which runs into downtown, the Brays Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center, White Oak Bayou runs through the Heights and near northwest area and the Sims Bayou in the south of Houston merge in downtown Houston into the Houston Ship Channel. The Ship Channel goes past Galveston, Texas into the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of Houston is very flat and is about fifty feet above sea level in elevation; the Houston Heights area has the highest elevation in the city. The city once relied on groundwater for its water needs. Land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources.

Hurricanes have slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast on numerous occasions. Several hurricanes have passed through Houston, causing death and destruction. Ironically, a hurricane prevented Galveston from becoming the economic power in southeast Texas; Houston now has the economic prowess in the region. A recent example on how the hurricane can affect the way of life was actually a tropical storm. Tropical Storm Allison passed through the city in June 2001. Many neighborhoods had changed because of the storm; older houses in some afflicted neighborhoods have been torn down and replaced with larger houses with larger foundations.

Houston's climate is often compared to that of Dallas, Texas. Dallas has a hot and dry climate while Houston has a hot and humid climate. While Dallas gets hotter temperatures, Houston's heat index is often higher.


As of the census of 2000, there are 1,953,631 people, 717,945 households, and 457,330 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,301.8/km² (3,371.7/mi²). There are 782,009 housing units at an average density of 521.1/km² (1,349.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 49.27% White, 25.31% African American, 0.44% Native American, 5.31% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 16.46% from other races, and 3.15% from two or more races. 37.41% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 717,945 households out of which 33.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.2% are married couples living together, 15.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% are non-families. 29.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.39.

In the city the population is spread out with 27.5% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 33.8% from 25 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $36,616, and the median income for a family is $40,443. Males have a median income of $32,084 versus $27,371 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,101. 19.2% of the population and 16.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 26.1% are under the age of 18 and 14.3% are 65 or older.

The Hispanic population in Houston is increasing as more and more from Latin countries try to find work in Houston. Hispanics make up a significant amount of the population. Houston has the third largest Hispanic population in the United States. People from Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, India, and Pakistan are also flocking to Houston. Houston has two Chinatowns, as well as the second largest Vietnamese population in the United States. Recent redevlopment of Midtown from run-down to upscale has increased property values and property taxes thus forcing the Vietnamese out of their current neigborhood into other areas. Houston has the second highest South African population in the United States, after Miami, Florida. Houston also boasts of having a population with a younger age than the national average.

Areas of the city

The San Jacinto Battleground State Park, which commemmorates the
Battle of San Jacinto, is located in the suburb of Deer Park

The Inner City

Houston, being the largest city in the United States without zoning laws, has grown in an unusual manner. Rather than a single “downtown” as the center of the city's employment, various other business districts have sprung up throughout the inner-city. Note that if these business districts were considered one, they would form the third largest in the United States. The city also has the third largest skyline, but because they are spread out between a few miles, most footage of the city only shows, for the most part, the Downtown area.

The following are areas of the inner-city:

Picture of the Texas Medical Center Skyline

Zip codes in Houston range from 77002 to 77598.


Most Houstonians like to go to Galveston when they want to see Moody Gardens or when they feel like they want to go to a beach close to home. Before near destruction in 1900 Galveston was the larger and wealthier of the two cities and dubbed "The Wall Street of the Southwest", perhaps eclipsed only by New Orleans as the Gulf Coast's premier city. The city's vulnerability on a narrow barrier bar island led to the creation of the mainland Houston Ship Channel made by the dredging of shallow Buffalo Bayou and Galveston Bay to form a protected port some 40 miles inland of the open Gulf and less than 10 miles from Houston's central business district. Beach houses owned by Houstonians have sprung up in other cities along the shoreline to the Gulf of Mexico. Houstonians also go to Kemah for the Kemah Boardwalk, which has many seafood restaurants and local tourist attractions. Kemah is surrounded by Galveston Bay to the east and Clear Lake (a brackish-water boater's paradise with open passthrough to Galvon Bay) to the west.

Locations in Houston are generally classified as either being inside or outside Interstate 610, known as the 610 Loop which include the Central business district and the cities of West University, and Southside Place, and a portion of Bellaire. The outerlying areas of Houston, as well as the rest of Bellaire, the airports and the suburbs and exurbs are outside the loop. Another ring road, Beltway 8 (also known as the Sam Houston Parkway), encircles the city another 5 miles further out. Yet a third - the "Grand Parkway", has begun construction roughly 10 miles beyond that around the outer suburbs and currently extends from Katy to Sugar Land.

Locations within the Houston city limits that are inside the Beltway 8 traditionally used the 713 area code. Those outside the Beltway that are within the city limits normally receive the 281 or 832 area code. However, the geographic division between 713, 281, and 832 has been eliminated, and newly issued phone numbers (especially for cell phones and fax machines) within that zone may be assigned any of the three codes. Areas far north, west, east and south of the inner-city also use 936 and/or 409.

The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

The towns of Kingwood, Alief and Clear Lake City have recently been annexed by the city of Houston, increasing the city limit's population.

For a full list of the cities in the Houston area, see:



Houston's size and lack of zoning have contributed to decentralization, or urban sprawl, which, combined with the humidity and hot summers, has made the automobile the favored means of transportation. The dependence on cars causes various pollution problems, including ozone warnings. The ozone problems can get very bad if a temperature inversion occurs. Houston ranked as the most ozone-polluted city in the United States one year and is a perennial contender for that dubious prize with Los Angeles. The worst pollution is around the refinery-laden ship channel on the east side. Since most of the residential neighborhoods are on the west side, prevailing winds lead pollution away from the port and refinery concentration.

Houston freeways are heavily traveled and often being reconstructed to meet the demands of continuing growth. I-45 South has been in a continuous state of construction, in one portion or another, almost since the first segment was built in the 1950s. City planners have been running experiments to reduce traffic congestion at rush hour. As in Los Angeles, the primary method currently in use is the HOV lane for vans and carpools. Timed freeway entrances, which regulate the addition of cars to the freeway, are also common. Houston has an extensive network of freeway cameras linked to a transit control center to monitor and study traffic.

One unusual characteristic of Houston's freeways are its service (or "feeder") roads. Alongside most freeways are two to four lanes parallel to the freeway permitting easy access to individual city streets. The service roads make freeway access very easy, but due to their visibility to passing traffic, they have attracted most of Houston's major retail stores. Thus, there are few places left within city limits where a freeway offers a view of trees and grass. New landscaping projects and a longstanding ban on new billboards are two ways that Houston is trying to back away from this side effect of convenience.

Houston has a hub-and-spoke freeway structure with multiple loops. The innermost loop is Interstate 610, forming approximately a 10-mile diameter around downtown. The roughly square "Loop-610" is quartered into the "North Loop", "South Loop", "West Loop", and "East Loop" by the locals. The roads of Beltway 8 and their freeway core, the Sam Houston Tollway, are the next loop, at a diameter of roughly 25 miles. A controversial proposed (and partly completed) highway project, State Highway 99 (named Grand Parkway by proponents and Grand Porkway by opponents) would form a third loop.

The spokes proceed in all directions away from downtown Houston. Here are some of the major routes: Going north on Interstate 45 leads to Dallas, Texas and Fort Worth. I-45 continues southeast directly to its terminus at Galveston, Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Interstate 10 westbound leads to San Antonio, Texas, and eastbound leads to New Orleans, Louisiana and Baton Rouge. U.S. Highway 290 provides a direct route northwest to Austin, Texas. The Southwest Freeway (U.S. 59) is a major freeway leading to the southwest suburbs in Fort Bend County of Sugar Land, Missouri City, Richmond, and Rosenberg and ultimately to the Mexican border about 300 miles beyond. U.S. 59 runs north of downtown as the EastTex freeway through the Piney Woods and into Arkansas at Texarkana. The Hardy Toll Road is a popular alternative on the commute between I-610 and The Woodlands, Texas, with convenient access to Bush Intercontinental Airport in between.

For a road map of Houston, click here

List of Major Freeways

Residents often refer to Freeways and Tollways by their names instead of numbers.

Mass Transit

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, or METRO, provides public transportation in the form of buses, trolleys, and lift vans. Uptown, METRO provides free service on the Uptown Shuttle. The city got the METRORail, a light rail service, on January 1, 2004. It runs primarily along Main Sreet from central Downtown Houston to the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. A 27-mile expansion has been approved to run the service all along the central Houston area, including Uptown. METRO hopes to expand the Light Rail to the 2 major airports, as well as the Bay Area, Katy, Spring and along the Southwest Freeway. This is Texas' second major light rail service, after DART's light rail service in Dallas, Texas. Although now only about 8 miles long a long term plan is being developed for several more much longer line segments connecting diverse corners of the metropolitan area.


Houston is served by George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), and Ellington Field (EFD).

Bush Airport handles all of the city's international traffic. Hobby has a lot of the intra-United States traffic that is headed for downtown, South Houston, Galveston, and the southern suburbs. The only passenger traffic that Ellington handles consists of passengers in Galveston County flying to Bush Airport to reduce travel time to that said airport. Ellington Field is in danger of closing down, as of February 2004.


Houston had several growth spurts in relation to the Texas oil industry. Houston became a major port because of the downfall of Galveston and the Houston Ship Channel. The 1920's had Houston's first growth spurt.

The city's second growth spurt occurred in the late 1970's, with the Arab Oil Embargo. Demand on Texas oil increased, and many people from the northeast came down to profit from the trade. When the embargo was lifted, the growth stopped. However, Pasadena still has its refineries, and the Port of Houston is among the busiest in the world. Houston has attempted to build a banking industry in the city, but all of the companies which had been started in Houston were merged with other companies nationwide. It still is vital to the region, but most of the banks operating there are not based in Houston. Real Estate is also a large business in the Houston area.

Houston is unique in being the largest American city without zoning regulations.

The city has the second lowest cost of living in comparison to other major U.S. cities. The housing in Houston is also one of the most affordable in the Nation.

List of Major Companies

This is a list of major companies headquartered in Houston and the Houston Metropolitan Area. Compaq was headquartered in Houston before it was bought out by Hewlett-Packard.

Imperial Sugar is based in nearby Sugar Land. Loch Energy is based in Humble.

Famous Events

Houston in also the home of NASA's Johnson Space Center, the Reliant Astrodome and the world-renowned Alley Theatre, and the starting point of the BP MS 150 bike ride, the country's largest charity bicycle tour.

People and culture of Houston

The Williams Waterwall, adjacent to the
Williams Tower
Houstonians are seen as the down-to-earth types. They are said to look more at the face value of someone and are more open than Dallasites. Many people currently living in Houston have come from other U.S. states or other countries worldwide. If someone is seen to be skirting the norms, but no harm was truly done, then many Houstonians wouldn't care about what that person did.

Houston has a very international flavor seeping around the city due to different ethnic groups, including Hispanics, African-Americans, ethnic Europeans from Germany, Greece, and France, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, and South Africans. Street signs are seen in Chinese and Vietnamese. About 90 languages are spoken in the area.

Because Houston and Dallas are both the major economic centers of the state, the two cities enjoy a friendly rivalry which causes many of the assets of one city to be compared to the assets of the other city. For example, although Dallas has more restaurants per person than even New York City, Houstonians eat out more often than residents of any other city in the United States, and the only city in which eating out is cheaper than Houston is New Orleans.

Several Houston-based restaurants, such as Ninfa Laurenzo's Mama Ninfa's Mexican resturant chain, Johnny Carabba's Carabba's and Kim Su Tran La's Kim Sơn; Vietnamese restaurant chain, have become well known in Texas and throughout the country.

List of famous and infamous people raised in Houston


Law and Government

Houston is the county seat of Harris County, and A portion of far southwest Houston also extends into Fort Bend County. The current mayor of Houston is Bill White, who is on his first term. A mayor, who is the executive branch of the city government, can be elected consecutively for three terms. City council members, who make up the legislative branch, are elected from nine districts in the city.

List of Mayors

See: List of Houston Mayors

Museums not located in the Museum District

Sports Facilities

Picture of the Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome

Professional sports teams

Houston is home to several professional sports franchises. Here is a list of teams with the league they are a part of and the venue the play in:

Former teams

Media and Journalism

Houston has a variety of newspapers, with the Houston Chronicle (which is the only major daily newspaper in Houston recieving wide distribution) being read all across the South-Central United States. Houston also is home to the TV stations and
radio stations that serve the metro area.

ABC-13 KTRK TV's Wayne Dolcefino released a controversial report that allegedly showed bad business practices of a charity called "Kid Care". Since then, the charity's donations dwindled, leaving the owner fuming. Furthermore, the same station employs Marvin Zindler, whose week-long exposee on the Chicken Ranch brothel later became the basis for the Brodway musical The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.

Partial List of Newspapers


Houston Independent School District is the primary school district in Houston and won praise for improved test scores. Rod Paige, the former superintendent, elevated the district to that level.

A portion of Western Houston falls under the Spring Branch ISD. Alief ISD has what was the city of Alief. Aldine ISD has what was Aldine. North Forest ISD takes up a part of Northeast Houston. Parts of Pasadena ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Galena Park ISD, Katy ISD, Fort Bend ISD, and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD take students from the city limits of Houston.

Colleges and Universities

Houston in film and TV

Part or all of these movies/shows take place in Houston and/or the Houston area

Though Houston and its suburbs are a prime spot for the filming of movies, the storylines do not usually include the story taking place in the city. (For example The Chase (1994) was filmed entirely in Houston.)

Sister cities

North: The Woodlands, Conroe
West: Katy, Sugar Land Houston, Bellaire, West University, Southside Place, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Hobby Airport East: Baytown, Liberty
South: Galveston, Freeport, Brazoria

External links


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Regions: Central Texas | East Texas | North Texas | Northeast Texas | Rio Grande Valley | Texas Hill Country | Texas Panhandle | Llano Estacado | West Texas | Houston Metropolitan Area | Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex
Largest Metropolitan areas: Abilene | Amarillo | Austin- San Marcos | Beaumont- Port Arthur | Brownsville- Harlingen- San Benito | Bryan- College Station | Corpus Christi | Dallas-Fort Worth | El Paso | Houston-Galveston-Brazoria | Killeen- Temple | Laredo | Longview- Marshall | Lubbock | McAllen- Edinburg- Mission | Odessa-Midland | San Angelo | San Antonio | Sherman- Denison | Texarkana | Tyler | Victoria | Waco | Wichita Falls
See also: List of counties in Texas