The largest city in Texas and the fourth largest in the nation, Houston is the seat of government for Harris County and the center of the Houston Metropolitan Area. The port and railroad industries, along with the discovery of oil, have historically driven tremendous booms in the regional economy. The 20th century intensified this situation as Houston became the home of the internationally renowned Texas Medical Center. The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center for NASA is another feather in Houston’s cap. It is one of the key facilities in the space program.

Metropolitan Houston has a broad-based industrial dominance in the energy, aeronautics, and technology industries. Only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 companies. The petroleum industry plays an important role in the Port of Houston, which ranks first in the nation for international waterborne tonnage and second in total cargo tonnage. Houston’s dynamic economy is indirectly supported by the powerful presence of leading research universities like Rice University and the University of Houston.

Remarkably multicultural, Metropolitan Houston draws new residents to a cosmopolitan atmosphere that offers premier cultural, recreational, and entertainment attractions. More than seven million visitors each year underscore the metro area as a popular destination for tourists. Houston’s Museum District is home to a remarkably rich cluster of cultural institutions and world-class exhibits. Included on the list are the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Natural Science. The Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel are located in the nearby Montrose area. Annual events add to the permanent attractions, dotting the calendar with exciting shows and celebrations like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Houston Pride Parade, the Houston International Festival, and the Art Car Parade. The Bayou City Arts Festival has earned a reputation as one of America’s finest gatherings of artisans.

Metropolitan Houston’s cultural community is world class, anchored by the downtown Theater District ranked second in the nation that serves as home to a number of arts organizations and six performance halls. A relatively new addition is the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Houston is one of only a handful of cities with permanent professional companies in all major disciplines. The Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the Alley Theatre are joined by scores of groups that showcase local and regional talent.

The metro area also attracts stellar national and international shows from Broadway hits to the world’s biggest musical stars, for a lineup that appeals to every age and interest. Families will appreciate the abundance of first-rate attractions that are ideal for children, headlined by the Houston Zoo, the Downtown Aquarium, the Space Center Houston, and the Children’s Museum of Houston.

Houston is known for its unique and diverse shopping opportunities. Residents can shop the largest mall in Texas—The Galleria, with its designer stores, two million square feet of retail and its own ice skating rink. For those who want to shop outside of the major malls there are many pedestrian friendly shopping centers, places such as Uptown Park, Highland Village and the River Oaks Shopping center. Beyond the planned shopping centers residents can find many neighborhoods full of shop’s, run by people from around the world selling everything imaginable.

Metropolitan Houston is home to state-of-the-art stadiums and arenas and popular professional and collegiate teams that keep fans jumping to their feet. NCAA competitive events draw large crowds, especially the annual Texas Bowl. Active sports can be enjoyed in outstanding sports facilities and recreational areas, including nearly 340 city parks and hundreds of green spaces that total 19,600 acres. Some parks meld nature and culture, like Hermann Park with its world-class museums and attractions and the historic sites nestled in Sam Houston Park. Surrounding the Houston urban area, outdoor enthusiasts will find vast state parks, recreational lakes, deep forests, rolling rivers, and miles of scenic trails. Nearby Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico offer beaches and waterfront retreats. Take your time exploring Metropolitan Houston, where the catch phrase “something for everyone” always rings true.

Residents of Metropolitan Houston enjoy some of the world’s finest healthcare and educational facilities and services. Bringing together scores of non-profit organizations, the Texas Medical Center is the world’s largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions. Thirteen acclaimed hospitals combine with two specialty institutions, two medical schools, four nursing schools, schools of dentistry and pharmacy, and those for public health and health related careers. More heart surgeries are performed at Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world. The center was also the first and still the largest in emergency air services. Texas Medical Center also developed and implemented a very successful inter-institutional transplant program.

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has consistently ranked among the top two hospitals nationally for cancer care by U.S. News & World Report. Major hospitals throughout the metro area are supported by a comprehensive network of specialty care institutes, family practice clinics, walk-in and emergency centers, home health, skilled nursing, long-term care centers, rehabilitation and therapies, and options for alternative medicine.

Educational opportunities throughout Metropolitan Houston are highly developed on every academic level. Residents have options for a private education in more than 300 independent or parochial schools that complement the strong public school system. More than 55 colleges and universities combine with dozens of institutions that are engaged in research and development to set a benchmark of high educational standards. Recognized as one of the nation’s leading teaching and research universities, Rice University is consistently ranked in the Top 20 for overall academic excellence by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Houston is one of the largest of the public research universities in Texas, drawing students from more than 130 countries across the globe to distinguish itself as one of the most diverse campuses in the nation. Houston is also home to the South Texas College of Law, founded in 1923 and nationally recognized as one of the top programs in trial advocacy. Other institutions of higher education include the University of St. Thomas, Houston Baptist University, and Texas Southern University. The Houston Community College System is the fourth-largest system in the nation, ensuring an affordable start on a four-year degree as well as outstanding two-year career and vocational programs, customized business training, and continuing education.

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