Houston Dopers: tell me about your city

See, I have a job interview there soon (I’m not prepared to say where yet), and i know next to nothing about the city. Sure, I can find all kinds of stuff online, but that doesn’t really tell me what it’s like.

Basically, what I’m looking for is what it would be like for a single professional who knows no one in the city to move there? How bad are rents? How bad is traffic?

But feel free to hit on any topic that comes to mind - remember I don’t know much about it, having only been there long enough to make connecting flights (and I’ve only done that twice).

Hopefully more recent Houstonites will jump in. I lived there from 1995 to 1997.

Houston was (back then) an incredibly cheap place to live. I was a teacher making nothing but I lived near The Galleria, West Main Street, and in Montrose. All really affordable places (except Galleria, we just found an average apartment complex nearby).

Traffic was, and currently, God-awful. There is now a light-rail system between downtown and the Medical Center. I used to go 610-59-10 to work, against traffic, and really didn’t have too many problems. The schlubs heading into the city, though, were stacked six lanes deep. The heat and the highways make it a real challenge, I’d say (I last drove in the city this spring).

I worked in the inner city, but the neighborhoods can change drastically in a few blocks. We used to joke about the zoning in the city - church, strip club, school, all within the same block! I think there’s new laws in effect. Downtown and the area around Post Oak are glass high-rises, but there are tons of strip malls and concrete monstrosities. There are flyovers and highway infrastructure everywhere. When I visited LA, a lot of the communities reminded me of Houston in this respect.

Lots of things to do in the arts - tons of museums, nice parks near the Medical Center (Hermann and others). You’ll have no problem connecting with people - tons of clubs, bars, and happy hour specials (this is how I lived when I had no cash). If you can stand the heat and a little compromised air quality doesn’t bug you too much, it’s a good place to live. Good sports teams (well, excluding the Texans) to follow as well. You’re close to Galveston, which is a romantic beach town away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Rents ain’t bad at all. I’m a single guy living in a not-bad part of town, and I currently am paying $500 / mo. for a 650-sq. ft. 1-bedroom.

Traffic is hideous, horrendous, awful, mind-boggling, must-be-seen-to-be-believed. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. It’s worse. I work out in the early mornings w/ my girlfriend at a gym in the suburbs (which, I am convinced, will by the year 2230 cover the entire continental US). It takes me 20 minutes to get there at 5 in the morning. Coming back at 7 (which is later than I prefer to leave), it took me this morning over 30 minutes just to drive 5 miles in a straight line from the gym to the freeway. Once you get into the city proper, it’s worse. Much worse.

You need a car. Let me repeat that: you NEED a car. There is no other way to get around in this city.

It’s hot. It’s humid. There are mud and mosquitos everywhere. It rains a lot. That doesn’t help it feel any less hot. I don’t think I even remember what clean air smells like.

I second the lots-of-things-to-do. If you have a car and so can get places, there is no excuse for being bored in this town.

The one thing that has been utterly frustrating for me about Houston is that there is NO way to get around without a car and nobody walks ANYWHERE. EVER.

That said, it’s a lot nicer than I expected in many ways. However, the car culture thing definitely permeates a lot of facets of Houston’s existence. For example, I hate not being able to go to an area and just poke around. You have to know where you’re going because it’s probably the only interesting place that you don’t have to get back in the car for.

The traffic can be bad. But it’s mostly a rush hour thing. During non-commuter hours you can get around pretty easily. Compared to traffic in cities like Manhattan, Boston, or Montreal it’s almost carefree.

The city is spread out. As others said, you definitely need a car.

Cost of living has always seemed reasonable to me. But I live in a very expensive part of the country the rest of the year.

Houston doesn’t seem to have a “bad side” of town. Good neighbourhoods and bad neighbourhoods are mixed together and often only a couple of blocks apart.

Crime recently spiked in the city. In the wake of Katrina, thousands of New Orleans criminals ended up in Houston where they’re facing off with the established native criminals. I imagine this current crime wave will drop off when enough people get shot and the number of criminals settles back to its pre-Katrina levels.

The climate … well … hot and wet might be great during sex but it gets old when you have to live in it 365 days a year.

I always find lots of things to do when I’m down there. Of course I’m easily amused.

The one thing that has been utterly frustrating for me about Houston is that there is NO way to get around without a car and nobody walks ANYWHERE. EVER.

That said, it’s a lot nicer than I expected in many ways. However, the car culture thing definitely permeates a lot of facets of Houston’s existence. For example, I hate not being able to go to an area and just poke around. You have to know where you’re going because it’s probably the only interesting place that you don’t have to get back in the car for.

And in Houston you can suddenly be surrounded by llamas without any warning.

To say nothing of fish!

It’s true about public transportation, unless you’re traveling during rush hour from the burbs into/out of downtown. The park and rides work well. Metro is trying to develop a light rail system, maybe not competently, but they are trying. They are also experiencing a lot of opposition to the concept of rail in general. Personally I’d love to be able to hop on the train and end up downtown to see a play or the Galleria to go shopping.

Houston is also a massive cultural mix, which most folks don’t realize. Most nationalities are represented.

Thanks for the input - though I have lived in the SE before, including Atlanta and Jackson, MS (and the job there had me in NOLA, Biloxi, Gulfport and Pensacola on a regular basis), and I’m familiar with heat and humidity, Houston just hadn’t been on my radar as a possible place to live until this job came up.

Knowing cities in the southeast, I was fairly sure that traffic would be one of the major issues - but it’s good to know that if I did end up there, I could probably look at where I lived based on where I work, and try to go against traffic each way.

Any other information is great - and if I decide I like the place and they like me, maybe I’ll be back in a few weeks looking for advice on where to live.

I lived in Rice Village a few years back and it is a nice part of town inside the loop, close to medical center, you can walk to the gingerman for some decent beer, and if you work down south sugarland etc way you are heading against traffic. The goodlady worked down town and the commute wasnt a total disaster. I am not sure how the light rail system is for getting down town (which is not a bad place for a night out). Its also close to montrose which has some good night life as well.

Dtown, montrose and Rice Village are about the only places where you can actually see what is around, all other places assume you are driving and know where you are going and are pretty well hidden. The richmond strip is ok for a beer but generally sucks to the point of blowing, that said get down to EL Patio on corner of westheimer and voss for a total headscrewed blue margerita. I promise myself I will never drink them again, but you know how those promises go. Skybar did a great Sidecar, no idea what is in it bt they are god.

The mozzies are fricking huge, pretty sure after T.S Allison I saw some carrying off a cat, and you will need flood insurance, lots of flood insurance.
People were generally nice and as mentioned above there is a large cultural mix and some of the best Shushi places I have eaten at were in Houston.

Oddly enough there was some not bad mountain biking in memorial park with a route called ho chi min trail. We always did it at night as it was too damn hot otherwise. It may have been concreted over by now or turned into a golf course.

Well that’s my tupencehapenys worth.

I live in the Houston suburbs, about 20 or 30 miles south of the city, near Johnson Space Center.

Yes to hot, humid, and mosquitos. Really that’s only 4 or 5 months out of the year. The winters are really nice.

Yes to lots to do, museums, restaurants, theaters, etc. Of course, we never do those things, just plan to do them next week.

Yes to no way to get around without a car.

Yes to cheap housing. At least in the suburbs, you can buy a great house for very little. There are still houses available in good neighbourhoods under 100K, and for 250K you can get a great house with a pool. Don’t know about rentals, since it really does not make economic sense to rent down here.

Yes to friendly people.

It is a very conservative part of the world, and most people’s social life revolves around their church.

And it is one of the only places in the world where you can learn to sail a square-rigged ship without joining a Navy or paying an arm and a leg.

I live near Reno Nevada (the poster, not the place) and second his/her opinions.

Houston is huge- it takes an hour or so to drive from one end to the other during non rush hour(s). We don’t have a ‘city center’ like many places so a car is a must. We have at least one of everything is the world that you could need, but it is far away (no mattter what it is).
The summers stink- hot and humid, but the rest of the year is pleasant. Most years, our family has Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner in shorts around the picnic tables.

As a single person, presumably with no family in the area, you will do well as soon as you connect with some like-minded people who can show you where to find the things you are interestested in.

I lived in Houston from 1990 to 2005. Areas I lived in: Galleria, Montrose, Heights.

The good:

Houston has a lot to offer culturally. Theatre, museums, opera, music … there’s a lot of things to do.
It’s very lush. Think subtropical climate and you get the idea. If you like growing things, you’ll probably like Houston. We had a 12 foot tall philodendron that actually bloomed on occasion. 15 foot ginger plants. Elephant ears almost two feet long. All with essentially NO work whatsoever.
There are a lot of good restaurants at each price point. It’s easy to find cheap and decent Mexican food (Spanish Flower, anyone?) … and there’s wonderful expensive places (such as the Brownstone - ask about the private room next to the wine cellar).
If you like to travel, InterGalactic (otherwise known as George Bush Airport) can take you most anywhere you want - and frequently non-stop. It’s a Continental hub.
It’s a great place to rollerblade, at least Montrose/Heights/River Oaks. Even downtown can be a fun skate. The lack of hills make for easy work.
The people are generally friendly. Houston is a big city that thinks it’s a small town, as someone eloquently put it.

The bad:
Traffic can be a serious bitch. If you plan it right (and live close to where you work), you potentially can avoid freeways. I worked in the Medical Center and lived in the Heights towards the end of my tenure there - non-rush-hour, I could make it to work in 15 minutes. Rush-hour, usually 30-40 minutes. If you find yourself on the West Loop or 45 during rush hour, plan on a LONG ride.
Summers are hot and sticky. It’s still a source of amazement how it can be 100% humidity for weeks on end and not rain - and 100 degrees to boot. The upside is that it almost never snows.
Speaking of weather, be careful of being in flood plains. Houston does flood - depending on where, it can be severe and relatively frequent (every year to every other year).
Mosquitos will carry you away in the summer.
Pollution (one of the big reasons we left) is pretty awful. It seems to have gotten better (at least according to a couple of websites); it was neck-and-neck with LA for several years.
While parts of Houston are quite liberal, it is definitely a conservative place; that might agree with you, so YMMV.

Hope that helps :slight_smile:

Just moved to Houston about two months ago. From Jackson, MS actually.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles and Jackson, and I can honestly say that this is the safest city I’ve ever lived in.

I live on the West side in an area called Memorial, and it is very nice. My wife and I pay $950 lease on a 1300 sqft 2bd condo. I love this area.

It feels like Los Angeles with Southern Hospitality.

I have met very few native Texans.

Having lived in LA the traffic really isn’t all that bad.

Sorry for the braindump, but I really like it here.