6 Things You Don’t Know About Houston

I recently returned from a trip to Houston as a guest at the BestCities Global Alliance Client Workshop. It was my first visit to the Bayou City (outside of numerous layovers at the airport), and I was surprised to learn a few things about the nation’s fourth-largest metropolis:

1. Ever been to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston and noticed its ubiquitous nautical theme? That’s because the center’s namesake was an entrepreneur and shipping magnate, establishing the Brown Shipping Company with his brother in 1942. Before the company’s government contract, eventually worth $357 million, Brown’s company had never even built a ship.

George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston

View of the concierge desk through a portal at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Photo courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

2. Houston is a more ethnically diverse than LA or NYC. This is according to a 2012 study by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. Houston is now one of only a few a minority-majority cities in the country, where more than 50 percent of the population is non-white.

Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the U.S.

Demographic shifts in Houston mean that only 40 percent of the nation’s fourth-largest city is non-Hispanic white.

3. Houston’s Museum District is pretty amazing. Nineteen museums are located within a 1.5-mile radius there, including the Houston Museum of Natural Science — the third-most visited museum in the U.S. Various spaces inside can be rented out for events of 20–2,000 people.

Event space at Houston's Museum of Natural Science

A balcony that overlooks the Morian Hall of Paleontology affords visitors a glimpse of the prehistoric.

4. The phrase “Failure is not an option” was coined in Houston. The statement was made by NASA flight director Gene Kranz, during the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. Kranz was  part of the team that helped direct the spacecraft back to Earth after it suffered an oxygen-tank explosion before its intended landing on the moon in 1970. A visit to Space Center Houston, and a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, will teach you some amazing things about the U.S. space program.

Mission Control Johnson Space Center Houston

A tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center includes a stop at Historic Mission Control — original computers and all. That flag in the background? It’s been to the moon twice.

5. Houston has a vibrant performing arts scene. In fact, outside of New York, no other city has as many Broadway shows per year. The downtown Theater District covers 17 blocks and has nearly 13,000 seats. Chicago, War Horse, and American Idiot are a few of the Broadway shows playing Houston during the 2013–2014 season.

Houston's Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.

Opened in 2002, The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is located on the edge of Houston’s downtown Theater District. Photo courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

6. This stunning white tiger lives at Houston’s Downtown Aquarium. Enough said.

White tigers Houston aquarium

Nero, pictured above, is one of four white tigers that call the Downtown Aquarium home.

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