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It’s fair to say that the lifestyle in Houston is whatever people make of it – from oil-baron ostentation to a quiet existence rich in culture.
With its mild winters and hot summers, the city celebrates sports and recreation in a big way. Chances are it won’t be long before new arrivals find their favourite patch of greenery and make activities under the wide Texan sky a regular part of their lives.
That said, there's plenty for those who'd rather consume calories than burn them off. There's a dizzying amount of award-winning restaurants in Houston, with new ones opening up constantly. And if eating out doesn’t suit their bank balance, newcomers can forage through weekend farmers' markets for local produce and homemade fare.
As part of the city's burgeoning cultural scene, residents can also visit art galleries in former factory spaces, marvel at downtown Houston's contemporary architecture and enjoy some of the country's best performing arts companies. The city's creative spirit is contagious. New arrivals will likely find themselves incorporating some part of it into their routines.
Shopping in Houston
As can be expected from an energy capital, many residents have money to spend and shopping in Houston is top-notch. Even those with a smaller budget can take advantage of its antique markets, outlet malls and seasonal sales.
The city is home to The Galleria, one of the biggest malls in the USA, as well as a number of shopfront neighbourhoods. New arrivals will easily be able to find prominent designer labels, department and home décor stores, and the odd high-end speciality boutique. Memorial City Mall is another well known, but less ritzy, one-stop shopping centre.
Those who'd prefer a shopping experience with more character should try the downtown pavilions and areas like Post Oak, Highland Village and Uptown Park, which offer their own assortments of aisle-cruising options. Antique hunters should try the Museum District, where they can also find galleries selling the work of local artists.
Newcomers who are keen to make a day out of it should head to the Katy Mills outlet mall on Interstate 10, which is a hotspot for surplus and off-season low-cost shopping and has several well-known brands as outlet residents.
Similarly, Thompson's Antique Center of Texas is located just outside the city and boasts dozens of dealers, affording patient shoppers the opportunity to go home with a piece of the past.
Eating out in Houston
Houstonians love to eat and its most innovative restaurateurs infuse classic Texan flavours with the culinary cultures of its diverse population. The tree-lined Montrose area, the Heights neighbourhood, the Market Square Historic District and Bayou Place are particularly known for hosting great restaurants and comfortable cafés.
Apart from sampling the local Tex-Mex and barbecue fare, new arrivals should spend some time partaking in a great local pastime – big breakfasts at one of the city's many brunch spots.
Arts and culture in Houston
Many newcomers are surprised to find that the famed Texan cowboy culture actually gives way to a thriving artistic community in Houston. The city boasts symphony, theatre, ballet and opera companies of national acclaim.
Performances are always on the horizon at venues like the Wortham Theater Centre, Alley Theatre and Jones Hall, as well as outdoor venues like Hermann Park and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Woodlands.
For those who enjoy immersing themselves in the past, there's an entire museum district with establishments that include the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science, the Contemporary Arts Museum and a Children’s Museum. Admission is reasonable at most museums in Houston, and the collections and exhibitions are remarkable.
Sport and outdoor activities in Houston
Houston is home to a number of professional league teams that are supported by a sports-loving local culture. And that's not to mention the countless collegiate and high school teams that compete at a slightly lower, but no less exciting, level of play.
The Houston Astros (baseball), the Houston Texans (football) and the Houston Rockets (basketball) all clash against opponents in the city's world-class stadiums. And even if they aren't necessarily fans, residents can make a day of experiencing these iconic local pastimes.
While there are numerous professional teams to support for those who'd rather watch, for active newcomers who love the great outdoors, Houston is one of the best major US cities to live in. Local government spends large amounts of time and money maintaining and beautifying its public spaces, and the result is hundreds of kept parks and plenty of bike and walking trails.
Are you an expat living in Houston?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Houston. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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