When you think about Houston, Texas, you probably picture massive oil refineries, oppressive humidity, and a sub-par baseball team — a far cry from one of the nation’s most up-and-coming cities.
But you shouldn’t dismiss Houston so easily; the Bayou City is an economic juggernaut.
It’s by far the country’s No. 1 job creator and home to 26 Fortune 500 companies. A paycheck goes farther here than anywhere else in the country, and it has a medical center larger than downtown Dallas.
Add a thriving restaurant and cultural scene, and you’ve got a winning case for Houston as the best city in America. Here are 18 reasons you may want to pack your bags and head south.
Houston is home to more Fortune 500 company headquarters than anywhere in America except for New York.
There are 26 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Houston, fewer than New York's 72 but well ahead of Dallas's 19 and Washington D.C.'s 20. Many are in the city's 'energy corridor,' the home of the oil and gas industry.
They include Conoco Phillips, Marathon Oil, Sysco, Apache, Halliburton, and many more.
It hosts the world's largest concentration of healthcare organisations, with scientists working hard to beat cancer.
The Texas Medical Center is the largest single employer in Houston, and the largest medical center in the world, with 21 hospitals, eight academic and research institutions, and 50 total related organisations, all not-for-profit.
The complex is larger than downtown Dallas.
Institutions include the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world's premier cancer treatment and research hospitals, which is spending billions in an aggressive push to cure five types of cancer.
The oil and gas industry is booming in the U.S. Not only is Houston the home of corporations like Conoco Phillips and Marathon, it's the center of the petrochemical industry, close to Texas oil fields, and close to Latin America.
The energy sector provides an estimated 3.4% of all of the jobs in the area as of 2013, and a large amount of the growth.
Houston's port is the largest in terms of international tonnage handled, and third in terms of trade value. That means a great deal of international business and trade.
That means even more jobs.
It's also exceptionally business friendly, and is the only major U.S. city without zoning laws.
That port itself, along with Houston's strength in the energy sector and proximity to Latin America, enticed more than 100 foreign-owned companies to either expand, start new businesses, or relocate to Houston between 2008 and 2010.
Houston is the home of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. It's the home of America's astronaut corps, and the place where they -- and many international astronauts -- get trained to go to space.
It's a significant research center and employer, as well as housing Mission Control for manned spaceflight expeditions.
Living well isn't just about high pay. It's about how much everything costs. You can't beat Houston here.
When you adjust for cost of living, Houston has the highest pay in the country at $73,418, ahead of places like the San Jose area, which has high wages but extremely high costs.
Houston recently passed New York to become the most ethnically and racially diverse city in the U.S.
According to Census data, Houston is the most racially and ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the U.S. Some 400,000 foreign-born residents moved to the city between 2000 and 2010.
The Anglo population in Houston is 39.7%, compared to 48.9% in New York, there are nearly as many Latinos as Anglos, and there's a large and rapidly growing Asian population.
Houston has particularly excellent Vietnamese food due to a massive expatriate population, which was partially drawn by the large seafood industry. There's great Mexican food, and a strong Cajun presence due to the proximity of New Orleans and the many people who came after Katrina and stayed.
And don't forget barbecue, because this is Texas after all, at places like Goode Company.
The publication gave glowing reviews to innovative Houston restaurants Oxheart and Underbelly. Its chief food critic, Pete Wells, wrote that Houston is becoming 'one of the country's most exciting places to eat.'
There's also an outpost of Uchi, one of America's most lauded sushi restaurants, and much more.
Housing is more affordable here. Houston didn't experience a housing bubble the way the rest of the country did.
Though it's known for its association with the oil industry, Houston has lots and lots of parks and green space -- 50,632 acres in total. That puts it third in the U.S. behind only San Diego and Dallas in acreage per capita.
The city's been investing a large amount in building out this space, particularly building out the space surrounding the Buffalo Bayou, Houston's main waterway.
The combination of the University of Houston and Rice University means there are a bunch of smart people around.
It's not quite the college town that Boston is, but Houston's higher education system is nothing to sniff at. The University of Houston has some 39,000 students and was elevated to Tier One status as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation in 2011.
Houston's Museum of Fine Arts is among the largest museums in the U.S., and one of the best collections of American decorative art and furniture in the house of a former trustee, along with 14 acres of former gardens.
Mark Rothko spent three years creating the works of art that inhabit The Rothko Chapel, which he also helped design.
There are 19 total museums in a 1.5 mile radius that make up the Houston Museum District.
The annual event features over 20,000 livestock exhibits; every fried food under the sun, from fried Oreos to deep-fried Nutella; and nightly concerts featuring country music heavyweights such as Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band.
Though the Astros chronically underperform, Houston's other teams are worth taking note of.
The Rockets made it to the playoffs for the second year in a row, the Houston Dynamo of the MLS have been a perennial playoff contender, and despite a tough season the Texans look forward to next year after signing 2014's No. 1 draft pick, Jadeveon Clowney.
Houston has produced artists like Chamillionaire, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, and Slim Thug.
Beyoncé was born in Houston in 1981, and competed in the area's talent show circuit with her childhood friend Kelly Rowland and LaTavia Robertson as Girl's Tyme, which later became Destiny's Child.