Houston Neighborhood Guide

You've made the decision. You're moving to our lovely city of Houston. It might be for work, or just to get a change of scenery. But now what? Where should you live, what's there to do, how do I get around? Houston is a vibrant and exciting city located in the southeastern state of Texas. It is one of the most populous cities in the United States, With its diverse culture, strong economy, and convenient access to major highways, living in Houston can be an enjoyable experience for those who choose to make it their home.

Houston also offers a variety of neighborhoods and communities to choose from, making it easy for residents to find an area that best matches their lifestyle. Some of the best neighborhoods in Houston include Montrose, Midtown, and the Museum District. These areas feature a mix of historic homes, modern living spaces, unique eateries, art galleries, and more. For those who want access to outdoor activities, there are plenty of parks located around the city too.

General Information / Resources about Houston

Traffic / Public Transportation

Finding a Place

General Resources

Utilities and other Services

  • Power Company info Texas has deregulated its electricity market meaning there can be dozens of power companies to choose from. You can use Power to Choose to find the rates of the electric companies. Rates will vary depending on your monthly usage and contract length. It is generally advisable to change power companies each time your contract is up as rates typically increase significantly.
  • Internet Houston is almost entirely covered by Comcast or U-verse. Comcast generally offers significantly faster speeds. Quality of internet service can vary depending on where you live, but typically Comcast works great but has terrible customer service. U-verse is slow with better customer service. Consolidated and U-verse also offer gigabit to very small sections of Houston.
  • Houston Water
  • Gas Company info
  • Consolidated Communication - ask for new customer special

(A note about internet service providers... if you're from another country & don't have a social security number yet and/or an established credit history, AT&T charges a $450 non-refundable fee [they call it a "deposit"] for U-verse. Comcast only charges $150 and it's refundable. Just throwing that out there.)

Bored?

Neighborhoods (or, where in Houston should I live?)

Now, Houston has a bunch of different areas, and different areas are right for different people. The pros and cons of the various neighborhoods/burbs are below - keep in mind though that it's not a comprehensive list and based mostly on popular or personal information.

Popular Inner Loop Neighborhoods

  • Heights - A mix of some moderately priced apartment complexes, garage apartments, and all kinds of houses. Lots of swanky new houses and those skinny tall townhouses being built. Pretty walkable and bikeable (Heights Bike Trail starts a few blocks south of the top of 610 and goes into downtown for a 5 mile one-way trip). Good local food and bars in "central" Heights include Fat Cat Creamery (ice cream), Cedar Creek (food and full bar), Big Star (dive bar), and Downhouse (hipster food and fancy cocktails). Also check out Live Oak Street and Studemont for Tacos A Go Go and Little Woodrow's Heights.
  • River Oaks - One of the swankiest/most expensive neighborhoods in the city. There is some property crime (vehicle break ins mostly). Plenty of upscale shopping is available as are numerous restaurants and Growler's beer and wine to go.
  • Montrose - The arts and hipster mecca of the city. Montrose has tons of coffee, restaurants, bars, shops (like Space), etc. Here you can find places to live that run from dirt cheap to super swanky. The area isn’t the safest after dark (do not leave anything, especially something that has any value to you, in your car in plain sight!) but probably has what you're looking for if you're cruising around late at night. Description from a friend: "was my first community feeling neighborhood when I moved into the city. I see my neighbors shopping, and at the coffee shop and at the bakery and at the library- all walking distance from where I was lucky enough to live. The fact that I found a tight knit community very close to all the weird shops and amazing culture and nightlife I'd been looking for made that a great few years."
  • Med Center - like the area because it is close to everything inside and just outside the Loop. If we want to go to the Heights, it's no more than 20 minutes away, but just about everything else is no more than 15 minutes from our house. It's an easy jaunt to the Museum District or Montrose or the Galleria. We have numerous restaurants, grocery stores, and other shops all within easy driving distance. We can easily pop over to Meyerland when we need to and the Super Target is just right there on Main Street. I can walk to Reliant (which I usually do for the Rodeo), and in an emergency, we have numerous hospitals to choose from. On the downside, traffic from the Medical Center and Reliant events can suck. The Kirby 18 bus does not run frequently enough to be useful for getting up and down Kirby in any convenient way and the light rail also runs in such a way that it isn't very useful to local residents, either. Our area is an interesting mix of single family homes and multi-family complexes, though they are all expensive. Lots of medical school students live in the complexes on Knight and El Paseo streets.
  • Midtown - Lots of bars! It has a similar vibe to Austin's Dirty 6th Street. Some expensive apartment complexes and townhomes here. Parking sucks. Avoid the Greyhound station at night.
  • Downtown - The center of Houston and the central business district. Previously was a 9-5 office destination but recent new development has turned it into a residential neighborhood as well. Housing consists of historic lofts and new-build high rises. Home to Houston's performing arts district, baseball and basketball stadiums and marquee parks. New bars and restaurants have accompanied the residential increase.
  • Rice Village - A very walkable shopping district just west of Rice University. Upscale shops mostly in strip malls, good restaurants, and quite a few bars, which are frequented by a combination of Rice students and people from all over town. Parking isn't the best, but street parking if you can find it is free; garage parking is not free but some businesses offer validation. While this was not previously a residential area, an apartment complex has recently opened right in the middle of the village.
  • West U - An enclave city west of Rice University (technically Kirby), east of the city of Bellaire, north of Holcombe, and south of Greenway Plaza. Easy access to the Medical Center on the other side of Rice. Mostly single-family homes (typically starting around $400k for a tear-down or $800k for upscale new construction) with some townhouses on the edges of the city. You might find rooms for rent in some garage apartments, and there are several apartment complexes on the Houston side of streets that border West U. Centrally located and with easy access to US-59 for commuting to Uptown to the west or Downtown to the east. There isn't much nightlife in the city itself, but the Rice Village is in walking distance. Don't speed on Buffalo Speedway, where the speed limit drops to 30 mph through the city and police regularly patrol for people going a few miles over.
  • Southside Place - Another enclave city, almost entirely surrounded by West University. To most outsiders, this might as well just be part of West U. Everything above about West U applies here, but the addition of a large new townhouse complex being built along Holcombe, replacing the old Shell facility, will greatly increase the housing stock.
  • Eastwood - Commute: 2 miles east of Downtown, 1 to UH, 6 to medical center; no traffic, ever. Light rail going in 3 blocks away, bike trail. Charm: 1930s brick tudors, craftsman bungalows, streets lined by 100 year old oaks. Bread factory to the south, coffee plant to the north - smells like heaven on a breezy day. Community: All walks of life -- young, old, glbt, families, singles, wealthy, poor. We sit on our porches in the evening, BBQ with neighbors, keep each others keys, support local shops. Residents get together once a month for big potluck and wine. Safe with a very active civic association and animal rescue group. Cost: Heights style homes for 200k or less (not for long). Property tax is nothing. Area retail is dirt cheap. Culture: Not white washed, gentrifying but still edgy with enough fringe to keep it authentic. Awesome restaurants. Huge artist enclave, hippies, punks, good music scene. Cons: Grocery store is limited (there is a small Kroger at Polk and Cullen), but close to Phoenician, Georgia's, neighborhood also trying to kick off a co-op. Has its ghetto houses, streets, halfway houses -- city living at its finest, not for everyone. Train tracks.
  • East Downtown - Up and coming area that is being gentrified. Lots of new cookie cutter fancy townhouses being built and lots of Crossfit gyms opening up in this area. You can find dive bars like Moon Tower Inn, Voodoo Queen, and D&W Lounge as well as fancy Mexican food at the Original Ninfa's or El Tiempo across the street. You also have the BBVA Compass Stadium where the Dynamo (men's Major League Soccer team) and the Dash (women's professional soccer team) play as well as a block of bars right by the stadium (Lucky's Pub, Little Woodrow's East Downtown, etc.). Check out the graffiti by St. Emmanuel and Leeland.
  • Greenway Plaza - Commute: 5 miles west of downtown. Pretty nice area surrounded by some of the most expensive houses in Houston (jog or bike through River Oaks and see how the 1% lives) with a mix of older and new apartment complexes and townhomes. The only inner-loop Costco is right at Weslayan and Richmond. You can walk to restaurants or drive less than 10 minutes to the Galleria or Uptown Park. Close to 59, Westpark, 610.

Popular Outer Loop Area

  • Oak Forest - Close to everything, misses a lot of the bad commutes like 290 by getting off before it starts, or easy to access surface streets, and prices are relatively cheap, though it's going up in price. Schools are still HISD, but not ghetto.
  • Galleria/Uptown - Essentially Houston's second downtown. The Williams Tower with its spotlight at night is the most visible landmark, and the Galleria is the largest shopping mall in the area, with mostly upscale shops and restaurants. Also home to some of the absolute worst traffic in the Houston area; the 610/59 interchange by here is the busiest freeway interchange in Texas and one of the busiest in the country. Also has a good mix of upscale apartments, condos, and townhouses, and just to the west are some very expensive single family homes.
  • Westbury - Great neighborhood tucked away on the SW side of town. If you find the right block (in between Chimney Rock and Hillcroft, north of Airport), you can find a very affordable house. The place is pretty quiet, but there are some secret bars like Cozy Corner where all kinds of things can happen.
  • Bellaire - Enclave city that straddles the 610 loop, with part of it inside the loop and most of it outside the loop. Until recently was mostly older homes, but they are rapidly being replaced with new houses as property values have surged in recent years. Can get a little scary the farther west you go (due to proximity to Sharpstown and Gulfton, both infamous neighborhoods), but the eastern side of it is generally considered safe.
  • Meyerland - Just south of Bellaire and just outside the loop, this could be the next Bellaire (meaning property values may increase) as more people want to live closer to the center of Houston. Traditionally a Jewish neighborhood; now it is more diverse but you can still get great bagels here and find kosher foods.
  • Westchase - Very cheap area with some nice apartment complexes and then some not so great ones, close to major highways (Beltway 8, I-10, 59, Westpark tollway, 610), lots of strip malls, close to Memorial City Mall and the Galleria, good food (especially Indian and Mediterranean), and you're not that far from the cool areas (15 minutes no traffic). Probably not the safest area as it is cheaper, and all of the strip malls do get depressing.
  • Glenbrook Valley/Meadowcreek Village - Neighborhoods tucked away on the SE side of town with affordable (for now) housing mainly made up of original post-war housing stock, with large concentrations of mid-century architecture. Glenbrook was recently named a City of Houston Historic District and Meadowcreek could easily follow in its path. Both neighborhoods are good spots for commutes either in or out of town and a short distance from Hobby Airport, and like anywhere else, beware of the areas with concentrations of apartment complexes and subpar retail (Broadway Blvd. toward Hobby Airport and along Bellfort St. in Glenbrook, and parts of Allendale and Richey streets in Meadowbrook).

Popular Suburban Areas

  • Kingwood - 30 miles northeast of downtown. The schools are part of the Humble Independent School District. Schools will vary in quality depending on where they are located. Kingwood is a master-planned community built on the edge of Humble, an older community in the area.
  • Humble - 20 miles northeast of downtown (Humble is south of Kingwood). Protip: You don't pronounce the H in Humble.
  • Atascocita - 20 miles northeast of downtown and due east of Humble.
  • Sugar Land - 20 miles southwest of downtown.
  • Spring - 25 miles north of downtown.
  • The Woodlands - 31 miles north of downtown. It is located in Montgomery county. It is a wealthy area with good schools. It is part of the Conroe Independent School District. The area is very wooded as it is on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods.
  • Pasadena - 13 miles southwest of downtown
  • Pearland - 22 miles south of downtown. It is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. The schools are okay. My mother taught out there for a few years after teaching in the Houston Independent School District for 10+ years. She found that teaching in Pearland wasn't an improvement over teaching at the inner city school where she had been teaching. She came back to HISD after about 3 or 4 years. There is lots of new development springing up out there. Pearland isn't that far from Houston and the commute is tolerable. I have several friends and former co-workers who live out there and they like the area and the proximity to Houston.
  • Friendswood - 21 miles southeast of downtown. Quiet town, largely residential (which does cause some amount of traffic at rush hour) has low to mid/high housing available (cannot speak for specific price ranges), with more larger subdivisions still being built. Well handled emergency services, although it should be noted that speeding through the main roads is strongly discouraged by a large police presence (many of these roads are partly residential). However, Friendswood is far enough out that there is little thru-traffic, and there are roughly four main roads from Friendswood to the freeway, making commutes bearable (0-30 mins to I-45). Access to HEB and Kroger for groceries, as well as several chain fast-food establishments, restaurants, gyms, and doctor's offices. It should be noted, however, that living in Friendswood means living in Galveston County, which raises insurance premiums (and things like flood insurance become relevant).
  • Katy - 30 miles west of downtown. Katy is another suburb to the west of Houston. Much of what is called Katy is not in the city limits of Katy proper. The City of Katy does not make much effort to attract business, etc. and I think it shows in how that area is developing. However, this suburb is close to the Energy Corridor and is popular with employees of the major oil companies that are located on the west side of Houston. The commute on 1-10 is known to be pretty dreadful. Katy Independent School District is a good district, adding new schools just about every year.
  • Webster - 22 miles southeast of downtown - Small town of ~9000, Webster is mostly low income housing with some commercial services and contains the Clear Lake Regional Hospital complex and surrounding offices. It should be noted that the NASA bypass exists to bypass Webster due to a construction disagreement some years ago. However, Webster lies on a thin strip of land along the freeway, making it fairly easy to access the highway (0-15mins).
  • Clear Lake - 22 miles southeast of downtown. Largely residential area that is part of the City of Houston/Harris County (i.e., Harris County property taxes) containing mid to mid/high level homes (specific prices not known). Small businesses are attracted to the largely effluent area while larger businesses are attracted to the proximity to JSC-NASA. While the roads are older and slightly worn, the size of the area coupled with many residents working locally leads to reasonable commutes to the freeway (5-25mins).
  • League City - 25 miles southeast of downtown. Widespread city that roughly marks the halfway point between Houston and Galveston, League City contains residential areas from low to high (specific prices unknown). Unfortunately, the widespread layout of League City only afford three major routes to the freeway, although a decent amount of residents working locally helps ease this traffic somewhat (0-35mins). It should be noted that while driving through League City on the main roads, to watch your speed, as police often wait for speeders in convenient places. League City affords a large amount of options in shopping and food, whether it be at the I-45 @ FM646 interchange, or in the South Shore Harbor region of League City.
  • Cypress - 27 miles northwest of downtown. Very automobile centric and not very walk, or bike friendly. There are a lot of new apartment complexes going up, or recently completed ones... Apartment rent for places out here is pretty high unless you get a dump. A decent 2 br apartment will probably run you 900-1100 per month. The nicest part about Cypress is one minute you feel like you are in a city, and then you drive a mile down the road and it looks like farmland, or forest that has been untouched for years. It's pretty easy to drive into town for nightlife, sporting events, and concerts, 20-50 minutes away depending on traffic. Cypress is on the northwest side of Houston and is a fast growing area. However, I think much of it is in unincorporated Harris County so there isn't any group or city making an effort to attract business, museums, etc. The Cy-Fair Independent School District is also a growing district with new schools added every few years.

Conclusion

Overall living in Houston can be an enjoyable experience with its great weather year round, abundance of job opportunities and affordable living costs compared to other large cities in the United States. With its thriving economy and diverse culture it is easy to see why living in Houston can make an excellent home for those looking for a new place to call their own.

No matter what your living needs are, there is sure to be a neighborhood and lifestyle that fits you in the city of Houston. With its plethora of attractions, restaurants and job opportunities, living in Houston can be both rewarding and enjoyable. Whether you're just starting out or looking for a change of scenery, Houston is the perfect place to create a life you love!