Moving to Houston

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Possibly Moving to Houston Area

Oct 2011

I am wondering if any one has lived in or has information about the greater Houston, Tx Area. We are possibly moving there for my husbands job, and I know very little about the area, other than it is hot & muggy, lots of traffic. I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life, ( grew up 20 minutes from San Francisco, 10 minutes from SFO, the last 7 in the Easy Bay) so this will be quite a change for me. I am wondering the usual - the best neighborhoods, best school, ( public & catholic) etc. Also can any one explain how Texas grade there schools? I 'understand' the best anyone can how we rank CA schools, but of course all the states do it differently. Thanks!!! shamrockgrl

Having grown up in Houston, there are a lot of great things about it. It is very ethnically diverse, has the most restaurants per capita in the country (and great restaurants), and has many good museums, theaters, etc. You didn't say where your husband would be working, or what type of neighborhood you are looking for. There are some good public schools there, but you didn't say the ages of your children. A lot of the schools have 'magnet' programs, so you can go to schools outside of your district if you get into the school's magnet program (e.g., magnet for languages, art, etc.). Staying inside or near to the 'loop' (610) would keep you close to most of the interesting things. The med center area/Rice U., and museum districts are very nice and also convenient, while Montrose offers a more pedestrian-friendly area with a larger artist/musician and LGBT community, plus thrift shofts, and good restaurants. Good luck! anon

Thinking of moving to Houston

March 2010

Sadly, CA is getting more and more expensive and I don't think my family can afford to live here anymore. I've lived here most of my life and get so sad when I think about leaving, but do realize there are other places. Any people from Houston out there that can give a positive shout out? we have family in Galveston, but are reading about the terrible state of their schools, so the Houston (Clear Lake, Kemah) area is something we are researching. We'd like advice on neighborhoods. Specifically, we like: diversity and walk-ability, we don't like new gated neighborhoods with no trees. Uh.. is this impossible?.. we also don't like cowboys and churches or strip malls. I guess this really may be impossible.We DO know it's humid and flat, so we can deal. We also know there are many friendly and proud people in TX which is a good thing, and the water is all around that area which is also good. Anything else good? thanks, everyone.

hot and humid here we come

Dear future Houstonian, I get why you are anxious about leaving CA for TX, and there will be a period of culture shock, but in the end I think you will be happy. The most important thing to remember is that Houston is more 'city' than it is 'Texas.' It is big, vibrant, and diverse. Lots of terrific restaurants, incredible museums and other cultural activities, a thriving gay community, etc. Everything that you might miss coming from the Bay Area is there (OK, except the weather), although it's true that you might have to do more to filter out 'other stuff' before you find it. Houston is only about 1/3 White (lots of Latinos, African-Americans, and Asians), so although there is variability neighborhood-by-neighborhood, finding diversity won't be a huge problem.

However, my suggestion would NOT be to look at Clear Lake and Kemah, even though they are closer to Galveston. My MIL lives in Clear Lake ... it is all subdivisions, cookie-cutter houses, strip malls, and megachurches. Exactly what you are trying to avoid! Even though you will spend more time on I-45 going to see your family, it's probably worth it to look at a closer-in neighborhood. Montrose/Museum District, the area around Rice U/med center, midtown, West University, and the Heights are good places to start with. Most walkability/density there, too. Put your finger on the map at the intersection of Main Street and Bissonnet (probably the 'cultural epicenter' ) and move out until you can find someplace you can afford! Former Houstonian

I went to high school in the Clear Lake area, and my parents remained in that area until two years ago. It is totally the land of strip malls and cars. And while you somewhat get used to the heat, if you are an outdoor person, it is just oppressive for half of the year.

that said, the good news is that most houses are in 'subdivisions', which have pretty big lots, sidewalks, lots of trees and common areas/playgrounds/pools/tennis courts. The 20 mph speed limits are enforced! Depending on your house, you might be able to walk to the store, or at least the mini-mart.

There are some areas into town near Rice university that have more of a rockridge/montclair feel, but housing there is expensive. They do have more availability of stuff like CSAs and local coffee roasters popping up. But less out towards Clear Lake. It is such a huge town, I'm sure you can find any group of people interested in whatever you are, but it is so spread out, you may spend a lot of time in the car.

I hate to be negative, but I just don't find Houston to have many redeeming qualities. So anyway, you know my bias! Houston is very proud of it's 'urban cowboy' culture, and modern country music is big. Football is big, high school through pros. But people do tend to be friendly. Bryan in Oakland.

I can give you my impressions of having lived in Houston for 20 years. The heat and humidity are the main reasons why so few places in Houston are walkable. Clear Lake (misnomer, as the Lake is NOT clear) and Kemah are down in the burbs, so they have the usual burb amenities: conservative mindset, usually good schools, not much diversity, boring architecture, and almost zero walkability. They are close to water, but not the beach. Galveston and Surfside have the nicer beaches, with brown, but warm, Gulf of Mexico waters. In general, neighborhoods inside the Loop (I-610 freeway loop) have better diversity and walkability; my faves are Montrose and the Heights. These areas offer a bunch of older houses/apartments with character, though sadly, the last 10 years have brought a plague of ugly new condo construction in both areas. In terms of schools, those in the Houston Independent School District vary considerably in quality, so there are some gems. When you live inside the Loop, it's not hard to find people and activities (there are lively music and art scenes) that make you think you're still in the Bay Area--though the humidity will give it away. The food is very good (with REAL Tex-Mex), and cheap! And yes, there are farmers markets and co-ops. Memorial Park is a great oasis within the city, offering mountain bike and hiking trails besides the usual jogging trail. There fun annual events like the Art Car Parade, the Houston International Festival (with big-name bands), and lovely museums like De Menil and Museum of Fine Arts, etc. Drop me a line if you have more questions, I'll be happy to go into more details