Houston, the city with no limits

Houston has a reputation for exploding growth, innovative change and free-spiritedness. Visitors to Houston often are surprised that the city seems neither Southern nor Western, but both — and much more.

Houston — Forbes magazine's coolest city to live in for 2012 and Fast Company's City of the Year 2011 — is home to a blend of ethnic groups and cultures matched only by New York City and Los Angeles. Often called the Bayou City and Space City, Houston is a center for the visual and performing arts, an international business hub and home to the second-busiest port in the United States.

Houston's landscape is abundantly green, sprinkled with parks and traversed by many bayous and waterways. As with any major U.S. city, there’s traffic to contend with, yet the centrally located Rice campus offers easy access to the exciting pulse of Houston. You’ll discover that your experience as a Rice University graduate student is greatly enhanced by the dynamic city that surrounds the university.

Arts and Entertainment

Houston is a vibrant center for the arts and culture. Starting a block from campus, you’ll find Houston’s impressive Museum District, of which the Rice University Art Gallery is a part. The tree-lined district features 16 museums, several of national and international importance, exhibiting art, nature, science, medicine and history. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, houses the largest encyclopedic permanent collection in the Southwest and host to major traveling exhibitions. The Museum of Natural Science is one of the most heavily attended museums in the country. It includes the Burke Baker Planetarium, Cockrell Butterfly Center and Wortham IMAX Theater. Many of the museums offer student discounts and free visitor days.

If it’s a live theatrical performance you seek, you’ll find a wealth of options. Houston is one of the few U.S. cities with internationally recognized resident companies in all four major performing arts: The Alley Theatre, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Symphony. For popular music concerts, Toyota Center is located downtown, and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is located just north of Houston.

Miller Outdoor Theatre, located in Hermann Park across Main Street from campus, hosts many free musical, theater and dance performances, including some by the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera.

Houston also is home to alternative art space, including the Ensemble Theater, one of the most respected black theater companies in the country; DiverseWorks; and the Orange Show, which hosts the popular Art Car Parade.

Each year, some of America’s most popular country, rock, pop, R&B and Tejano performers flock to the city for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the largest event of its kind in the nation. The livestock show and rodeo also includes a carnival, shopping exhibitors and food vendors. The two-week long event is preceded by a barbecue cook-off and a parade in downtown Houston.


Houston is known for is its affordability, and it has the lowest cost of living and the lowest median housing costs among 23 major U.S. metropolitan areas. Graduate students at Rice live in a variety of Houston’s diverse neighborhoods, some near the campus and some a little farther away. Others live in Rice’s graduate student housing.

Short Trips

When you feel the need to get out of the city, there are several excellent choices. The beaches of Galveston Island are only an hour away and are a great place to sit and read on a sunny, breezy day. Galveston also is home to the Schlitterbahn water amusement park, Moody Gardens, and the Strand Historical District. Also an hour from Rice is Brazos Bend State Park, which offers camping, five lakes and miles of nature trails. Within three hours, one can canoe or tube on the Guadalupe River, go camping in the beautiful Texas Hill Country or visit historic San Antonio or Austin, the state’s capital. A few more hours on the road will lead you to South Padre Island, where the white sand and clear blue water provide the perfect getaway. The Big Thicket national wilderness preserve, where wild orchids hang from the trees in a thick cypress forest, is only a couple of hours away.

The People

More than 6 million people live in the Houston metropolitan area, and Houston’s mix of people and cultures has become increasingly international. Annual events reflect the city’s multicultural flair, including the Fiestas Patrias (a celebration of Mexican independence from Spain), Cinco de Mayo festivities, the Houston International Festival, and a colorful observance of the Chinese New Year. African Americans have a rich history in Houston and organize a major Juneteenth Blues Festival every year, as well as a parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Houstonians also celebrate at the Italian Festival, Greek Festival, Oktoberfest, Czech Fest, Jewish Festival, Slavic Heritage Days and more.

Houston Rankings

  • No. 1 Coolest Cities to Live (Forbes, July 2012)
  • No. 2 Best Large-sized Cities for Job Growth (newgeography, May 2012)
  • Most Racially/Ethnically Diverse Large Metro Area (Kinder Institute, March 2012)
  • No. 1 Lowest Cost of Living - Large Metros (ACCRA Cost of Living Index, first quarter, 2012)
  • No. 1 for New and Expanded Corporate Facilities (Site Selection magazine, March 2012)
  • No. 1 Top Cities for IT Jobs (Modis, Feb. 2012)
  • No. 1 U.S. City With Highest Performing Charities (Charity Navigator, June 2012)
  • No. 3 American Cities of the Future (fDi Magazine, April 2011)
  • No. 1 Mayors and Climate Protection Best Practices - Large City (U.S. Conference of Mayors, June 2011)
  • No. 7 Top U.S. Art Cities (away.com, June 2010)

Business and Industry

Today, Houston is a center for energy, shipping, education, medicine, aeronautics and the arts. The Texas Medical Center, just across Main Street from Rice, is the largest concentration of hospitals, medical schools and medical research facilities in the world. NASA’s Johnson Space Center is located a mere half-hour from downtown. Forbes ranks Houston in the top 10 in up-and-coming tech cities. And Houston is home to a large number of colleges and universities, many of which participate in collaborative programs with Rice.


Home of the Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park and Reliant Stadium. Professional teams include Astros baseball, Rockets basketball, Comets women’s basketball, Aeros hockey, NFL Texans, and the Dynamo, a Major League Soccer team. Tickets for sporting events in Houston are very affordable for students.

Getting Around

Houston has two major airports: Hobby Airport, which is 20 minutes from Rice, and Bush Intercontinental, which is 40 minutes from campus (commute times are longer during rush hour). If you don’t have a car, an airport shuttle to the Texas Medical Center is an affordable alternative.

Houston is predominantly a driving city,  but the neighborhoods around and near Rice are pedestrian-friendly. Metro’s light rail takes the headache out of commuting downtown or to Reliant Park, and an efficient network of buses makes the city accessible to the carless.


Whether you’re looking for all-American fare or want to try great Tex-Mex, authentic Thai or Middle Eastern cuisine, your tastes will be satisfied by Houston’s more than 11,000 restaurants. The city has, per capita, more restaurants than just about any other American city — and a wide variety as well. We are certain you'll be able to find a taste of home and the opportunity to explore new flavors.


More than 300 municipal parks and 120 open spaces are at your disposal, providing venues for jogging, cycling, in-line skating, swimming, tennis, golf, baseball and basketball, to name a few. Just across Main Street from campus, Hermann Park offers more than 50 acres of picnic grounds, a zoo, a golf course and Miller Outdoor Theater. Discovery Green in downtown Houston offers a lake, bandstands and venues for public performances, children's areas, and other places to relax. Memorial Park, a 15-minute drive away, is a very popular spot among runners. It has a three-mile jogging/walking path, much of which is shaded, and a network of dirt trails suitable for walking and mountain-biking. Memorial Park also has tennis courts, baseball facilities and a golf course.