Houstonians already know that the Bayou City is the most diverse in the country and a food destination gem. Now an international survey ranks Houston as the No. 7 best large city in America. Overall, the Lone Star State looms large in the list, with Dallas and Austin at Nos. 12 and 14, respectively, while San Antonio ranks No. 20.
The Best Cities ranking comes courtesy of consulting firm Resonance, which deals in real estate, tourism, and economic development. The company ranked the best large cities in America — and the world — using cities with metro populations of a million people or more to delineate between large and small.
To generate the rankings, researchers examined six factors: place, product, programming, people, prosperity, and promotion of a town. A city’s performance across these six categories reflects the relative “place equity” and competitive identity of one city to the next, according to the report.
“Smart, skilled, and soulful, Houston is the American city of the future,” the report begins, with a nod to Houston’s influx of international immigration in the past decade, “explosive population growth,” and the more than 145 different languages spoken at home. Besides people, Houston also scores well in place and prosperity. The report recognizes Houston’s affordable housing (the average selling price of a home is $140,300 — compared to $222,300 in Atlanta and $257,800 in Austin) and favorable zoning.
The Bayou City is also cited for being home to the fourth largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the country (20) behind New York, Chicago, and Dallas — and to five Fortune Global 500s. Houston’s economic diversity is also touted, with the report hailing Houston as a “leader in healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, finance, and outer space.”
Houston’s urban planning scores high marks, including the post-Harvey strategizing with the Houston Downtown Management District “Plan Downtown” (a 20-year plan to redevelop downtown and improve visitor appeal, business climate, livability, and connectivity). The highly anticipated Houston-to-Dallas bullet train also gets a mention, as does the planned Innovation District. And, as an homage to our thriving food scene, local favorites Killen’s STQ, the Pit Room, and Xochi get shout-outs in the report.
No. 12 Dallas earns a reputation as a corporate powerhouse, as the report notes that the metro area is home to more than 10,000 corporate headquarters, giving DFW the largest corporate head office concentration in the United States. Big D, where “big things happen,” also gets high marks for the larger-than-life State Fair of Texas; diverse neighborhoods; a large LGBT population; and connectivity, a measure of direct flight access into a city’s principal airport.
At No. 14, Austin is hailed as the “rebellious Texas city — forged with the Longhorn State’s can-do persistence cut with a university town’s political activism and social diversity.” Little surprise that the Capital City scores well for nightlife — No. 12 in the nation for big cities — and that Austin’s reputation as an innovation hub is highlighted. Arguably America’s most understated boom town, Austin ranks No. 5 overall in prosperity, with America’s lowest unemployment rate and the seventh highest median household income among large cities.
Rounding out the Texas representation on the Best Cities list’s top 20 is San Antonio, at No. 20, hailed as “rich in distinctly Texan attractions,” and “a place for all seasons (and reasons).” The River Walk anchors Alamo City's No. 7 ranking for attractions among America’s large cities. San Antonio also ranks an impressive No. 6 in the culinary subcategory and No. 20 for nightlife, “a tribute to the wealth of nocturnal options and to the city’s No. 11 finish for weather.”