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Texans still looking for the best place to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast without breaking their banks might want to head to Houston. The Bayou City comes in at No. 53 on a new list of the best places to go for Thanksgiving.

The study, published by WalletHub, compares the top 100 largest U.S. cities across 20 key metrics, including the cost of Thanksgiving dinner, number of delayed flights, and even forecast precipitation.

In addition to the cities’ overall ranking, WalletHub revealed the cities’ rankings for the individual categories they were evaluated by. Five of those categories include Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions, Affordability, Safety and Accessibility, Giving Thanks, and Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

The average American spends about $301 during the five-day Thanksgiving period, according to a list of Thanksgiving fun facts compiled by WalletHub. Annually, Americans as a whole spend an estimated $835 million on Thanksgiving turkeys, with 46 million turkeys killed for the holiday.

Atlanta, Georgia ranks No. 1 on the list, with Orlando, Florida; Las Vega, Nevada; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Gilbert, Arizona rounding out the top five.

Specifically, Houston ranked in the top 10 for Affordability but didn’t score highly in any other category:

  • No. 48 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 7 for Affordability
  • No. 88 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 58 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 43 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

Other cities around Texas to make the list are:

  • Corpus Christi (No. 25)
  • Laredo (No. 31)
  • San Antonio (No. 32)
  • Austin (No. 33)
  • El Paso (No. 64)
  • Lubbock (No. 85)

Plano ranks No. 7 on the list, while Irving and Dallas took the ninth and 13th spots, respectively. Other North Texas cities that made the list include Garland (No. 24), Arlington (No. 44), and Fort Worth, which just barely makes it into the top 100, landing at No. 84.

Other Dallas rankings include:

  • No. 13 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 18 for Affordability
  • No. 93 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 37 for Giving Thanks

No. 32-ranking San Antonio has these rankings on the list:

  • No. 46 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 2 for Affordability
  • No. 66 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 85 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 26 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast

The state’s No. 33-ranking capital, Austin, had an average ranking for each category:

  • No. 41 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 19 for Affordability
  • No. 42 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 82 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 36 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

Fort Worth was in the top 5 for weather but hit the bottom 10 for safety:

  • No. 87 for Thanksgiving Celebrations and Traditions
  • No. 31 for Affordability
  • No. 95 for Safety and Accessibility
  • No. 52 for Giving Thanks
  • No. 4 for Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

You can view the full list and find more information about the 100 best U.S. places for Thanksgiving here.

Photo courtesy of EAMS-Houston#1

Houston named one of world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report

houston proud

If you live in Houston, you can confidently say you live in one of the best cities on the planet — at least according to one new study.

Houston ranks No. 42 on the new list of 100 best cities in the world. Two other Texas cities also make the list: Austin, at No. 43 and Dallas at No. 47.

As for the Bayou City, the report describes the city as an “educated, diverse, and hard-working” powerhouse.

Highlights for Houston include:

  • A population increase of almost 300,000, thanks to both domestic and international immigration
  • A No. 26 global ranking for Culture, with more than 145 languages spoken at home
  • A No. 31 ranking for Restaurants, with a flurry of post-pandemic launches
  • A top 10 global GDP per Capita finish
  • One of the top five Googled cities over the last year
Elsewhere in Texas, highlights for Dallas that helped earn it a spot on the list include:
  • No. 6 global ranking in Airport Connectivity, thanks to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
  • Sixth largest LGBTQ+ community
  • No. 24 ranking in the world for Global 500 companies
  • A No. 42 ranking for Convention Center that the study says is likely to ascend now that Dallas City Council has approved plans for a new $2-billion, 2.5-million-square-foot facility to be built adjacent to the current one by 2028
  • A No. 82 Programming ranking due to institutions like the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the renowned Nasher Sculpture Center, plus theaters, symphony and opera venues, restaurants, and bars.

Austin is quickly becoming America’s new hometown, according to the report.

Highlights for Austin include:

  • A No. 40 ranking for Global 500 headquarters
  • A No. 38 employment ranking, as tech giants like Oracle move headquarters to the city
  • The No. 23 ranked University of Texas at Austin
  • South by Southwest, the annual summit of business, music and creativity

This year, London tops the list, followed by Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Dubai.

The annual ranking quantifies and benchmarks the relative quality of place, reputation, and competitive identity for the world's principal cities with metropolitan populations of one million or more. Vancouver, Canada-based Resonance Consultancy Ltd., which specializes in marketing, strategy, and research for the real estate, tourism and economic development sectors, conducted the study.

On the list overall, only 25 U.S. cities made the cut, and only New York was ranked in the top 10. You can view the full list and find more information about the 100 best cities here.

Houston Association of Realtors

Houston is home to some of the biggest houses in the U.S., new ranking shows

Size matters

If everything’s bigger in Texas, that should include our homes, right? Well, a new study shows homes in the Lone Star State are among the biggest in the country — but not the biggest.

Texas appears at No. 11 on American Home Shield’s list of the states with the biggest houses. In Texas, the average home is 2,170 square feet, well behind top-ranked Utah (2,800 square feet).

But don’t despair, fellow Texans. Six Texas cities, including Houston, land on American Home Shield’s list of the top 20 major cities for home size. This list looks at average home sizes in the country’s 50 largest cities after surveying more than 500,000 U.S. home listings from Zillow,

Houston, surprisingly, doesn't lead the list; that honor goes to Fort Worth, No. 5 overall, where homes 2,255 square feet. Houston ranks No. 11 in the U.S.. per the study. The report notes the average home price per square foot in Houston is $208.28.

Here's how Texas cities fared:

  • No. 7 Austin, 2,081 square feet
  • No. 11 Houston, 2,041 square feet
  • No. 16 El Paso, 2,004 square feet
  • No. 17 San Antonio, 2,002 square feet
  • No. 20 Dallas, 1,930 square feet

In case you were wondering, the big city with the biggest houses is Colorado Springs, Colorado (2,760 square feet), while the tiniest houses are in Honolulu (825 square feet).

“Several factors can dictate how large the average home is in a certain state or city,” says American Home Shield, which sells home warranties. “One of the primary factors is the age of the housing stock. American homes have gotten larger over time; states with a higher percentage of new homes tend to have larger homes on average.”

City of Sugar Land/Facebook

Booming Houston 'burb is a best U.S city for families, says Fortune

No place like home

The "Sweetest City in Texas" has landed on a prestigious list of best places for families in the U.S. Fortune puts Sugar Land No. 17 its new list of the 25 best places in the U.S. for families to live in 2022.

North Texas suburb Wylie is the only other Texas city to make the report, coming in at an impressive No. 2. Ann Arbor, Michigan, takes the top spot.

Fortune notes that Sugar Land, once home to a major sugar refinery, is one of Texas' fastest growing cities. The survey lauds Sugar Land's outstanding schools, ranked 20 percent rated above average by GreatSchools. To that end, the suburb boasts a 94 percent high school graduation rate, while nearly 60 percent of residents aged 25 and older holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.

As for quality of life, Sugar Land residents earn an average $121,665 per year, while the average home costs $399,250.

Healthcare also receives high marks, with Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital cited for receiving the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2016, the nation’s highest presidential honor for excellence in health care. Seniors enjoy many living options, including five assisted-living facilities with five-star ratings.

As anyone who's visited knows, the area has a strong sense of community, fostered in part by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which hosts such events as a Sugar Gala, an International Art and Kite Festival, and a Fall Fest.

As for No. 2-rated Wylie, Fortune writes: "With its start as a stop on the Santa Fe Railway in the 1880s, Wylie has always been a gathering place. In fact, because shops stayed open late to accommodate the railway visitors and business, one of the town’s nicknames became 'Wide-Awake Wylie.' The historic downtown continues that tradition of community today..."

To come up with its ranking, Fortune combed through mounds of data for almost 2,000 communities in the U.S.

The Awty International School/Facebook

Houston high schools score high marks as Texas' best in 2022

A+ rating

Several campuses in the Houston area have earned extra credit as the best high schools in Texas.

In the latest rankings from education review website Niche, Houston's Carnegie Vanguard High School and Debakey High School for Health Professions come in No. 4 and No. 5 respectively among the state's best public high schools.

Meanwhile, Awty International School comes in at No. 2 (up from No. 3 last year) on the list of the state’s best private high schools.

Here's how some of Houston's top public and private schools scored:

  • Houston ISD’s Carnegie Vanguard High School, No. 4 among public high schools
  • Katy ISD’s Seven Lakes High School, No. 5 among public high schools
  • William P. Clements High School, No. 5 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Debakey High School for Health Professions, No. 5 among public high schools
  • Houston ISD’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, No. 9 among public high schools
  • The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, No. 6 among private high schools
  • The Village School in Houston, No. 7 among private high schools
  • The Kincaid School in Houston, No. 10 among private high schools

For those interested in private schools, here are some of the top Houston institutions this year.
  • The Awty International School
  • The John Cooper School
  • The Village School
  • The Kinkaid School
  • Strake Jesuit College Preparatory
  • St. John's School

“Some of the biggest decisions that parents face have to do with their children’s education,” Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche, says in a news release. “We strive to put as much power in their hands as possible so they can make informed decisions with confidence.”

Niche says that while traditional rankings rely heavily on metrics like test scores and academic performance, its rankings combine ratings from current students, alumni, and parents with data from the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate teachers, resources, facilities, extracurricular activities and more.

Here’s how other Texas schools and school districts fared in this year’s Niche rankings.

Austin area

  • Austin ISD’s Liberal Arts & Science Academy, No. 2 among public high schools
  • Eanes ISD’s Westlake High School, No. 6 among public high schools
  • Round Rock ISD’s Westwood High IB World School, No. 8 among public high schools
  • St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, No. 4 among private high schools
  • Eanes ISD, No. 1 among best school districts
Dallas area

Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented & Gifted tops the list of the state’s best public high schools, and St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas leads the list of the state’s best private high schools. Both schools ranked first on their respective Niche lists last year.

San Antonio area

  • Keystone School in San Antonio, No. 9 among private high schools
  • BASIS Texas Charter Schools in San Antonio, No. 4 among school districts

Rio Grande Valley

  • South Texas ISD in Mercedes, No. 2 among school districts
fly2houston.com

Houston airports soar in prestigious list of best in Texas and U.S.

Airport news

Houston's William P. Hobby Airport has already landed a coveted 5-star rating this year from travel industry leader Skytrax — the first airport in Texas, the U.S., and North America to do so.

Now, the growing Hobby has scored a high rank in yet another prestigious ranking. Hobby ranks No. 2 in Texas in the large-airport category of J.D. Powers’ 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. With a score of 803 on a 1,000-point scale, Hobby comes in only behind Dallas' Love Field among the six Texas airports included in the study.

Nationally, Hobby comes in at No. 8 in the U.S.

Meanwhile, George Bush Intercontinental Airport lands at No. 6 in Texas and No. 16 among mega airports, with a score of 758. This comes as Bush was ranked as one of the best airports in the world in March.

As for the study, Hobby is preceded on the large-airport list by the aforementioned Love Field, Tampa International Airport in Florida (846), and John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California (826).

The J.D. Power study measures overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large, and midsize North American airports by examining six factors: terminal facilities; airport arrivals and departures; baggage claim; security check; check-in and baggage check; and food, beverage, and retail.

The study is based on survey responses from 26,529 U.S. and Canadian residents who had traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport in the previous 30 days.Dallas Love Field flies to the top of a new ranking of the best major airports in Texas.

Here’s how the four other Texas airports fared in the J.D. Power study:

  • William P. Hobby Airport, No. 2 in Texas and No. 8 among large airports (score of 803)
  • San Antonio International Airport, No. 3 in Texas and No. 9 among large airports (score of 802)
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, No. 4 in Texas and No. 15 among large airports (score of 785)
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport, No. 6 in Texas and No. 16 among mega airports (score of 758)

J.D. Power says overall satisfaction with North American airports fell 25 points to 777 in the new study.

“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage, and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated — and it is likely to continue through 2023,” says Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

New legislation would let Texas say no to puppy mill sales statewide

no more mills?

A Texas legislator has introduced a bill to help animals: On December 2, Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed HB 870, which would help put an end to puppy mill practices by requiring that pet stores can sell only healthy animals from shelters or rescues.

Pet stores across Texas would no longer be allowed to sell puppies or kittens from unscrupulous, out-of-state puppy mills, protecting pets and consumers -- similar to laws that have already been enacted in a number of cities across Texas.

Patterson previously filed a similar bill, HB 1818, in 2021. And as he notes in a statement, the law would affect only one major retailer: Petland.

"Out-of-state puppy mills store puppies in poor conditions, take them away from their moms too soon, and truck them hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to be sold in retail pet stores,” Patterson says. “There’s a reason why only one of the top 25 retailers still sells dogs from these conditions. I’m proud to once again file HB 870 to provide the necessary restrictions to protect pets and their owners."

If passed, HB 870 would not preempt local ordinances. Instead, the law brings consistency across Texas’ largest counties – those with a population of 200,000 or more – primarily suburban and urban areas.

In 2022, Dallas, Houston, and New Braunfels all passed ordinances like HB 870, demonstrating the need and support for a statewide law, says Stacy Sutton Kerby, Director of Government Relations at Texas Humane Legislation Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for animals and has been involved in prior efforts.

“While 14 cities across Texas have passed retail pet store ordinances, millions of Texans are still vulnerable to the deceptive business practices used to sell puppies sourced from inhumane puppy mills. All Texans deserve to be protected from buying sick, defective puppies,” she says.

During the 87th legislative session in 2021, HB 1818 received huge bipartisan support but couldn’t get past the finish line before the session ended.

“There is widespread support and momentum for this policy," Kerby says. “We are excited to work with Representative Patterson again on this issue. His early filing of the bill shows his dedication to halting the puppy mill pipeline into Texas and alleviating the burden on shelters of having an overwhelming number of healthy, adoptable pets in need of loving homes."

Canada's favorite coffee and doughnut shop opens second Houston location

More Tims for H-town

Canada’s favorite coffee and doughnut shop will expand its Houston presence next week. The city’s second Tim Hortons will open December 16 in northwest Houston at 5312 W Richey Rd.

Founded in 1964 by NHL legend Tim Horton, the coffee shop is well known for its freshly brewed coffee and other beverages such as lattes, juices, and teas. Customers can pair their drinks with a range of sweet and savory bites such as breakfast sandwiches and muffins. Doughnuts come in a variety of flavors, including the signature Timbits doughnut holes.

The appealing menu and friendly service have allowed it to grow to 5,000 locations worldwide, with over 600 in the U.S. Tim Hortons made its Houston debut in late August with a location in Katy.

A grand opening celebration begins at 5 am on December 16. The first 50 customers will receive free coffee for a year. Expect prizes, food samples, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Once open, the store’s hours of operations will be 5 am to 8 pm daily. Customers may order via dine-in, drive-thru, or an app that features a rewards program for frequent diners.

Tim Hortons partnered with Houston's CSM Group, which operates Popeyes locations in Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. CSM Group CEO Ali Lakhany told the Houston Chronicle in March that his company plans to open 30 locations across the Houston area, including 10 in the first three years.

“We’ve received such a warm welcome from the Houston community since our grand opening in Katy earlier this year,” Ekrem Ozer, president of Tim Hortons, U.S., said in a statement. “We’re excited to continue to grow our presence in this community and get to know more Houstonians with the opening of our Richey Road restaurant.”

CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd reveals the ultimate holiday 'death match' party game

wine guy Wednesday

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.

In this week's column, he shares his favorite way to win more wine. Take it away, Chris.

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If you’re looking to throw a killer party — one that’s unforgettable — I have an idea for you. It doesn’t have to happen during the holidays, but it will make your holiday party more fun. Let me introduce you to Wine Club Death Match.

My friend Ellen Hur, whose classmates at graduate school first started this game, introduced Wine Club Death Match to us here in Houston a few years back. It’s a game that combines things that I love — tasting wine, talking to friends, talking about wine, and, as part of a little friendly competition, you can win the ultimate prize, more wine!

“I had heard about Wine Club Death Match and thought it sounded really fun,” Ellen explains. “I started playing with a few friends in our little New York City apartments, back in 2007 or so. We liked the idea that we could entertain ourselves without having to go out all the time. Plus, if you weren’t too discerning, which we were not, or if your friends had good taste in wine, you could grow a decent wine collection pretty quickly.”

Here's how it works:

  • Every person who comes to the party is asked to bring two bottles of the same wine that fit the night’s theme (more info on that below) and the night’s price point (e.g., each bottle must be under $25).
  • When each guest arrives, one bottle is immediately stored out of sight, and the second bottle is put in a paper bag and labeled A through Z (or however you want to distinguish the covered bottles from each other).
  • As the party goes on, guests taste each wine (responsibly) and keep their own notes about which bottle they like the best.
  • Once everyone has tasted — or the tasting portion of the party is over — everyone votes for their favorite bottle. The host takes the ballots and tallies them up for the big reveal.
  • The person who brought the bottle that gets the most votes is crowned winner of Wine Club Death Match and wins the entire stash of the second bottles that have been stored away. If you have 10 people at the party participating in WCDM, the winner takes home 10 bottles of wine. Not too shabby!
  • Spend the rest of the party lobbying the winner to give you your favorite bottle (or two) as a consolation prize.

We’ve played with our friends a few times, and it’s a fun, unique way to bring a little extra excitement to a party or gathering. It’s an automatic conversation starter. Plus, there’s a lot of strategy involved. If you’re fighting to the death (or, in this case, fighting for all the wine), you’ll need to have a game plan to take home all the spoils.

A few of my favorite themes:

  • Region + Grape/Varietal or color + Price Point is always a good theme (Oregon Pinot Noir under $30, South American reds under $27, French rosé under $20, Spanish Cava under $25, or my least favorite option— Gewürztraminer from anywhere in the world at any price point—not my favorite varietal)
  • Wine from a region you didn’t know made wine.
  • Wines mentioned in music lyrics
  • Wines from a vineyard named for a person

The beauty of this game is that it’s flexible. Want to pair the tasting wines with a specific dish and make it a more hearty affair? Go for it! Want to go all champagne and deal with the consequences later? Do it! Want to tell everyone to bring magnums? Why not? Want to bring the concept to more of a dinner party atmosphere? Cool. Have fun with it, and learn something.

Let me make a few suggestions to optimize your Wine Club Death March:

  • For WCDM to operate most optimally, the sweet spot is 8-12 guests. If you live in a city like NYC, you must consider how you are transporting all the wine home. For example, 12 bottles on a subway is tough. Luckily, 12 bottles in a Houston Uber is much more doable.
  • That being said, make WCDM yours! If you want a bigger party, go for it – you can have two winners, or be creative about how to divvy up the winnings and how to make sure everyone can taste the wines.
  • Set the price point based on your guests. If your guests are bigger spenders who want to bulk up their cellars, you can have a higher price point. But I think everyone would love a solid stash of $20-$30 wines.
  • Go heavy on the apps. Even small tastes of wine can add up.
  • The wines for WCDM are for tasting, not imbibing during the party, so have other drinks available – especially if you have guests who aren’t participating in the competition.
  • Water should be plentiful, and ride shares are a must.

Let me know how this works out for you. Invite me!

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Contact our Wine Guy via email at chris@chrisshepherdconcepts.com.

Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. He recently parted ways with Underbelly Hospitality, a restaurant group that currently operates four Houston restaurants: Wild Oats, GJ Tavern, Underbelly Burger, and Georgia James. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $10 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund.