Culture of Houston: 12 Features of the Vibrant Culture

Often known as “Bayou City,” “H-Town,” “Magnolio City” and “Space City,” Houston is a metropolitan city in Texas known for its rich cultural diversity. With residents from all over the country and the world, the culture of Houston comprises about 90 languages, a delectable gastronomy, a rich artistic scene (art, music, dance, theatre etc.), multiple museums, and remarkable architecture. Furthermore, the city is a major attraction for those interested in all things to do with space!

Keep on reading to know everything there is to learn about the vibrant culture of Houston

12 Fascinating Features of the Culture of Houston

1. Impressive Theatre and Live Performances in Houston

The Alley Theatre facade
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The city’s Theater District located in the heart of the downtown area is one of the best in the country and forms a key aspect of the culture of Houston. It consists of 6 performance halls, 9 performing arts organisations and movie theatres, and a dream for the performing arts lovers. Not only do the various centres hold massive appeal to the people but also the touring groups that perform Broadway shows, put up concerts and shows featuring quilting, guns, boats and more.

There are over 30 professional, regional and community companies showcasing both classical and modern works when it comes to theatre. Theatres like the Alley Theatre are some of the country’s oldest while others like the Ensemble Theatre focus on African-American artists’ work.

Aside from theatre, the city is known for ballet, orchestra, opera and venues like Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera and Houston Symphony Orchestra and very well-known. The city’s rich ethnic melange is evident in its artistic scene and many live performances highlight the Latina community, the Texas perspective and more. A number of Houston-origin theatre work has been converted to Broadway shows and has been shared with the rest of the country.

2. The Distinctive Music of Houston

A Houston Symphony performance
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Although Houston does not have its own style of music, its diversity has contributed to the emergence of a rich musical culture featuring different genres. The various ethnic groups have in fact  added their own touch to many.

Although it is known predominantly for a vibrant rap community, Houston has a blooming classical music scene which includes orchestra (Houston Symphony), opera (Opera in the Heights) and even choral music (Houston Chamber Choir). Not only can you find a number of classical music venues or groups, you would also find schools dedicated towards teaching the art.

A Few of the Distinguished Music Genres in Houston
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Texas Blues is a popular genre in the city which finds its origin in the 1920s and has been propagated by artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top. It has an emerging pop music industry and has given many artists to the world including Beyonce and Kenny Rogers. In fact, many pop artists are known for their country and rock music.

Tejano, Texan music originating in the 19th century, is a combination of conjunto styles (accordion and bajo sexto) and American (country, rock etc). The city’s unique hip hop culture, known as “chopped and screwed,” is essentially slow music with repeated lines, while bounce music came into existence after Hurricane Katrina. 

3. The Emerging Literary Scene in Houston

The Houston Public Library exterior
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Houston has managed to garner a reputation for having a good “literary scene” and is often considered representative of Texas’s overall literary situation. A number of universities and schools offer wonderful writing programs, with that of the University of Houston being quite profound. The city owes its extensive public library system to the work of The Ladies Reading Group and it has also produced 4 Poet Laureates. 

Multiple bookstores have come up throughout the city and not only do they carry an extensive collection of literary works but also host readings, literary events and author meet-and-greets. The Houston Public Library is very popular and organises the Public Poetry reading series, the University of Houston’s reading series showcases work of students from the MFA program and many cafes near schools are ideal for students to sit and read.

4. The Diverse Museums in Houston

The famous Houston Museum of Natural Science
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Houston houses many museums that have on display historical artifacts, paintings, sculptures, photographs, dinosaur skeletons, specimens, rare books, natural elements, etc. All of these belong to different periods, come from all over the globe and are associated with national and international artists. 

Some of Houston’s Most Well-known Museums
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A visit to museums like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, The Health Museum, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Asia Society Texas Center etc. is an opportunity to learn about the various cultures. Their exhibitions are about African-American soldiers in the military, displaying artworks featuring the Italian Renaissance, French Impressionism styles, and Latin America, the Middle-East, Asia, have dinosaur skeletons, and more.

Moreover, some Houston museums contain the biggest art collections in the world after certain European nations. In order to make learning fun, museums like the colourful Children’s Museum of Houston have been set up which focus on bilingual teaching programs.

5. The Vibrant Festivals in Houston

A performance at the Texas Lunar New Year
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Festivals are always a great way to experience a city’s culture and Houston regularly hosts a variety of them. With so many diverse groups living in the city, it is no surprise that the various festivals feature and commemorate their traditions and offer an opportunity for everyone to experience their cultural practises.

The Viet Cultural Fest, for instance, is the perfect example of how the city celebrates the city’s massive Vietnamese population while events like the Texas Lunar New Year pays tribute to the Asian residents. Visitors get to witness dances typical of the different communities, taste their delectable cuisines, enjoy their music and theatre, partake in fun games. 

Furthermore, these festivals pay tribute to the different cultural groups and the city’s rich artistic scene, historical heritage, and literary affliction. The city’s love for cars is evident in the annual Art Car Parade and their love for literature in the Houston Shakespeare Festival. 

7. The Numerous Religions in Houston

The All Saints Catholic Church
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Given that the city is home to people from all around the globe and all walks of life, the culture of Houston includes major religious diversity. Even though Christianity is the most prevalent here, with over 70% of the population identifying as Christians (Protestants and Roman Catholics), other religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism are other prominent ones.

There are a number of churches, synagogues, Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, and mosques that have come up in Houston. Thanks to its massive Asian population,Taoism came up in the 1990s, with a Vietnamese couple establishing a Taoist temple. Sikhism came up in 1972, with gurudwaras being set up subsequently, Zoroastrianism and Jainism in the 1970s, and the BaháΚΌí faith has spread too. Atheism is also quite eminent here too and Satanism and Paganism have been observed as well.

8. The Delicious Cuisine of Houston

The Frenchy’s Chicken restaurant
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Known as the “dining-out-capital” of the country because of how often residents eat out, Houston is well-known for its delightfully diverse gastronomy. The different Houstonian enclaves with their various ethnic groups are known for diverse cuisines such as Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese,Lebanese, Indian, Korean and more, and there is no dearth of restaurants or food joints to eat at.

The Tex-Mex cuisine has grown to be quite prominent in the city due to the increased immigration of Mexicans into the city. On the other hand, the Louisiana Creole people’s settlement in the 1920s saw their cuisine becoming quite popular.

In fact, owing to how established a majority of the local food joints (such as Frenchy’s Chicken and Antone’s) are, there are fewer chain restaurants in the city than in other US metropolitan cities. Over the years, while the city has witnessed the shutting down of many food trucks, it has seen an emerging food hall as well as vegan culture.

What all can you eat in Houston?
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If you are visiting Houston, make sure to try out dishes like black rice and shrimp creole, boudin, Vietnamese-style crawfish, and the Original Po’Boy sandwich (chow chow with ham, provolone cheese and salami). Banh mi, pecan pie,barbeque brisket, gumbo, are also popular. 

9. The Growing LGBTQ Culture in Houston

A pride parade
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Like most cities in the United States, Houston has seen a significant increase in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. The culture of Houston comprises Texas' largest LGBTQ population and the fourth largest pride parade in the US. It began in the 1970s with gay bars opening up in several parts of the city to allow people to socialise.

Soon after, neighbourhoods like Midtown, Montrose (the epicentre), Heights and Riverside Terrace saw a considerable increase in their LGBTQ population. Over many years, Houston saw institutions such as the Montrose Centre being set up for the community, companies offering benefits and protection to their LGBTQ employees and political figures from the community. In fact, many Christian, Jewish and Islamic institutions accept and support it.

Noteworthy LGBTQ Events to Attend in Houston
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The Houston Gay Pride Parade is annually organised in the month of June, having been moved from Montrose to Downtown Houston. Qfest organises the annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and sponsors other such events while Orgulla Houston recognises the Latin community’s contribution to the LGBTQ community. As an initiative to recognise the black people in the community, Houston Splash is organised in May.

10. The Impressive Architecture of Houston

The Houston <a href=City Hall facade" width="700" height="467" />
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It is quite difficult to clearly classify Houston architecture since it has been influenced by styles worldwide; the many structures have been constructed at different points of time and serve various purposes. Houston’s architectural scene emcompasses  styles like Art Deco (Houston City Hall), Spanish Renaissance (Julia Ideson Building) and modernist. It features chapels, shopping centres, hotels, corporate skyscrapers, residences, bungalows, museums, stadiums etc.

The city also has its fair share of unique structures attracting large crowds such as the Beer Can House made of beer cans and bottles. Besides being home to several popular buildings, it also houses a master-planned community for the elites, with houses representative of styles like Tudor Revival, Southern Colonial, Neoclassical and English Manorial.

11. The Major Sports Culture in Houston

Basketball at the Toyota Center
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People in Houston are well-known for regularly indulging in sports and attending the various events that are held throughout the year. The rich sports culture of Houston stems from the different professional and collegiate sports played in the city, dappling in baseball, American football, basketball, rugby, soccer and more.

Men and women are actively involved in sports and there are a number of clubs, training centres and facilities in the city dedicated not only towards these sports but also towards fencing, golf, running, cricket etc. The city is known to host various sports events such as Texas Bowl, Bayou Bucket Classic, Shell Houston Open, Labour Day Classic and more. 

12. The Unique Car Culture in Houston

The famous ArtCar Parade in Houston
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A unique aspect of Houston’s cultural diversity is its love for cars, as is evident through the ArtCar Museum and the Art Car Parade. Following the trolley system’s tear down, the city witnessed the emergence of an automobile culture, especially related to cars. A number of neighbourhoods including the Heights and Sharpstown came up as streetcar suburbs and the former is the location for the annual Art Car Parade featuring modified cars. 

Slab culture, linked to hip-hop artists, has also come up in Houston, especially in South Park, Sunnyside and Missouri City, and it includes full-size GM vehicles which are restored and customised. However, in the past few years, it has been observed that the city has experienced a slight decline with respect to its car culture and an increased affinity for public transportation.

Additional Information

A spaceship replica at the Space Center Houston
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Houston is popular for its rustic, country roots and the George Ranch Historical Park is perfect for experiencing the cowboy culture and engaging in horse and electric bull riding, agriculture and tasting Texas meals. The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Centre holds an immense amount of appeal for people who love space. The different shopping centres, boutiques, malls and stores are ideal for finding both designer as well as local merchandise.

Just like any other city in the world, “H-Town” too has a flamboyant culture. With an elaborate exhibition of the rich culture of Houston, locals and tourists can take advantage of the numerous museums, theatres and performance centres, restaurants and bars, festivals, architectural wonders, sports events, NASA and much more.

This post was published by Arushi Bhowmick

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