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The Menil Collection

Montrose

Population: 24,000
Walk Score: 93/100

What it’s getting right: The eclectic neighborhood offers some of the city’s best cuisine, nightlife and coffee-shop options—all paired with strong walkability. With so much coolness within arm’s reach, Montrosians can leave their cars parked as they enjoy the good things in life.

New in the neighborhood: Cooking Girl, the second solidly spicy Sichuan restaurant to open in the past year (a Montrose outpost of Chinatown favorite Mala Sichuan came first) and another main attraction at the increasingly busy corner of Fairview and Taft, where slick newcomers like Cuchara and Max’s Wine Dive mingle with quirky old-timers like Gratifi and Bar Boheme.

If you only have an hour: Wander the Menil Collection, then relax in its adjoining park and enjoy the people watching.

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The East End Street Market

East End

Population: 108,000
Walk Score: 65/100

New in the neighborhood: New and improved green spaces abound, most notably the expansion of the Brays Bayou trails and the restoration of Gus Wortham Golf Course starting this fall. And lately, Telephone Road has the free-spirited energy of Lower Westheimer before all the fancy restaurants moved in—check out Wired Up Records and Books, the eastside outpost of hip barbershop Cutthroat, Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream, Blue Line Bike Shop and East End Studio Gallery, all within a couple blocks of neighborhood stalwart Bohemeo’s.

What it’s getting right: As affordable housing gets harder to come by, young professionals are increasingly looking to East End neighborhoods like Eastwood, Idylwood and Magnolia Park, where well-maintained and rehabbed bungalows from the 1930s and ’40s on leafy streets can still be found for under $200,000—if you’re lucky. This is also one of the most pedestrian-friendly parts of town, with a large cyclist community and myriad transportation options via the new METRO Green line.

If you only have an hour: Grab some queso and fajitas at the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation.

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Image: Shutterstock

Heights

Population: 15,000
Walk Score: 67/100

New in the neighborhood: The vintage vibe of 19th Street is getting a jolt of new energy with the renovation of the Heights Theater, which launches this fall. And the number of dining establishments working around the neighborhood’s dry-zone rules continues to grow, with Bernadine’s, Ka Sushi, Southern Goods, Hunky Dory and the forthcoming Il Cane Rosso all making citywide waves.

What it’s getting right: With seven historic districts in the Greater Heights area, there’s not another neighborhood in Houston that values its heritage as much as this one. Despite the ever-pricier homes, the neighborhood still retains an eclectic, artsy sensibility, and its dedicated hike-and-bike lanes and trails make this neighborhood one of the most inviting in the city.

If you only have an hour: Check out The Wilde Collection (it’s the only store on Yale with a hearse parked out front), a curiosity and oddities shop, then mosey over to Heights Vinyl on White Oak to browse its thousands of new and vintage albums.

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Hughes Landing

The Woodlands

Population: 109,000
Walk Score: 17/100

What it’s getting right: The planned community prioritizes green space, with golf courses, miles of hike and bike trails, community pools, more than 110 parks, and a 200-acre lake available to residents. There are homes at multiple price points here, and many of the subdivisions have their own town centers. 

New in the neighborhood: The 66-acre mixed-use development Hughes Landing, set on Lake Woodlands, is a local favorite, offering seven restaurants with lakeside views, a boardwalk, and a Whole Foods Market plus high-end apartments and office buildings. 

If you only have an hour: Stroll through Town Center, the downtown of The Woodlands, and explore its 1,000 acres of shops and restaurants.

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Image: Shutterstock

Memorial

Population: 35,000
Walk Score: 62/100

What it’s getting right: Not quite Inner Loop and not quite suburbia, Memorial offers the best of both worlds, with reasonable commutes, quality schools and tucked-away neighborhoods in which kids can still play in the streets, plus shopping and dining minutes away at CityCentre, Town & Country Village and Memorial City Mall. Residents also have access to the picturesque Terry Hershey Park hike-and-bike trails along Buffalo Bayou.

New in the neighborhood: Bowl & Barrel—the first Houston location of the Dallas hotspot that combines a luxe bowling experience (complete with leather couches) with a European beer hall and modern American tavern—opens soon at CityCentre.

If you only have an hour: Escape the concrete jungle at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary, a restored log cabin homestead and peaceful 17.5-acre wooded preserve along Rummel Creek that’s a habitat for native plants and animals and a haven for birders.

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Rico's serves food all day and night in Bagby Park.

Image: Dan Joyce

Midtown

Population: 6,000
Walk Score: 82/100

What it’s getting right: This always-evolving neighborhood is as diverse as the city itself. Highly walkable and packed with mixed-use developments, the area is known for its vibrant nightlife and explosion of arts venues.

New in the neighborhood: Not only are multiple eco-friendly street-beautification projects underway on Holman, Brazos, Main and Caroline, the area has seen an onslaught of bars and restaurant openings, and Midtown’s new arts-and-culture center, MATCH, opened last fall.

If you only have an hour: Snap a selfie by the giant “midtown” public art piece in Bagby Park, share your life goals on the “Before I Die…” chalkboard, and choose from dozens of dining options in walking distance for a night on the town.

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Public trails abut the Southwyck Golf Course in Pearland.

Pearland

Population: 137,000
Walk Score: 21/100

What it’s getting right: By 2025, Pearland is projected to double in population, which makes sense considering its relative proximity to the Med Center and its still-cheaper-than-Inner-Loop housing prices. Offering ample green space, small-town appeal, excellent public schools and plenty of recreational activities, the city to the south is a suburban dream.

New in the neighborhood: The town continues to expand its roster of parks, recreation options and libraries. There's a new nature trail on Magnolia Road, and this fall, the Tom Reid Library will get a 7,900-square-foot facelift.

If you only have an hour: Fans of famous barbecue joint Killen’s descend here from Houston and beyond. But if you don’t want to wait in the infamous line, head south to Froberg’s for some old-timey strawberry-picking, then pick up some fresh-fried pies at the adjoining general store.

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Ranch-style homes abound in Spring Branch.

Spring Branch

Population: 6,000
Walk Score: 55/100 

What it’s getting right: Spring Branch has become a destination both for luxury properties and affordable single-family ranchers and townhomes, although prices here continue to rise. Offering easy access to Memorial, Uptown, the Energy Corridor and downtown, the neighborhood is also known for its vibrant international dining scene. Spring Branch ISD's public schools are among the city's very best.

New in the neighborhood: Experience weightlessness without all that pesky NASA training at iFly’s indoor skydiving center.

If you only have an hour: Grab a meal of bulgogi in the food court at Super H Mart, then walk it off by browsing the aisles of the East Asian mega-mart, which has all the ingredients to make your own grilled Korean beef at home.

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Paul Wallin Field

West University

Population: 18,000
Walk Score: 65/100

What it’s getting right: There are plenty of perks that come with living in a tiny municipality, such as prompt, responsive service from everyone from trash collectors to police, as well as a full slate of sports leagues, classes and more from the West University library and community center. Despite (or perhaps because of) home prices starting around $1 million, this leafy enclave both looks and feels like a small town.

New in the neighborhood: Check out West U’s first Little Free Library, a tiny replica of West University Elementary School, which opened in October in Colonial Park. Then take the whole family for burgers at Little Matt’s, where an iPad station and arcade games will keep the kids busy while parents sip on free margaritas (limit two).

If you only have an hour: Grab a bleacher at a Little League game at Paul Wallin Field. This town takes its baseball very seriously—Barbara Bush once threw out the first pitch on opening day, and the Senior team won the Little League World Series in 2014.

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T.C. Jester Park

The GOOF: Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

Population: 37,000
Walk Score: 47/100

What it’s getting right: Garden Oaks and the adjacent Oak Forest appeal to young families, who take advantage of its top-rated schools, pocket parks, neighborhood clubs, seasonal events and, lately, a slew of interesting new restaurants. Both offer a mix of new construction and older homes: Garden Oaks is loaded with 1930s and ’40s bungalows, while Oak Forest offers ’50s ranch houses aplenty.

New in the neighborhood: Gigundo-gym O Athletik combines an indoor soccer pitch, MMA ring and training equipment, yoga studio, sauna, juice bar and more under one, massive 35,000-square-foot roof.

If you only have an hour: Walk the bayou at T.C. Jester Park, then refuel at Doyle's, a favorite in the neighborhood for over 60 years for its old-school pizza, pasta and Italian fare.

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