So we didn't crack the top 10, but at least we beat Dallas. In Resonance Consultancy's annual quest to rank America's 50 best large cities, Houston rose to the top—well, at least toward the top—at No. 11.
Widely regarded as the most comprehensive index of its kind, the study uses 23 criteria to measure a city's attractiveness for talent, tourism, and investment based on statistics that gauge livability and the economy as well as user-generated ratings and reviews, which offer more experiential data.
Among cities with metro area populations over a million, we fall behind—in order of rank—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Las Vegas, Miami, Seattle, and Boston. Our No. 11 spot officially makes us the best large city in Texas—duh—with other Lone Star State contenders coming in at No. 13 (Dallas) and No. 27 (San Antonio).
"Smart, skillful, and soulful, Houston is the American city of the future," Best Cities says, and we're inclined to agree. (After all, a record 22.3 million people visited Houston last year.) The survey cites our unparalleled diversity (more than 145 languages spoken at home here—more than in No. 1 New York), killer food scene (over 10,000 restaurants with new openings every day), affordable housing ($140,300 average home sale price, compared to $257,800 in Austin), and, oh yeah, did we mention we have no state income tax?
The fact that we're home to the fourth largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the nation also worked in our favor, as did our undisputed leadership in health care, engineering, and, of course, space. Best Cities gave us props for NASA, the Museum District, our post-Harvey downtown redevelopment plan, and the maybe-probably forthcoming Texas Bullet Train, which would afford Dallas residents the chance to experience a No. 11 city in just 90 minutes.
The Best Cities performance scorecard measures six Ps—place, product, programming, people, prosperity, and promotion—on a scale of 100. Here's how we stacked up:
- Place: 41/100. Measures quality of natural and built environment through air quality, weather, crime rate, neighborhoods and landmarks, and parks and outdoor activities.
- Product: 43/100. Measures key institutions, attractions and infrastructure through university rankings, airport connectivity, convention centers, entertainment, and museums.
- Programming: 28/100. Measures arts, culture, and culinary scene through shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.
- People: 68/100. Measures immigration and diversity through education and foreign-born residents.
- Prosperity: 51/100. Measures the economy through employment rates, GDP per capita, and corporate head offices located here.
- Promotion: 24/100. Measures the number of stories, references, and recommendations shared online about a city through web analytics including Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor.
Not super surprising, except for maybe the relatively low programming score—come on, Best Cities, didn't you just laud our amazing culinary scene?
But we'll take the high marks in people and programing—we know we've got both in spades—and pledge to do better at promoting ourselves online. Do you hear that, Houston? Google yourselves. Check in at Axelrad or El Tiempo or the MFAH on Facebook.
It should be said, though, that Houston First—the city's destination and marketing organization—is making strides in that already with record social media engagement and outreach that effectively launched Houston onto all sorts of "best of" shortlists, from the New York Times to Conde Nast Traveler.
It's also worth noting that, based on data from the same Resonance Consultancy firm behind Best Cities, National Geographic also recently announced the country's 28 friendliest neighborhoods include none other than the Heights, home-base for us here at Houstonia. That survey looked at walkability, home affordability, public spaces, and social media perceptions of more than 200 cities to identify the most welcoming, inclusive, and open-minded.
Boston's Back Bay took the top spot, Austin's Second Street was No. 7, and the Heights earned a respectable No. 19. NG loved our charming and historic architecture, outdoor recreation opportunities, quirky shops, art, and phenomenal restaurants. Truth BBQ, AG Antiques, and the Art Car Museum all got explicit shout-outs.
And, if there was ever any doubt, we are a world-class city: Along with top large and small metros, Best Cities also ranked the entire world's top 100 destinations. London, Paris, and New York secured the top three, but H-Town came in at No. 31. Out of 100. Above Venice, Italy and Melbourne, Australia. Oh yeah—and Dallas and Austin. We'll take it.