Seated in the heart of Harris County, the greater Houston area covers 587 square miles connected by more than 700 miles of freeways all supported without city or state taxes. As the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston is home to an ever-growing population that numbers more than 1.9 million people, with an estimated average age of 30.3 years. The greater Houston area, which includes Harris, Fort Bend, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller counties covers 7,900 square miles and counts more than 2.75 million residents.
Although 50 miles inland, Houston is linked to the Gulf of Mexico by an inland water way that makes the sheltered Port of Houston the second largest shipping port for goods moved in the United States. The Port of Houston is a major reason more than 3,400 international companies doing business in 175 countries call Houston home. Houston is also a city of great diversity. Houston has a broad mix of ethnic citizens that speak 66 languages. We also host the counsels of 67 nations.
No matter what your interests are, Houston has something for you. You may choose to spend an evening watching one of our seven professional sports teams, Astros (baseball), Rockets (basketball), Comets (women's basketball), Thunder Bears (arena football), Texans (football), Energy (women's football) and Aeros (hockey). You can also choose to attend the opera or one of our amusement parks. Or you might choose to relax and have dinner at one of our more than 8,000 restaurants. With such a selection of cuisine it is no wonder that Houstonians are thought to eat out more than any other people in the world. For two weeks each February, Houston holds the world's largest Rodeo. Staffed with more than 10,000 volunteers, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo draws crowds of more than 2 million people who come together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships each year.
Of all the facilities that operate in our city, Houston is probably best known for being the home of NASA's space exploration programs. Since the first six astronauts arrived in Houston in 1962, NASA Johnson Space Center has been a focal point and national landmark for space exploration. After 40 years of development NASA has continued to build for our future by training astronauts, managing space launches, serving as mission control to the US space shuttle program, developing technology for spacecraft, and serving as the host center for the International Space Station. It is the presence of NASA that gained Houston its nickname the "Space City."
We boast more than 75 museums including the Houston Museum of Fine Art, which when established in 1900 was the first art museum in Texas, and the Museum of Natural Science. Both are known for exceptional content and presentation, ranging from enormous dinosaur fossils to a live interactive collection of rare butterflies from around the world. Other Museums include the Fort Bend Museum, San Jacinto Battleground & Museum, Houston Holocaust Museum, Contemporary Arts Museum and the Children's Museum of Houston.
Houston is also home to a variety of performing arts. These include the Tony award winning (1996) Alley Theater, home of Houston's residential professional repertory theater company, and the Wortham Theater, home of the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, and the Houston Symphony Orchestra (which was established in 1913 and conducts 170 performances per year in Jones Hall). In fact, Houston is one of only four U.S. cities with permanent opera, ballet, symphony and drama companies.