Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States and the largest in Texas. However, the metropolitan area is slightly smaller and less culturally and economically important (although I hate to admit it) than the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Known for its flat, sprawling landscape and lack of public transportation, Houston is the perfect example of a post-modern boom town. Growth has been spurred on by the Port of Houston (top three in the nation), the energy and petrochemical industries, NASA, and high-technology and biomedical industries (Compaq, Texas Medical Center). Houston also does not have zoning laws, which is why there are strip malls and billboards everywhere. Cheap land and never ending suburban sprawl and white flight continue to provide the city with bland, boring (but safe and wholesome, ha) neighborhoods for newcomers to come to live and work.
Houston does not have much to offer that is truly unique when compared with the nation's older cities. Its claims to fame often are negative, such as its status as one of the fattest and most polluted cities. It is surrounded by mostly white, conservative suburbs and is the home to such often maligned stalwarts of the Republican party as George Bush Sr. and Tom DeLay. The weather can be pretty atrocious in summers, with heat, humidity and mosquitoes preventing much outdoor activity, but the rest of the year is often beautiful. Tourist attractions are usually meant for locals, such as the recently closed Astroworld, Galveston Island, the Museum District and the Galleria mall. There is not much reason to come here except for work or family.
However, Rome was not built in a day, and in that same vein Houston only continues to improve. The city is slowly acting on measures to cope with highway traffic, such as HOV lanes, rapid bus transit and light and commuter rail(finally). The city is also trying to beautify the city by cutting down on billboards and other ugly things that line our roads. The art and music scene only continue to improve, with more and more up and coming artists and musicians showcasing their talents in Houston's theatres, concert venues and art galleries. The local rap scene is finally getting national attention, with artists like Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, and Slim Thug (but not Deep) making it big. Trendy neighborhoods like Montrose, the Heights and Midtown provide relief from the monotony of the suburbs. Houston is also home to some of the most lovable (if not successful) professional sports teams in the nation and a host of beautiful new arenas and stadiums. Houston is still a great place to find good work and cheap (but nice) housing, and is one of the best places in the country for minorities to get ahead.
Houston is still relativly young and growing, and I think most would agree that the Houston of today is vastly superior to the Houston of 10 years ago, and the same can be expected 10 years from now. As long as the citizens of Houston act responsibly and proactively to guide the growth, development and diversification of their city, it still can become one of the world's greatest.
Person A: Houston is big, ugly and boring.
Me: Well quit your bitching and do something to make it prettier and more unique. Get involved in politics if you hate the conservatives who try to run Houston and most of the suburbs.
Person B: The weather in Houston sucks.
Me: Mosquitoes are a bitch, but it's still better than shoveling snow for 4 months a year, and still having to put up with heat waves like they do up North, or getting fried like they do in the West and Southwest.
Note: That picture is not the skyline of Houston, it's Dallas. Houston's is more impressive.