Houston’s Best Neighborhoods
Ranking the best inner loop neighborhoods
Everyone knows that the ‘burbs are safer, quieter, cheaper. Is that what’s keeping us in the city? Quite possibly. City dwellers can’t seem to swallow that spoonful of sugar that master-planned suburbs sell. You might risk a car theft, but you get the diversity and culture and close proximity to the action that so many Houstonians refuse to give up.
Inside the Loopers rejoice in their urban surroundings. The population of Houston proper grew 16.5 percent from 1990 to 2000 according to the U.S. census. Even though some Houston suburbs boast a population growth of more than 100 percent, ITL lovers know that those statistics are somewhat dubious since the population was initially so small.
Being close to downtown, jobs, festivals, museums, music and nightlife not only keep commute times down, but can also make popping by a bar or symphony event an everyday occurrence. ITL’ers don’t have to plan out a night of fun, it’s happening three steps from their front porch.
Park and ride anyone? Houston’s infamous traffic is a slight that Houston proper residents bewail; but when point A and point B are only seven miles apart, ITL’ers simply wiggle their toes in the sands of congestion. Houston’s city slickers can hail a cab and saddle up with as little fuss as possible and with so few miles on their SUVs that Woodlandites might find it criminal.
True, our school system may not be the best in the country, our crime rates can’t be described as utopian, our price per square foot/yard size ratio might smell a bit off and our no-zoning laws can make us appear a bit unusual; but living la vida loca is all a part of the adventure, right? We all know that Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, but realizing that with commerce and opportunity and culture come truckloads and truckloads of people, resulting in cars and crime and confusion, takes some minds a little longer to grasp. Plus, any relocated Houstonian can attest to the fact that Space City’s cost of living doesn’t even get off the ground in comparison to that of other major cities.
H Texas rated these neighborhoods according to price per square foot of property, dining and nightlife, crime rates and proximity to hospitals. What they lack in one department, they make up in another. Strangely enough, these little communities ran a close race all the way to the finish line – three neighborhoods even tied.
1) West University
Neighbor to the Texas Medical Center and Rice University, this niche is home to ladies who lunch. With Rice Village cozying up to its eastern border and downtown only minutes away, yuppies thrive here. Characterized by homes and yards with happy, smiling families that bring to mind the 1950s, West U is the perfect place to hang your hat if you are a young, corporate, philanthropically minded couple with 2.4 children. This area really is beautiful, though; it surely does seem to be the jolliest little space in Houston.
Fab Find: Colonial Park Relax by the pool, catch up on friendly hearsay around the playground or work your muscles in the weight room; however you choose to enjoy this gem, you’ll agree that scenic Colonial Park is the perfect spot for this pristine neighborhood. 4130 Byron
Long-renowned as home to Houston’s gay community, this area is known for it’s eclectic personality and bohemian spirit. Minutes from both downtown and the Galleria, the location is definitely central while lacking highway traffic. Apartments, condos and houses splash the streets, as well as hip resale boutiques and cozy cafés. Nonconformists relish in this unique neighborhood, but beware of a somewhat high incidence of crime.
Fab Find: Rothko Chapel Relax and rejuvenate at this all-faith sanctuary that boasts a reflection pool and various artworks by the artist for whom it is named. The perfect place to meditate on life, this refuge is catty-corner to the Menil Collection. 1409 Sul Ross, (713) 524-9839
With Minute Maid Park, Toyota Arena and the central business district, downtown is the place to be. Despite construction, this is where people work and play. Although finding a home with a yard is practically impossible here, downtown does sport some of the chicest apartments and lofts. With the wayward economy and recent business upsets, many of these dwellings can be acquired at a bargain. Catch a night of opera or pop by the M Bar on Main; whatever you choose to do, it really is just down the street.
Hot Spot: Char Bar Dukes of Hollywood Tailors has been open since 1936, but recently, after hours have become a little saucier. Tailors by day, martini makers by night, the Shapiro family stays true to Houston’s ingenuity with this swanky lounge. 305 Travis, (713) 222-8177
4) River Oaks
It houses some of the oldest money that Houston has to offer. A drive through this winding neighborhood informs guests of wealth and exclusivity. Beautifully built fences make good neighbors in River Oaks, and they keep out gawkers and burglars alike. Among the neighborhoods rated, this area has the lowest occurrence of crime, yet the costliest price per square foot. Sprawl in the middle of the city? Yep. Some buyers even purchase a perfectly acceptable home by any stretch of the meaning, tear it down and build another – just for the lot.
Hot Spot: River Oaks Country Club True to its surroundings, the ROCC is stuffed with class, gentility and big bucks. A staple to the River Oaks crowd, it’s great for a tea, gala or gossip over cocktails. 1600 River Oaks Blvd., (713) 529-4321
4) The Heights
In what was once an incorporated community, the Heights has preserved the down-home kind of feel. With the Heights Boulevard esplanade spotted with joggers and dog walkers and the whole area littered with antique stores and unique gifts, Heights dwellers live a pleasantly charming life an arm’s reach from downtown. Neighbors wave as they pass on the street and know each other by name. The historic nature of the community is constantly evolving as renovations and new constructions exist side-by-side, resulting in Victorians sandwiched between modest four-plexes and new townhomes. With the lowest price per square foot of the neighborhoods rated, the Heights boasts some pretty unique homesteads at budget prices.
Fab Find: Aunt Mike’s in the Heights The sweetest gift store in town, Aunt Mike will help you find the perfect token. Housing Houston artisans and one-of-a-kind wares, you will be surprised by the selection and quality found in every corner of this boutique. Check in often for a schedule of upcoming events. 3320 White Oak, (713) 702-0390
Could there be any more corporate condos here? Maybe not, but those moving to Houston and working downtown flock to the apartments located just south of downtown. This area caters to SINKs and DINKs like no other; down a pint at Front Porch Pub or brunch at Farrago’s for a sense of the place. Near Little Vietnam, eateries such as Van Loc and Mai’s are regular favorites. The Metro trolley system, putting downtown amenities and businesses a short (and free) ride away, is a major draw to living in this area.
Hot Spot: Red Star This Russian-themed bar is full of twists. Take a shot off of the ice bar, lounge in a plush chaise or bask in the view of downtown on the fabulous deck. 2606 Fannin, (713) 655-STAR