Houston manages to combine the positive features of a big city with the embracing hospitality of a small town. There area lush flowering gardens and green landscapes, inexpensive housing, and a wider array cultural attractions than is usually seen in most major cities. All of which are served by an efficient freeway system, bus system, and MetroRail's Red Line light rail train, which stops only a few feet from the Medical School building and connects passengers to downtown Houston, the Museum District, Reliant Stadium, several transit centers and alternate parking facilities.
Cultural attractions include the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony, several theatres (including Theater Under the Stars, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Alley Theatre), the Houston Ballet, several notable museums (see below), and a very active arts scene. Houston also has a particularly lively nightlife, and an active music scene featuring dozens of clubs hosting blues, rock, jazz, zydeco, folk, Latin, reggae, country western and other music styles.
In addition, there are major league sports teams for baseball (MLB Houston Astros), football (NFL Houston Texans) and basketball (NBA Houston Rockets and WNBA Houston Comets). The city has also recently hosted the NFL's Super Bowl, the NBA's All Star Game, competed strongly to host the 2012 Olympics (but lost out), and will host the NCAA Men's Final Four tournament in 2011.
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston is located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, a secure, attractive part of Houston situated five miles from downtown. Beyond Nearby Rice University is the quiet residential and artistic community known as the Montrose district. This area and the nearby Museum District contain shops, restaurants (there are over 5000 restaurants through Houston) and several outstanding museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, The Contemporary Arts Museum, the Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Planetarium.
Also within short distance of the Medical School is Rice Village, with its variety of bookstores, clothing stores, boutiques, health clubs, ethnic restaurants (Italian, Caribbean, Mexican, Spanish, Turkish, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Texas barbecue and more), as well as several popular pubs. The neighborhood around Rice Village is a very attractive area of quiet, tree-lined streets with a mixture of homes and apartments. Just west of Rice Village is the attractive and West University neighborhood, an area with oak trees and quiet winding streets.
The Medical School has a recreation facility located just two miles away and can be reached by shuttle bus. This sports center has racquet-ball courts, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, weight rooms, and volleyball courts.
Beyond the numerous attractions of the city itself, Houston's unique geographic position makes it an excellent base for a variety of outings. Day trips can be made to the Gulf Coast beaches of Galveston, just 60 minutes away. Between Houston and Galveston are Clear Lake, a popular sailing location, and the NASA Johnson Space Center, which serves as mission control for the space shuttle missions. North of town is the Sam Houston National Forest, with lakes for sailing, picnicking and fishing and an extensive network of hiking trails.
To the northwest of the city is the state capital, Austin (home to the main campus of the University of Texas), and the Texas Hill Country, a beautiful region of clear rivers and lakes popular for camping, canoeing, rock climbing, fishing and caving. To the west is San Antonio. (Remember the Alamo?) Farther to the west is the spectacular Big Bend National Park, an extensive and remote mountain and desert region bordering Mexico.
Just south of Houston is the Brazos Bend nature preserve, where alligators and migratory birds can be observed from the various hiking trails. Further south, near the Mexican border, is Padre Island National Seashore, and South Padre Island, one of America's best beach destinations and a popular spring break haunt. East of Houston is the coastal marshland and bayou country, with its great canoeing and bird watching. Just two hours east of Houston is the Cajun region of Louisiana, with its distinctive language, music and style of cooking, much of which can also be experience here in Houston. New Orleans, one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, is just five hours east.
In summary, Houston is a cosmopolitan, hospitable and interesting city, offering the combined attractions of a thriving scientific community, big city sophistication, an affordable lifestyle, and a variety of outdoor pleasures.
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