Each week, Yahoo Travel pits rival destinations against each other to determine once and for all which one is the best. Up this week are two Texas rivals: Houston and Dallas.
The Case for Houston
by Angela Shah
No one ever said, “Dallas, we have a problem.”
That’s right, when you’re in trouble more than 200,000 miles into outer space, the place you turn to for help is Houston.
It isn’t just NASA that calls Houston home. More than 2.1 million people from around the world have put down stakes in what will soon be the third largest city in America. (Sorry, Chicago.)
The Houston skyline (Photo: Katie Haugland/Flickr)
Want to see the future of America? It’s in Houston, the nation’s most diverse city. And that research was brought to us by Rice University, an institution on par with the Ivy League. On that campus, as well as in restaurants and offices across town, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful cacophony of a half-dozen languages, Spanish and Bengali, Tagalog and Swahili. Houston first elected a woman mayor 30 years ago, and today that office is held by another woman who happens to be lesbian.
Unlike Dallas and its uptight $30,000-aires, we in Houston don’t need to try so hard. In Little India and Chinatown, ladies-who-lunch sup next to newly arrived immigrants just off of their shifts.
Energy runs the world and the world’s oil-and-gas capital is in Houston. J.R. and Ewing Oil was just something on television.
As my friends at Houstonia magazine put it: “Sam Houston could totally beat up whomever Dallas is named after. Or at least drink him under the table.”
Hometown girl Beyonce at a Houston Rockets game (Photo: Getty Images)
Population: 2.1 million; 6.1 million in the metro area
Famous Faces: Houston gave the world Beyonce, Patrick Swayze, Lyle Lovett, and Mary Lou Retton. Two Charlie’s Angels — Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith — hail from here. Houston was home to broadcasting legends Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. And speaking of TV standouts, only Houston could have produced Marvin Zindler, who kept watch for “slime in the ice machine” and whose investigative journalism brought us the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
Getting around: Public transportation is limited, at best. But Uber just got approved. We do love our cars, so much so that every year we dress them up for the Art Car parade.
At the Art Car parade (Photo: Getty Images)
Weather: Yeah, it’s hot. But humidity is nature’s anti-wrinkle treatment. We have hurricanes but at least you can run from them. Besides, who has a “tornado party?”
Cool Stuff to Do: Go outside! Float along Buffalo Bayou in a canoe. Hermann Park, which celebrates its centennial this year, features 445 acres and also has an outdoor theater, a museum, and a zoo. Take a yoga class or salsa lessons at Discovery Green downtown. Visit the Menil Collection and admire art by Man Ray and Picasso. Follow that with a tour of the Beer Can House. Head south to Galveston for sun, surf, and seafood. Head north to Brenham for a scoop of the best ice cream in the country. (When you drive out of Dallas, you get Plano — or Waxahachie.)
Related: Smackdown: Chicago vs. New York City
Discovery Green (Photo: Araza123/Flickr)
Food: The hardest part is deciding what to eat. In Mutt City — so-called because of the mingling of its cuisines — diners can feast on goat stewed with Korean chili paste, matzo pho or BBQ seared with coriander and other Asian spices. Chefs like Chris Shepherd — a James Beard award winner — at Underbelly, Bryan Caswell at Reef and Monica Pope at Sparrow focus on bringing the bounty of the Gulf Coast to the table. Celebrate something with multi-course tasting menus at Oxheart or The Pass. Let Vanessa Treviño Boyd recommend a wine for your Texas-bred wagyu-style steak at 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. Or grab a beer and a burger alongside bikers and bankers at West Alabama Ice House. Have a cocktail at OKRA Charity Saloon, which donates all profits to a good cause.
A skillet of fish at Underbelly (Photo: Underbelly)
Entertainment/Culture/Arts: Houston’s Theater District is second only to the Great White Way. Choose among ballet, opera, musical theater, classical music at Jones Hall, Theatre Under the Stars, or the Wortham Center. Houston’s museums run the gamut: fine and contemporary art, science and health. Explore Houston’s diversity with visits to the Texas Asia Center or the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.
(Photo: Jones Hall)
Sports: Houston is home of the Astrodome, the Eighth Wonder of the World, setting the standard for professional stadia in the past 50 years. Within walking distance downtown, you could catch the Rockets, the Astros or the Dynamo. None of Dallas’ sports teams actually play in the city. Sure, Houston’s teams have yet to bring home as many championships, but at least we don’t have to put up with Jerry Jones. And while baseball great Nolan Ryan did spend some time up north, when it was time to come home, he came to Houston. (And, now, his son Reid is president of the baseball club.)
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Houston-based Angela Shah is an editor at @Xconomy who has written for The New York Times, Forbes, and Time. A University of Texas at Austin graduate, she has also lived and worked in Austin and Dallas. Follow her at @angelashah.
The Dallas skyline (Photo: Bart Fields/Flickr)
The Case for Dallas
by Meena Thiruvengadam
Houston may be a bigger Texas city, but Dallas is just … better. Dallas has a heart the size of Texas, an airport that welcomes you with LUV and a theme song that’s been heard around the world.
Dallas was built on farming, ranching, oil, and railroads. The jobs are plentiful. The economy is flush with cash. There’s tons of stuff to do, important moments in history to relive and lots of amazing food.
Dallas is a city that’s about more than just cowboys, rodeos, and football — though you’ll find all three in Texas’ third-largest city. It’s home to the world-famous Dallas Cowboys. It’s where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy. And it’s the city whose namesake made J.R. Ewing a household name.
The Dallas-born Wilson Brothers: Luke, Owen, and Andrew (Photo: Getty Images)
Population: 1.26 million; 6.8 million in the metro area
Famous Faces: Dallas gave birth to Meat Loaf, Morgan Fairchild, and Angie Harmon. It created the Dixie Chicks and Vanilla Ice. Erykah Badu and Norah Jones went to the same Dallas performing arts high school. Luke and Owen Wilson were born in Dallas. Jessica and Ashlee Simpson were raised in Richardson, a Dallas suburb. Mark Cuban, Jerry Jones, Terry Bradshaw, and Troy Aikman call the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex home. And after moving out of the White House, George W. and Laura Bush moved to Dallas.
Getting Around: Cities really are bigger in Texas, and Dallas and Houston are prime examples. Houston sprawls for nearly 600 square miles. Dallas covers a more manageable 386 square miles. Both have limited public transit systems, but the best way to explore is by car. Unfortunately, your chances of getting stuck in traffic are worse in Houston.
Weather: If you’re visiting Texas in the summer, you should be prepared for the heat. Climates are fairly similar in Dallas and Houston, but Dallas gets a few degrees warmer in the summer. But the humidity is worse in Houston, and the closer you are to 100 degrees the worse it feels.
The Texas School Book Depository (Photo: Chris Stephens/Flickr)
To Do: Don’t leave Dallas without visiting the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. It was from the sixth floor of this red brick building, then the Texas School Book Depository, that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shot that killed John F. Kennedy. The museum explores the impact of Kennedy’s assassination on the world. A simple open-air memorial to John F. Kennedy is a short walk away. Head to the top of the Reunion Tower to get a better idea of just how big Texas’ third largest city is. Catch a glimpse of a Texas-sized house Frank Lloyd Wright designed for a Texas oil tycoon and check out the Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only freestanding theater designed by the world famous architect.
The Lockheart Smokehouse pitmasters in action (Photo: A Vandalay/Flickr)
Food: Whether its sushi, dosas, enchiladas, or steak you crave, you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking to eat in Dallas. The city doesn’t yet have any Michelin-starred restaurants, but that could soon change. Meanwhile, D magazine has diners covered with this list of the city’s 100 best restaurants. Try the Lockhart Smokehouse for barbecue, Nick & Sam’s for a juicy steak and head to Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth for an unforgettable family style Tex-Mex dinner.
The Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Photo: Rodney/Flickr)
Entertainment/Culture/Arts: Dallas may not have the volume of museums that New York and Washington, D.C. boast, but it’s still home to plenty of good art. Check out the Dallas Museum of Art, which hosts evening jazz and dance parties on Friday nights, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the Nasher Sculpture Center. All are part of the Dallas Arts District, which covers 68 acres and claims to be the largest arts district in the U.S. For a smaller, more neighborhood feel, check out the Bishop Arts District, where art galleries are nestled among independent boutiques, restaurants and bars. If music is more your style, wander over to Deep Ellum. In the 1920s, this neighborhood was a hub for jazz and blues. It’s struggled over the years, but in the 1980s, it helped launch The Butthole Surfers, the Toadies, and Tripping Daisy and today its in the midst of a resurgence.
Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (Photo: Getty Images)
Sports: Both cities could be a sports junkie’s paradise, but Dallas wins this match. The Dallas Cowboys are legendary. The Houston Texans are still a pre-teen. The Dallas Stars brought hockey to North Texas. The Houston Aeros got shipped off to Iowa. Dallas has the Mavericks, the Rangers, a NASCAR track and the Cotton Bowl. All Houston’s got are the Astros and the Rockets.
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Meena Thiruvengadam is a Yahoo Finance editor who was raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and lived in San Antonio for several years. Follow her on Twitter @Meena_Thiru.