Houston is the largest city in the state of Texas and the fourth largest in the United States with a population of over 2 million. Texas is an international city, and very diverse, due largely to the number of educational institutions and a strong economy. The energy industry in Houston, especially oil, is recognized world-wide. Other industries, such as aeronautics, biomedical research and the ship channel are important aspects of Houston's economy. In 2006, Forbes magazine rated Houston as 1st in Texas and 3rd in the United States for “Best Places for Business and Careers.”
Houston is the largest city in the United States to have grown without the use of zoning. For this reason, businesses are spread through the city, rather than existing in a central place. The Uptown area of Houston is home to the Theater District as well as the Galleria, Houston's largest shopping mall. The Texas Medical Center, located in Houston, is internationally known and has the largest concentration of research and health care institutions in the world. In addition, there are a large number of colleges and universities (well over 50) in this area alongside research and development institutions.
In sports, Houston has just about everything: major league baseball, football, hockey, basketball, women's basketball, etc. It also boasts the Reliant Astrodome which was the first domed stadium (and the first retractable-roofed dome in the NFL). Likewise, in the arts Houston is one of only 5 cities in the US with permanent companies in all the performing arts disciplines. These include ballet, opera, theater and music. Each year Houston sees art and music from both regional artists as well as large touring exhibitions and performance groups.
Houston's diversity can be clearly seen in the festivals that are held here annually. Each year the Houston International Festival focuses on a different culture. The largest and oldest event is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, a twenty day event lasting from February to early March. Other festivals include the Houston Auto Show, the Greek Festival and the Art Car Parade. Other attractions can be found in the Museum district which attracts some 7 million visitors each year includes the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Zoo and the Contemporary Art Museum.