Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest in the United States. Apart from its population, it is also huge in terms of square miles. While urban sprawl is synonymous with Houston, the districts closest to Downtown offer visitors a vast array of choices in a relatively small area. Houston is multicultural and diverse, home to some of the nation's largest Latino, African American and Asian American populations. It boasts an eclectic museum and arts scene, vibrant shopping, and has become a burgeoning destination for food lovers.
Houston is the largest city in the United States without any appreciable zoning. While there is some small measure of zoning in the form of ordinances, deed restrictions, and land use regulations, real estate development in Houston is only constrained by the will and the pocketbook of real estate developers. Traditionally, Houston politics and law are strongly influenced by real estate developers; at times, the majority of city council seats have been held by developers. The city is primarily built on the oil industry. What this means to the visitors is that, although the city has several good cultural and tourist destinations due to its population, there aren't as many as expected for a city of over 2 million people. Houston's large population comes partly from the fact that it encompasses a whopping 600 square miles of land area, much larger in land area than New York City (300 square miles), Los Angeles (460 square miles), and Chicago (225 square miles) -the nation's three most populous cities- yet Houston has less population. Another noticeable fact, unlike most major cities around the country, Houston suburbs tend to be very far from the city center and would be considered separate cities in many jurisdictions. This is because the city government tends to annex any substanial population centers that grow near it, evident in Houston's land area of 600 square miles. Such a spread out low-density city means a car is essential for getting around the area efficiently. However, Houston's concentration of attractions lay, more specifically, in between downtown and the Galleria.