By John Egan
It sounds like it doesn't make sense, but Houston is both a hot and cool destination.
Forbes anointed Houston one of the country's coolest cities, while Travel and Leisure magazine crowned Houston one of the country's hottest destinations. If that weren't enough, Business Insider named Houston the best American city in 2014.
"The winner of accolade after accolade, Houston is a top destination for business and leisure travelers alike," Resonance Consultancy said in ranking the city 12th on its list of the top 50 US travel spots in 2014.
So, why is Houston such a desirable destination? Here are seven of the top reasons:
1. Cuisine capital
The area's 10,000 restaurants represent cuisine from more than 70 countries and US regions.
None other than The New York Times raves that Houston is evolving into "one of the country's most exciting places to eat." Meanwhile, Departures magazine hails Houston as "the most dynamic and diverse food and drink scene in the nation," citing dishes such as Vietnamese steak-and-egg breakfasts, slick-sausage salads and Indian nacho dinners.
2. Diverse destination
Houston is a cultural melting pot. Since 2010, the Houston area has stood tall as the most racially and ethnically diverse metropolis in the country. Over 90 languages are spoken among the area's more than 6.3 million residents.
3. Green giant
Houston boasts nearly 50,000 acres of parkland. In 2013, Causes.com rated Houston the 10th greenest city in the country.
4. Museum mecca
The city hosts one of the largest museum districts in the country, with 20 institutions. Over 150 museums and cultural institutions are scattered throughout the Houston area.
5. Bayou Broadway
If all the world's a stage, then Houston should be front and center. In the United States, Houston sits behind only New York City for the highest concentration of theater seats in one geographic area. Downtown Houston's 17-block Theater District is home to nine performing arts organizations and more than 12,000 venue seats.
Houston is one of just five US cities with professional resident companies in the four disciplines of the performing arts: ballet, opera, symphony and theater.
6. Sports spot
"Take Me Out to the Ballgame" could be Houston's anthem. Five major-league sports teams play in the Bayou City: the Houston Texans (football), Houston Astros (baseball), Houston Rockets (men's basketball), Houston Dynamo (men's soccer) and Houston Dash (women's soccer).
Learn more about Houston's sports stadiums here.
7. Airport accolades
Travelers give high marks to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), the region's busiest airport. For instance, business travelers surveyed in 2013 by Executive Travel magazine graded IAH the best domestic airport in the US.
"We are constantly working to improve the overall customer experience at George Bush Intercontinental Airport," IAH general manager Carl Newman says.
Actually, improvements are underway at both IAH and William P. Hobby Airport. IAH is upgrading its international terminal, and Hobby is adding an international terminal.
"This is an exciting time for the city and for the Houston Airport System," Mayor Annise Parker says. "The development we see all around Houston is mirrored by the steady growth at our airports-the kind of numbers that befit the fastest-growing major city in the United States."
Learn more about the evolving Houston Convention District at visithouston.com/meetings/.