For the first time ever this year, Houston ranked among the top five places in the nation on Travel + Leisure's list of America's Favorite Cities-one of the most-watched lists among destinations and a barometer of what's top-of-mind among traveling Americans.

As a destination, Houston has tremendous strides in recent years, with a robust arts and culture scene and ever-expanding culinary landscape. Now, the city has ranked No. 2 on the T+L list, which tallies more than 50,000 votes from readers and ranks 38 cities in dozens of categories. Houston scored among the top five for the first time in categories such as arts scene, theater, stylishness, shopping and more.

"We could not be more excited about this ranking, which we see as further proof that Houston's story is being told and the city recognized as a destination on the national and international stages," says Sonia Garza-Monarchi, board chair of the Houston First Corporation members. "To be named a top U.S. city by the readers of one of the world's most respected travel publications honors the work our team does on a daily basis to promote the city to conventions and tourists. That said, the real credit goes to the individual businesses and organizations in all of these sectors-from restaurants and museums to art galleries and hotels-that provide an amazing experience to those who come to our city."

Indeed, Houston ranked high in a number of key areas, often well above where the city fell on last year's list:

Top City Overall: 2

Galleries: 2 - 12 in 2013
Museums: 3 - 12 in 2013
Theater: 3 - 18 in 2013
Free Attractions: 4 - 26 in 2013
Art Scene: 5
Concerts: 5 - 26 in 2013

Home Décor/Design Stores: 1
Boutiques: 1 - 18 in 2013
Specialty Food Markets/Food Halls: 1
Bookstores: 2
Antiques Stores: 3 - 9 in 2013
Flea Markets: 3 - 19 in 2013
Luxury Stores: 3 - 29 in 2013

Intelligent: 2 - 20 in 2013
Stylish: 4 - 26 in 2013
Affordability: 5 - 5 in 2013
Wine Bars: 1
Cocktail Bars: 2
Singles Scene: 2

Hamburgers: 1 - 4 in 2013
Brunch: 1
Bakeries: 2
Wine Scene: 3
Barbecue: 4 - 5 in 2013
Sandwiches: 4 - 21 in 2013
Bars: 4
Coffee: 5 - 26 in 2013
Craft Beer: 5 - 22 in 2013

Visitors to the Houston region spent more than $16 billion in 2013, up from $15.5 billion the year before, according to the latest figures from the Texas Office of Economic Development and Tourism. The travel and tourism industry also supported more than 128,000 jobs in 2013, a 4.5 percent increase over 2012, the report shows.The data covers the 10-county Houston region.

Meanwhile, more than $1.5 billion in infrastructure investment is coming to the Downtown area alone in the next two years. Eight new hotels are planned, including the city's second convention center hotel, a 1000-room Marriott Marquis. Other major changes are also planned for the George R. Brown Convention Center and the convention district, including a new pedestrian promenade, ground-level retail and restaurants and more.