The long-standing debate that will likely never be truly settled: which is the better city, Dallas or Houston? Both cities boast incredible nightlife, food, colleges, sports, shopping, performing arts, and accessibility to other great cities in Texas such as Austin and San Antonio. Most of the Dallas/Houston debate seems to actually stem not from their differences, but from their similarities. However, the cities vary at least slightly on many defining factors, and after living in both cities, I have attempted to analyze them:
FOOD: Advantage Houston
Dallas may have the largest number of restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States, but with Houston’s diversity, you can find authentic food from just about any country, in addition to essential Texas staples like BBQ and Tex-Mex.
WEATHER: Advantage Dallas
Anyone who complains about humidity in Dallas has obviously never been to Houston. Living in Dallas, you’ll experience at least a few days of snow during the winter season, but just enough to be festive and fun. Also, Houston has hurricanes.
SPORTS: Advantage Dallas
This is a tough one. Both cities boast an array of talented Texas teams with devoted fan bases. Dallas has the Mavs, but Houston has the Rockets. Houston has the Texans, but Dallas has the Cowboys. Dallas has the Rangers, and Houston has the Astros. All of these teams have fluctuated in greatness throughout the years, but their fans have stayed true. Both cities also have soccer teams: FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo. Though from my observation, the Houston Dynamo have one of the most devoted soccer fan bases in America, while most people in Dallas don’t care much about FC Dallas, and the team actually plays in Frisco. However, it is worth noting that Dallas has one professional sports team that Houston is lacking: hockey. The Dallas Stars have a significant fan following, and Houston has nothing that compares.
MUSEUMS: Advantage Dallas
While both cities have world-renown art museums, science museums, and even Holocaust museums, Dallas is home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, located at Southern Methodist University and one of only 13 presidential libraries in the United States.
EMPLOYMENT: Advantage Houston
Three words: oil and gas. Also, while Dallas was ranked at #6 in "America's Best Cities for Young Professionals," Houston was ranked #1. For reference, see here.
SCIENCE: Advantage Houston
NASA alone gives Houston the undisputed advantage in this category. Also, Rice University was the birthplace of the first nanotechnology center in the world.
SHOPPING: Advantage Dallas
It’s a close call though. While both cities have a Galleria, the Houston Galleria is about twice as big. However, Dallas also has Northpark Mall, and a larger array of classy places to shop, particularly in the Park Cities.
ART: Advantage Dallas
With areas like Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts District, Lower Greenville, and museums such as the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas has the edge over Houston in terms of art. Additionally, many renown Texas artists originated in Dallas (art pictured here by Jerry Bywaters, "interpreter of the Southwest").
Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States. For reference, see here.
NIGHTLIFE: Advantage Dallas
This category is close and debatable. However, while Houston has many large, popular bars in Midtown, the many different areas of Dallas for nightlife give it the edge. Houston’s nightlife has developed and improved a great deal in the last ten years, but excellent nightlife has been a classic feature of Dallas for decades.
GETTING AROUND: Advantage Dallas
Navigating the mess of highways and unbearable traffic in Houston makes Dallas the undisputed winner of this category. Additionally, Dallas has the DART, while Houston has no comparable transit system.
BEACH ACCESS: Advantage Houston
If you drive an hour out of Houston, you can get to Galveston. If you drive an hour out of Dallas, you can get to Oklahoma or Fort Worth.
AIRPORTS: Advantage Dallas
Both cities have a large airport (DFW International and George Bush Intercontinental) and a smaller airport (Dallas Love Field and Houston Hobby), but American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are both headquartered in Dallas, and DFW International is a much busier airport than George Bush Intercontinental (for reference, see here).
MEDICINE: Advantage Houston
Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, and MD Anderson Cancer Center are both located in Houston. Additionally, the first successful human heart transplant in the United States was done in Houston in 1968.
ATTRACTIONS: Advantage Dallas
Houston used to have Astroworld, but since that closed, Dallas wins this category because of Six Flags/Hurricane Harbor.
PARKS/NATURE/OUTDOORS: Advantage Dallas
Dallas has the Katy Trail, Klyde Warren Park, Trinity River Audubon Center, and others. Dallas also has many lakes, including White Rock Lake, Bachman Lake, and Lake Ray Hubbard, plus the Trinity River runs through Dallas. Houston has…Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and Memorial Park. And Lake Houston. Also, while Houston has the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, the Dallas Arbouretum and Botanical Garden is much larger and holds regular events.
CLEANLINESS: Advantage Dallas
Houston’s air pollution is significantly worse, and it has been called "one of America's dirtiest cities." For reference, see here.
TV AND FILM: Advantage Dallas
Bonnie and Clyde, RoboCop, Prison Break, The Rookie, and Walker, Texas Ranger were all filmed in Dallas. The tenth annual Dallas International Film Festival, put on by the Dallas Film Society, will happen again this April. Also, there was never a TV show called Houston.
SIZE: Advantage Houston
That is, Houston wins this category if size is considered a positive attribute. Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States, while Dallas is the 9th largest.
ZOOS: Advantage Dallas
The Houston Zoo may be great, but Dallas has the Dallas Zoo and the Dallas World Aquarium, plus the Fort Worth Zoo is nearby.
LOOKS: Advantage Dallas
Go anywhere in Highland Park and you’ll understand why Dallas is the undisputed winner of this category.
SKYLINE: Advantage Dallas
While the tallest skyscraper in Texas is the JP Morgan Chase Tower in Houston, the Dallas skyline is iconic. From “the green building” to Reunion tower to the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge over the Trinity River, Dallas has the more postcard-worthy skyline.
OVERALL: Advantage Dallas
I intentionally left things like “overall happiness” and “general contentment” off of this list, because that is impossible to truly measure. I’m also not going to go into the Texas State Fair vs. Houston Rodeo debate. Both are amazing in their own ways, and too different to be analyzed against each other. Essentially, either city could be considered better overall considering which factors you care more about. Personally, Dallas will always have a larger place in my heart.