Travel Lifestyle & Culture

The Ultimate Travel Nurse's Guide to Houston

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN
June 30, 2023
Share On:
Jump to Unit

Get ready to launch into your next adventure in Houston, Texas - the Space City!  This nickname isn't just for show; Houston is home to NASA's Johnson Space Center, where astronauts train for their missions and Mission Control monitors space flights. It's the beating heart of America's space program, and its influence permeates the city, lending it an exciting, forward-thinking vibe.

Houston is a multicultural melting pot that serves up a global experience on a Texan platter. Diversity is this city’s strength—and its charm. Greater Houston is the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the United States, with over 145 different languages spoken by its residents.  No matter who you are, this city is ready to welcome you with open arms. (And did you know that Houston offers the highest RN salary in Texas?)

So whether you’re a travel nurse or an allied health pro, your Houston assignment is more than just a job—it's a passport to a world of diverse cultures, cuisines, and communities. From tasting the city's culinary delights to exploring the vast expanse of outer space (or at least learning about it), every moment in Houston is an opportunity to broaden your horizons. 

So, let's dive into the must-see spots, the best places to unwind after a long shift, and the experiences that will make your stay in Houston truly out of this world!  But first, let's explore the cost of living in Houston and the salaries that await healthcare professionals like you.

Living in Houston: Cost of Living 

Houston shines as one of those rare big-city jewels that won't drain your bank account. If you're worried about the cost of living, fear not! Houston's day-to-day expenses are surprisingly affordable compared to other major U.S. cities. In fact, Houston's overall cost of living is about 8% lower than the national average. Whether it's grocery shopping, transportation, or a night out, you'll find more bang for your buck here. 

Speaking of transportation, it’s good to know that public transportation is limited, so your car will be your trusty companion as you explore the city. you might find yourself spending more time behind the wheel, especially if the Katy Freeway – one of the widest freeways in the world – is part of your daily commute.

Now, let's talk about housing. The good news is, renting an apartment in Houston doesn't have to break the bank. You can snag a one-bedroom apartment close to downtown for around $1300 per month on average. As a traveler, you might think about Airbnb. But be warned, Houston has a bit of a rep for tacking on an extra 45% in fees to the nightly rate. Our pro tip? Reach out to the host directly. Who knows, you might just land yourself a sweet deal!

But let's face it, we know you're not just here for affordable living. As a nurse or healthcare professional, you want to know about the earning potential in this city. And trust us, Houston delivers in that department too! Houston is a hotspot for healthcare, with top-tier medical facilities offering competitive salaries to attract the best talent.

Working in Houston: Nurse Salary Expectations

Here's the scoop on nurse pay in Houston. Houston is a hotbed for medical professionals, with top-notch healthcare facilities spread throughout the city. This means whether you're a new grad nurse, have years of experience, or are just popping in for a travel assignment, you'll find that salaries here are generally a cut above the national average.

If you’re a new grad nurse, keep in mind that Houston has a high demand for qualified nurses and has programs committed to producing qualified nurses. For those interested in pursuing a nursing career in the region, there is an array of high-quality nursing schools and programs available to meet a wide range of educational needs and career objectives.

Let's crunch some numbers for what you can expect once you’re working. The average RN in Texas pulls in an hourly rate of $40.54, translating to an annual salary of around $84,320. But hold onto your stethoscope, because in Houston, you're looking at a higher typical hourly rate of $42.73, and a yearly salary that clocks in at $88,880. If you're taking a travel assignment, Houston rolls out the red carpet with a weekly travel nurse pay that has averaged $3,237 gross in 2023. Keep in mind that travel nurse pay is always fluctuating based on market supply and demand- you can keep an eye on salary data by using our Nurse Salary Explorer.  

Beyond the attractive pay, travel nursing in Houston also opens doors to gaining invaluable experience at some of the city's top-tier medical facilities. Talk about a resume booster!

But enough about work - Houston has so much more to offer, and we're about to dive into all the mouthwatering food spots, the best places to unwind, and the must-see attractions that will make your time here unforgettable. So, whether you're a foodie, a coffee enthusiast, or a culture buff, let's get ready to explore the best of Houston!

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Taste the Town: Houston's Top Local Food Spots

Grace’s: When you dine at Grace's, you're partaking in a cherished family tradition. Owned by Johnny Carrabba, Grace’s on Kirby is a Houston gem dedicated to celebrating the culinary legacy of his late grandmother, Grace Mandola. The heart of the restaurant lies in its Sicilian roots, infused with American and Louisiana influences that were part of Grace's upbringing. Expect soulful dishes, from braised meats and basil-infused tomato sauce to fried chicken and roast pork, echoing the memorable Sunday lunches Grace used to prepare. But more than the food, it's the hospitality and the cooking from the heart that truly defines Grace's. It's a tribute to a woman who inspired a family's passion for food and the several successful restaurants they've established in Houston. 

Xochi: Indulge in the vibrant flavors of Oaxaca at Xochi, a gem in Houston's Mexican culinary scene. Led by James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega, Xochi offers a creative menu bursting with traditional dishes—from diverse moles and housemade masas to unique offerings like imported Oaxacan coffee and grasshoppers. With an extensive selection of mezcals, tequilas, and Mexican craft beers, Xochi is a must-visit destination for foodies seeking an authentic Oaxacan dining experience.

Lucilles: Tucked away in Houston's Museum District, Lucille's offers a charming culinary experience steeped in Southern tradition. Founded by brothers Chris and Ben Williams in honor of their great-grandmother, culinary pioneer Lucille B. Smith, the restaurant is a living testament to her innovative recipes and entrepreneurial spirit. Chef Chris Williams, a James Beard Award Finalist, and Chef de Cuisine Khang Hoang expertly blend tradition and innovation, reimagining Southern classics with global techniques and flavors. 

Squable: A gem nestled in the Heights, Squable offers a delightful fusion of European and American cuisine. Known for its intimate atmosphere, it presents a variety of appetizing dishes from small plates to hearty mains. Whether you're indulging in a fluffy Dutch baby pancake with creamy ricotta, savoring marinated mussels paired with calico beans and bonito aioli, or sinking your teeth into the famous French cheeseburger blanketed in raclette cheese, Squable guarantees a memorable dining experience. 

Hamsa: A captivating and modern Israeli restaurant, Hamsa serves a repertoire of elevated Middle Eastern classics infused with unique spices and rich in vegetables. The dining experience is designed to foster community, with shared plates being a key part of the menu. Guests are encouraged to start their journey with a variety of salatim followed by small plates. The restaurant also offers an extra special experience for food enthusiasts with its six-seat chef's table, the "Yalla Yalla", offering a prime view of the brick oven and a selection of chef-curated plates. 

The Breakfast Klub: Rooted in faith, family, and community empowerment, The Breakfast Klub stands as a Houston institution- a favorite among locals and celebrities alike (including Beyoncé!).  They’ve been serving up delicious, soulful breakfast fare for over 20 years. From the iconic chicken and Belgian waffles that strike a perfect sweet-salty balance to the crispy catfish and grits, every bite is a culinary treat. The vibrant atmosphere is as inviting as the food, making this legendary restaurant a must-visit for a taste of Houston's finest breakfast.

Truth Barbeque: Emerging from a humble shack off a rural highway, Truth BBQ, has been recognized as one of Texas's top barbecue spots. From the succulent whole-hog roasts, smoked boudin, and fatty brisket to the fast-selling beef ribs (available only on Saturdays!), Truth BBQ promises a mouthwatering experience. Add to that their delightful side dishes like corn pudding and tater tot casserole, and heavenly cakes baked in-house, and you've got a barbecue feast that transcends tradition. With everything made from scratch daily, it's not just the food that's authentic here, it's the whole backyard-flair experience.

Best Places for Coffee in Houston

Boomtown Coffee: Renowned for roasting their own coffee in-house, in meticulously handcrafted small batches, Boomtown offers a sensory journey that captivates from aroma to taste. Complementing their exceptional brews is a delicious selection of pastries and light café fare, making it an ideal one-stop shop for a snack and your favorite espresso. The café's modern design, adorned with art from local artists, shines brightly with a welcoming allure. And for the coffee connoisseurs, their outstanding single-origin pour-overs are a must-try!

Blacksmith: A gem among Houston's coffee shops, Blacksmith is a place where both the coffee and the food shine equally. The menu is rich with diverse and delicious options for breakfast and lunch, with the Vietnamese steak and eggs standing out as a must-try. The coffee is top-notch, featuring classic espresso drinks crafted with precision and quality. 

The Coffee House at West End: Nestled in a historic building that dates back to 1930, the Coffee House at West End is more than just a coffee shop; it's a testament to the power of community and a love for high-quality coffee. This three-story marvel has been thoughtfully renovated to feature high ceilings and an inviting rooftop deck offering panoramic views of the Houston skyline. With a coffee in hand, perhaps their signature Texas Two Step—a house drip with an added shot of espresso for an extra kick—you can settle into a plush sofa and soak up the vibes. 

Sip and Savor: Best Places for Drinks in Houston

Casa Nomad: A vibrant tequila and mezcal bar, Casa Nomad takes your cocktail experience up a notch. Their exciting lineup of cocktails and margaritasWith rotating DJs setting the upbeat ambiance and a compact yet flavorful menu of bar snacks and light bites to accompany their lineup of cocktails and margaritas, Casa Nomad is the perfect spot for those seeking a lively evening.

Anvil: Often hailed as the pioneer that sparked the city's cocktail revolution, Anvil has steadfastly retained its reputation as the premier destination for classic cocktails in Houston. Adorned with chic brass accents, this vivacious spot consistently presents a roster of 100 time-honored and eight novel, seasonal concoctions, served by friendly, skilled bartenders who've cultivated a devoted following. Complemented by a selection of savory snacks and a diverse crowd of cocktail aficionados, Anvil promises an engaging, flavor-filled journey for every visitor.

Kirby Ice House: With a reputation as Houston's top patio bars, Kirby Ice House is a crowd-pleaser with multiple locations. This laid-back hangout boasts a Texas-sized collection of beers and cocktails on tap, complemented by a wide array of liquors and a daily rotation of food trucks. Embodying the Texan penchant for grandeur, Kirby Ice House features a sprawling 7,000 square-foot indoor area, a colossal 1-acre backyard, and more than 30 TVs, making it a hotspot for entertainment and relaxation, any day of the week.

Axelrad Beer Garden: Nestled on the premise of the Axelrad grocery store from the 1920s, Axelrad Beer Garden prides itself on being a welcoming watering hole.  They offer an expansive garden that becomes a dynamic stage for film screenings, live music, video art, festivals, and more- there’s always something going on! The vibes are complete with rotating food vendors and a relaxing grove of hammocks to sit back and enjoy the music.

FAO HTX: Let your inner kid out to play at FAO Barcarde.  This hidden treasure in the West Midtown Entertainment District is so much more than just a bar! Occupying the top floor of a 60’s office building, this expansive venue offers a vibrant mix of games, from hot new arcade releases to classic favorites. The setting is ideal for lounging or friendly competition, complemented by expertly crafted cocktails and locally brewed drafts. 

Houston Highlights: Must-See Attractions

Visit Johnson Space Center: This sprawling 1,620-acre complex is where astronauts train for their missions, and the International Space Station operations are managed. What you've seen on your TV screens as Mission Control for U.S. space flights is right here in Houston! Plus, you can get up close with real spacecraft, spacesuits, and even a shuttle replica mounted on a shuttle carrier. This is a unique Houston experience you won't want to miss! 

Waterwall Park: Looking for a serene retreat amidst the hustle and bustle of Houston? The Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park is your urban oasis. This beloved landmark has been featured in Hollywood films and offers a unique blend of natural tranquility and urban vibrancy, making it a favorite among locals and visitors alike. 

Discovery Green:  Sometimes referred to as the Central Park of Houston, Discovery Green is a vibrant 12-acre park that serves as an urban oasis for both locals and visitors alike. This green space is teeming with activities for everyone, featuring interactive water features, a playground, jogging trails, and tranquil picnic spots. The park is known for its year-round schedule of events, including free concerts, movie nights under the stars, fitness classes, and seasonal festivals. Discovery Green isn't just a park—it's a community hub where art, nature, and urban life harmoniously converge.

Outdoor Adventures: Exploring Houston's Natural Beauty

Buffalo Bayou Park: Discover the urban oasis of Buffalo Bayou Park, a sprawling 160-acre green space packed with options. Whether you're into walking, biking, skateboarding, or bat-watching, this park has it all. It features a large skatepark, the city's first underground drinking-water reservoir, picturesque lakes, scenic trails, and a colony of 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats. Buffalo Bayou Park is your go-to spot for outdoor relaxation and the ideal picnic setting in Houston.

Lake Conroe: The lively Lake Conroe, an hour's drive from Houston, is a treasure trove of outdoor activities, making it a favored weekend getaway. Renowned as one of Texas's top boating destinations, it also offers a plethora of watersports for, including paddleboarding, kayaking and jet skiing.

Sam Houston National Forest: Located just 50 miles north of Houston and spanning across 160,000 acres is the Sam Houston National Forest- a great destination for hiking and camping.  The forest's crown jewel is the acclaimed 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail, often referred to as the hiker's "Jewel of Texas." There are plenty of access points for shorter hikes along this trail, so there’s an option for everyone!

One more thing: you may have heard that summers get pretty toasty in Houston.  But did you know that the Texas Gulf Coast is just 45 minutes away?  When you need a break from the city and the heat, take a mini-vacation to Galveston for the day or for the weekend! 

Arts and Culture: Immerse Yourself in Houston's Vibrant Scene

Museum of Fine Arts: A must-visit for art lovers, the Museum of Fine Arts is Houston’s largest art museum, showcasing a staggering collection of over 63,000 works. With 300,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor gallery space, this expansive museum is among the country's largest. Alongside its vast permanent collection, the museum frequently hosts traveling exhibits, often curated in collaboration with renowned institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art. 

Theatre Under the Stars: A beacon for the performing arts in Houston, Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is a non-profit organization committed to the enrichment of lives through the magic of musical theatre. TUTS presents an enticing mix of touring productions and self-produced shows that span a wide array of narratives, from playful farce to timeless tales. No matter your interest, you’re sure to be entertained!

Miller Outdoor Theatre: Nestled in Hermann Park, Houston's Miller Outdoor Theatre stands as a unique cultural gem. Known for its professional, culturally diverse, and artistically superior entertainment, all offered completely free of charge, it stands as the largest program of its kind in the country. From classical music and ballet to jazz, world music, Shakespearean plays, musical theatre, and classic films, the theatre's line-up is as diverse as it is engaging. Whether you choose to relax in the covered seating area or savor a pre-performance picnic on the hillside, all performances at Miller are guaranteed to be family-friendly, making it a must-visit venue for culture enthusiasts of all ages. 

Art Car Museum: This unique institution celebrates the art car movement, showcasing the transformation of factory-made vehicles into personal expressions of creativity. With an aesthetic that blends fine, folk, and public art, the museum features a diverse collection of imaginative art cars, low-riders, and mobile contraptions. But it's not just about cars - the museum also hosts rotating exhibitions from local, national, and international artists across all mediums. The museum aims to showcase the cultural, political, economic, and personal influence in artistic pieces. 

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the world's largest livestock show, is a three-week spectacle held every spring that encapsulates the essence of Texan culture. Despite Houston's urban image, the city passionately embraces its cowboy heritage during the Rodeo season. The event launches with a horseback ride through the city, followed by a whirlwind of activities ranging from mouth-watering barbecues and exhilarating carnival rides to rodeo events, stellar concerts, and an array of deep-fried delicacies (don't miss the deep-fried Oreos!). 

Houston Awaits! 

There you have it - the ultimate guide to making the most of your time in Houston as a travel nurse or allied health pro. Houston truly offers something for everyone. But remember, this guide is just the beginning. The real magic happens when you start exploring the city yourself! 

Don't forget to tap into the Trusted Community to network with fellow nurses in the Houston area.  Nurse friendships are priceless, and at Trusted, we are passionate about fostering these connections. We frequently host events in Houston to facilitate networking opportunities, so stay tuned for upcoming gatherings!

Are you ready to launch your Houston adventure? Sign up with Trusted today! 

*Special thanks to our very own Trusted nurse, Jennifer Watts, for contributing Houston recommendations! Jennifer has worked with Trusted since 2021 and is an active member in our Facebook Community

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN, is a pediatric critical care nurse who traded her scrubs for a laptop to come work internally at Trusted two years ago. With eight years of critical care experience and four years of travel nursing under her belt, Audrey now uses her experience and expertise to support others in the healthcare industry, particularly her fellow nurses. When she's not at work, Audrey loves to explore the great outdoors! Hiking, skiing, or just soaking up nature's beauty - Audrey is all about it.

Related Blogs

Thank you for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong. Please try again.