Throughout the economic crisis, Houston has been the buttoned-down older brother to Austin's hippie slacker. While college-boy Austin coasts by on education and arts, Houston shrugs off the cool kids, goes to work every day with its buddies in the energy industry and does what it can to keep unemployment below 8%. Unlike Austin, though, Houston doesn't have to drop its home prices to draw new blood. Home prices in Houston have remained level since 2010 and are among the few in America that have risen since 2008. ConocoPhilips ( COP), Marathon Oil ( MRO) and Halliburton ( HAL) all help provide a solid employment base and, though the Houston Texans' run to the NFL playoffs may be Houston's major one-off event of the year, there's economic life to the city that's only improving as the year goes on.