Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis? Willis, Texas, that's what!
Willis, Texas, was founded in 1870 after the Willis brothers donated their land to the Great Northern Railroad so it could build a route between Houston and Chicago. Willis, Texas, is a rapidly growing community in Montgomery County located 50 miles north of downtown Houston along Interstate 45. This town of 5,662 residents still has the down-home, small-town-Texas feel yet is starting to integrate the suburban lifestyle that exists in other Montgomery County towns such as The Woodlands, Magnolia, and Conroe. While Willis started out as a railroad town and still has a lot of rail traffic, it has diversified itself into a hub for agriculture, petroleum and recreation, as it is situated just east of Lake Conroe.
Moving to Willis
You wouldn't be the first to want to move to Willis, as its population has gone up over 60 percent since 2000. Part of Willis' charm is its diversity, not only in setting (lakeside vs. countryside living), but also the different types of rental housing one can find in the city. There are several types of rental homes, from your four-bedroom palace located on the banks of Lake Conroe to a humble mobile-home setting located east of Interstate 45 where you can kick your feet up and enjoy country living. If you're looking for a condo to rent, Willis has those too, both on the water and off. The variety of rental property makes Willis a popular destination for those looking to put a little distance between them and the urban sprawl of Houston. All sorts of leases and agreements are welcomed, from month to month to multi-year contracts, and Southeast Texas' reasonable cost of living means that standard income verification and credit and background checks are all that separate you from your new home.
Willis' proximity to Lake Conroe makes it really attractive to renters of all shapes and sizes, space needs, and budgets. Do you need a 3,500-square foot house? Well, there are lakeside rental homes that have all the square footage you could ever need. What about a two-bedroom condo with a balcony that overlooks the water? Those are available for rent also. Whether you need enough room in your home to store a few jet skis or you are looking for a place affordable enough that you can buy jet skis, Willis offers you the best of all worlds.
A little bit country
Don't let the big houses and fancy boats involved with Lake Conroe fool you: Willis can get down and appeal to the country in you. So, if boating, fishing, jet skiing, or fish aren't things that interest you, than there are plenty of options, especially east of Interstate 45. At the risk of being a broken record, there are plenty of ways to go when looking for housing in the non-aquatic areas of Willis. The two most common types of rental homes in this part of Willis are mobile homes and more traditional house rentals. The main advantage of these properties is the large backyard areas. If apartments are more of what you are looking for, then check out Cricket Hollow Apartments just west of I-45, which boasts an ample supply of two- and three-bedroom apartments.
In with the new
A byproduct of Willis' growth over the last two decades is an influx of new housing. From condos to mobile homes to apartments to larger houses, Willis housing is mostly made up of newer stock. If you are looking for something a bit more retro, it's possible to find that, especially east of town on the way toward the Sam Houston National Forest. Building permits are on the increase, as 22 were granted in 2012 (an increase of 17 from 2011). So housing will just get newer and newer.
Neighborhoods in Willis
Willis doesn't have specific neighborhoods, but its housing stock encircles a downtown area that is centered on FM 1097 (or Montgomery Road) just east of Interstate 45. Many of Willis' restaurants and retail stores are focused on Montgomery Road, and while many of those are chain fast-food establishments, be sure to check out Leroy's BBQ and Burgers and T.J.'s Tavern, which are located right next to each other and real close to the fire station if the barbecue gets a bit too hot. As you go further east on Montgomery you'll find Pizza Shack and El Charro Tex Mex, which are close to City Hall and the Police Department.
It's not as if the housing areas are bereft of food and activities though. There are three marinas along the lake (Palms Marina, Stow-A-Way Marina, and EZ Boat Storage and Valet Launch) along with two solid BBQ places (Early's BBQ and Texans BBQ), and the Cactus Lounge provides nightlife after a day on the water. The eastern part of Willis is where the majority of the city parks are located, with Pine Circle Park, Lindley Park and Charles Traylor Park located in this part of town.
Living In Willis
If you enjoy the great outdoors, than Willis is a great place to be. Lake Conroe has been mentioned a bunch already, but there's no reason not to mention it again, as the 21,000-acre lake has become a playground for Southeast Texas. The Piney Woods surround the lake and Willis in general, with Sam Houston National Forest and Huntsville State Park serving as excellent options for hiking and camping. The parks in town aren't bad either, as Charles Traylor Park off Rogers Road has a rodeo arena along with Little League baseball fields.
Motorheads flock to Gator Motorplex north of town off US Highway 75. Gator Motorplex boasts a quarter-mile oval banked track and hosts races every Saturday. Golfers are in luck as well, as the Texas National Golf Course located southeast of town offers a picturesque 18-hole playing experience. Willis is also the home of seven RV parks and hosts an Independence Day festival every summer. Like every Texas town, Willis is big on high school football, so check out a Wildkats game at Willis ISD Stadium in the fall.
If one wants to get out of town, Houston is 45 minutes to an hour south on I-45 and offers loads of activities. If one doesn't want to head all the way down to H-Town, than the rapidly growing community of The Woodlands boasts shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.