Willis, Texas, is a city in Montgomery County, on the Missouri Pacific Railroad 8 miles north of Conroe in the north-central county.
The city started to grow in 1879 after what eventually became a Union Pacific Railroad was built.
In 1870, the Houston and Great Northern railroad was inspecting the first rail line.
Landholders Peter J. and Richard S. Willis donated a townsite to the railroad on the proposed line.
Some Black farmers also organized a Methodist congregation which would eventually become Willis’s first church.
By 1872, the rail line had grown across town and many residents and businesses of the surrounding Old Waverly, Danville, and Montgomery started moving to Willis.
In that year, they also established a post office and a White Baptist congregation, and by 1875, a weekly newspaper, the Willis Observer, was making the rounds.
By the late 1870s, Willis had become a thriving shipping point for farming, shipping, and manufacturing agriculture and lumber products.
From the mid to late 20thcentury to the present, Willis remained a lumbering and agricultural market town with lively retail, service, and manufacturing industries.
Today, Willis supports almost 2000 households, many public schools, several recreations because of nearby Lake Conroe, and more.
In town, you can chase after many entertainments such as boating, fun on the water, spas and cruises, dirt track races, fishing, cruising, and more.
Start planning a trip to Willis and check this list of the best activities in the city.
Have a Kayak Adventure with North Lake Conroe Paddling Company
If you’re into water recreations, North Lake Conroe Paddling Company or NLCPC will give you an outstanding kayaking experience.
They offer kayak rentals to individuals or small-to-medium-sized groups, welcoming customers to try the north side of Lake Conroe and paddle year-round with their boats and top-of-the-line kayaks.
They commit themselves to providing high-quality, customer-geared services to paddle sport and outdoor enthusiasts.
Their kayak sit-in-tops have the same hull shapes as the traditional counterparts, but one sits in a molded-in depression with a sturdy, supportive seat.
Share the great outdoors with your family, company, friend group, and organizations in a relaxing and open environment by the water.
NLCPC provides clean and operable kayaks for smaller paddlers, providing youth groups with top-line equipment whether they’re recreating, fishing, or touring.
They offer endless Class I paddling destinations and adventures at Lake Conroe’s northern tier, including shorelines along the Sam Houston National Forest.
For hardcore outdoor enthusiasts, they have a cross-terrain paddle and pedal experience where you bike and paddle in Walker and Montgomery counties and through Sam Houston National Forest.
They also give people a chance to see wildlife and serene shorelines in the forest on a touring kayak.
And for birding enthusiasts, there are chances to view the birds in the skies over the water while paddling a kayak along vast shorelines and marshes.
Have a Relaxing Day with Southern Empress Cruises
A cruise is one of the most romantically serene ways to spend time on the water.
The Southern Empress, constructed in 1983, gives guests this chance on Lake Conroe.
The ship itself is a 131-foot paddle wheeler cut into sections and then transported by 27 semi-trucks to the waiting waters of Lake Conroe.
Here it was reassembled and launched as one of the lake’s unforgettable icons.
Today, the Southern Empress features memorable evenings filled with drinks and dancing, complete with dinner on the main deck.
You can party on the Magnolia deck, where the DJ and cash bar keep things hopping, and watch the sunset over the lake on the Texas and Hurricane decks.
You can have different themed cruises to choose from, depending on your needs: you can have dinner cruises for a simple night or specialty cruises for a livelier one.
Try a relaxing night on the Lake Conroe Dinner Cruise, a midday outing with the Lunch Cruise, or a nightlife theme with the Cocktail Cruise.
Enjoy festivities with the New Year’s Eve Cruise, and don your detective cap on the Murder Mystery Cruise.
Have a romantic night on Valentine’s Day Cruise, celebrate amazing women on the Mother’s Day Cruise, and see the fireworks on the Fourth of July Cruise.
Go Fishing with Wethook Guide Service
Fishing is another great way to navigate the waters of Lake Conroe, and Wethook Fishing Guide is here to help anyone score a great catch.
This excursion takes place on a 25-foot long boat and will bring you to the top hotspots on the lake.
Carl Bostick, owner and professional guide of the service, has been fishing for over 20 years.
He is an outstanding, good-humored, and personable guide with an unmatched knowledge of Lake Conroe and where to catch fish.
He loves what he does and is here to educate enthusiasts and first-time anglers, teaching the best techniques and true art of fishing.
You will surely have immense fun on your trip and will love reeling in one fish after another: catfish, bream, crappie, largemouth bass, and others.
Go Camping at Sunset Shores on Lake Conroe
Sunset Shores on Lake Conroe is an RV Resort for luxury camping located on the lake’s eastern shore.
It provides an incredible sunset view of the lake, sheltered by hundreds of pecan, oak, pine, and elm trees at their beautiful landscaped sites.
You can take advantage of the surrounding area on the 21000 acres of Lake Conroe and its surrounding shopping centers, golf courses, and restaurants.
The spacious park is the area’s most beautiful RV resort and is available for swimming, fishing, boating, or simply chilling beneath the trees.
Luxuriate in the resort’s imported white sand beach or warm yourself in its wading pool, swimming pool, and hot tub.
Bask in the heated air conditioning around their recreation room, laundromat, restroom, and shower area.
Other prominent features are landscaping with a sprinkler system, concrete streets, pads with electrical hook-ups, Wi-Fi access, and free satellite TV.
Read Books at RF Meador Branch Library
This repository of reading material is at W Montgomery Street in Willis and is part of an amazing network threaded through the county.
Check out their impressive collection of books, join their educational programs, and compete in their reading contests.
The library started in 1986 when the Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court set up a task force of Willis citizens to investigate the need for a public library.
There was such an overwhelmingly positive response that a group in the task force formed the Friends of the Willis Library, providing a temporary library.
Soon, donations of office equipment, supplies, and books started pouring in from the community, and the new library set up its trade in a vacant house staffed by FOWL members.
Today, the library is still in its original building and has only expanded and increased its holdings, currently containing 55951 volumes.
It took its name from Ruth Frances Smith Meador, a Willis High School graduate and long-time teacher in the Willis school district.
Have a Slice at The Pizza Shack
In 1985, the Simmons siblings started Pizza Shack in a simple house, armed only with a Kitchen Aid mixer and an oven.
Their goal was simple: to make quality pizza and staple food that they were missing from the East Coast.
They soon included another family member, Jim Simmons, a seasoned chef at the Culinary Institute of America, to help grow the menu and perfect other dishes.
By 1997, they had grown enough to build a free-standing restaurant, and by 2003, the Pizza Shack had locations in Montgomery and Willis.
The Simmonses are delighted that the Pizza Shack is now the community’s hometown restaurant.
Try their appetizers such as fried calamari, spinach artichoke dip, and bone-in buffalo wings.
And dig into their pizza flavors like Margherita, buffalo brisket, Hawaiian, mac & cheese, and spinach & garlic.
Sail Smoother at Palms Marina
Palms Marina at Lake Conroe is the best and most extensive of the lake’s marina and boat storage facilities.
It has developed into a super marina, gated and available to serve boaters and anglers everywhere.
Here, over 100 state-of-the-art covered boat slips are in a deepwater harbor protected by a breakwater.
The deep basin is reinforced with rip-rapped breakwater and a superb wave attenuation barrier.
Dry boat storage units sporting concrete drives are a supplement to the floating docks, with services such as boat detailing, cleaning, and maintenance.
Tractors and valets are also readily available to ensure the location of boats in the lake.
Their ship’s fuel dock and store attends to boaters on Lake Conroe with three grades of diesel and gasoline.
Entrances to the slips and floating docks are also securely gated, so you can be sure security for your vessel is a top priority at Palms Marina.
Unwind at Deer Lake Lodge and Spa
Deer Lake Lodge and Spa is a haven that invites you to leave your stress and worries behind you.
It is a special place of cleansing, rejuvenation, detoxification, and revitalization where guests can focus on bettering themselves.
Nestled in the woods in a spot of coziness and solitude, Deer Lake offers guests a transformational experience.
Deer Lake is a champion at bringing clarity to the mind, motivation to passions, and calmness to the heart.
Their detox and cleanse programs allow you to personalize your visit whether you want to lose weight, get healthier, or feel better.
You can indulge your senses at their day spa services with a lovely massage, scrub, wrap, or facial.
Try out their facial services to improve elasticity, wrinkles, texture, scars, and tension.
Relax with various massages such as bamboo, Swedish, hot stone, deep tissue, Himalayan salt stone, and Mary Jane.
Attend yoga classes that incorporate deep breathing, conscious sitting, sound therapy, and deep relaxation.
Other Things to do Nearby
Discover the Past at the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County
For a crash course on history, set off for the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County, 11 minutes from Willis.
Founded in 1985, the museum features exhibits displaying the county’s roots, from the everyday lives of residents to the oil and lumber industries.
The Glimpses of Montgomery County gallery chronicles the region’s past, from the beginnings of Willis and Conroe to the building of the lake and the Woodlands.
The Towns, People, & Events gallery honors people who have affected the county.
It features a number of first events like the first telephone, first county fair, and others.
At the Discovery Room gallery, children can explore a log cabin and a turn-of-the-century general store.
They can fit old-time clothing and step into the role of mercantile shopkeeper.
The Museum also offers a research room, traveling exhibitions, oral histories of county residents, and outdoor exhibits displaying the storied past of Montgomery County.
Bring Your Kids to 7-Acre Wood
If you want your kids to have outdoor fun and meet new friends, invite them to this old-fashioned park in Conroe.
This family-friendly spot is a 6-minute drive from Willis and brims with occupations for the entire family.
Here, your kids will get to play on swings, sandboxes, slides, mini-golf, and other playground activities.
They can go to the petting zoo to meet llamas, donkeys, cows, deer, and other animals and drop by Western Play Town for a history lesson.
Other attractions are a zip line, scooter track, giant Lego room, chalk room, giant chess set, giant sandbox, Little Tykes Town, and puppet house.
Kids can play horseshoes, ladder golf, basketball, soccer, tetherball, and football.
It is also a perfect venue for your child’s birthday party, and your kid can enjoy themes like Campfire, Pony Lovers, Open Range, Barnyard, and Treasure Hunt.
Explore Sam Houston National Forest
Sam Houston National Forest is one of four National Forests in Texas, located 14 minutes from Willis.
It is under the multiple-use concept wherein the use of the forest, such as fish, wildlife, recreation, grazing, timber, and soil, is a plan to maintain balance and provide for public needs.
A popular way to soak in the forest’s beauty is hiking the Lone Star Hiking Trail, with four trail loops of varying lengths for hikers to enjoy.
There are three developed campgrounds in the National Forest where you can go camping, picnicking, fishing, and birding.
These are Cagle on the shoreline of Lake Conroe, Double Lake Recreation Area on the east side of Sam Houston, and Stubblefield Recreation Area on its west side.
Both Lake Livingston on the forest’s northeast boundary and Lake Conroe to the southwest have notable black bass and year-round fishing.
Sail the Waters at Riva Row Boathouse
If you want to go paddling or fishing in calm lake waters, stop by at Riva Row Boathouse for your needs.
Originally opened in 2009, this boathouse sits on the lower part of the Woodlands Waterway, 22 minutes from Willis.
Rental options are tandem and single pedal kayaks, tandem and single kayaks, elliptical stand-up paddleboards, stand-up paddleboards, swan boats, and water bikes.
Try their single kayaks, perfect for fishing, birding, and a leg workout, and their tandem kayaks for strenuous fun with a friend.
Enjoy traversing the lake with a stand-up paddleboard or propel and balance yourself on the elliptical stand-up paddleboard.
Take in the best lake view with the Hydrobike Explorer as you bike and pace yourself on the water.
Go on an idle ride from Town Green Park near the Upper Waterway up to the edge of Lake Robbins and back on a swan boat with a group of friends.
Learn about Texas’ Greatest Hero at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum
Sam Houston was an iconic American statesman and general.
He was a born leader, a champion of Texas independence, and the first president of the Republic of Texas.
The Sam Houston Memorial Museum, a 22-minute ride from Willis, is an educational institution that teaches the exciting history of Texas and preserves Sam Houston’s memory.
The museum presents the life and legacy of Sam Houston and his family through a variety of exhibits and programs.
The museum complex sits on 15 acres of the original farm owned by Sam Houston and his clan from 1847 to 1858.
On their educational tours, you can interact with interpreters in 19th-century clothing and take part in educational demonstrations and hands-on activities.
Demonstrations include hearth cooking, primitive fire starting, blacksmithing, black powder, 19th-century toys, and fiber arts.
Events have included Texas painting exhibits; spinning, weaving, and kick wheel pottery demonstrations; and blacksmithing displays.
The Homeschool Days program is an opportunity for homeschool programs to experience gardening, spinning, weaving, blacksmithing, and other frontier skills.
Ride Horses at Vantage Point Farm
If you are a horse-lover, you will be fortunate to find this first-class, award-winning, and family-owned farm located 34 minutes from Willis.
Vantage Point Farm has a long family history in Texas and the American Saddlebred industry.
The founders opened it with a desire to offer forward-thinking and top-quality instruction and training to continue the traditions that began in the show horse world.
Their program opens up training for horses of all breeds, but especially Hackney Ponies, American Saddlebred Show Horses, and Roadsters.
They specialize in training horses for the youth or amateur rider, and they provide training for the hunt seat, saddle seat, western pleasure, or driving horse.
They provide top-quality instruction for the rider and individually structure the training program for each horse.
They give riding lessons at each rider’s pace, with well-trained and kind horses that can aid them in becoming self-assured equestrians.
Vantage Point Farms imprints magical memories in the world of horses that will have anyone longing for more.
Take Your Friends to That Escape Place
That Escape Place is a locally owned, recently expanded set of escape rooms in Conroe, 8 minutes away from Willis.
An escape room is an adventure and puzzle game that locks participants in a room filled with clues, puzzles, hidden codes, locks, and keys.
The goal is to break out in 60 minutes, and the participants then become immersed in puzzle-solving fun as they figure out a solution.
In The Terminal, secret agents must stop a rogue worker who has put all New York City subway trains on a collision course.
In The Gate, archaeologists discover an ancient Egyptian tomb that carries a deadly curse, and now they must enter and use their tools to destroy it for good.
Escape the Lost Pyramid is also a virtual reality game in which a team looks for a lost expedition somewhere in the Sinai Peninsula.
Beyond Medusa’s Gate is another virtual reality game where players travel to a vast Aegean cave to find the lost ship of the Argonauts.
The many thrilling activities, luxurious escapes, hidden gems, and unsuspecting attractions in Willis may surprise you.
Bring along this list if you ever reach this part of the state and find your little piece of vacation heaven in Willis, Texas.