The City’s Greatest Getaway
Boating, fishing, exploring and endless entertainment awaits you down by the bay
As the fourth largest city in the U.S. and with an area that spans 8,778 square miles, Houston offers its residents endless options as to where to call “home.” Whether it is a young professional seeking excitement in Midtown, a doctor needing the convenience of West U, or a growing family looking for comfort in the suburbs, the Bayou City has the perfect neighborhood to match any Houstonian’s residential desires. One look at Houston and you may never guess that beyond the city’s massive stretch of concrete, bustling businesses and skyline of towering buildings, exists lush forests, beautiful landscapes and sparkling waters – each exceptionally close for a quick escape.
Two lakes, one Space Center and 30 minutes away from downtown Houston is Clear Lake, a bustling seaside area filled with abundant recreation, booming technology and never-ending fun. Originally a quaint fishing community, the area of Clear Lake was put on the map in 1961 when the Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973) was built there – thus, bringing Houston to be known as “Space City, USA.” The attainment of Space Center Houston undeniably launched the area into a surge of growth and development, transforming Clear Lake into the thriving community it is today.
Also called the Bay Area by many, Clear Lake includes sections of both Harris and Galveston counties, parts of the cities of Houston and Pasadena, and the nine distinct communities of Clear Lake City, Clear Lake Shores, El Lago, Kemah, League City, Nassau Bay, Seabrook, Taylor Lake Village and Webster. In addition to two major lakes, creeks and plenty of room for recreational boating and fishing, Clear Lake’s ideal location, halfway between the skyscrapers of Houston and the shores of Galveston, has led to more than 200,000 people calling the lively area home.
Clear Lake City was annexed by Houston more than 20 years ago and is now the Bay Area’s largest master-planned community, with 63,500 people. The residents of Clear Lake City not only have NASA in their backyard, but are also only a few miles away from boating and fishing on Clear Lake.
The island community of Clear Lake Shores, located at the entrance to Jarboe Bayou, is home to four major marinas, one of which is the largest privately owned marina in the country with 1,300 boat slips.
The largest and fastest growing city in the area, League City, is home to nearly 55,000 residents and is located on the south shore of Clear Lake. Although League City continues to expand at a rapid pace, the community has made an incredible effort to preserve the past, establishing “Historic League City,” an area that houses antique shops, historic homes, parks and the 1898 restored West Bay Common School.
Located across from the Johnson Space Center, Nassau Bay is home to the renowned Christus-St. John Hospital, the Arts Alliance of Clear Lake, the Clear Creek County Theatre and 4,500 residents.
The distinctive community of Seabrook has ideal access to Clear Lake, as well as Galveston Bay and is filled with zoned neighborhoods, growing businesses, the specialty shopping district of “Old Seabrook” and uniquely decorated pelican monuments dispersed throughout the city.
El Lago, legendary for being the spot where many of Jean Lafitte’s pirates hung their swords, is situated along the west bank of Taylor Lake to the northern shore of Clear Lake and is now known for being a proud home to many of NASA’s astronauts.
El Lago’s sister city, Taylor Lake Village, is located directly across Taylor Lake from El Lago and the two communities not only share a lake, but also a police department, and the desire to remain tranquil and safe for residential homes and growing families.
As the gateway to the NASA/Bay Area, Webster has small town-charm, with a multitude of recreation opportunities, restaurants and retail businesses in the “Webster Gateway” shopping district.
Last but not least, Kemah is one of the most appealing communities in the Bay Area. Its famous boardwalk boasts boutique shops, art galleries, themed restaurants, an amusement train and Ferris wheel, and is a favorite among Bay Area residents, as well as visitors to the area.
The influx of residents has resulted in a diversified economy, which now includes many small- and medium-sized companies, and substantial growth in local markets that fosters entrepreneurial development. Originally based around the Humble Oil and Refining Company, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership now lists the industries of aerospace, biotech and chemicals and plastics as the Bay Area’s leading employers. Of course, the Johnson Space Center and its supporting companies and contractors continue to play a significant role in the economy, as well. The area has also recently experienced an upsurge in the technology industry, with software, biotechnology, and communications equipment enterprises flourishing. Many of these companies serve the local chemical and petrochemical industries and the NASA/Johnson Space Center, in addition to numerous biomedical and bioresearch developments stemming from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Astronauts and engineers prosper in the area, as well as those involved in the recreation and tourism industry and Clear Lake’s exceptional education systems.
With such a large majority of the population involved in the fields of aerospace, engineering and technology, the public school system utilizes the area’s resources to advance school children in the areas of math and science. There are a multitude of programs that collaborate with NASA and the Johnson Space Center to provide children hands-on learning outside of the classroom.
Clear Creek ISD schools are rated academically acceptable by the Texas Education Agency’s Academic Excellence Indicator System and have been commended for their reading, writing and social studies programs. Clear Creek ISD also received a Gold Performance Acknowledgement for its Recommended High School Program.
With nearly 33,500 students, the school district prides itself on maintaining a 96 percent attendance rate and an 88 percent graduation rate. The class of 2005 had a 95 percent cumulative pass rate for the TAKS exit-level exam and area students scored above average on the SAT in 2004, with a mean score of nearly 1077. With an average of 17 students per teacher in the classrooms and a multitude of nearby resources to enhance traditional learning, educating children in the Clear Lake area proves to be ideal.
In addition to excellent primary and secondary schools, the Bay Area is also home to many technical schools and community colleges for its residents to attend, including the College of the Mainland, San Jacinto Community College and ITT Technical Institute. Nearby Pasadena has a Texas Chiropractic College, while those seeking bachelorês and masterês degrees may conveniently attend the University of Houston-Clear Lake. With an average student age of 32, UHCL is an upper-level undergraduate and graduate university that offers more than 30 bachelor’s programs and 40 master’s programs in the schools of business, education, human sciences and humanities, and science and computer engineering. In addition, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston is only a short drive away for those commuting from the Clear Lake area.
While Clear Lake is brimming with flourishing educational and professional institutions, the area is also filled with an abundance of recreational attractions to entertain its residents and visitors. The region’s main attraction, Clear Lake, is nearly 2,000 acres in surface area and includes additional creeks, channels and a bay that reach various communities surrounding the lake. Clear Lake is the ultimate spot for boating and fishing and ranks as the third largest recreational boating center in the United States, with 7,700 available boat slips throughout the area. The waters of Taylor Lake also offer opportunity for outdoor recreation and are primarily frequented by the residents of El Lago and Taylor Lake Village. Because boating and fishing play such a significant role in the area, the majority of local businesses and restaurants make accommodating boaters a priority, providing outdoor dining and allowing boaters to tie up their boats close by. One glance at the Kemah Boardwalk on the weekend, and you can’t help but notice the plethora of boats lined up at nearby docks while their owners grab a quick bite before heading off for more fun. With fishing boats, sailboats, ski boats, charter boats and yachts navigating the waters, it’s hard not to see why nautical recreation is such an important (and cherished) aspect of life in the
Aside from water sports, Clear Lake also houses the world’s largest greyhound racing park, the Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque, and one of the largest urban wildlife and wilderness preserves in the U.S., the Armand Bayou Nature Center. With more than 2,500 acres of bayou, forest and prairie, the nature center is home to more than 360 species of animals and birds, including bison, raptors and reptiles. Wine lovers can get an up-close look at how vino is made by visiting Haak Vineyards and Winery in Galveston County. The charming winery features a 4-acre vineyard, bottling and corking equipment, an 18-square-foot cellar with wine barrels and free tastings and tours that are offered year-round.
For those that enjoy taking a look back at history, the Battleship USS Texas is located in La Porte and remains as the only surviving combat ship to have served in both World Wars. Self-guided tours are open to the public daily. Another memorial not to be missed is the San Jacinto Monument and Museum of History, located just to the north of Clear Lake. The world’s largest masonry structure marks the site where Texas gained its independence from Mexico in 1836 and features an exhibition hall and theater. Guests to the memorial site may also experience an unforgettable view from 489 feet up inside the monument.
Of course, no trip to Clear Lake would be complete without exploring NASA’s Johnson Space Center. As Houston’s top attraction, the space center features compelling tours, interactive exhibits and a behind-the-scenes look at space exploration from the past up to the present day. Enroll your child in a day camp where they can get hands-on with the wonders of space, or take a guided tram tour and visit the Historic Mission Control Center, as well as massive rockets used in the beginning of space evolution.
Whether you’re looking to engage in fishing, boating, exploring or just pure relaxing, the Clear Lake area has something for you. Either as a place you call “home” or just a weekend destination, the Bay Area and its endless array of attractions are something you must experience. In fact, you may never want to leave!
For more information about Clear Lake, contact the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce at (281) 488-7676 or visit www.clearlakearea.com. You may also contact the Bay Area Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 844-LAKE or visit www.visitbayareahouston.com.