Back home in Vermont, my family has a small lakeside cottage about three miles from the border of Quebec, Canada (meaning, yes, I could conceivably—maybe even accidentally—kayak to another country). It's quaint, peaceful, and positively heavenly in the beautiful New England summers. There's a canoe, a cozy daybed, and whimsical decor with nautical touches like a painted wooden sign that says "relax, you're at the lake." It's the place for impromptu family reunions, glorious mid-afternoon naps, and epic, sherbet-colored sunsets best witnessed with a Corona in hand.

All that is to say, I know what it's like to live on the lake. But I didn't really think you could do it here.

And I really mean here—not Lake Travis or Conroe or wherever else folks head for long weekends in the sun. We're talking a 30-minute jaunt up the new-and-vastly-improved 290 to Cypress, where a 300-acre lake right in the heart of town serves as the centerpiece for an entire master-planned community.

The manmade Towne Lake is the largest private recreational lake in Houston, the site of 14 miles of shoreline dotted with homes—from $200,000 properties to custom homes in the multi-millions—owned by residents of the award-winning MPC from Caldwell Companies. Development on the 2,400-acre waterfront community began in 2006; today, some neighborhoods are completely sold out while the final stages of construction on the last remaining lots are underway.

Towne Lake touts itself as "a community connected by water," and reps seize on the chance to prove it true to visitors (and prospective home-buyers) with a boat tour. It was there on the lake one recent afternoon, wind whipping my hair as a Towne Lake resident-turned-volunteer-captain steered the boat past homes and yards and private docks, that I felt like this might be something special.

We embarked from the Boardwalk, the commercial center of the community that, unlike use of the lake and other amenities, is open to the general public. It's home to stores, salons, restaurants (including Torchy's), one of the biggest Krogers in the area (and, it should be noted, one of the few here that carries Kroger's clothing line), and an excellent coffee shop, among other things, and there's seemingly constant programing on its green space, from weekly live music to well-attended holiday events like a massive Fourth of July fireworks show over the water.

If you don't live at Towne Lake, the Boardwalk is likely your only frame of reference for the place. It has the same lakeside living vibe—shops like The Royal Standard sell cute wares not dissimilar to the decor in my own lakehouse, not to mention blankets for unexpectedly chilly boat rides—but the real features to write home about are in the MPC itself.

And among them is an actual honest-to-goodness waterpark. If you're a kid (or grown-up, let's be honest) lucky enough to live here during the dog days of a Houston summer, you can kiss long lines at Schlitterbahn goodbye. The exclusive park—free to use, as maintenance costs are already part of residents' HOA fees—might be the coolest (pun intended) amenity of all time.

There are water slides, a lazy river, splash pad, Olympic-sized pool, and sandy beach area, all accessible by boat—a common refrain for just about everything at Towne Lake.

Indeed, the lake itself is a gem, highly regarded by residents who jet ski, kayak, paddle board, fish, or sail over to Chick-fil-A after work. There's even a 1.5-mile island that's a perfect picnic spot or campsite.

Towne Lake is also home to The Heritage, an age-restricted neighborhood for residents 55 and up. Many are grandparents who want to be close but not too close to extended family living elsewhere on the lake—there are three on-site schools in the Cy-Fair ISD—and are still active enough to take advantage of amenities and activities planned specifically for seniors. The adults-only offerings include a lap pool and spa, fitness center, library, ballroom, billiard room, and arts and crafts space, plus a separate on-site lifestyle director.

Other Towne Lake neighborhoods have their own points of interest, like Sunset Harbor's community marina or Creekside's babbling brook and nature trails. There are plenty of other sprawling, award-winning MPCs around Houston and its suburbs—Caldwell is behind a number of them—but, from our spot on Captain Cook's boat, which he'll soon expertly wedge into a marina's narrow slip, Towne Lake feels like it's in a league of its own.

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