Founded in the 1850s as the county seat for Bell County, Belton boasts a downtown historic district, many fine Victorian-era homes and more than 160 historical markers in the city and surrounding areas. The rolling plains and wooded hills provide the area with a touch of serenity, while the two nearby lakes offer plenty of recreation opportunities. Fort Hood, 18 miles west of Belton, also plays a vital role in the area’s economy. The city’s population is approximately 20,900.
Belton Lake, fed by the Leon River, is a fishermen and boaters’ haven, covering 12,300 acres with 136 miles of shoreline. Miller Springs Nature Center is located along the Leon River in the historic Tennessee Valley. The nature center sits on 260 acres and is home to three canyons that overlook the Belton spillway. The area is ideal for hiking and enjoying nature. (The center was closed in August 2017, but is slated to reopen sometime in 2018.)
Belton is home to a number of parks, museums, the Bell County Expo Center and the Patriot Way Brick Walk, which honors service members. Annual events include a summer music series, which hosts free concerts every Thursday night during the summer; the Bell County PRCA Rodeo; the state fair; Christmas on the Chisholm Trail; and more.
For more information on Belton, visit the city’s chamber of commerce at www.beltonchamber.com or call 254-939-3551.
The Belton Independent School District includes one early childhood school, nine elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools. The district serves more than 11,500 students. Belton ISD and all of its campuses received the state’s highest rating in 2016-2017 based on student performance on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. For more information on the district, visit www.bisd.net.
Belton offers a wealth of higher education opportunities, including the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, the oldest continuously operating institution of higher learning in Texas.
Copperas Cove, a city with a proud heritage and bright future, is dedicated to improving the quality of life for its nearly 33,000 citizens.
Recreation is bountiful in Copperas Cove. City parks feature meandering creeks running through the tree-shaded grounds, picnic areas, swimming pools, tennis courts and plenty of room for baseball games, soccer and enjoying a lazy afternoon.
The community comes together for a number of annual events. Rabbit Fest, which has delighted crowds for more than 35 years, takes place in May. The event boasts a parade, car show, carnival, petting zoo and live entertainment. In December, residents and visitors can enjoy food, arts and crafts, a parade and entertainment at the Krist Kindl Markt.
For more information about Copperas Cove, visit the city’s chamber of commerce and visitors bureau at www.copperascove.com or call 254-547-7571.
Copperas Cove Independent School District includes seven elementary schools, two junior high schools and two high schools, one of which is an alternative school of choice. The district serves more than 8,200 students. Military students make up approximately 35 percent of the student population. Local support and interest in the young people and the school system have been determining factors in promoting the high achievement levels obtained by students on state and national standardized tests. The many awards, trophies and certificates received by students and faculty alike demonstrate the professionalism, ability and caring of the entire school system. For more information on the school district, visit www.ccisd.com.
Those seeking out higher education may attend a number of nearby colleges and universities, including Central Texas College in nearby Killeen.
Gatesville is located north of the Fort Hood Military Reservation at the junction of U.S. Highway 84 and State Route 36. It is the county seat of Coryell County, with a population of nearly 12,500.
There’s something for everyone in Gatesville: shopping venues, parks, restaurants and unique attractions. The city is known as the “Spur Capital of Texas” with one of the largest spur collections in the world at the Coryell Museum and Historical Center. It is also home to The Last Drive-in Picture Show, a drive-in movie theater on Highway 36.
Annual events include Taste of Gatesville, the Fire Ant 100K bike tour and Spurfest, which includes a pet pageant, an Old West show and gun fight, live entertainment and more.
For more information about Gatesville, visit the city’s chamber of commerce at www.gatesvilletx.info or call 254-865-2617.
Gatesville Independent School District serves nearly 3,000 students in the local area. The district includes a primary school, an elementary school, an intermediate school, a junior high school and a high school. Gatesville ISD prides itself on fostering a family atmosphere in its schools and community. For more information on the district, visit www.gatesvilleisd.org.
The city is also home to higher education opportunities, including Central Texas College’s Gatesville Service Area Center at Gatesville High School.
Harker Heights is in the middle of where you want to be. The city is on U.S. Highway 190 and less than 10 miles southeast of Fort Hood and 10 miles west of Interstate 35, which connects Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The city provides an excellent quality of life to its nearly 30,000 residents and its businesses.
The city is home to parks, a community garden and Stillhouse Hollow Lake, which offers fishing, hiking, camping and swimming opportunities. Annual events include Paws in the Park in April, which features pet contests, an agility course and pet adoptions; Pooch Pool PAW-TY in August; the Food, Wine & Brew Festival in September; and Frost Fest in December.
For more information on Harker Heights, visit the city’s chamber of commerce at www.hhchamber.com or call 254-699-4999.
Harker Heights is part of the Killeen Independent School District. For more information on Killeen ISD, refer to the section on Killeen Education or visit www.killeenisd.org.
Killeen, founded in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad, is located in one of the fastest-growing economic corridors in the U.S. It lies west of Harker Heights, just outside Fort Hood. Killeen has a population of approximately 143,400.
Killeen offers a variety of recreational opportunities. The city has an extensive parks and recreation program, with an aquatics center, two pools, hiking and biking trails, Stonetree Golf Club, sports facilities and neighborhood parks. Other city attractions include community theater performances at Vive Les Arts Theatre and Mayborn Science Theater, which features planetarium star shows and laser light shows. Annual events include the Take 190 West Arts Festival in March, Rodeo Killeen in May, Flavors of Central Texas and Geekfest in August, and the Hispanic Heritage Festival in September.
For more information on Killeen, visit the city’s chamber of commerce at www.killeenchamber.com or call 254-526-9551.
The Killeen Independent School District serves 44,000 students in Killeen, Harker Heights, Fort Hood and Nolanville. Nearly half the student population is composed of military dependents. The district is among the 50 largest districts in Texas and continues to grow. Its educational network covers 32 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, four high schools, an early college high school, two alternative schools, the KISD Career Center and several specialized campuses. For more information about the district, visit www.killeenisd.org.
Continuing education opportunities include Central Texas College, Texas A&M University Central Texas and the CyberTex Institute of Technology.
Lampasas sits at the intersection of three major U.S. highways: 183, 190 and 281. Because of this crossroads location, Lampasas has long been the gateway to the Highland Lakes area as well as the Texas Hill Country. The city’s population is about 7,700.
Lampasas offers residents a number of attractions and amenities. Recreational opportunities abound in neighborhood parks, sports complexes, swimming pools and the Hancock Park Golf Course. The Lampasas County Museum has a variety of exhibits showcasing the area’s heritage and history.
Annual events include the Bloomin’ Fest, which takes place in April and features plant and flower vendors, arts and crafts, food and entertainment. In July, the Spring Ho Festival celebrates Lampasas Springs. Held since the early 1970s, the event has a beauty pageant, a children’s fishing derby, the county fair, a carnival, a pet parade, a barbecue cook-off, a parade, contests and much more.
For more information on Lampasas, visit the county’s chamber of commerce at www.lampasaschamber.org or call 512-556-5172.
The mission of Lampasas Independent School District is to develop and encourage lifelong learners and to share in the responsibility of educating the total child. A student population of more than 3,000 is served by three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. For more information on the district, visit www.lisdtx.org.
The city is also home to the Lampasas County Higher Education Center, which provides facilities and coordinates higher educational opportunities for the community. For more information on services and programs available at the center, visit www.lchec.net.
Rich in history and charm, the village of Salado was founded at the Old Military Road crossing of Salado Creek in 1859 at the same time as the founding of Salado College. Today, the village of Salado is blessed with numerous art galleries, antique stores and other shops that are in keeping with the culture and traditions of the village. Salado is south of Belton on Interstate 35. The village has more than 2,000 residents.
Salado residents enjoy a number of recreational opportunities. Anyone interested in the history of the area can visit the Central Texas Area Museum. Other attractions include Mud Pies Pottery, which produces stoneware pottery in its on-site studio, the Salado Sculpture Garden and Tablerock Amphitheater. Annual events include Wildflower Weekend’s Arts & Crafts Festival and Pub Crawl in March, June’s Texas History Days in Salado, the Salado Swirl wine trail in July, Chocolate & Wine Weekend in September, Christmas in October, the Scottish Gathering and Highland Games in November and Christmas Stroll in December.
For more information on Salado, visit its chamber of commerce at www.salado.com or call 254-947-5040.
Salado Independent School District, with its student population of approximately 1,700, provides a small school setting with exemplary academic and athletic programs. Salado ISD is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades and was ranked in the top 5 percent of high schools in the nation by Newsweek. The district serves its students with an elementary school, intermediate school, junior high school and high school. For more information on the district, visit www.saladoisd.org.
Higher education is available in nearby Belton and Temple.
Temple, the second-largest city in Bell County, lies along Interstate 35 about 30 minutes from Fort Hood. The population is approximately 73,600.
Outdoor recreational opportunities abound, with athletic programs, a skate park, two disc golf courses, an 18-hole golf course, a community garden, walking trails and dozens of parks. There are also plenty of ways to cool off with a water park, four neighborhood splash pads and four community pools. Other area attractions include the Friars Creek Nature Preserve at Green Oaks, the Railroad and Heritage Museum, the Cultural Activities Center and the Temple Symphony Orchestra. Annual events include the Temple College Jazz Festival, which is in March. The Bloomin’ Temple Festival, in May, features live country music, a carnival, children’s activities and food vendors. Also in May, the Central Texas Airshow wows crowds with both static and aerobatic displays, as well as a stunning fireworks show.
For more information on Temple, visit the city’s chamber of commerce at www.templetx.org or call 254-773-2105.
The Temple Independent School District serves 8,600 students with nine elementary and early childhood schools, three middle schools, two high schools and one alternative education center. The district has produced 200 National Merit Scholar Award winners and consistently exceeds state and national SAT scores. Visit www.tisd.org for more information about the district.
Higher education opportunities include Temple College and Central Texas Beauty College.