Escape the hustle and bustle of big cities like Dallas and Fort Worth with a trip to laid-back northeast Texas. From lush hardwood forests sprinkled across rolling hills, to quiet small towns dotted with historic antebellum mansions and quaint downtowns, this region of the Lone Star State provides a flurry of unique attractions.
Surround yourself with nature at the region’s famed Caddo Lake State Park, comprised of snaking bayous, swamps and ponds, many of which include protruding bald cypresses and various plants. Spend your days fishing for catfish and white bass in the lake, hiking through the surrounding pine and oak forests and canoeing through the waterways. Stop and smell the roses at the 14-acre Tyler Rose Garden, the country’s largest rose garden. Embark on a leisurely stroll through the grounds, home to reflecting pools, fountains, gazebos and 38,000 rose bushes of approximately 500 different varieties. In October, the garden hosts the annual Texas Rose Festival, a four-day event featuring guided tours, luncheons, lectures and a parade.
Learn about the Lone Star State’s famed natural resource at the East Texas Oil Museum at Kilgore College. Exhibits focus on the discovery of oil in the 1930s in the area via dioramas, films and historic artifacts. The museum has also recreated a prototypical oil boom town from the era, complete with a newspaper office, drug store and gas station. Based in the small town of Jefferson, the four-story Jefferson Historical Museum examines the storied past of the area. Housed inside a former 1888 Federal Court House and U.S. Post Office, the museum showcases items from the town’s early pioneer days, including Victorian-era dolls, artwork, furnishings and fashion.
History Comes Alive
Set in Cherokee County, the nearly 400-acre Caddo Mounds State Historic Site was built sometime in the ninth century by Caddo Indians. Stroll through the grounds and explore the excavated ancient village and the sacred mounds built into the earth that served as burial sites and temples. Self-guided and guided tours are both available via a nearly 1-mile trail. Located in Nacogdoches, Millard’s Crossing Historic Village is a living museum with restored 19th century homesteads, including everything from log cabins to Victorian mansions. The site offers a variety of tours, such as hands-on adventures where guests can write with quill pens, shell corn and plow fields. The village hosts a series of special events throughout the year as well, including music festivals and summer camps for kids.
The Texas State Railroad was built in 1881 and used to transport lumber. Today, from March through November, the steam engine train offers four-hour rides between the towns of Palestine and Rusk, complete with a stop for lunch. Choose from coach, open-air or dining car seating as you soak up the sights of lush green forests and plains. Departing from downtown Jefferson, Turning Basin Riverboat Tours provides one-hour narrated boat rides upon the region’s bayous with the guide pointing out wildlife and describing moments in local history. Public tours are available five days a week; private parties may be booked the remaining two days, weather permitting. The 22-person boats have a roof to protect against the elements.