By Janie H. Pace ~
Small historic Texas towns, state parks, national forests, and lakes make for a beautiful day trip. Or stay in a quaint B&B or an RV park for the perfect weekend getaway.
Here are five excellent locations to visit.
Tyler (90 minutes away)—
Tyler is the Rose Capital of Texas. Tour the beautiful Tyler Municipal Rose Garden and Museum at the Goodman-LeGrand House, built in 1859. Visit such historic homes as the Smith-Butler House and the Memory Lane Inn. Tour the Bonner-Whitaker-McClendon House, built in 1878. Explore Tyler State Park or the Caldwell Zoo, and go on the Thirsty Pines Winery Tour.
Kiepersol Vineyards Winery & Distillery is a destination unto itself with its tasting room, bed & breakfast, and RV park. There is something for everyone. The Grand Tasting Room is open for to-go wine and spirit purchases, Tuesday – Saturday, 11 am-7 pm. The restaurant is open for reservations only dine-in service and to-go pick-up orders.
For overnight stay at the elegant B&B at Kiepersol, or park your RV at Bushman’s RV Park, an upscale destination three miles south of Tyler with 97 RV sites, full hookups, a fishing lake, pool, and hot tub at $38.50 per night.
Palestine (1 hour, 50 minutes)—
When visiting Palestine step back in time as you ride the Texas State Railroad’s 25-mile scenic train ride from Palestine Depot to Rusk. Make your reservations early for The Polar Express, departing Palestine for the North Pole from November 13 – December 27. Go to www.texasstaterailroad.net for more information.
Visit the family-owned Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus. The owners will make you feel quite welcome as you try each of their European style wines. Don’t miss Palestine’s beautiful Victorian Gothic-style Sacred Heart Church built in 1893. The church has stained glass from Italy and France and a Pilcher pipe organ. Tours available by appointment.
Other attractions include the picturesque Davey Dogwood Park, Upper City Lake, and the Anderson County Courthouse. The Art Tracks and Sculpture Tour is a juried exhibit you will not want to miss featuring original contemporary sculptures throughout Main Street locations in town. Check out Old Town Palestine, The Museum of East Texas Culture, The Carnegie Library, and the Palestine Farmers Market.
Enjoy contemporary American cuisine at Queen Street Grille. Spend the night at the enchanted Cottage Airbnb or the old-world charm of Fig Tree Manor, The Ranch at Walston Springs, a rustic retreat offering Bed & Breakfast accommodations, or you can pull into the Red Rock Ranch RV Park.
Athens (1 hour)—
Athens is known as “the black-eyed pea capital of the world,” and a fun fact, the hamburger was invented here, in the 1880s by Fletcher Davis.
Take the 55-mile Athens scenic driving trail along the back roads of Henderson County to view the fall foliage and make stops at The East Texas Arboretum, Lake Athens, the aquarium at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, and experience the NY-TX Zipline Adventures.
Other destinations to visit, the Henderson County Historical Museum and Athens Scuba Park, a dive site attracting scuba divers from across the U.S. Tara Vineyard and Winery is now open, with wine tasting and food.
Go tent camping, bring an RV, or stay overnight at Murchison Mansion.
Jefferson (2 hours, 30 minutes)—
Jefferson is known for its many wonderful bed-and-breakfasts. Stay at The Steamboat Inn, Kennedy Manor, The Carriage House Bed and Breakfast, or Delta Street Inn, to name a few. Have dinner at Stillwater Inn or McGarity Restaurant & Saloon.
The Jefferson Historical Museum, located in a former federal courthouse and post office, features four floors of antique furniture, Victorian porcelain, and more. The Grove, also known as the Stilley-Young House, constructed in 1861, is among the top-12 most haunted houses in America. As a special treat sign up for the Historic Jefferson Ghost Walk at 8 PM every Friday and Saturday nights.
Revel in the fall foliage when you ride the train on the Historic Jefferson Railway, a privately-owned narrow-gauge railway through the Piney Woods.
Honey Grove (1 hour)—
Honey Grove has more historic homes and buildings than any town in northeast Texas. When cotton was king, cotton barons and merchants built stately homes and churches. Many remain, some in excellent condition and others in disrepair. Download the driving tour at www.honeygrovepreservation.org/driving-tour.html
Be sure to check with the local destination for updated advisories. Changing COVID-19 restrictions are in place; wearing a mask is required.