East Texas is one of the most charming places in the Lone Star State. Most of this region is nestled amongst picturesque piney woods. In addition to the abundance of towering trees and natural beauty, there are plenty of things to do in East Texas.
A few of the must-visit towns in the area include Tyler, Marshall, Jefferson, Nacogdoches, Athens, Palestine, and Henderson. Here you can enjoy various indoor and outdoor activities, such as thrilling train rides and exploring famous landmarks and historic homes.
While East Texas offers many exhilarating experiences, some should not go unmissed. Here are 21 of the best activities to take part in on your next adventure.
21 Awesome Things to do in East Texas
Table of Contents
- 21 Awesome Things to do in East Texas
- 1. Wander Through the Tyler Rose Garden
- 2. Visit New York Texas Zipline Adventures
- 3. Kayak at Caddo Lake State Park
- 4. Fishing in Lake Athens
- 5. Camping at Daingerfield State Park
- 6. Explore the World’s Richest Acre
- 7. Take a Ride on the Historic Jefferson Railway
- 8. Tour the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
- 9. Visit the Big Thicket National Preserve
- 10. Enjoy a Train Tour at Texas State Railroad
- 11. Follow an Azalea & Spring Flower Trail
- 12. Take a Trip to the Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari
- 13. Visit the Cultural Capital of Texas
- 14. Explore the Historic Sites in Beaumont
- 15. Go to a Rodeo
- 16. Stroll Around Love’s Lookout Scenic Park
- 17. See the Paris Texas Eiffel Tower
- 18. Take a Trip to Shangri La Botanical Gardens
- 19. Visit the Oldest Town in Texas
- 20. Learn About Tyler’s Historic Homes
- 21. Walk in Helen Lee’s Daffodil Gardens
- Final Thoughts on East Texas Attractions
1. Wander Through the Tyler Rose Garden
The city of Tyler is renowned as the unofficial Rose Capital of the Nation. It is home to more than 38,000 rose bushes and over 500 varieties of roses.
This scenic spot is perfect for a peaceful outing with awe-inspiring views. As such, people frequently rent out the Rose Garden and Rose Garden Centre for special events, including weddings and meetings.
Additionally, there is a gift shop and museum on the property. The Tyler Rose Museum is a must-visit attraction that displays stunning preserves and stories of the local rose-growing industry.
The garden is open year-round. But, it’s best enjoyed in early spring as well as late September and October when the roses are in full bloom. If you’re visiting during October, be sure to check out the Texas Rose Festival that takes place in the third week of the month.
2. Visit New York Texas Zipline Adventures
If you’re an adventure seeker looking for panoramic views of East Texas, the New York Texas Zipline Adventure is the place to be. It is located in the New York Community, just a 15 to 20-minute drive east of Athens.
It’s a great way to explore the Piney Woods region as you swing from tree-tops and learn more about the local ecology. The zipline tours take you along six or nine zipline tracks, where you’ll have epic views of the forested area.
This adventure lasts around one and a half to two hours. After the thrilling experience, there are plenty of scenic spaces where you can relax and enjoy a picnic.
Note: As this is a popular spot, it’s best to make a reservation a few days in advance.
3. Kayak at Caddo Lake State Park
Caddo Lake State Park is an East Texas treasure situated in the Piney Woods ecoregion in Karnack. Here you can participate in several activities, such as picnicking, boating, hiking, and fishing.
When fishing in the mighty Caddo Lake, there are more than 70 fish species to discover. Another way to take in the beauty of this natural lake is by canoeing or kayaking. You’ll find more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) of paddling trails with spectacular sights at every twist and turn.
You can bring your own kayak set and equipment or rent a canoe at the park. If you’d like to extend your visit, there are 46 campsites for a splendid stay. Additionally, you can rent a cosy cabin with options ranging from two to six-person cabins.
Note: As there are alligators in the park, be sure to follow the necessary safety tips.
4. Fishing in Lake Athens
Lake Athens is another excellent fishing spot in East Texas. This 1,799-acre reservoir has a maximum depth of 15 metres (50 feet) and supports several fish species. The largemouth bass is the most popular species that attracts numerous eager anglers to this stunning location.
There are also great opportunities to catch sunfish and white bass. Additionally, you’ll find decent-sized crappies, but they are fewer in numbers. And if you’re lucky, you might reel in a catfish.
Near the lake, there is an RV park and a marina with a bait shop and general store for any fishing kit needs. For more fun activities, you can head to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center on the north shore of the lake. Here you’ll encounter a magnificent fish display with aquariums, natural pools, and hands-on exhibits.
5. Camping at Daingerfield State Park
If you’re looking for a relaxing escape surrounded by nature, a few days at Daingerfield State Park would be perfect. Nestled in Morris County, the park is filled with natural beauty and towering pines, oak, sweetgum, dogwoods, and redbuds.
At the park, there are two types of campsites: full hookup sites and tent-only sites. The full-hookup sites are located in the Big Pine area. It includes several amenities, such as picnic tables, water hookup, sewer hookup, electric hookup, and nearby restrooms.
The tent-only sites are situated in the Cedar Ridge area. Here you’ll have amenities such as an outdoor grill, picnic table, fire ring, water, tent pad, and nearby restrooms.
If you want more comfort on your overnight stay, you can reserve a historic cabin for a rustic-luxury experience. All cabins are well-equipped and feature a bathroom and kitchen.
There are several land and water activities for an enjoyable trip. You can explore the massive lake with activities such as boating, paddling, swimming, and fishing. On land, you can go birding, picnicking, and hiking.
6. Explore the World’s Richest Acre
The East Texas region is a significant contributor to the oil production in the state. As such, your trip would be incomplete without setting foot in the World’s Richest Acre in Kilgore.
In the early 1930s, downtown Kilgore supported the world’s greatest concentration of oil wells and produced over 2.5 million barrels of oil. Unfortunately, the oil derricks were dismantled in the early 1960s.
But, a trip to the World’s Richest Acre is certainly worthwhile as you can tour the historic area and admire the steel replicas. Other nearby points of interest include the Kilgore College East Texas Museum and the Texas Museum of Broadcasting.
7. Take a Ride on the Historic Jefferson Railway
Founded in the early 1840s, Jefferson is a pre-civil war town located in northeastern Texas. Here you’ll come across awe-inspiring historical architecture and top attractions, including the Historic Jefferson Railway.
At the Historic Jefferson Railway, you can travel through the picturesque piney woods and wetlands along the Big Cypress Bayou. A trip to this 3-foot narrow-gauge railway offers a memorable adventure for all. For more epic experiences in this quaint town, head to the Jefferson Historical Museum, the Grove, and the Museum of Measurement and Time.
8. Tour the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
If you’re a country music fan, a trip to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame should definitely be an item on your East Texas itinerary. Situated in Carthage, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame honours Texans who have made remarkable contributions to country music.
It was established in 1998 and has since become a popular location for music enthusiasts. This unique museum and performance space has also hosted several festivals and events, such as the John Ritter Tribute Showcase and Classic Country Music Festival.
9. Visit the Big Thicket National Preserve
The Big Thicket is a heavily forested area in Kountze, East Texas. It is home to a variety of plants and animal species. Amongst the massive cypress trees, you might spot white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, armadillos, snakes, and alligators.
Almost 300 bird species have been documented in the area. However, birdwatching can be challenging at times as a result of the dense vegetation.
Popular birding spots in Big Thicket include the Sundew Trail and Kirby Nature Trail. And if you want the best bird sightings while canoeing or kayaking, take a trip down Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddle Trail.
Tip: A pair of high-quality, waterproof binoculars are great for bird watching and sightseeing from the river.
The fascinating fauna and flora here attract countless travellers each year. People also visit to enjoy various recreational activities such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and camping.
10. Enjoy a Train Tour at Texas State Railroad
Founded in 1883, the Texas State Railroad is a historic railroad that runs between Palestine and Rusk. In the past, it was used to move raw materials like timber. Today, the Texas State Railroad takes passengers on a scenic journey through the Piney Woods.
The daily train ride lasts about four hours, and there are also several different accommodations on offer. This scenic adventure is best enjoyed during the spring season when the flowers are in full bloom.
11. Follow an Azalea & Spring Flower Trail
Although East Texas is world-famous for its trees, it is also admired for its flowers. One of the most famed flowers in the region is the azalea flower. There are annual azalea trails and festivals throughout the region.
One of the most popular trails where you can enjoy sightseeing while walking past the blooming azaleas is the Tyler Azalea Trail. It is held from mid-March to April and comprises two separate routes: the Lindsey Trail and the Dobbs Trail.
Another must-visit location is the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden. It is located at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. Here you’ll find more than 7,000 gorgeous azaleas and around 40 kilometres (25 miles) of azalea trails throughout the historic and residential districts in the city.
You might enjoy reading my article on the Cowboy Capital of the world, Bandera Texas.
12. Take a Trip to the Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari
One of the best things to do in East Texas is visiting a wildlife and safari park, specifically the Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari. Situated in Jacksonville, this safari park offers an exhilarating outing that’s perfect for those travelling with kids.
Some of the animals you can expect to see include zebra, water buffalo, aoudad, bison, rocky mountain elk, axis deer, blackbuck, and highland cattle. At the park, you can take a self-guided drive and feed some of the animals. There are also picnic spots that are perfect for a snack break.
Note: It’s important to remain in your vehicles at all times when touring the area.
13. Visit the Cultural Capital of Texas
Founded in 1841, Marshall is best known for its well-preserved historical sites. The town is also famed for its support of the arts community. As such, it’s considered the Cultural Capital of East Texas.
There are many enjoyable things to do in Marshall, including horse-drawn buggy rides and touring historical buildings. For an unforgettable experience, be sure to visit the Michelson Museum of Art, Starr Family Home State Historic Park, and the Visual Arts Centre.
14. Explore the Historic Sites in Beaumont
Beaumont is another historical gem in East Texas. It’s located in the state’s southeastern region, just 137 kilometres (85 miles) east of Houston. For those looking for some outdoor adventures, you can participate in several activities, such as fishing, hunting, and camping.
Additionally, you can enjoy a trip to the Beaumont Botanical Gardens. If you’re intrigued by spectacular historical sites, there are a number of places in the area that are worth visiting. Some of the top attractions in Beaumont include the Texas Energy Museum, Saint Anthony Cathedral, and the Fire Museum of Texas.
15. Go to a Rodeo
Rodeos are popular throughout the state of Texas. And the eastern region is no different. One of the best rodeos to visit in East Texas is the Gladewater Rodeo.
It takes place in June and offers a thrilling, family-friendly outing. If you’re travelling with little ones, there are enjoyable activities for kids aged six years and under at the Mutton Bustin event.
16. Stroll Around Love’s Lookout Scenic Park
Love’s Lookout is one of the most magnificent rest stops in East Texas. Located in Jacksonville, the structure stands at more than 213 metres (700 feet) high and serves as a scenic park.
This picturesque destination and expansive rear terrace provide an ideal setting for photographers and travellers looking to soak up the scenic surroundings. Here you’ll find perfectly-positioned benches and tables for a pleasant picnic while enjoying the breathtaking views.
17. See the Paris Texas Eiffel Tower
Constructed in 1993, the Eiffel Tower is a must-visit landmark in the city of Paris, Texas. It is a scale model of the world-famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The structure is less than one-tenth of that of the original.
A notable feature of this Texan attraction is the bright red cowboy hat that sits on top of the tower. Viewing this spectacular sight will not disappoint. A few other notable places to visit in Paris, Texas, include the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial and Sam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site.
18. Take a Trip to Shangri La Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for a scenic escape, visiting this botanical garden is perfect. You’ll find Shangri La Botanical Gardens nestled in the heart of Orange in East Texas. This tranquil destination combines the beauty of the botanical gardens with an educational nature centre, providing an ideal outing for nature enthusiasts.
As you stroll along the garden paths and listen to the melodies of birds, you’ll find a variety of fragrant flowers and plants. For more exhilarating experiences in Orange, check out the Stark Museum of Art and W.H. Stark House.
19. Visit the Oldest Town in Texas
Founded in 1779, Nacogdoches is the oldest town in Texas. This quaint little town was originally a Spanish settlement. Today, it is home to several top attractions, such as the Stone Fort Museum, Millard’s Crossing Historic Village, and Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden.
When visiting this historical gem, be sure to check out nearby attractions such as the famous Caddo Indian Mounds and Lake Sam Rayburn.
20. Learn About Tyler’s Historic Homes
In addition to the stunning rose displays, Tyler is home to eye-catching historical homes. To get a glimpse of the past, you can explore the Goodman Le-Grand Home and Museum and the McClendon House.
The Goodman Le-Grand Home and Museum was built in 1859. At this historic landmark, you are welcome to wander around on a walk-in tour. However, photograph sessions, group tours, and other activities need to be scheduled in advance.
The Bonner-Whitaker-McClendon House was built in 1879. Here you can enjoy guided tours and learn more about the town’s political and cultural history from post-civil war.
21. Walk in Helen Lee’s Daffodil Gardens
Nestled between Tyler and Gladewater, Helen Lee’s Daffodil Garden offers visitors an unforgettable experience. During February and March, you’ll find thousands of blooming daffodils and other flowers at this breathtaking location.
As you walk beside the stunning flowers, you’ll come across a number of small ponds and lakes. A trip to the garden is one of the best ways to welcome spring and enjoy the scenic surroundings in Texas.
Note: Admission to the garden is free, but donations are encouraged to help maintain the grounds.
Final Thoughts on East Texas Attractions
East Texas offers an abundance of exhilarating experiences, from viewing historical sites to admiring the spectacular landscapes. Whether you’re looking for indoor or outdoor activities, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a day in this beautiful state.
As they say, everything is bigger in Texas. So, get ready for a fun-filled adventure. And if you’re looking for more getaway inspiration, check out this guide on sunflower fields in Texas.
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