These East Texas towns are just the ticket to a mini-vacation!
East Texas is a special part of Texas. If you have never visited Texas before, this wonderful "Piney Woods Wonderland" is a great place to visit, but only one part of Texas culture. If you are a true Texan, you know there is more than one Texas. Each region of Texas has its own culture as well as its own attractions. East Texas is a very large area that begins at the border of Texas and Oklahoma and extends down to the Gulf of Mexico. East Texas is also bordered with Arkansas and Louisiana, with Louisiana sharing the biggest part of Texas as well as sharing beautiful Caddo Lake. I'm going to talk about five of the best places to visit in East Texas, each with their own unique claim to fame, but that is only the tip of the iceberg, I will also list other towns you should check out as well. Once you have experienced East Texas you will never forget the warm hospitality of the people there.
Love to shop? Then head to Canton! Located between Dallas and Tyler on Hwy 20, Canton is a small town of a little over 5,000. But once a month, this small town swells up to 400,000 people due to being the home of one of the largest "flea-markets" in the United States. Called "First Monday" by the locals, the flea-market boasts almost 400 acres of the best deals around. One weekend a month, the weekend (starting on Thursday) before the "first Monday", this sleepy little town wakes up and buzzes with activity and flea-market shoppers. You will find artists, craftsmen and entrepreneurs selling their one-of-a-kind wares, jewelry, furniture, animals and much much more. If you don't feel like walking over 400 acres, there are carts to rent. When you get hungry, check out one of the hundreds of food stations, where you will find anything from funnel cakes and candy apples to fajitas and roasted corn. Oh and don't forget the lemonade stands! Prepare to spend the day because you won't want to miss anything at this fun-filled weekend of shopping and festivities! In fact you might even want to spend the weekend, in that case there is plenty of lodging to be found in Canton.
If you are tired of shopping, Canton offers a lot more! There is a water park, two museums, two winerys, two lakes for fishing, a golf-course, zip-line course, and many other local area attractions nearby. All in all, Canton is a great stop for a mini-vacation, or you can stay as long as you like!
Mill Creek Reservoir in Canton, TX
Tyler is known as being the "Rose Capital of the World". That is because it is home to the Tyler Rose Garden, the nation's largest municipal rose garden. It is also the home of the Texas Rose Festival, an annual event that is held in October. And last but not least, about half of the entire country's roses are grown within a 50-mile radius of Tyler and 3 quarters of USA roses are processed in Tyler.
Tyler Rose Garden is a beautiful 14 acre park filled with hundreds of varieties of roses. It is a breath-taking display and a place where you can lose yourself. The visual display is matched only by the aroma of hundreds of sweet-smelling roses. Your senses will be delighted by both! Every October the Rose Garden becomes the center of attention during the annual Rose Festival. One of the most popular events, the "Queen's Tea", is hosted in the garden. This is where the Rose Festival Queen and her court hold a "high-tea" that is enjoyed by the community.
Tyler is also home to several museums, concert venues (such as the Oil Palace), and plenty of shopping centers and a mall. But the best attraction in my opinion is the Caldwell Zoo. The Caldwell Zoo started out very very small. David Caldwell built a playschool for children which included parrots, monkeys and squirrels in the late 1930s. That small group of animals grew over the years and became an official zoo in 1953. Since then, the zoo has grown into one of the most beautiful zoos in Texas. One of the features of the zoo is a "game reserve" section where you will see elephants, zebras, and giraffes as well as other animals living together in a huge enclosure that resembles the plains of Africa. Not only are there animals native to Africa but there are animals native to North and South America as well. There is an aquarium, herpetarium, and a wild bird "walkabout" also. There are educational scavenger hunts for the children and plenty of good food and drinks to be found as well. A great place to take the kids to learn about animal habitats!
Those are just a few of Tyler's many attactions, and also just down the road a few miles of course is the largest flea-market in Texas!
Jefferson is a great place for a romantic weekend get-away or a favorite spot for honeymooners, but you can bring the kids too. Located on Big Cypress Bayou, and not far from Caddo Lake, it's a beautiful small town that features many restored buildings reminiscent of simpler times. It is full of antique shops and many places to dine, and there is a riverboat available for touring on the river. Lodgings include many quaint bed and breakfast inns. You can also find tour guides on beautiful Lake Caddo.
If you like touring old homes, there are plenty of beautiful old homes in Jefferson to tour. Then you could ride a horse-drawn carriage or a trolley along the brick-paved streets of downtown. Ride the Historic Jefferson Railway, which is a scenic ride on an old-timey steam-engine train. If you are a bit more adventurous, listen to a ghost story at the "haunted depot" and then catch an evening ride on the "Ghost Train", which is a ride through spooky woods along the bayou. You can also ride by the home of the legendary "Boggy Creek Monster" which is being featured in an upcoming movie by the same name.
Finally, there is plenty of entertainment in Jefferson including an opera house and museums, which will make your weekend in Jefferson a wonderful memory!
Lake Caddo Cypress Trees
The oldest town in Texas, Nacogdoches is home to Stephen F. Austin University. There is a wealth of cultural Texas history here, and evidence of early Caddoan dwellers as far back as 2000 B.C. Supposedly there were early dwellers here in 10,000 B.C. but ceramic evidence only dates back to 2000 B.C.
Shopping includes many antique shops and family-owned businesses that operate the old fashioned way. Like a 100-year old hardware store, or an old-style barbershop. Entertainment includes two theaters with live plays and productions, several nightclubs with local musicians and bands, and SFA athletic events. There are several salons that include massage therapy and spa pedicures to help you relax at the end of the day. There are also many different festivals that occur throughout the year, as well as many historical landmarks including museums, original buildings, and a reconstructed Caddo village, Caddo Mounds. Other attractions include a planetarium and wildlife park. Take an audio drive on the Fall Foliage Tour or a walking tour that visits points of interest downtown. There are also several scenic parks to have a family picnic. There are also many churches of all denominations if you want to top off your weekend visit with a Sunday morning worship. Experience true Texan culture in the oldest town in Texas!
Rustic Log Cabin on Lake Caddo
Called "The Best Kept Secret in Texas", Uncertain is a tiny town located on the shores of beautiful Lake Caddo in Harrison County. Tiny as it is, there is not a lack of things to do here in this little community. For instance, you can take a steam-boat tour of Lake Caddo or a guided boat tour. Its also a haven for hunters and fishermen. Fish for hours on your own or take a fisherman guide with you. You can also take a guided hunting tour. If you love bird-watching, be sure to bring your camera because there are well over a hundred different bird species located in this area! There are several "water events" that take place during the year which include floating parades and firework events on the 4th of July and New Year's Eve. There is also an annual "turtle pilgrimage" - from May to June, hundreds of female Red-ear Sliders come ashore to lay their eggs.
When its time to eat, choose one of many grills and taverns that feature local cuisine. If you want to spend the night, choose from several bed & breakfast inns or guest houses and lodges. If you want to be a bit more adventurous, Lake Caddo offers many modern cabins with all the comforts of home, or if you want to rough it a bit more, there are a few "rustic" log cabins available.
Uncertain is only about 16 miles from Jefferson, TX and about 30 miles from Shreveport where there is an airport available for out-of-towners. The best thing about Uncertain? Lake Caddo!! Lake Caddo is one of the most beautiful lakes in Texas, and its only naturally formed lake. It covers over 32,000 acres. Be prepared to be amazed when you visit this beautiful area.
The fun doesn't stop here!!
That's it for my top five East Texas towns. Each of these towns will provide hours of fun entertainment for the whole family as well as introduce you to some rich Texas heritage. I also promised to list other towns, and here they are:
Marshall, TX - Check out the Marshall Pottery Co., and visit during the holidays for spectacular light displays!
Longview, TX - Lots of shopping and festivals in Longview and hosts an annual Balloon Race.
Pittsburg, TX - Visit the Ezekiel Airship display downtown and drive a few miles north to see Bo Pilgrim's Big Giant Head located in front of Pilgrim Pride Co. This is featured in "Roadside Oddities"
Mt Pleasant, TX - Just a few miles past the "Big Giant Head" you will run into Mt Pleasant, home of many local events and festivities that happen throughout the year. The local park used to be a mineral springs resort.
Beaumont, TX - If you want to experience the Louisiana Cajun culture, Beaumont is the place to try.
Port Arthur, TX - a shipping town that celebrates Mardi Gras each year.
There are many more towns in East Texas that have just as much appeal and culture. I intend on adding blogs about the above towns and more in coming weeks. Check out East Texas and take a mini-vacation (or longer vacation) you will never forget!
Cathy Whitaker on January 30, 2019:
We are traveling to Garrison to celebrate a friends 90 Birthday. We will be traveling from Oklahoma City. Would like to know places we could visit on way back. Thought about Canton any other places of interest
mjboone on January 31, 2018:
I'm an East Texas native and Tyler is now my home - Canton is a site to see on First Monday. If you love shopping for antiques and unique, great food, and exercise to walk it off. Tyler is a beautiful town with several museums, great shopping and many restaurants and hotels. UT Tyler's Cowan has brought many great performances here. I feel very fortunate to see Glen Campbell years ago and Ringo Starr and his All Star Band. Live music is offered at many restaurants on Friday and Saturday nights. Recently went to Uncertain and took tour of Caddo Lake - it was awesome and worth the trip. Marshall is nearby, but there is no Marshall Pottery to visit anymore - it's Christmas Wonderland of Lights is the biggest attraction, and the Fire Ant Festival is fun. Henderson's Syrup Festival is awesome too.
I do agree that Port Arthur and Beaumont are Southeast Texas...
Shirley from Mesquite, TX on June 02, 2017:
I visited Nacogdoches last fall and fell in love with the town. So much to see love the old houses and would recommend Millard's Crossing for parents with children. Come to think of it the day we were there the 3rd grade classes were there on a field trip. They were getting to do hands on things. The old houses were toured was great. Lovely people and found some great places to eat. I would highly recommend Nacogdoches . myself.
Embery on April 11, 2017:
I have a good experience of because I have been there a lot of times in my whole life and always spent joyful time there. It is a really great place where tourists can enjoy stunning views of nature beauty. Now my father have a plan to go there after finishing his bus tours nj in coming up days to enjoy incredible beaut of this most exciting destination.
kallen on March 24, 2017:
I appreciate your sharing. I really like to say that you have shared such a nice and informative article with all of us. I would like to way of talking. I have a good experience of Pittsburg because I have been there before mine tennessee bus tour[ more than five times in my whole life and always spent such a nice time there. It is a best place for having fun and where visitors can enjoy a lot of most fabulous and interesting things like hiking, trekking, camping and photography.
Mel Broach on March 13, 2017:
I just told my husband that we need to start making day trips. Live in Jacksonville Tx and there are a lot of things to see that aren't far.
A couple of years ago we rode over to what was once a Boy Scout camp. Camp Tonkawa Springs in Garrison, Tx. What a surprise to find this spot in the middle of what seemed to be no where!
Check out www.camptonkawa.com
Dee Sharp (author) from East Texas on December 14, 2016:
Geographically, Beaumont and Port Arthur ARE considered part of East Texas, specifically Southeast Texas. If you think about it, there are many businesses in both towns that have East Texas in their names, such as East Texas Plumbing, East Texas Supply Co, etc.
Cody on December 14, 2016:
Beaumont/Port Arthur is NOT East Texas.
albert on August 24, 2016:
Nacogdoches is most beautiful and adorable town for visit that is situated in Texas. I have been there before my https://www.topbustours.com/2-day-san-francisco-to... tours from san jose only one time with my friend during my holidays. We stay there for two weeks and we all had huge fun there through different activities. In my point of view it is a really great place or all fun and traveling lover. I will lover to explore this alluring destination again and again.
Dee Sharp (author) from East Texas on August 08, 2016:
I did not intend for each town to be a main focus, but to draw attention to what several towns in East Texas have to offer. I too live in East Texas and have found that there are a lot of great places to visit in different towns. I am also going to write about other parts of Texas, which was my intention when I first wrote this article, but life had other tasks for me to fulfill, however I am about to start writing again about the rest of Texas. I believe that all parts of Texas have something to offer, if you are looking for something unique, that is what makes Texas so wonderful.
Kathy on July 20, 2016:
I do not understand why they name Tyler, Mt. Pleasant or Jefferson. I spent a lot of time in all three of those during my teens and there's nothing there. I find the southern and central area of the state much prettier and they have attractions. Even west Texas has its appeal.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 11, 2016:
We are going to Texas next month so I'll put these places on my list.
tj on November 05, 2015:
Im from canton and live here js as a local i dont like first monday because you cant go no wear and phones mess up its just a big mess when you try to fit so many people in a small town like this.
Dee Sharp (author) from East Texas on July 20, 2011:
Thanks for your comment, Simone! I'm proud to be an East Texan, and hope you visit this beautiful part of Texas someday! You will definitely be glad you did!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 20, 2011:
I have no heard of any of these towns... not have I been to Texas! They all sound great, especially Uncertain! Great Hub!