21 Best Things to Do in East Texas

Tyler State Park, East Texas
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East Texas offers many enjoyable indoor and outdoor environments, attractions, and activities for families and friends visiting the town.

East Texas, often known as the Piney Woods area due to its tall trees, features a range of natural wonders which attract visitors from all over the country.

Even though the boundary of East Texas or West Texas is mainly cultural and environmental rather than geographical, it broadly refers to areas between the Texas border to the west and the Trinity River and Interstate 45 to the northwest.

The towns of Tyler, Beaumont, Lafayette, Paxton, Palestine, Gilbert, Jacksonville, and Mount Pleasant are all part of the region, which spans 41 counties.

In addition to the beautiful nature, East Texas is home to Nacogdoches, Texas' largest town, the historic Texas State Railroad, and various heritage sites and family-friendly attractions.

Interested to know more about this stunning region?

Here are the 21 best things to do in East Texas:

Witness the Great Texas Balloon Competition

Longview Hot Air Balloon Ride
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Longview hosts the Great Texas Balloon Competition every summer.

Every year, the competition attracts hundreds of balloon pilots participating in several trials over a few days.

Dr. Bill Bussey of Longview, who still runs Balloon Adventures USA, started the event.

A participant at the Great Texas Balloon Competition
Shannon Beineke / Shutterstock.com

Longview is also excellent if you've always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon.

Riding in a hot air balloon with relatives, friends, or colleagues is a fantastic way to have fun together.

It's an experience that gets you closer to yourself and your friends and family.

Cluster of multicolored balloons at the Great Texas Balloon Competition
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Immerse Yourself in Marine Life at Houston’s Downtown Aquarium

Exterior of Houston’s Downtown Aquarium
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No trip to East Texas is complete without visiting its largest city—Houston.

One of the best attractions you can find in Houston is the Downtown Aquarium, which millions of people visit annually.

It’s a vast marine facility where you can find all sorts of marine species, ranging from stingrays to sharks.

A lionfish in Houston’s Downtown Aquarium
Oleg Anisimov / Shutterstock.com

One of the biggest attractions here is their train ride which lets you experience the sharks.

On top of its sprawling fish tanks, Downtown Aquarium has a Ferris wheel to add spice to your visit.

Fish tank in Houston’s Downtown Aquarium
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Visit The World's Richest Acre

Kilgore's "The World's Richest Acre"
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Kilgore is a tiny town located 15 minutes from Longview.

During the nineteenth-century oil boom, Kilgore was fully covered in oil wells, and at one stage, the little town had more than 1,000 oil wells, making it the world's most significant number of oil wells.

The land was dubbed "The World's Richest Acre."

Several replica derricks exist today to remember Kilgore's heritage, and when you're already in the neighborhood, it's a fun educational stop.

Structures at the World's Richest Acre
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Sightseeing at Hermann Park

Aerial view of Hermann Park
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Hermann Park is another world-famous Houston attraction located along Fannin Street.

It’s one of the most prominent attractions in East Texas and the Lone Star State, featuring many attractions like a Japanese Garden, zoo, and science museum.

In fact, the park is so big that it’s best to ride the train that traverses throughout its vicinity.

Japanese garden at Hermann Park
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Once you finish that train ride that won’t take more than 10 minutes, you can visit attractions like the scenic McGovern Lake, Houston Zoo, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Easily a whole-day activity, this is a can’t-miss destination when visiting East Texas.

Benches facing the McGovern lake at Hermann Park
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Trek the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail

View of Tyler's Azaleas bloom trail
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Tyler's Azaleas bloom in stunning colors of pink and crimson every spring.

Tourists can follow the Azalea & Spring Flower Trail constructed by the city to witness a few of the most beautiful flowers outside of a few of the city's most beautiful homes.

Several homeowners also welcome guests to their private gardens.

The Pyron garden is most visited because there's a shuttle that will take you along the route.

Vibrant flowers along Azalea & Spring Flower Trail
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The Azalea Belles are a unique custom associated with the Azalea Trail.

All those are secondary school girls who apply and are interviewed to serve as the Azalea Trail's ambassadors.

Several of the garden and homes along the walk have them adorned in debutante-style gowns along with parasols.

They will pose for pictures and answer tourists' questions regarding the Azalea Trail and Tyler.

Have a Feast at the Butcher Shop

The Butcher Shop is another independently run business.

It began as a bakery and has become a burger institution in Longview.

Meals are served on plastic trays like in a cafeteria, and also, there's a "fixing" bar in which you might add everything, including pickles to chili, to your burger, or even fries.

The bakery, specifically the pies, is the real star here.

Find Out More about Tyler's Historic Homes

Exterior of Goodman Le-Grand Home and Museum
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of Tyler's historic old homes are available to the public daily, but most are not.

However, the Goodman Le-Grand Home and Museum is a great place to visit if you want to glimpse Old Tyler.

After the loss of Sally Goodman-LeGrand in 1938, this home was gifted to the city by the Goodman family.

Sally wished that the house, constructed in the 1800s, remains open to the public.

Having a tour there is like taking a moment in time, and you'll get a complete idea of the family which used to live here.

Interior of Goodman Le-Grand Home and Museum
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get a Rush of Adrenaline at Kemah Boardwalk

Entrance to Kemah Boardwalk
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One of the most prominent features of East Texas is its access to the Gulf of Mexico, and perhaps the best place to experience this is in the city of Kemah.

Through Kemah Boardwalk, you can experience a seaside adventure in the city by trying its numerous rides with scenic gulf views.

They have all you can ask for in an amusement park, such as standard-sized Ferris wheels and roller coasters.

A rollercoaster at Kemah Boardwalk
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There’s also an aquarium here renowned for its stingrays, famous food chains, and picturesque walking paths.

Found along the city’s Kipp Avenue, Kemah Boardwalk is one exhilarating way to experience the Gulf of Mexico.

Rides at Kemah Boardwalk
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Experience the Texas Rose Festival

Daytime view of Rose Park in Tyler
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Tyler is known as the "Roses Capital of the World."

The city also holds the most extensive rose garden in the United States and the Texas Rose Show annually.

Texas Rose Festival is a lavish affair with drama, circumstance, and great costumes for the Rose Queen.

A few of these fantastic costumes can be seen in a small gallery at the Tyler Rose Garden.

Do Wildlife Observation at Sabine National Forest

Landscape of Sabine National Forest
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Hemphill is another city in East Texas that can often be overlooked because of other mainstream attractions.

One of its signature tourist destinations is the Sabine National Forest, a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts.

With Hemphill being one of the easternmost cities in Texas, Sabine National Forest shares a border with Louisiana via the Toledo Bend Reservoir.

Many things can be done in the forest, mostly boating, fishing, and wildlife observation.

While it’s a rustic place, Sabine National Forest can be conveniently accessed via State Highway 21, which connects Texas to Many, a township in Louisiana.

Visit Beaumont's Historical Sites

Exterior of the McFaddin-Ward House
Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The town of Beaumont, situated 85 miles in the east of Houston, is the home of Texas' most significant oil discovery, as well as various other famous sites and lots of outdoor activities such as hunting, boating, hiking, and dealing with real alligators.

The Beaumont Botanical Gardens, the Texas Energy Museum,  the McFaddin-Ward House, the Texas Wildfire Museum, and the Saint Anthony Church are all popular tourist sites in Beaumont.

While there, check out Beaumont's vibrant cuisine scene, which combines Louisiana maritime specialties like shrimp with Texas favorites like barbecue and American fried steak.

Exterior of Beaumont Botanical Gardens
Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take in the Views at Galveston Seawall

Daytime view of the Galveston Seawall
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One of the most scenic places to enjoy the Gulf of Mexico is Galveston Seawall, located on the island of Galveston.

Being that it’s a city not too far from Houston, this is a great day trip if you want a more peaceful view of the gulf compared to Kemah Boardwalk.

This is an excellent addition to your trip because it’s near other tranquil coastal areas in Galveston, such as Fort San Jacinto.

You can do many scenic activities here, whether biking, jogging, or simply sitting and waiting for the sunset.

If you want peace, don’t miss out on Galveston Seawall.

Do Trade Days Shopping at First Monday Trade Days

Trade day in Canton
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The First Monday Trade Days, held Thursday to Sunday before the first Monday of each month, is the country's most significant public flea market.

This prominent flea market in Canton is around 60 kilometers south of Dallas on Highway 20.

Shoppers during the First Monday Trade Days
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It attracts over 100,000 consumers throughout the four-day weekend and offers room for above 6,000 sellers in over 1 million square feet of shaded shopping areas.

Tourists can shop straight from a variety of home design and furnishing retailers, as well as jewelry producers, antique dealers, clothes stores, and much more.

Pottery shop at First Monday Trade Days
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Pay a Visit to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame

Exterior of Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, located in Carthage, honors the achievements of Texans in folk music.

This unusual gallery and concert space has become a great attraction for followers of the genre since it was founded in 1998.

The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the neighboring Tex Ritter Museum hold several events and festivals every year, including the Classic Country Music Concert and the Tex Ritter Tribute Concert in August.

Plaques in Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wander around Henderson

The road of Downtown Henderson
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Henderson, located halfway from Tyler and Carthage, is full of art, history, and outdoor experiences.

The vibrant Henderson Main Street System includes several historic merchants and landmarks in the Central Historic Square and premium shopping, eating, and entertainment venues around the city.

Henderson hosts various events every year, such as the Historic Syrup Festival on the first Saturday in October, the Historic Tractor Exhibition, an annual Fourth of July Celebration, and the Downtown during Christmas Fest in December.

Buildings along Henderson Main Street
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Explore the Cultural Capital Of The World

Exterior of Harrison Courthouse
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Marshall, located east of Longview and west of the Louisiana borders, is recognized as the Cultural Capital of East Texas because of its strong support for the arts and the historic protection of its many sites and structures.

The Harrison Courthouse, national Michelson Museum, and Visual Art Gallery, as well as the Marshall Station, which contains the Texas and Pacific Railways Exhibition, Amtrak Bus Terminal, and the Texas and Western "Train of Fame" display, are all located in Marshall, which was founded in 1841.

Horse carriage rides, tour buses, and more than 150 historical monuments and medallions are among the town's highlights.

During the Christmas season, the city hosts "Wonderland of Lights," the country's biggest light festival and the traditional and oldest Christmas event in Texas.

Aerial view of Marshall
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Spend Time with Your Family in Palestine

Exterior of the Museum Of East Texas Culture
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The city of Palestine, which is full of history, is a terrific place for family enjoyment in East Texas.

The Texas State Railway, the Museum Of East Texas Culture, and Dogwood Junction Fun Family Park, which features mini-golf, go-karts, and several other family entertainment options, are all located approximately 35 miles south of Athens.

You can also visit the Curious Museum, modeled after San Francisco's famed Exploratorium, which features displays on forces and movement, magnetism, lightning, geometry, color, and life.

Trains at Texas State Railway
Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a Fun Ride at The Texas State Railroad

Train at Texas State Railroad in Palestine
Donna Chance Hall / Shutterstock.com

The Texas State Railroad runs between Palestine and Rusk and has been using steam engines to drive the rails since 1896.

Rather than transporting lumber and other commodities, the Texas State Railroad now transports passengers on a beautiful ride across East Texas' Piney Woods.

The Texas State Railroad offers tours throughout the year, but they are trendy in the springtime when the blossoms are in full bloom.

The Texas State Railroad is, in reality, an official and crucial part of the yearly Dogwood Trails Festival.

A trip to the Texas State Railroad is the focus of any East Texas trip because of the nostalgia, natural landscape, and historic charm.

East Texas is a wonderful destination due to its history, unexpected attractiveness, and natural beauty.

The food here is also delicious and will make you want to return for even more. In addition, there are a variety of activities that you can do with your friends and family in East Texas - there’s something for everyone.

If you are planning your next trip to East Texas and looking for fun activities, consider the things listed in this article!

Enjoy a Breakfast at Mi Casita

What do you start your day with? Breakfast, of course.

Also, what’s a better place to have breakfast than Mi Casita?

Mi Casita is a tiny, locally owned restaurant in Longview that provides all-day Tex-Mex meals.

Their breakfast burritos and tacos are delicious, and their top best tacos include egg, butter, cheese, and potatoes.

All of their pasta dishes are made fresh, and the fruit of habanero salsa is delicious.

The breakfast and evening meals are excellent, and we'd recommend trying this place.

Final Thoughts

East Texas is a vast region in the United States, covering well over 41 counties with unique cities and townships.

Some no-brainer destinations here include iconic cities such as Houston and Marshall.

However, don’t miss out on underrated and lesser-known places like Tyler and Galveston.

There are many things to do in East Texas—use this list for your ultimate guide!

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