Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Jefferson, TX

  • Published 2021/10/06

Jefferson, Texas, is a city in Marion County with a rich history.

Dubbed “Riverport to the Southwest,” Jefferson was a major Texas port between 1845 and 1872.

When Allen Urquhart and Daniel Alley founded it in the early 1840s, they named it after US President Thomas Jefferson.

Urquhart, a North Carolina native who moved to Texas in the late 1830s, was granted a land on a bend in the creek and eventually built out a townsite there in 1842.

Many well-known tourist sites may be found throughout the city.

If you go to Jefferson, Texas, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Parasols and petticoats fill the city during its era of riches and success.

Inns, fishing, riverboats, and carriage excursions around the town’s Civil War landmarks draw visitors worldwide.

As you walk through the Jefferson of today, you’ll see charming antique stores, intriguing museums, and transportation from long ago.

There are even ghost tours!

Read on to find out what activities you can enjoy here in Jefferson, Texas.

Step Back in Time at Jefferson Historical Museum

This historical museum lies in a magnificent red brick structure built in 1888 and previously functioned as the city’s Federal Courthouse and Jefferson’s Post Office.

The museum houses artifacts from Jefferson’s and Marion County’s past.

View of Jefferson Historical Museum

LMPark Photos/

The museum features exhibit from the 1880s farmhouse, art, antique firearms, needlework, crockery, dolls, quilts, exquisite porcelain, silver, and China, as well as Caddo Indian relics.

On the museum’s grounds is a reproduction of a railway depot from the early 1900s, with a railway completed after more than thirty years.

The railroad is 193 feet long and is also a tiny replica of a 1950s train.

Camp at Lake O’ The Pines

View of Lake O’ The Pines

Tallmaple /

This reservoir on Cypress Bayou that spans 17,000 acres has vast parks and thick trees along its shorelines.

It also offers a great fishing opportunity thanks to its ecosystem that allows fish such as largemouth, spotted, white bass, sunfish, catfish, pickerel, and crappies to thrive.

It’s also ideal for camping, where you can also stargaze at the vast skies at night.

View of Lake O’ The Pines

Tallmaple /

Cedar Springs Park offers a wonderful picnic area, while Johnson Creek Park and Lakeside Park have fantastic swimming areas.

Boat ramps and marinas are available if you opt to bring your own equipment to the park.

Meanwhile, its marina offers pontoon boat rentals for those interested.

Bring Home Novelty Items From Jefferson General Store

View of Jefferson General Store

NicholasGeraldinePhotos /

When you walk inside Jefferson General Store, you will almost instantly feel like a young kid who has just opened their first Christmas present.

All of the elements of the space come together in the overpowering explosion of color, damaged and old furniture, and quirky lighting.

View of Jefferson General Store

Joseph Sohm /

Aside from selling all types of candy and other novelty goods possible to humans, the general store also happens to be one of the most often visited sites in Jefferson.

It is said that locals boast their pecan pralines so much that you should not leave without purchasing a few.

Travel to 1850s Jefferson Through Singleton’s Virginia Cross Home

This exquisite antebellum mansion, designed in the Greek Revival style, was completed in 1859.

The home, constructed of Cypress lumber and heart pine flooring, is adorned with period wallpaper and has antique furnishings in keeping with the period’s aesthetic.

The house is still used as a family residence, and visits are only available on Saturday afternoons. It is necessary to make reservations.

Tours run around 45 minutes and enable guests to take in the magnificent antiques, the mansion’s origins, the lifestyles of the past owners, and the tales behind the acquisition of the furniture that now adorns the home.

Tours are available in English and Spanish.

The exquisite collection of antique dolls on display in residence is one of the highlights of the collection.

Meet Jefferson’s Pioneers at Oakwood Cemetery

View of Oakwood Cemetery

Nicolas Henderson from Coppell, Texas, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While going to a cemetery on vacation is probably not on your list of things to try in Jefferson, Oakwood Cemetery is eerily atmospheric, and it’s one of the spookiest attractions in Jefferson.

There are various unusual monuments and above-ground burials at this cemetery.

Most of Jefferson’s pioneers are buried there, and many Confederate troops who died during the Civil War.

Bill Rose, Jesse Robinson, and Diamond Bessie, who were tragically slain, are buried here and other criminals.

The cemetery has been around since at least 1872 when it was first discovered in its current site in Oakwood.

The city added more sections as needed throughout time, and in 1972 a perimeter fence was erected to give the cemetery a more defined appearance.

The Texas Historical Commission designated Oakwood Cemetery as a Texas Historical Cemeteries in 2004.

Go on a Ghost Tour at The Grove

View of The Grove

Matthew Thanner /

This historic structure was built after an architectural style called Greek Revival in 1861 and is now a private residence in Jefferson.

In addition to being part of the official list of structures in the USA worthy of preservation, The Grove has been the subject of several paranormal-themed television series.

Visitors to the Grove’s shop may purchase books on the topic of haunted houses.

The house served as a residence for several families in the past, and it even served as a restaurant once.

After extensive renovations, it now seems as though it was built around the 1860s.

Weekends feature hour-long house tours with the latest owner, and to join this, you must book in advance.

The Grove’s property also welcomes visitors in its lovely butterfly garden.

Find Vintage Items and Spooky Stories at Old Mill Antiques

Old Mill Antiques in Jefferson, Kentucky, is another spooky stop.

The fact that Jefferson is a town surrounded by haunting stories is one of the town’s many attractions.

To put it mildly, it’s engrossing and fascinating.

It has a wide variety of antiques and craft items, so you’re sure to come away with a few surprises when you browse the store.

Visiting flea markets and thrift shops is something you might enjoy.

Not to mention its rumored status as a haunted house!

Bring Out Your Inner Math Geek at Museum of Measurement and Time

View of Museum of Measurement and Time

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This fascinating museum gives you a better understanding of how space and time have been measured throughout history.

Even though it’s a must-see for land surveyors, visitors of all backgrounds will find the museum’s exhibits fascinating.

American horology and clocks are well represented in the museum’s extensive collection.

As well as equipment for land surveying and division, you’ll discover meters and gauges, including scales, barometers, and other gauges and meters.

Check out the interesting and large collection of salt and pepper shakers for some light entertainment!

The museum is a non-profit organization that is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Look Back to a History of War at Jefferson Ordnance Magazine

This magazine housed a brick building that is part of a line of locations used to move artillery downriver during the Civil War in the 1860s.

The structure is ten feet square, fifteen feet tall, one foot thick, and features ventilation slits to maintain the interior’s cool.

Its vital site during the battle has become the magazine’s downfall, as the Big Cypress Bayou encroaches on it, causing erosion at the coastline and jeopardizing the island’s sustainability.

The historical magazine is located on private land and is only visible from afar; curious tourists can observe it from a vessel as part of the city’s riverfront tour offerings.

Step Inside a Movie at Scarlett O’Hardy’s Gone With the Wind Museum

View of Scarlett O’Hardy’s Gone With the Wind Museum

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On November 27, 1998, the Scarlett O’Hardy Gone with the Wind Museum in historic Jefferson, Texas, opened its doors to the public.

Jefferson native Bobbie Hardy has spent her whole life collecting memorabilia related to Margaret Mitchell’s novel and David O. Selznick’s film, which is now housed at the museum.

Pictures adorn the walls, as do artifacts from films from worldwide, including replica costumes, stills from movies, and television shows from the ’20th century.

It also features cinematic memorabilia signed by stars like Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, Butterfly McQueen, and Olivia de Havilland.

Gone with the Wind Christmas decorations decorate the stunning year-round GWTW-themed Christmas tree.

An autographed first copy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and more than a hundred international versions in dozens of languages are on display at the museum.

Gifts from the novel, the author, and the film are available at the museum gift shop.

Hop in the Train Tour to Historic Jefferson Railway

View of Historic Jefferson Railway

Martina Birnbaum /

Commonly known as the Historic Jefferson Railway, Jefferson and Cypress Bayou Railway refers to a small gauge railroad that runs through Jefferson.

Because it is a privately operated company, it receives no financing from the government.

It’s a blast for families, especially those traveling with young children.

View of  Historic Jefferson Railway depot

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The train travels through the Piney Woods, a dense woodland.

While traveling across Texas, keep an eye out for the site of the state’s first synthetic gas facility.

In addition, visitors may view the site of a former Confederate sawmill, a blast furnace, as well as a gunpowder storage facility.

Join the Turning Basin Riverboat Tours

Guests may enjoy a one-hour riverboat trip around the Big Cypress Bayou with Turning Basin Riverboat Tours, which employs experienced guides well-versed in the area’s history, flora, and animals.

Twenty-two adults may ride on the one-hour boat trips, which have roofs to protect them from the elements.

In addition to Jefferson’s life and times, the guides talk about the steamboat industry, the trees along the riverbanks, and other creatures that dwell in or by the river.

New and used books on Texas, East Texas history, and the local wildlife are available at the site’s bookstore.

It also accepts school and community groups.

Take Photographs Outside the Schluter House

Outside the Schluter House

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Schluter House, another allegedly haunted location in Jefferson, is the subject of several haunted stories.

Some say the Schluter family suffered a tragic loss when four of their children died between 1859 and 1863, which is why the house is supposed to be haunted.

Even though it isn’t accessible to the general public, the lovely house can still be seen from the street.

It’s tucked away in a peaceful part of Jefferson, not far from the nearby Episcopal Church.

The home was constructed in the plantation style, and it features towering columns that enhance the aesthetic appeal.

Take Part in the Historical Jefferson Ghost Walk

It’s no secret that ghost hunting documentaries and literature portray Jefferson, Texas, as a haunted location.

Visits to the town’s most haunted spots can learn about horrific events that took place in Jefferson’s history during one of the town’s night ghost walk on Fridays and Saturdays.

For one thing, the historian leading this tour has gained access to a few of the Old Mill’s structures, making for a spooky nighttime stroll.

The tour runs up to two hours and tells a fascinating narrative of Jefferson and its people who allegedly met tragic ends while visiting the town.

Reservations are necessary, so please wear comfortable shoes.

Visit Excelsior House Hotel and Jay Gould Railroad Car

View of Jay Gould Railroad Car

Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since it began in the late 1850s, this historic hotel has hosted several notable figures, including Oscar Wilde, Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant.

A few modifications like Wi-Fi and cable TV for 21st-century tourists have been added to the mahogany and rosewood furnishings that contributed to the exquisite ambiance of the hotel.

The hotel offers tours of railroad mogul Jay Gould’s private train car, an intriguing display conducted by expert docents, and tickets may be purchased at the front desk.

Jay Gould, a 19th-century businessman, used to own the vintage railroad vehicle now known as Atalanta.

View of Jay Gould Railroad Car

Jay Carriker (User:JCarriker), CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

It used to be a show of riches and opulence for the tycoons who owned it.

Now you can see it on Austin Street, where it used to be a private chauffeured vehicle.

A ride on the train car is highly recommended if you happen to be in Jefferson.

About a half-hour tour teaches you about Jefferson’s rebirth on the rails, Jefferson’s loss of the railway network, and the tale behind the wealthiest train car.

The tour lasts about half an hour.

Final Thoughts

The pace of life in Jefferson is a little slower than in the large cities.

And this is where its charms lie: a plethora of historical landmarks and interesting tours around the city.

If you don’t stay long enough, you may miss out on doing them all.

So come, spend the weekend at Jefferson!

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