Lufkin, Texas, is an unassuming town that most people may not take a second glance at, but they’d surely be missing a whole lot of nature, history, and hidden wonders.
This Eastern Texas hub is the home of vast forests and parks, charming communities, and a laid-back Southern charm.
It also has a number of museums that celebrate various eras of the town, from a railroad era to a timber boom.
But perhaps the most inviting quality of the city is the culture that is as warm as the Texan sun—you’ll feel right at home when you visit this destination.
So on your next holiday, why not make this city your top destination?
Here are the 15 best things to do in Lufkin, TX:
See the Exotic Animals at Ellen Trout Zoo
For those who found themselves unable to see any of the rare wildlife in Davy Crockett National Forest, Ellen Trout Zoo is a great consolation.
Located at Ellen Trout Park on the northern edge of the city proper, this attraction houses more than 800 species of animals from all over the seven continents.
Bring your kids and visit the proud lions, talkative toucans, pink flamingos, intimidating snakes, and so many other animals from the continent and beyond.
The 15-acre zoo has natural forests and vegetation, which serve as the home for these majestic creatures.
Because of this setting and the care and compassion that the zoo staff provides for these animals, they are in relative happiness while inside the facilities.
You’ll notice this comfort and ease while interacting with the creatures.
It’s no wonder that many people come here to avoid the crowds in more famous zoos nearby and still leave with smiles on their faces.
Watch a Showstopping Performance at Pines Theater
Having been around since 1925, Pines Theater has earned its place as a true Lufkin institution.
Listed under the National Register of Historic Places, the 431-seat venue serves as the center for performance art in the city.
Residents and visitors alike flock to the venue to catch film showings, live music concerts, dance recitals, and theater plays.
It’s one of the few places in the city where human talent is celebrated, so the performers are dedicated to delivering outstanding shows.
Their talents, combined with the excellent viewing angles and engineered acoustics of the venue, all create an unforgettable experience that you shouldn’t miss!
Check out their calendar to see upcoming events and plan your itinerary around these dates.
Marvel at Dinosaur Bones at Naranjo Museum of Natural History
Naranjo Museum of Natural History is another educational destination, which is perfect for those who want to learn everything about the world’s prehistoric past.
Funded by the Naranjo Family, this facility houses the collections of Dr. Neal Naranjo, ranging from fossils to space shuttle parts.
But the main focus is natural history, so most of the exhibits here are true-to-life reconstructions of dinosaurs and eggs from various eras.
The Ross Geller’s of the world would have a thrilling time getting up close and personal with these majestic and intimidating creatures.
Aside from dinosaurs, there are also other collections of ancient mammals, sea creatures, and even early humans.
One of the most intriguing displays here is the Gem Room, which features shelves of multicolored precious stones, jewelry, and Confederacy money, printed before the Civil War started.
Stay Awhile at Kit McConnico Park
If the national forests near Lufkin are too intimidating for those who are inexperienced with nature, then Kit McConnico Park is a great alternative!
It has the same types of trees and isolated ambiance as the aforementioned forests, but you’d still be near civilization.
Because of these patches of woods, the park has become a favorite destination for those who want to commune with nature, even for just a short while.
The walking trails will bring you to various points over wooden bridges, small creeks, and isolated clearings.
Once you’ve had your fill of nature, you can simply stay under one of the many benches and shady spots on the grassy grounds of the park.
You’re also welcome to join a match in one of the baseball and softball diamonds or soccer fields located in the facility.
Whatever your preference, there’s something here for you to enjoy.
Explore the Wonders of Davy Crockett National Forest
Davy Crockett National Forest is an immense wilderness located west of the city and spanning 160,647 acres in total land area.
Because of its size and relative state of isolation, it has become one of the most visited attractions in the Piney Woods region of Texas.
The terrain consists of mild hills and relatively flat woodlands that contain many species of hardwood trees, making this forest a perfect hiking destination for beginners.
Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area is the central location for modern activities such as picnics, live entertainment, and kayaking.
But for the more adventurous travelers, there are areas for dispersed camping and hunting.
The forest is rich in wildlife such as deer, turkey, waterfowl, and other game, with hunting permitted during fall for these animals.
However, there are also rare birds, mammals, and endangered species that are carefully managed and protected against indiscriminate hunting.
If you’re lucky, you might see these animals during hikes and explorations of the many trails crisscrossing within the forest.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Atkinson Candy Company
Atkinson Candy Company is another one of the long-standing institutions here in Lufkin, having been around since 1932.
They are the region’s premier makers of sweet and tasty candy, with some of their products already well-known all over the country.
Their facility in Lufkin is a factory store, so visitors will enjoy these delicious treats right from their kitchen.
Some of their signature candies include Chick-O-Stick, Peanut Butter Bars, Gemstones, and Black Cow—some of which you might have already bought from a convenience store or eaten during Halloween.
Aside from these, they have other selections of specialty delights as well as packages for various occasions.
So make a stopover here and satisfy your sweet tooth during your visit to Lufkin.
Tour the Halls of the Museum of East Texas
In what once was an Episcopal church now stands the solemn Museum of East Texas.
It has been around since 1976, serving as a place where learners and curious travelers can get a glimpse of the culture on this side of the state.
Here, the main attractions are the artworks created by people from various backgrounds and skill levels, most of which grew up in the region.
Intriguing sculptures, vibrant paintings, and avant-garde installation art are just some of the things you can expect while visiting.
There are also historical collections that showcase artifacts, furniture, equipment, and other items that were used by people from bygone eras.
If you’re lucky, you might even catch one of the live concerts held in the facility featuring talented local bands and individuals.
Hike the Trails of Angelina National Forest
Another destination in the Piney Woods region is Angelina National Forest, a 153,180-acre wilderness rich in resources and wildlife.
Based on findings from archaeological sites within the forest, scientists have estimated that the place has been occupied since eight thousand years ago.
So aside from flora and fauna, this destination is brimming with history and traces of human occupation.
Today, the focus is more on ecosystems management in order to preserve the native species that call this place home.
You can enjoy plenty of wildlife encounters if you follow the trails snaking their way through the thick forests and rivers of the attraction.
Or you can simply stay in one of the more developed areas in the park, such as Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Camping, swimming, fishing, and other water-related activities are just some of the many things you can try while staying here.
Brush Up Your Angling Skills at Kurth Lake
Lying a few miles north of the city proper is Kurth Lake, a 560-acre reservoir that is rather isolated and unknown to most other travelers.
That is why it’s a great place to escape from the noise of the city and your busy life.
The main activity here is fishing, as the lake serves as the home to many freshwater games.
After you secure a lake access permit from Lufkin’s city hall, you’re welcome to stay for up to three days near the lake.
You can spend your time trying to catch fish like largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and sunfish, all of which live in abundance within the depths of the lake.
If fishing is not in your plans, you can simply board a canoe or walk along lakeside trails to explore the scenic and undisturbed banks of the destination.
Catch a Drag Race at Pine Valley Raceway
If you’re looking for the thrill of watching a car zoom at top speed, then Pine Valley Raceway is a must-visit destination.
But this is not your regular racetrack.
For starters, the vehicles that race here are not the usual, high-tech ones you might see in a NASCAR Cup.
The events here are usually drag races that feature novelty cars, brightly colored trucks, and crazy contraptions you won’t find anywhere else.
So there’s a short, straight track where the vehicles race to the finish line that’s less than a mile away from the starting point.
You can stay behind the fenced spectator’s area, which is located right next to the track for best viewing angles.
It’s a fun and rambunctious event that the whole family will enjoy!
Learn About the Region’s Wilderness at Texas Forestry Museum
Lufkin actually serves as the headquarters of the four national forests in Texas, but the other two are too far away to include in this list.
However, there is a place where you can learn more about them and the history of forestry in the Lone Star state: the Texas Forestry Museum.
By visiting the exhibits, galleries, and outdoor trails, you’ll gain an understanding of the natural resources offered by these forests and the future of their management and preservation.
One of the most visited exhibits is Money Trees, which showcases how timber and tree products were used in the past.
Timber Town allows kids to play dress up and learn how a sawmill is operated with interactive exhibits.
There is also an Outdoor Train Exhibit featuring real-life, decommissioned train locomotives instrumental in the city’s past lumber industry.
Challenge Your Skills at Crown Colony Country Club
Crown Colony Country Club has achieved and maintained a reputation as one of the premier golfing facilities in the East Texas region.
One of the factors that brought the spotlight to this place is the notoriously tricky course.
The beautiful timberland setting and well-maintained fairways and greens give the course a peaceful and lax ambiance.
But the layout, which was planned by Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin, will definitely remove any sense of ease and put players into a serious mood.
The deceiving shots, rolling terrain, and hazards all combine to create a course that will challenge the skills of even the most seasoned players.
So much so that this destination has been hailed as one of the “Toughest Courses” in Texas for many years.
If you want to test your golfing prowess or just see what all the fuss is about, then make sure to stop by here.
Cuddle With Cute Creatures at Pawsitive Animal Encounters, LLC
Compared to Ellen Trout Zoo, Pawsitive Animal Encounters, LLC offers more intimate interactions with animals of all kinds.
Pythons, bearded dragons, tortoises, fennec foxes—this private zoo houses a menagerie of exotic creatures from all over the world.
And they’re all taken care of by professionals and kept in comfortable habitats.
You’ll get a chance to meet these animals, feed them, and let them ride or slither on your shoulders.
It’s a great place for those who are bringing children or those who are animal lovers at heart.
Go Restaurant Hopping Downtown
The historic downtown area of Lufkin is where you’ll find the favorite local dining establishments.
So if you want to savor Southern-style cooking, international cuisines, and fusion dishes, this is the place to be.
The Manhattan Fine Dining Restaurant, as implied by the name, offers steaks, Italian dishes, and a selection of fine wine in a sophisticated setting.
At Rays Drive In, you can enjoy hearty and satisfying American staples like burgers, onion rings, and milkshakes in a 1950s-style restaurant.
For those who are craving Tex-Mex cuisine, visit Herraduras l for delicious fajitas, tasty tacos, filling burritos, and frozen margaritas.
Shop Fruits and Veggies at Angelina County Farmers Market
For the freshest produce this side of Texas, visit the Angelina County Farmers Market during your trip to Lufkin.
Set in a beautiful covered market with splendid landscaping, this community destination offers a great selection of seasonal vegetables, fruit cultivars, root crops, and other produce grown and harvested by local farmers.
You’ll also find small businesses offering handmade items like jellies, bottles of honey, furniture, potted plants, and artworks.
On occasion, there are special events such as live music and shows that add to the festive ambiance of the market.
Best of all, this farmers market is open all week except on Sunday, unlike others who are only open once a week.
So you can just drop by anytime, and you’d still find the market open and filled with high-quality produce.
Lufkin offers an authentic taste of Texas: vast wilderness, charming Southern communities, and extensive history unique to this region.
It’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway trip.
So when planning your next vacation, make sure to check out this list and add all the top spots to your itinerary.