15 Best Things to Do in Orange County, TX

Orange County, TX
Rmckee8, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Orange County is in the southeastern tip of Texas.

The county is part of the Golden Triangle of Texas, sharing a border with the state of Louisiana.

It was initially part of Jefferson County until it was reorganized in 1852 and named after the orange fruit, a popular crop grown by the county’s early settlers near the mouth of the Sabine River.

Citrus production has since been moved southwest to the Rio Grande Valley because of terrible winter freezes in some years.

Orange County played a significant role in the country’s war efforts during World War II, serving as home to many shipbuilding for the US and allied nations.

Its soil is relatively sandy, as expected in counties along the Gulf of Mexico, so most of its land is not fit for agriculture.

Its primary industries include petroleum refining, paper milling, and shrimping.

Here are the best things to do in Orange County, Texas:

Admire the W. H. Stark House

Exterior of W H Stark House
Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located between Green Avenue and Sixth Street in Orange, Texas, is the 14,000-square-foot Victorian home, the W. H. Stark House.

The fully restored mansion was home to avid collectors William Henry and Miriam Lutcher Stark, who amassed a great selection of rare decorative objects.

Completed in 1894, the W. H. Stark House is a Queen Anne-style house with long sloping roofs, wide verandas, second-floor balconies, and Jacobean chimneys.

The house was primarily made with cypress to suit the area’s damp climate, with longleaf yellow pine used for decorative elements.

The 15 rooms of the mansion are furnished with original family furniture from the 1920s, carpets, antique porcelain, and decorative silver and China.

Today, you can tour the mansion and see photographs, personal items, and documents of the Stark Family.

Appreciate the Western at the Stark Museum of Art

Located on Green Avenue in Orange is the Stark Museum of Art.

The museum boasts one of the country's most comprehensive collections of American Western art, with pieces depicting the region over two centuries of history.

Among the artists whose works are displayed in the museum include John James Audubon, Charles Marion Russell, and Frederic Remington.

Glass and porcelain pieces depicting natural and historical themes are featured in the Decorative Arts collection.

This collection includes the only complete set of Reuben Glass’ The United States in Crystal and Dorothy Doughty’s porcelain birds series.

Pottery, baskets, ornaments, and carvings created by tribe members of the Great Plains, Southwest, Northwest Coast, and Eastern Woodlands are highlighted in the American Indian collection.

The Stark Museum of Art also has a vast collection of rare books and manuscripts about Western American art and natural history.

Sample Wine at Free State Cellars

Free State Cellars is a winery located on Tejas Parkway in Orange.

The family-owned and operated estate was opened in 1984 and covered seven acres and over 1,000 vines.

The vineyard grows black and bronze muscadine grapes, with the Noble black variety used in red wines and the Magnolia bronze variety perfect for white wines.

Free State Cellars has a Tasting Room where you can sample a diverse selection of wines, from crisp whites to bright muscadines and some fruity wines.

They also offer charcuterie boards with cold cuts, cheeses, and nuts to pair with your wine.

If you want to know more about the winemaking process, the winery offers Free State Encounters, where you can explore the vineyards, the workroom, and the kitchen while sipping their wines.

Explore the Sabine River Basin with Swamp & River Tours

Swamp & River Tours is a tour operator offering boat tours of the Sabine River Basin.

Their main office is located on East Lutcher Drive in Orange.

The boat tour lasts around an hour and a half, taking you on a 25-mile journey to the Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana Sabine River Basin outback.

Along the swamps, you’ll see alligators in their natural habitat.

Swamp & River Tours uses fast and quiet boats to avoid disturbing the wildlife along the route.

The boat tour wades through moss-draped Blue Elbow Swamp, with biologist Captain Eli as your driver and tour guide sharing his knowledge about the area’s biodiversity.

You’ll also visit a site once inhabited by cannibals and a swamp tunnel where alligators wait for their next prey.

Eat Mexican Food at Mi Casa Mexican Grill

Stop by Mi Casa Mexican Grill on Strickland Drive in Orange if you're craving Mexican food.

The restaurant serves authentic family-style Mexican dishes, including classics like fajitas, Tex-Mex, and ceviche.

Order the Chimichanga for a hefty serving of deep-fried flour tortilla filled with ground beef and cheese and served with homemade guacamole and sour cream.

You can also try the Chicken and Shrimp Diablos, made with sliced chicken or shrimp, Mexican cheese, and pickled jalapeños, wrapped in bacon and grilled for that charred flavor.

Mi Casa Mexican Grill makes their salsa in-house, so ask for some extra scoop with your order.

Don’t forget to have a glass or two of Margarita to pair with your meal.

Enjoy Karaoke Night at Shane’s Saloon

If you want a chill night out, try having a karaoke night at Shane’s Saloon.

Located on Weakley Way Road in Pinehurst, the dive bar hosts karaoke nights every Friday and Saturday and themed events on select nights.

It has an ample-sized dance floor where you can jive to the music from the live band.

There are dart boards and pool tables that the whole gang can enjoy.

The bar serves classic American diner favorites like burgers, sandwiches, fries, and handcrafted cocktails.

If you feel like singing to the crowd, Karaoke Nights mean open mic nights at Shane’s Saloon, so get ready to unleash your inner performer.

Spot Birds at Claiborne West Park

Located on North Street in Vidor is the 453-acre Claiborne West Park.

The wooded recreation area is a bird and wildlife sanctuary of The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

The park offers over five miles of trails where you can spot wildlife native to Southeast Texas and watch birds navigate through the forest.

A pedestrian bridge crossing Cow Bayou separates the nature preserve on the east from the recreation area on the west.

Recreational facilities include a softball field, golf disc course, tennis court, and mountain biking trails.

There are also primitive camping spots, shelters, and picnic tables among the trees for those looking to spend the day in Claiborne West Park.

Play Golf at Sunset Grove Country Club

Sunset Grove Country Club has the right amenities if you want to practice your swing or play a round or two.

Located on West Sunset Drive in Orange, the sports club features a state-of-the-art 18-hole golf course designed by renowned designer Donald Ross.

The golf course’s rich history started in 1923 when oil and timber magnates Edgar Brown and W. H. Lutcher Stark disagreed.

At the time, Brown owned the only golf course in the city and banned Stark from playing on it.

So, Stark contacted Ross to build him a course, with the last nine holes completed in 1926.

The Club House was built the following year, and the original structure still stands today.

Sunset Grove Country Club is the only Donald Ross golf course left in Texas, so don’t pass up the opportunity of playing on this historic course.

Marvel at the Rainbow Bridge

Cars along Rainbow Bridge
Tverdokhlib / Shutterstock.com

Rainbow Bridge is a truss bridge crossing the Neches River and connecting Port Arthur in Jefferson County and Bridge City in Orange County.

Located on Edgar Brown Drive in West Orange, the bridge's construction began in 1936 and was completed in 1938.

In order not to disrupt ship navigation along the river, the bridge was constructed with a 680-foot main span and a vertical clearance of 177 feet.

Silhouette of Rainbow Bridge during sunset
Blakemul, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This vertical clearance allowed the then-tallest US Navy Ship, USS Patoka, to pass under it, but it never did.

It was initially named the Port Arthur-Orange Bridge, but it was eventually renamed to its current name.

The Rainbow Bridge features a cantilever through-truss structure designed to withstand heavy loads, an engineering feat at that time because of its height and span.

Go Back to the Oil Era at Orangefield Cormier Museum

Oilman Paul Cormier opened the Orangefield Cormier Museum as a gift to the people of Orangefield.

Located on FM 105, Orange, the museum features artifacts from Cormier’s youth, fashioned as the town he remembers from back in the day.

He collected parts of demolished buildings, including a jail, a bank, a post office, a jail, a general store, and a soda fountain.

Some items on display include a grand piano, antique jewelry boxes, a sewing machine, tractors, vintage telephones, and a full barbershop setup.

Cormier put together these pieces to represent the old Orangefield during the 1920s.

Also on display at the Orangefield Cormier Museum are photos and memorabilia of Orangefield residents in the military from the Civil War to the present.

Experience Old-Fashioned Dining at Old Orange Cafe & Catering Co.

Housed in an old Orange dairy building is Old Orange Cafe & Catering Co.

Located on Division Avenue, the restaurant serves American classics in a historical setting.

The restaurant was first opened in 1990 by Susan and Terry Childers until the current owner and chef, David Claybar, purchased it in 2004.

Decorating the walls of Old Orange Cafe & Catering Co are historic photographs of Claybar’s ancestors and photos of old Orange from the private collection of Howard C. Williams, M.D.

Some must-tries include Quiche of the Day, Chicken Fried Steak, Shrimp Poboy, homemade pies, and bread pudding.

Try the Boudin Balls at Judice's Cajun Café

Located on Texas Avenue in Bridge City is Judice's Cajun Café.

The locally owned and operated restaurant serves traditional Cajun lunch and dinner.

Judice’s Cajun Café is best known for its Boudin Balls, pork sausages made with rice and seasoning, lightly breaded, and deep-fried to crispy perfection.

They also have Seafood Étouffée served over piping hot rice.

Other must-tries include Cajun Delight, Boudin Balls topped with etouffee, Crab Cakes with Remoulade sauce, and the Crawfish Tail Poboy served with Bayou de Gallo and drizzled with Remoulade sauce.

Smell the Flowers at the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center

Located on West Park Avenue in Orange is the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center.

The 252-acre private botanical garden sits along the waterways of Adams Bayou and serves as home to more than 300 species of plants.

Work on the garden began in 1942 with H. J. Lutcher Stark at the helm.

He opened his azalea garden in 1946, but it was destroyed in the mid-1950s due to frigid weather.

The Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation restored the gardens and created the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center we know today.

The garden contains a mix of wetlands, a cypress-tupelo swamp, a deciduous forest, a large lake, and a bird blind where visitors can observe nesting birds.

Catch Fish at Lower Neches WMA

Located near Bridge City is the Lower Neches WMA.

The 7,998-acre wildlife refuge consists primarily of briny coastal marshland that attracts many migratory game and non-game birds.

Hunting for game birds is allowed during the open season if you secure all the necessary permits.

At the end of Lake Street, on the edge of Lake Sabine, is a 1920s boat landing where you can launch your boats and go fishing.

Just keep in mind that fishing is catch and release only.

Some parts of the Lower Neches WMA are also excellent crabbing spots.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Try Your Luck at Delta Downs Racetrack, Hotel & Casino

The 48,000-square-foot Delta Downs Racetrack, Hotel & Casino is in Vinton, Louisiana, 21 minutes from Orange County.

The American thoroughbred and quarter-horse racetrack owned by Boyd Gaming has a six-furlong oval with a 550-yard quarter-horse chute.

It also has two thoroughbred chutes measuring 0.625 miles and 1.0625 miles.

It has stabling for up to 1,200 horses.

Draft and miniature horses are also displayed on the grounds.

The Delta Downs Racetrack, Hotel & Casino features more than 1,600 slot machines, with races from November to mid-July.

You can also stay at the 370-room hotel, which features 50 deluxe suites.

Final Thoughts

Orange County’s strategic location on the southeastern corner of Texas proved more advantageous than a disadvantage.

The region is blessed with rich biodiversity and excellent seafood.

Whether you’re after some nature tripping or a seafood feast, check out the best things to do in Orange County, Texas!

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