East Texas is rich with blooming roses and a historic oil boom

East Texas is well-known as being the center of an oil boom in the early to mid-1930s, but there’s certainly more to this stretch of the Lone Star State than just black gold and the Piney Woods. There is a celebration of roses dating back to 1933, a rich rail line history, great places to eat and wonderful events to participate in. In other words, groups will certainly have plenty of options to choose from while they plan their busy itinerary.


When rose season begins, visitors from across the nation flock to Tyler by the thousands to attend the famous Texas Rose Festival. Starting in the third week of October, the festival celebrates these beautiful flowers all across the city for three days. From the beautiful, expertly manicured 14 acres and 35,000 rose bushes located in the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden and the Rose Museum, the sights and even the smells of petal perfumes will be a wonderfully overwhelming experience for the senses.


Tyler Rose Festival

In addition to the festival, as well as its accompanying parade, the entire month of October has plenty of other group activities to offer such as horticulture workshops, several garden tours, community events, and more. (visittyler.com/)


On the second Saturday of November, the city of Henderson hosts its annual Heritage Syrup Festival—a celebration of the mule-powered making of delicious sugarcane syrup. Visiting groups can enjoy the five-acre Depot Museum with its folk artists and bluegrass music, as well as 10 blocks within the National Register Historic Downtown District with square dancing, cloggers, and unique vendors on hand. In addition to the events showcasing how the sugarcane syrup is produced, groups will be able to participate in family friendly activities, scope out antique tractors and cars, and more. Over 300 vendors at the festival offer plenty of food options and goods to purchase—including the popular syrup, of course. Beautiful retail businesses are also available within the downtown area for additional shopping and exciting experiences. Groups looking for more from their Henderson visit should also take in a show at the Henderson Civic Theater. (visithendersontx.com/)


In 1930, Columbus Marion Joiner’s and A.D. Lloyd’s oil well Daisy Bradford Number 3 discovered the East Texas Oil Field. The oil boom would see a dramatic increase in the local population, but more importantly it left its mark as a part of Kilgore’s identity. This identity can still be seen at Kilgore’s World’s Richest Acre Park, a half-block in the downtown area that currently has over 70 restored oil derricks. Some added greenery, along with creative decorations during the Christmas season, make great use of the city’s historic site.

Just a short walk away is the Texas Broadcast Museum, which highlights the Golden Age of broadcasting with vintage equipment and a restoration facility along with archives and working television and radio studios. Additionally, if your group is looking for an athletic challenge, Kilgore’s annual Stars & Scars Mud Run features the dirtiest 5K and 10K out there, complete with over 10 obstacles such as mud bogs and pits. The Run is held at the Rabbit Creek Offroad Park, which features 1,200 acres of rugged terrain perfect for ATVs. (visitkilgore.com/)


Groups looking for a historic train adventure will enjoy what Palestine has to offer. Start off in the heart of the city at the Railroad Heritage Center, which features the Domis Model Railroad complete with functioning trains and a small-scale city feel. Afterward, head south to the Texas State Railroad depot in Palestine to start your short journey through the iconic East Texas Piney Woods to Rusk via diesel or stream locomotives. The rail line dates back to 1883 and, though it is no longer in use for major transportation, is maintained by a nonprofit organization in order to preserve its history.

When your group is looking for a bite to eat, be sure to stop by Switch’s Brick-Oven Pizzeria and Wine Bar. The establishment features an exquisite wine room setting for groups of 6 to 12, along with additional interior as well as exterior dining space for larger groups of 20 to 50. If you’re looking for some comfort food, try one of the delicious pies available at Oxbow Bakery & Antiques.  (visitpalestine.com/)

By Christopher Silbernagel