Epic Texas Revealed: Discover Texas and Its Epic History
The history that makes Texas unique is as diverse as its landscape. From the missions of South Texas and the abandoned sawmills in East Texas to the historic forts and expansive landscapes of West Texas, the state is filled with opportunities for tourists to peer into yesteryear.
The history of Texas is as big and bold as its reputation. Beginning with the Native Americans who lived there for thousands of years and the Spanish explorers who blazed the trails, later followed by the pioneers and the heroes of the Texas Revolution, the story of Texas is filled with exciting adventure. It is flavored with the customs and cultures of the indigenous and many different people who came here. It is populated with a rich cast of characters ranging from Spanish missionaries to rugged cowboys, from cattle barons to struggling farmers, from oil-boom roughnecks building derricks to elegant sophisticates building Victorian-era mansions. Accounts of their lives are conveyed across the state in communities large and small, each with their own special tales to tell.
Brazos Trail Region
As you drive through the 18 counties of this region, you will see miles of black-earth fields and green pastures. You’ll cross the Brazos River and discover the dark, rich soil of the prairie proved ideal for growing cotton. Like the black gold—oil–– that would be discovered later, the soil attracted a rush of immigrants, bringing with them their distinctive cultures. After the Civil War, these settlers transformed this area into one of the most productive cotton-growing regions in the nation. You will see that cotton wealth displayed in beautiful antebellum homes and downtown buildings. Today, many historic towns have lovingly restored their heritage treasures, and many of these town centers look much like they did more than a hundred years ago. Visit these communities to gain a rare insight into a different time. Museums, historic sites, courthouse squares, theaters, and heritage festivals are among the exciting attractions.
The picturesque Grimes County Courthouse is at the heart of this quaint rural community, which is home to the Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site. The white, two-story clapboard inn was built in 1834 by English immigrant Henry Fanthorp and is an extraordinary example of architecture from Texas’s pre-Republic era. Be sure to check out the red 1850 Concord stagecoach in the barn; rides are offered regularly.
Visitors to Bryan’s rejuvenated downtown district are treated to beautifully preserved historic buildings and a lively mix of commerce, culture, and community. Stop by the 1903 Carnegie Public Library, which houses a local history and genealogy center. The nearby Children’s Museum is a fun destination for younger travelers. Four miles from downtown Bryan, the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History has a variety of natural and cultural history exhibits. experiencebcs.com
This small community is now known as the “Mushroom Capital of Texas” and hosts an annual festival that celebrates the fascinating and tasty fungi. The Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association is another Madisonville mainstay that celebrates the community and its history. At the Madison County Museum, housed in a refurbished, historic bank building, you can find out more about local history. The Woodbine Hotel, a restored 1904 structure, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and still accepts overnight guests. visitmadisonville.org
The smoky aroma of barbecue drifts through downtown Taylor, where second-generation pit masters turn out nationally recognized brisket, ribs, and sausage each day. The downtown commercial district is filled with restored historic buildings housing art and antiques shops that attract heritage-minded tourists hungry for more than a meal. A few steps from the commercial district, the Moody Museum, a handsomely restored 1887 home, offers a look at the life of Dan Moody, the youngest governor of Texas. taylormadetexas.com
Forest Trail Region
Spanning 35 east counties, the Texas Forest Trail Region was the “Gateway to Texas” for Caddo Indians, Spanish and French explorers, Anglo pioneers, European immigrants, and enslaved and freed African Americans. The state owes its name to the Caddo tribes of East Texas, known to early Spanish explorers as “Tejas,” meaning friends. East Texas embodies the indelible Texas spirit, from vibrant downtowns lined with monuments, museums, and old railroad depots to the state historic sites, sawmills, and oil derricks that stand as testament to the industries that define the region. These attractions are nestled amid natural treasures, including four national and five state forests, an incomparable national preserve, and the largest cypress grove in the world. texasforesttrail.com
Oil transformed Beaumont and catapulted Texas into the Industrial Age when the Lucas Gusher blew at Spindletop in 1901. The history and impact of the petrochemical industry in Southeast Texas figure prominently at the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum and the Texas Energy Museum. Beaumont maintains several historic homes, including the 1845 French House, the 1906 Chambers House, and the Beaux Arts-style 1906 McFaddin-Ward House, a heritage treasure filled with authentic and luxurious furnishings of the day. Visit the opulent 1927 Jefferson Theatre, once abandoned historic buildings now restaurants and nightclubs in the Crockett Street Entertainment District, and museums, including the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, the Edison Museum, and the Fire Museum of Texas.
Carthage’s downtown offers a charming town square, complete with an old-fashioned gazebo to welcome guests. The Texas Tea Room and Heritage Museum is a favorite stop for visitors and locals alike. The Old Jail Museum, housed in the restored 1891 structure that is the oldest building in town, shares the history of the area. Carthage is also home to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, which includes the Tex Ritter Museum, filled with personal memorabilia from the life of “America’s most beloved singing cowboy.”
Walk the brick-paved streets of Nacogdoches, and you will find yourself on the path to early Texas history. The entire downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the city claims bragging rights as the “Oldest Town in Texas.” Start your visit at the Charles Bright Visitor Center located on Main Street’s original red bricks. Nacogdoches is also known as the “Garden Capital of Texas,” and for good reason. You will find several beautiful gardens on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University, as well as those around The Old University Building, which houses a museum.
Forts Trail Region
The frontier forts of Texas were lonely outposts. Frontier soldiers built garrisons linking wild country and settled lands, while protective Native Americans defended their traditional hunting grounds. Walk in the footsteps of a colorful cast of characters—Spanish missionaries, nomadic Native Americans, eager settlers, and gritty soldiers—who struggled to make this region their home.
Albany citizens are proud of their 1878 jail. Known as the Old Jail Art Center, the restored building is a historic landmark as well as a thriving art museum dedicated to both contemporary visual arts and the local history of Shackelford County. The Texas Historical Commission site features restored structures and ruins, living history exhibits, demonstrations, and reenactments throughout the year. The park is also home to the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd, recalling the days of the Great Western Cattle Trail. albanytexas.com
The town was originally a trading post called Santa Angela. Twenty-three original native limestone fort structures survived, earning it National Historic Landmark status and providing a remarkable legacy of the region’s rowdy frontier past. Visitors now stroll the heritage trail, El Paseo de Santa Angela, which links Fort Concho and the historic depot with the Concho River and downtown. The trail’s tiered plaza is adjacent to the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, itself an architectural masterpiece. An eclectic mix of shops and eateries occupy restored historic buildings downtown, which include Miss Hattie’s Bordello Museum, an early 1900s elaborately furnished brothel still housed in its original quarters. discoversanangelo.com
Hill Country Trail Region
Rolling hills and sparkling rivers, creeks, and springs have been drawing people to the area we now call the Hill Country for thousands of years. Paleo-Indian hunter-gatherers roamed the region during prehistoric times. Water and wildlife later attracted nomadic tribes who hunted there. Spanish soldiers and missionaries established a presidio and five missions in San Antonio during the 18th century. Head for the hills and discover stunning vistas and amazing caverns. Hike dramatic canyons and float lazy rivers. Explore roller-coaster back roads and picturesque towns. Experience the history of the 19 counties by following in the footsteps of Native Americans and Spanish missionaries, German immigrants and Anglo pioneers, cattle drovers and powerful politicians.
Visitors to Boerne enjoy the history of the town as they stroll along “Hauptstrasse,” the German term for “Main Street,” which is now lined with antique stores, art galleries, and specialty shops. When the town was settled in 1852, its setting along Cibolo Creek was so pleasant and bucolic that Boerne gained a reputation as a health resort. To accommodate visitors, the historic Ye Kendall Inn opened in 1859 and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The inn is still welcoming guests today. For an underground adventure, stop at Cascade Caverns and the Cave Without a Name. visitboerne.org
Selected as the Guadalupe River crossing and holding site along the Great Western Cattle Trail, Kerrville’s boom years of the late 1880s and the 1890s were punctuated by cattle drives. As the town prospered, so did the fortunes of cattleman and former Texas Ranger, Charles A. Schreiner. Schreiner’s restored Victorian mansion is now a historic site and education center. The Kerr Arts and Cultural Center represents more than 600 artists and features workshops, demonstrations, and a gift shop. The Sculpture Prayer Ground is another cultural attraction. The annual Kerrville Folk Festival, first held in 1972, has become a must-attend event for music fans nationwide. kerrvilletexascvb.com
This lovely town graces the banks of the clear running Llano River with a pleasant blend of historic architecture and green, leafy landscapes. The entire downtown has been designated a National Historic District. The Railyard District includes a train depot that is home to a railroad museum and visitors center. The district features dining, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, and a recently refurbished railroad hotel. You can learn more about the town at the Llano County Historical Museum, housed in a circa-1900 drugstore, where the original marble-top soda fountain and leather stools still welcome visitors at the front door.
In centuries-old structures, in world-class and small-town museums, in beautifully restored courthouses and on historic Main Streets, local communities have set the stage to tell the entertaining story of Texas to visitors who come their way.
More Time for Texas
Greenville, Texas offers small-town charm with big surprises! Just 35 miles northeast of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Greenville is home to a growing public art collection, multiple live entertainment venues, and an award-winning winery. Our growing number of attractions include the Audie Murphey American Cotton Museum, Splash Kingdom Water Park, the annual Hunt County Fair and Landon Winery Barrel Room Tours. Discover “North Texas with a Twist” in Greenville. ci.greenville.tx.us
BUDDY HOLLY CENTER
Visit the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas to rediscover the life and works of one of America’s most beloved and talented musicians as they celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2019. The museum offers a biography of Buddy Holly’s life, and includes many personal objects like hand-written letters and photo albums. Visit the J.I. Allison House where The Crickets drummer J.I. Allison grew up and wrote the famous song “That’ll Be the Day” with Holly. Their fine arts gallery hosts a variety of contemporary visual art exhibitions throughout the year. www.buddyhollycenter.org