From swamplands and piney woods to sprawling skylines and sandy beaches, East Texas provides a variety of adventures for the curious traveler. I can say this with confidence as I grew up in this underrated part of the Lone Star State!
Before you explore the country backroads of the Big Thicket or the downtown boulevards of Houston, be sure to check out our list of interesting and beautiful places to visit in East Texas, and get ready to experience everything this dynamic region has to offer!
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Check out these guides on the best places to visit in…
1. The Historic Strand District – Galveston, TX
Located in the heart of the bustling island city of Galveston, the historic Strand District is a step back in time worthy of exploration. You’ll want to experience the Strand for its fascinating architecture, wide, walkable streets, fun shopping and restaurants, and seasonal festivals.
While you’re there, be sure to catch an evening play at The Grand 1894 Opera House, visit the historic 1877 tall ship Elissa, or grab a scenic drink at the Tremont House Rooftop Bar (with a great view of downtown). The Tremont House also offers a wonderful place to stay overnight in a historic, upscale atmosphere.
After you’ve spent time in The Strand, make a stop at the nearby Seawall, Galveston’s famous beach district, and experience midway games and carnival rides at the popular Pleasure Pier.
2. The World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant – Beaumont, TX
During your East Texas visit, a stop at the World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant in Beaumont is a must for its postcard-worthy appeal. Standing at 24 feet tall, the dalmatian-spotted fire hydrant can blast an impressive 1,500 gallons of water per minute.
This unique roadside attraction is located downtown at the Fire Museum of Texas, which is worth visiting in its own right. Here you can see an antique collection of fire engines and equipment dating back to the 1800s, plus kids can drive a fire engine simulator.
If you’re hungry, stick around Beaumont to sample some of Texas’ best cajun food. I recommend the hog cracklins and boudain at Uncle Henry’s, the crawfish étouffée at Floyd’s, or the gumbo at Vautrot’s.
3. Caddo Lake State Park
While most lakes throughout Texas are man-made, there’s only one in the entire state that’s not—Caddo Lake. Situated on the border with Louisiana, this beautiful, picturesque lake feel like a bayou playground with its bald cypress trees and Spanish moss.
To enjoy Texas’ only natural lake, make sure you go to Caddo Lake State Park. An excellent place to kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, you can spend hours exploring the lake’s maze of trees and marshes within its 50 miles of paddling trails.
In addition, the park provides plenty of hiking options, as well as fishing, bird watching, and the occasional alligator sighting (it is East Texas, after all!).
4. The Original Buc-ee’s – Lake Jackson, TX
The larger-than-life Buc-ee’s travel centers have become both a legend and a phenomenon (with an almost cult-like following) throughout Texas. Where else can you see the world record holder for largest convenience store and longest car wash?
Though you can go to several Buc-ee’s locations in East Texas, you can discover where it all began at the original Buc-ee’s in Lake Jackson, south of Houston.
In what feels more like an amusement park for tourists and motorists, when you visit Buc-ee’s, make sure to enjoy a brisket sandwich, some Beaver Nuggets, or other unique goodies. And take a moment to experience what first put Buc-ee’s on the map—its fabulous restrooms!
5. Space Center Houston – Houston, TX
The sprawling metropolis of Houston is Texas’ largest city, and the fourth largest in the US. While you can see an abundance of interesting places in Houston, you’ll want to experience what it’s perhaps most famous for—its connection with NASA and space exploration.
The best place to immerse yourself in NASA and outer space is Space Center Houston. As a space and science exploration learning center, there are multiple exhibits where you can see authentic spacecraft, artifacts, and equipment firsthand (including moon rocks!).
Are you an astronaut at heart? If so, you’ll want to take Space Center Houston’s NASA Tram Tour to see NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where astronauts are trained.
6. The World’s Largest Flea Market – Canton, TX
Famously known as the world’s largest flea market, First Monday Trade Days in Canton has been a marketplace of trade (and a shopper’s dream!) for over 150 years.
Held over four days each month year-round, First Monday hosts over 5,000 vendors selling a cornucopia of antiques, furnishings, collectibles, home goods, and unique finds. Good walking shoes are an absolute must, as the flea market spans 450 acres.
If you love shopping, people watching, or just exploring, you’ll discover the world’s largest flea market provides something for everyone, often attracting over 100,000 visitors each month. Come early if you can!
7. Big Thicket National Preserve
Known for its piney woods and sprawling forests, a visit to East Texas wouldn’t be complete without spending time in the Big Thicket National Preserve. Originally the nation’s first preserve in the National Park System, the Big Thicket is a convergence of dynamic ecosystems.
At over 108,000 acres, the Big Thicket is your ticket to getting away from it all during your East Texas vacation. A great place for hiking and backpacking, the preserve offers over 40 miles of trails to explore.
Visitors can also enjoy multiple canoe and kayak adventures exploring its rivers and waterways. Plus, with its famous biodiversity, bird watching and wildlife viewing abound.
8. Kemah Boardwalk – Kemah, TX
Nestled along the bay outside Houston, the Kemah Boardwalk provides a picturesque weekend escape filled with seaside family fun.
With an amusement park, carnival games, regular themed events, and live entertainment performances, there’s plenty to soak in and experience. Plus, the Kemah Boardwalk provides multiple waterfront restaurants (including excellent seafood options), as well as shops to explore.
Want to be in the center of the action, but with an easy retreat to rest nearby? You’ll want to book a room at the Boardwalk Inn, the Kemah Boardwalk’s only hotel (with great views of the bay!).
9. Texas State Railroad – Palestine, TX
All aboard for an East Texas train adventure! On the Texas State Railroad, the official railroad of Texas, you can take a step back in time while touring the beautiful scenery of the Texas countryside.
Riding in a vintage 1920s steam engine, the train travels between Palestine and Rusk for four hours of relaxation. Each journey includes historic narration, food and beverage service, and a variety of railcar experiences, from presidential cars and first class to the sky observation dome and open-air coach.
The Texas State Railroad also provides a number of themed rides, including brunch and dinner trains and their popular Polar Express ride at Christmas.
10. Houston Art Car Parade – Houston, TX
A tradition for over 35 years, the Houston Art Car Parade celebrates Houston’s visual art scene and creative self-expression. You won’t find artistic car creations like these anywhere else!
As Houston’s largest free event, this four-day extravaganza draws over 200,000 spectators to see over 250 rolling works of art parading across Houston. Live music, festive food and drinks, kids’ activities, and the Legendary Art Car Ball are just a few of the things you’ll experience.
This quirky celebration provides a unique slice of East Texas culture. If you’re feeling extra inspired, you can plan to enter your own car into next year’s show!
11. Texas’ Oldest Town – Nacogdoches, TX
Founded in 1779, Nacogdoches is considered the oldest town in Texas—and a charming one worth exploring during your East Texas vacation.
With its brick-lined streets and vintage vibes, downtown Nacogdoches provides unique small-town shops, restaurants, and lots of history.
In addition, Nacogdoches is famous for being part of the Texas Azalea Trail. With beautiful gardens, an arboretum, and 25 miles of Azalea trails to explore each spring, you’ll want to have your cameras ready when visiting “The Garden Capital of Texas.”
Did we miss any of your favorite places in East Texas?
Let us know in the comments if there are any more places in East Texas that you would add to our list!