The exterior of a white cottage-style building with green shrubs in front

The Sterne-Hoya House Museum and Library

Two men stand next to each other with cigars inside of a brightly-lit store

Nacogdoches Cigar Company

Six flags have flown over Texas, but the small Piney Woods city of Nacogdoches, or Nac as locals call it, claims nine. The stories behind those extra three flags—a dramatic mix of scrappy rebellion, bravado, and blunders—are the stuff of legends. Originally a Caddo Indian settlement circa 1200 AD, but officially established by a Spanish trader in 1779, this friendly burg is considered by many to be Texas’ oldest town. While that claim is debated, one thing is certain: Nacogdoches delivers an old-timey travel experience. Whether it be a stroll down the red brick streets of the historic downtown, a visit to a Caddo Indian Mound, or an amble through a lush azalea garden, an exploration of Nacogdoches immerses visitors in its unique history and culture amid the sweet-smelling pines of East Texas.

A painting of nine flags on a wooden door

The nine flags over Nacogdoches

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A collage of images of places mentioned in this story, below

Stay

Eat

See

Learn

Shop

Drink

1 / The Fredonia Hotel
Check in at the midcentury Fredonia Hotel, named for the 1826 rebellion in which settlers declared themselves independent from Mexico. The Republic of Fredonia, one of the city’s flags, was short-lived but looms large in local lore. Restored in 2017, the hotel today is a deluxe headquarters for an exploration of the town’s past. Rooms start at $159/night.

2 / Charles Bright Visitor Center
Located on the square within a former stone-walled post office from 1918, the visitor center houses a small museum full of tales of local revolts and heroes. The walking tour brochure guides visitors to a Caddo Indian Mound and the Lanana Creek Trail, an almost 6-mile trek that was once a Caddo footpath leading into the Piney Woods.

3 / Sterne-Hoya House Museum and Library
This historic landmark was a dogtrot built in 1830 by a German immigrant who participated in both the Fredonian Rebellion and the Texas Revolution. Here you can visit one of the state’s first wine cellars and ponder rumors that a grown Sam Houston was baptized there. Free tours run from 10 a.m.-
4 p.m. Wed-Sat.

4 / Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden
Bright azaleas, sweet-scented camellias,­ and delicate Japanese maples envelop the senses at this lush garden located on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus, an anchor of Nacogdoches cultural life. Its easy walking trail winds through a mind-boggling variety of plant specimens. Marvel at the wonders of horticulture as you stroll.

5 / Clear Springs ­Restaurant​
Even the food in Nacogdoches has history.­ The building of this local restaurant previously served as a grocery store warehouse built in the 1900s. What was once the first refrigerated warehouse west of the Mississippi is now a family-owned eatery known for its fried catfish and other comfort foods. It’s one of the New Braunfels eatery’s four locations.

6 / Maklemore’s Ale House & Bistro
For a superlative burger, head to this laid-back bistro with a college vibe. Concoctions like the barbecue bacon smoked gouda burger and the cheeseburger “eggsplosion” will fill the belly and perhaps inspire a post-meal digestive stroll. Craft brews and wings are also offered, as well as an ample selection of salads to balance out the decadence.

7 / Fredonia Brewery
With its tasty Nine Flags Amber Ale and Pine Cove Porter, this homegrown brewery celebrates the town through a skillful balancing of yeast, malt, and hops. A rotating lineup of food trucks serves global dishes, and trivia nights, book club meetings, and live music bring in the locals for community fun. Tours allow visitors a glimpse into the art of brewing.

8 / Main Street
Peruse the shops around downtown’s Main Street, including The Bosslight, an independent bookstore stocked with Texas writers as well as a vinyl collection, art, and gifts. Nearby, check out Nacogdoches Cigar Company. More than a purveyor of cigars and pipes, this local institution sells “mantiques”—knives, fishing memorabilia, and other masculine relics.

Blueberry Bash

Every June, those red downtown streets turn blue for the Texas Blueberry Festival, a celebration of East Texas’ favorite berry. With live music, blueberry-centric cuisine, quilt and car shows, and opportunities to pick your own berries at a nearby farm, this festival has been a mainstay of Nacogdoches culture for more than 30 years. Contests at the event include the Miss Blueberry Pageant, a blueberry cupcake bakeoff, a 42 domino tournament, a 5K, and, of course, a blueberry pie-eating contest. tbf.nacogdoches.org

An illustration of an RV

Eagle Nest Hidden Lake Resort

This 86-acre RV park with rolling hills and hiking trails is a nature lover’s hideaway. Its 14-acre lake offers fishing, canoeing, and paddleboarding. The owners handle reservations by phone only. Give the office a call before you arrive to obtain the code for the security gate. Amenities include Wi-Fi and boat rentals. 19299 US 59 North, Nacogdoches. 936-520-0838; ­eaglenesthiddenlake.com

From the June 2024 issue

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