A man in a cowboy hat stands with two women dressed as Rangerettes in front of a mural of many more Rangerettes on a blue background

© Todd White Stills and Motion

Kilgore is an authentic Piney Woods town boasting the “World’s Richest Acre,” a collection of oil derricks just off Main Street that memorializes the town’s oil industry. As you continue tripping, you’ll find an entire gusher’s worth of exciting things to do and tasty dishes to sample in this place rich in East Texas culture.

East Texas Oil Museum

To stand in Kilgore is to stand atop what was once the most productive oil field in the history of the world. This museum takes visitors back to the boom days, which started in 1930 with the discovery of the East Texas oil field. Inside, you’ll find a detailed recreation of an entire main street, complete with a muddy road full of vehicles and mule carts going about their daily business. Animated figures tell their stories as you stroll from building to building and learn about daily life in another era. The theater even smells like popcorn.

 

Country Tavern

This restaurant has been filling Texan bellies since the boom days—1939, to be exact. Inside this windowless metal building outside of town, you’ll find some of the best barbecue in Texas. While the brisket and sausage are great, the pork ribs made this spot famous. The tavern serves about 4,000 pounds of sweet, smoky, and sticky ribs each week. These ribs are different from the dry-rubbed ribs Texas is known for, but one bite will make you understand why they’ve been around so long.

Rangerette Showcase and Museum

It’s hard to imagine sports without sideline entertainment. The tradition began in 1940 when Gussie Nell Davis started the Kilgore Rangerettes, the first precision dance team in the U.S. This museum at Kilgore College is the best place to learn about the Rangerettes’ storied history and how they truly changed the game. One thing they’ve never changed much is their signature uniforms.

 

BigHead Creek Mountain Bike Trail

East Texas isn’t known for hills because they’re all hidden by the trees. But underneath the canopy, you’ll find this 3.3-mile loop for single-track mountain biking. This trail follows a sandy creek, sometimes so closely that if you stray merely a foot, you’ll take a 10-foot tumble into the water. The city has also built jumps, berms, ramps, and other obstacles for an extra challenge. I highly recommend the see-saw feature—like riding on a see-saw for bikes.

 

Brigitta’s Hungarian Restaurant

Brigitta Gyorfi and her husband, Mike Csabai, bring the flavors of Central Europe to East Texas. Their signature spice, Hungarian paprika, lends every dish a sweet and hot punch. Start your meal with a few cabbage rolls, then move to the authentic “chicken paprikas” consisting of creamy stewed chicken served atop noodles with a dollop of sour cream. You won’t leave “hungary.”

 

So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.


Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS. To view the Kilgore episode visit thedaytripper.com. Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.

From the March 2022 issue
The June 2022 cover of Texas Highways Magazine, featuring an illustration of Texas objects and the text "Postcards from the Perimeter"


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The July 2022 issue of Texas Highways Magazine, "Return to the River"


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The July 2022 cover of Texas Highways Magazine, the River Issue


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