Somewhere between East and northeast Texas lies the charming town of Longview. As the legend goes, railroad workers inspired the town’s name in the 1870s when they stepped on Rock Hill and proclaimed, “Wow, that’s a long view.” Whether enjoying the namesake horizons or forests of towering pine trees, you can fill plenty of long days exploring all this town has to offer.
Balloon Adventures USA
You have to start early if you want to participate in Longview’s proud tradition of hot air balloon racing: The best time to go up is at sunrise. I jumped in the basket with balloon pilot Dr. Bill Bussey—who holds 15 world records in the sport—and quickly ascended into the sky. As we bobbed up and down just above the trees, I asked where we were going. “I don’t know,” Bussey responded, “but I’ve never left one in the air.” We were truly at the mercy of the wind.
It’ll Do Deli
This small, colorful deli will “do” a lot of things, including fill your belly with some of the tastiest panini sandwiches in Texas. The local favorite, Boathouse, is filled with chicken salad, avocado, jalapeño, and Monterey Jack cheese, pressed on a grill and cooked to cheesy-crispy-gooey perfection. Don’t skip the house-made jalapeño poppers stuffed with pimento cheese.
Gregg County Historical Museum
This bank-turned-museum resides in the middle of the historical district and explores fascinating local lore, like the tale of how the Dalton Gang once robbed a Longview bank, and how the town once had a professional baseball team named the “Cannibals.” Eeek! The Caddo tools and pottery collected by local archeologist Buddy Calvin Jones are most impressive. With thousands of pieces, it’s one of the most extensive collections in the U.S.
This small, private university is worth a visit to learn more about one of the most innovative engineers in the world—R.G. LeTourneau. Some call him the Thomas Edison of heavy equipment because he designed and built earth movers, scrapers, and off-shore drilling platforms. A photo exhibit, The Man, His Machines, and His Mission, captures LeTourneau’s passion for innovation.
East Texas may not be top of mind when it comes to authentic Italian food, but Tuscan Pig challenges that preconception. The owners of this restaurant started selling Italian food at the farmers market using some of their family recipes. It was such a hit they opened this brick-and-mortar establishment in 2016 and expanded the menu. My first piece of advice is to order their handmade country lasagna with layers of noodles, cheese, red sauce, and the namesake Tuscan-style pork. My second piece of advice is to loosen your belt and enjoy.
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 Longview episode visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.