You’d be hard-pressed to find a city more steeped in our state’s lore than Nacogdoches, a sleepy college town of 32,000 nestled deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas. This is the oldest town in the state. Nine flags have flown over it, three more than Texas itself; Native settlements formed here as long as 10,000 years ago. The Caddo Indians who first lived here were successful farmers, thanks to the region’s rich soil and plentiful rain. That agrarian tradition is carried on today in the form of fresh, local produce and mouth-watering barbecue. Of course, a town of this maturity has historic homes to tour and antiques shops to scour, but there’s still plenty to do here for visitors who are looking for something new.
Stephen F. Austin State University
Take in the East Texas air during a walking tour of this university. You can view the statue of Stephen F. Austin and follow the guides to the student center and library. Look for the recreated Stone Fort Museum, a memorial to the Nacogdoches home of Antonio Gil Y’Barbo, constructed circa 1790. Consider a stroll through Ruby M. Mize Azalea Garden, which explodes with color every spring. Tours are available Monday through Friday and select Saturdays.
Make a beeline for this smokehouse joint if you’re craving brisket, sausage, or ribs covered in a sweet Southern sauce or dry rub. This no-frills restaurant on the outskirts of town brings a blue-collar crowd. I love their East-Texas-style ‘cue, but I recommend the cowboy sirloin: 14 ounces, thin-cut, and grilled to perfection. It’s served on a metal tray because it’s too darn big to fit on a normal plate.
Millard’s Crossing Historic Village
This site, located at the far north end of Nacogdoches, holds 16 historic structures. Visitors can pretend to cook a meal inside the 1843 dogtrot cabin or learn about the history of the area inside of a log schoolhouse. More adventurous visitors might enjoy stoking the forge at the blacksmith shop, and if you want a taste of the country life, try your hand at shucking corn. After a trip to Millard’s Crossing, you’re guaranteed to have a much higher appreciation for modern conveniences.
Front Porch Distillery
This was the first legal distillery in Nacogdoches, a town with a colorful history of moonshining. The Bradford family produces moonshine, vodka, rum, and whiskey, offering it to guests in their rustic tasting room and outdoor garden. Take a tour of the distillery and then sip Texas-made spirits mixed into handcrafted cocktails.
The Fredonia Hotel
This boutique hotel transports visitors back to the 1950s. The building has been renovated more than once over the decades—recently it underwent an overhaul, restoring the place to the opulence of its glory days. The lobby’s 1st City Café overlooks the midcentury pool and offers an ideal dinner spot. I recommend the Korean tacos for a burst of unexpected flavor in this old Texas town.
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 Nacogdoches episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.