Take in the spectacular scenery of the Piney Woods on a road trip and visit iconic museums along the way. Shop until you drop in a picturesque downtown area, then follow all that retail therapy with a delicious meal at a local restaurant. Hike along tranquil trails and leap into a cool lake at a beautiful state park. Revel in all these experiences in Henderson, a charming town settled among the rolling hills and pine forests of East Texas. An ideal destination for a weekend getaway, Henderson offers sublime shopping and dining, fascinating historic sites, and a wealth of lakes and state parks to play in. As you can imagine, there’s no shortage of remarkable things to do in Henderson. Get to know some of them by reading on, then plan your next getaway here.
Enjoy the rolling hills, captivating forests, and scenic views of the Piney Woods of East Texas by cruising on the highways and side roads in and around Henderson. Just 45 minutes southeast of Tyler, this area provides a plethora of stops worthy of the drive. Put together your own driving tour, or let the City of Henderson’s Department of Tourism put together a list for you. Here are two tours that can’t be missed:
Historic Black Gold Oilfield Driving Tour
Visit the East Texas Oil Field, once the largest oil field in the world, and stop several places that represent the long history of the region on this driving tour. Marvel at Texas oil boom memorabilia and tour the Sid White family home, once an “oil field tent house,” at the Gaston Museum in Joinerville. Discover a heart-wrenching piece of Texas history at the London Museum Café & Soda Fountain, a memorial to the nearly 300 students and teachers who died in a 1937 natural gas explosion at the New London School. View Adolph Hitler's telegram and Walter Cronkite's report about the incident as you tour the museum, then stop for a bite to eat in the attached restaurant.
Given the scenic nature of this part of the Piney Woods, the East Texas Wildflower Driving Tour is less about a specific route and more about the time of year. Drive on any of the winding country roads in the area in April and May and you’re bound to see fields of vibrant wildflowers, including Indian paintbrushes, crimson clovers, and evening primroses. Yet there are two prominent routes that you can follow that retrace the paths of Native Americans and early settlers and to state parks and charming small towns. Find out more about these routes here and plan your own adventure to some of the prettiest places in East Texas.
In many ways, Henderson and Rusk County’s history represents many of the tall tales of Texas. Discover the town’s tall tales while hunting down all the historical markers in Rusk County. Much more fun and memorable than a history class, finding these markers is a great way to get to know Henderson and East Texas while also getting quite a few awesome pictures for your Instagram.
Visit the statue of Thomas J. Rusk, the county’s namesake who was Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, and helped draft the Texas Constitution. Stroll by beautiful historic homes with Texas Historical Medallions like the Howard Dickinson House and the Kangerga Home, and explore the downtown area home to 21 historic buildings. Grab a walking tour brochure of the area at the Henderson Chamber of Commerce to get your adventure off on the right foot.
Do you typically set aside some time for shopping when you travel? If your answer is yes, then you’ve got to visit Downtown Henderson. Beautifully restored and highly distinct old-fashioned storefronts house a wide variety of shops just waiting for you to explore. Peruse the high fashion items at Nancy G’s, where you’ll find apparel, shoes, and jewelry, and also be able to get a facial or manicure at their salon. Search for a one-of-a-kind find among all the vintage treasures at Sweet Pickins Antique Market — check out their Willie Nelson candles and hand-crafted furniture. Find a piece of art that speaks to you at Art Alive Studios and Gallery, where you can actually watch the artists working and meet the creators of the masterpieces.
When your belly starts to rumble, refuel at one of the many cafes and eateries on Main Street Henderson. Try a chocolate frappe or mango smoothie at MoJoe's Coffee Café, where they regularly host open mic night and live music. For a bit heartier of a meal, head on over to the Fork & Cork, an eatery, wine bar, and gourmet market serving up healthy meals and tasty appetizers. Finish up with a turtle cheesecake or triple chocolate and coconut pecan cupcake at The NOOK Sweets & Eats.
There’s plenty to shopping and dining to do in Downtown Henderson, but the best part might be that the district is walkable, so you can leave your car behind.
Breathe in the fresh air and revel in the sunshine at one of Henderson’s stunning parks. Stay in Henderson and you’ll be near a number of East Texas lakes and state parks that offer endless things to do sure to please all outdoor enthusiasts, adrenaline seekers, and nature lovers. For you music fans out there, check out a concert at Durango’s Canyon, a unique venue set in an impressive crater about 15 minutes south of Henderson. Along with the concerts, Durango’s Canyon hosts bike rallies, crawfish boils, and barbecue cook-offs throughout the year. Come for any of these events and eat at the on-site restaurant, stay overnight in one of the on-site campsites or cabins, explore the ATV and golf cart trails, and fish in one of the ponds.
If you’re looking to get away from it all for a while, Henderson is surrounded by beautiful state parks where you can do just that. Swim, water ski, and canoe on the tranquil waters of the lake in Martin Creek Lake State Park, a 286-acre park that also features hiking and biking trails set among rolling hills and towering pine trees. Another option is Lake Forest Park, a picturesque 34-acre green space with a fishing lake stocked with catfish and crappie, a one-mile paved jogging trail, and a playground, all within a few minutes from downtown Henderson. There’s even more fishing, swimming, and boating to be had at Lake Striker Marina & Restaurant, an eatery, concert venue, and park settled on the gorgeous shore of Lake Striker.
Northeast Texas is known for its breathtaking beauty, and Henderson’s wealth of parks and outdoor spaces provide many places from which you can take it all in.
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