Kilgore is a quintessentially East Texas town that offers a multitude of fun things to do and see. Discover Kilgore’s history in the oil industry, experience beloved annual events like East Texas Oilmen’s Chili Cookoff and the Texas Shakespeare Festival, and tour any of the three museums in Kilgore including the East Texas Oil Museum, Rangerettes Showcase & Museum and the Texas Broadcast Museum. All of this should keep you busy, but there’s more. Shop until you drop in Kilgore’s charming downtown Main Street, and eat to your heart’s content at the many delectable Kilgore restaurants.
There are many memorable things to do in Kilgore. Below is a list of some of our favorites.
If there was ever an iconic Texas photo op, the World’s Richest Acre Park is it. Nowhere else will you see this many oil derricks lined up together. One original derrick and 12 restored derricks cover half of a block in downtown Kilgore, commemorating an area that once had 24 working oil wells that pumped 2.5 million barrels of “black gold” over 30 years. The East Texas Oil Field was discovered during the oil boom of the 1930’s, leading to a rapid increase in Kilgore’s population and a drilling craze that led to wells being drilled on street corners and even through the floor of the Kilgore National Bank.
The derricks at the World’s Richest Acre Park are topped with stars that are lighted during the Christmas season, giving Kilgore the nickname “City of Stars.” Oh, and did we mention that during warm months of the year, the Fridays after Five outdoor concert series offers live music under the oil derricks.
The discovery and production of oil has been such a large part of Kilgore’s history that a visit to the East Texas Oil Museum is a must. Located on the campus of Kilgore College, the museum is full of exhibits that tell the story of the people and communities involved in the oil boom of the early 1930’s. These tales are told through a variety of colorful dioramas, movies, and audio presentations combined with displays of antiques donated by residents of East Texas.
Once you’re done exploring the exhibits, venture into Boomtown, USA, a full-scale recreation of a bustling East Texas town complete with an old-fashioned general store and a barbershop, where you can hear locals gossip. Finish your immersive trip to Boomtown, USA, with a trip to the theater which screens authentic historical footage of the boom period. With its exhibits and presentations, the East Texas Oil Museum provides an unmatched look at how the discovery of oil shaped communities across East Texas, including Kilgore.
Kilgore impresses with its attention to the performing arts. One of the finest examples of this is the Texas Shakespeare Festival, the only professional theater in East Texas that hosts a variety of shows throughout July. The festival brings in casts of acclaimed actors from across the country to perform several plays from Shakespeare’s canon, as well as other beloved classics. In addition to the plays, there are panel discussions, backstage tours, Chinese Theatre Night, and acting workshops. This Kilgore festival is one of the most celebrated Shakespeare festivals in the country. The nearby Texas Shakespeare Garden is modeled after the original venue in England and features plants and shrubs referenced in Shakespeare plays. A trip to Kilgore for this festival is sure to have you appreciating the culture in this East Texas town.
You’ve heard “everything’s bigger in Texas,” and Kilgore does it up big for Christmas. From mid-November through mid-December, visit Kilgore for Christmas Under the Stars, a celebration that features a variety of ways to revel in the holiday season. The festivities begin with Christmas in the Patch Derrick and Tree Lighting when all the stars atop the oil derricks are lit, creating a beautiful display over the city’s skyline. Make sure you’re here the Saturday after Thanksgiving for Kilgore’s Mingle & Jingle. Walk the streets of the downtown area and listen to festive holiday music while you meander through the shops that stay open after hours and offer a variety of refreshments for you to enjoy.
During this month-long celebration you can tour impressively-decorated homes, wave at Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Christmas parade, and enjoy the high kick routines at the Rangerette Christmas Show. There’s also the Snowhill Festival, when you can tube down the snow-covered Mount Kilgore! After all, who doesn’t love a white Christmas?
For many people when they hear the word “Texas,” the first two words that pop into their mind are “oil” and “barbecue,” and you’ll see plenty of both when you visit Kilgore. This city offers a handful of impressive barbecue joints where you can start your culinary tour of East Texas. One such place is Kilgore’s Country Tavern. People have flocked here from across the state for a taste of the much-celebrated, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs and brisket that Country Tavern has been serving up since it opened back in 1939.
Country Tavern starts with the highest quality of tender pork loin back ribs, marinates them in their secret dry rub with upwards of 20 ingredients, and cooks them for up to four hours. The wait is well worth it. Add a scoop of creamy potato salad and a side of sliced pickles and, well, need we say more? Don’t just take our word for it. Country Tavern has been eternalized by the likes of the Food Network, the Travel Channel, Texas Monthly, and John DeMers’ book Follow the Smoke: 14,783 Miles of Great Texas Barbecue. Come taste for yourself what all the fuss is about.
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