Zipline over alligators, discuss theology over pints of craft beer and take in a view of miles of East Texas terrain from the basket of a hot air balloon. These unusual adventures are among the many offbeat things you can do in Longview, an East Texas town with more than its fair share of quirks. Read on to discover how you can create your own unconventional fun in real East Texas.
Soar in a Hot Air Balloon
Experience the freedom of wide-open skies and the thrill of floating amongst the clouds with Balloon Adventures USA. Take in a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful fields, lakes, and forests from the basket of an actual hot air balloon. Bring your family or enjoy a romantic sunrise or sunset balloon ride. With decades of experience and safety accolades (including a 40-year safety award), you can trust you are in good hands. Finish your journey with a traditional post-flight champagne toast (non-alcoholic beverages are also available).
Once you have had a hot air balloon flight of your own, you will not want to miss the Great Texas Balloon Race (June 17 – 19) at Longview Convention Complex. This world-class showdown between the best hot air balloon pilots on Earth is the reason Longview is known as the “Balloon Race Capital of Texas.” Watch the balloon races each morning, tap your toes at evening concerts, and admire the “balloon glows” after sunset. Bring your camera for some majestic shots and the whole family for a weekend full of fun for all ages.
Explore East Texas by Train
It’s not every day you get to ride on a train, but you can check this off your bucket list in Longview. In fact, it is one of the best ways to explore the Piney Woods. Longview is home to the fifth busiest Amtrak station in Texas, and its Colonial Revival red brick depot is the perfect starting point to discovering the region. Kick back and watch as loblolly pines and sweetgum trees pass by from the comfort of your plush seat.
For a fun day trip, head west from Longview’s depot and you will pass through Gladewater and Big Sandy en route to Mineola, home to one of the prettiest downtown areas in Texas. Browse local shops, check out the farmers market and historic theater, and get a drink and a bite to eat before hopping back on board the eastbound train back that afternoon, just in time for a nightcap in downtown Longview.
For longer overnight trips, go farther west to Dallas or Fort Worth, or venture east to check out the spectacular Old Harrison County Courthouse in Marshall or the stunning Ace of Clubs House in Texarkana, a stately 1885 Italian Victorian home built in the shape of a club from a deck of cards.
Zip Line Over Gators
Yes, you read that right. Beyond being one heck of an ice breaker, zip lining over gators is one of the coolest things you can do at Gators & Friends Zipline Adventure in nearby Greenwood, La. Choose between the four-line or seven-line courses and you will fly among the treetops. Both courses end with an exhilarating 750-foot-long run over a pool full of alligators, an experience you will not find anywhere else. Finish your high-flying escapade by hanging out with the park’s resident camels, capybaras, ring-tailed lemurs, kangaroos, and other exotic critters.
Looking for more thrills? Conquer the Thomas Falls Zipline Challenge Course. Put your skills to the test on the Texas Tough Water Obstacle Course. Race your friends and family across the water on dueling 600-foot zip lines. Slide down a 100-foot-long “waterfall” slide, and compete to see who will finish first across the floating bridge, climbing wall, and other watery obstacles. Complete the course and you will have plenty of stories and more than a few things to laugh about later.
Treat Yourself to Amazing Barbecue
Are you even in Texas if you do not eat barbeque? While smoked brisket, ribs, and sausage are traditional favorites, you can sink your teeth into some surprising off-menu eats at Bodacious Bar-B-Q. We are talking burnt end boudin, smoked taters, Central Texas sausage, and whatever else the pit master feels like cooking up. If you are ready for a blast from the past, try the incredibly sinful Sloppy Joe sandwich with a side of potato salad at Carter’s Bar-B-Que. Or maybe you’d like to try something more internationally flavored like the brisket street corn, poblano taco sausage, and honey butter cornbread at Sunbird Barbecue. Whatever your eating style, Longview has the barbecue to fill the bill.
Spark Your Creative Energy
Ignite your passion for all things creative in downtown’s Arts!Longview Cultural District. Swing by the Longview Museum of Fine Arts to view a world-class traveling exhibit or the permanent collection. Enjoy the latte art on a warm mug of coffee at Silver Grizzly Espresso. Shop for a new best-seller at Longview’s newest book seller, Books & Barrels. Then head for the impressive pine trees of Longview Arboretum and Nature Center. Nestled just a stone’s throw away from downtown Longview, this verdant oasis is the ideal place to soak up the sun and unwind. Follow the tranquil trails past planted pines, dense woods, and open meadows throughout the arboretum’s lush 19 acres. As the only master-planned, multi-use garden in the area, the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center is just the place to renew your creative energy.
Stomp Some Grapes
As the old saying goes, sometimes you must get your feet dirty. In this case, it is by squashing grapes that will one day be turned into delicious wine. That is exactly what you can do at Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard and Winery during its annual harvest festivals, like the Red Grape Stomp and BBQ. Get your feet wet (and messy) in a grape stomping contest, eat a gourmet meal, enjoy live music, learn more about the grape crushing process, taste incredible wines, and go on a winery tour.
Can’t make it for the grape stomping? Nestled on 90 acres of rolling, sun-kissed hills lined with rows of lush grapevines, Enoch’s Stomp is a must visit through the year. Situated just 30 minutes northeast of Longview, it offers the full winery experience, from tastings and tours to winemaking classes and a restaurant that serves gourmet dishes and hosts live music. Visit and you will pamper your palate with a true taste of East Texas.
Discuss Theology Over Local Brews
When is the best time to talk about some of your deepest questions in life? Over a pint of craft beer, of course. If this sounds like the perfect pairing, find your way to Oil Horse Brewing Co. for Theology on Tap. Join fellow philosophers in discussing faith-based topics at this laid-back microbrewery.
For brew lovers who want to show off their vast array of knowledge, check out Trivia Night. While you impress everyone with your smarts, sip on a Ossamus—an earthy Saison named after the founder of Longview—or the 1877, a caramelly Irish Red. If you would prefer to show off your downward dog instead, sign up for Poses and Pints. Enjoy an invigorating yoga class complete with a brew. When you are all done with your poses, sip on a refreshing cold pint of Nodding Donkey, a fruity pale ale. Other craft beers are on tap year-round, as well as seasonal creations.