A change of scenery for your “stay-cation” (This article was originally published on 05/25/11) Less than a two-hour drive from Houston, Beaumont gives visitors a place to experience a nice change of scenery, and should definitely be added your list of destinations for a weekend getaway. While visiting Beaumont, there are plenty of discoveries you’re sure to make that may not be on my list, but this will serve as a good starting point.
The Texas Energy Museum, where exhibits are designed to thrill, educate and enlighten all ages, was one of our favorite stops. “Unlocking the Energy of Oil” is the star exhibit to see here. We walked next door to the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, where we enjoyed several exhibits that were on display. While you’re in the area, explore the diversity and beauty of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Activities include birding, swimming, canoeing, hiking, fishing and a scenic tour aboard The Cardinal River Boat on the Neches River, which is one way to bring nature to you.
Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a must-see. Shangri La is spread over 252 acres, and is located just a few miles east of Beaumont. Find the serenity you’ve been looking for at Shangri La, where you can enjoy activities including birding and a swamp boat ride. This is a place to roam and soak in thebeauty of nature, where you’ll find more than 300 plant species in five formal “rooms” and four sculpture “rooms.” Gator Country Adventure Park and Restaurant is a great family destination. This unique park lets you have hands-on experience feeding live gators, as you learn about their habitats. You will see more than 130 gators, including “Big Al” the 13-foot, 1,100 pound alligator.
St. Anthony’s Catholic Cathedral, which was granted Minor Basilica status by Pope Benedict XVI, is the highlight of The Faith Trail, where you’ll see unique and historic places of worship. The McFaddin-Ward House, which was built in 1906, will simply amaze you with its beauty and splendor of that era. Guided tours of this stately home are available. The McFaddin-Ward House is just one of many historic home tours available in Beaumont. This was one of our favorite tours, where we could imagine life in 1906, and we could also realize the impact of the invention of air-conditioning. This house has ties to the Spindletop oil gusher, which was another favorite on our tour list. The Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum is located on the campus of Lamar University, and it’s the world’s only working gusher replica. It was fun to tour the Old West boom town replica and take in a bygone era. Of course, you won’t want to miss the Downtown Entertainment & Museum District. Crockett Street Entertainment District in historic downtown Beaumont is the place to discover both casual and elegant dining in an area of brick-paved sidewalks, restaurants and museums. It’s the place to discover the nightlife of the city – a little blend of jazz, crawfish, Tex-Mex and culture. We dined at the popular Suga’s Deep South Cuisine and Jazz Bar on Bowie Street, and enjoyed live entertainment with an eloquently prepared meal. The next day we tried delicious Tex-Mex at the colorful Rancho Grande Restaurant on Crockett Street. A surprise discovery we found in downtown Beaumont was the Fire Museum of Texas. This is quite a treasure and a little known asset to the city. You will find the perfect photo-op at the entrance of the museum. Kids will love posing in front of the 24-foot, Dalmatian-spotted fire hydrant, which was donated by Disney. Did you know that the flavor of southeast Texas is a combination of Texas and Cajun influences? You’ll find Texas barbecue, along with spicy crawfish dishes, gumbo and … barbecued crabs? Really? Beaumont’s proximity to the Louisiana border and the Gulf of Mexico will make it one of your favorite places to find fresh seafood and “mudbugs.”
Last but not least on the list of things to see and do in Beaumont is shopping. Your choice of malls, boutiques or antique shops will definitely require walking shoes. The unique antique shops we visited were well worth our time – Tattered Suitcase and Urban Habitat, where we could have spent many more hours. If you need to unwind at the end of your shopping spree, check out one of the city’s many luxurious day spas. Or, make a stop at Rao’s Bakery for coffee and something scrumptious. That’s just what we did, and we recommend it highly. We stayed at the chic, comfortable and economical Red Roof Inn in Beaumont. This property is the “Next Generation” design, which features amenities that include granite countertops, new plush bedding and flat- screen TVs, which makes this a weekend getaway choice that is both affordable and unique.
For more information, visit www.beaumontcvb.com and www.redroof.com. Photos (from top to bottom): The McFaddin-Ward House sits majestically on lush grounds. Take a walk through an old west boom town replica at the Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum tour. Disney donated this Dalmation-inspired fire hydrant to the Texas Fire Museum in Beaumont.