The Best Cities and Towns Worth a Visit

McKinney, Texas, captured the title of Best Downtown (for a population over 50K) thanks to its 42-square-block area and a friendly shuttle service.

If anything comes close to state pride in Texas, it's community spirit. The readers of County Line Magazine have recognized several cities and towns for the Best of the Upper East Side of Texas contest that deserve a salute -- as well as a visit!

Check out these noteworthy places and make plans to see them in person really soon. [For the complete list of winners across all categories, visit]

Best Improved Town

Quitman. Although Quitman is the county seat of Wood County, for many years there was not much going on in the downtown area and was often just a pass-through point between the thriving towns of Mineola and Winnsboro. Things have changed for the better in Sissy Spacek’s hometown with a revitalization program that started a couple of years ago. Helping to create a downtown dining district already are Speakeasy Coffeehouse serving delicious coffees, lattes, espressos and more; Tony B’s Texas Kitchen with an extensive menu of scratch-made items including hand-picked steaks and classic Southern sides and a full wine list and bar; and Your Appetites, a to-go style lunch restaurant and bakery that uses fresh, seasonal ingredients for their menu that includes chickpea salad, pimento cheese sandwiches, fried chicken sandwiches, baked salmon, and much more. The Shops at 107, a retail renovation, opened in December. New antique store, a music hall, distillery, and so much more coming soon to this rapidly growing tiny town. Not to be missed is the Quitman Arboretum & Botanical Garden with 23 acres of beautiful gardens, nature trails, the picturesque George Bridge, the historic Stinson House, and Governor Hogg Cabin. (903) 763-2223, Quitman Texas Development Corporation

Best County Courthouse

Cass County. Linden. This courthouse was built in 1859 and has remained in operation since 1861 making it the only existing Antebellum courthouse in Texas and the oldest courthouse in continuous operation. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hall of Fame: Hopkins County, Sulphur Springs

Best Downtown

Under 50k Population

Mineola. Mineola offers a variety of possibilities summed up by both its red-bricked streets and its advent from a town built around the railroad to a town serviced by Amtrak twice daily. Amid all those “comings and goings,” Mineola welcomes guests to enjoy live music at the gazebo, fried pies and fudge for sale, a farmers’ market (in season), the Select Theater movies and stage plays, and lots of family-friendly restaurants and shopping fun. Although small in size, there’s nothing confining about downtown Mineola.

Hall of Fame: Winnsboro

Over 50k Population

McKinney. It began 170 years ago as a center of commerce in the region and now downtown McKinney offers 42-plus square blocks of nonstop things to see and do. Among a fine assortment of preserved buildings are more than 100 unique shops and two dozen restaurants. Visitors find art galleries, antiques, gifts, home décor, apparel, furniture and more. A free electric shuttle simply called “Dash” makes getting around a breeze as well. The downtown also includes the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts for art lovers and the McKinney Performing Arts Center — actually housed in the Collin County Courthouse —  for lovers of live theater and visiting acts like live music and more.

Best Improved Community Space

Edom Art Emporium. An unsightly old abandoned gas station sat amidst the artists in downtown Edom for more than 10 years before it was purchased last year by local entrepreneur James Wilhite. Built in the mid 1940s to early 1950s, the building has a small store, bay area, and upstairs apartment. Wilhite painted it “Caribbean Blue” and it didn’t take long for a group of artists to claim it as the Edom Art Emporium, while the apartment upstairs is leased. The emporium holds a collection of original and one-of-a-kind art, handmade soaps, and gifts. 8281 FM 279, (903) 714-7414.

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