This Summer, Try a Staycation Instead

The Harbor at Rockwall

Darren Schnabel Photography

For those seeking fun weekend destinations where plenty of activities are easily within walking distance once they arrive, there’s no need to look further than the Upper East Side of Texas. From family-packed adventures to romantic getaways, girlfriend gatherings, and individual outings, here are a few hot locations to help plan rewarding getaways this summer.  (Map key below)

1.  The Harbor. Rockwall  
From the stellar service and ambience of the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront hotel to the getaway feel of Lake Ray Hubbard’s sailing and sunsets, waterfront dining, garden paths, and beautiful water fountains, The Harbor is an exceptional nearby getaway. Restaurants like Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, Dodie’s Cajun Diner, and Campisi’s Italian are inviting, relaxing locations for delicious food and drinks near the water’s edge. The Harbor is under new management and promises new shopping experiences, and its Cinemark movie theater shows the latest releases. During the summer, The Harbor offers a concert series by the lake and picnics are encouraged anytime. The Hilton has a great relaxing lakefront pool area and its own share of lake views. To book a room at the Hilton call 214.771.3700 or go to

2. Peninsula Ranch & Lodge. Lake Tawakoni 
Peninsula Ranch offers 550 acres of natural beauty on a secluded peninsula in the waters of Lake Tawakoni. Individual rooms or the entire lodge can be rented for groups, and there’s also a suite with its own kitchen. Typically, guests bring their own food and beverages and have access to the main kitchen or outdoor grill, but catering is also an option. Many rooms overlook the water and the ranch offers seven miles of shoreline, open fields of native grasses, and quiet nature trails. A unique feature here are two of the largest pecan trees in the state of Texas — one is close to 225 years old. Native whitetail deer often feed near the lodge as well as longhorns, black buck antelope, Axis and fallow deer. In addition, exotic animals like zebra, ostrich, emu, and elk are routinely seen at the ranch. Guests may fish along the shoreline or from two private piers or a boat. For extra enjoyment of Peninsula Ranch’s scenic trails, wagon tours are available by appointment.  Call 903.461.9924 or visit for more information. 

3. Mill Creek Ranch RV Park & Resort. Canton 
This award-winning location offers plenty to do onsite, both from the RV park and cabin rentals. The Grand Lodge is exquisite and on Friday nights, things are hopping with live singer-songwriter music, and refreshments. The pool and hot tub adjacent to the Grand Lodge are spectacular, on-site spa services include massage, and there’s another pool next to the RV Lodge — plus lots of kid-friendly activities like board and video games and scheduled outings like hay rides. Mill Creek also offers fishing, biking, nature trails, paddleboats, a nine-hole disc golf course, a children’s playground, birdwatching, horseshoes, volleyball and basketball. Pets are welcome and Mill Creek has a dog park onsite as well as plenty of walking trails. For more information and to make reservations, call 877.927.3439 or go to

4. Retreat in the Pines. Mineola 
This little gem, nestled in the piney woods north of Mineola, invites women to find relaxation, new friends, nature and peace in a nurturing environment. The women’s retreat weekends include yoga, wine, meditation, farm-to-table meals, and more. Yoga experience is not required. Massage is sometimes offered as well. Rooms and bathrooms are shared with other women as part of the experience. A guest cabin is available for groups of six or more. Learn more by calling 469.867.0766 or visit

5. Jellystone Park at Whispering Pines. Tyler 
This fun, Jellystone-themed resort has RV and tent sites in addition to cabin rentals. Featuring costumed characters like Yogi Bear who roam around and interact with guests, it is a great destination for families.  Situated on 47 acres north of Tyler — between Lindale and Hawkins — it has two swimming pools, sand volleyball, miniature golf, pickleball courts, basketball, laser tag, gem-mining nature trails and outdoor game areas. An onsite activities director plans games, contests, and other engaging, themed activities on weekends and most holidays. Special events this summer include Cinco de Mayo, Mothers Day, Yogi Bear’s Hawaiian Luau, Memorial Day Weekend, Fathers Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day Weekend. Call 903.858.2405 or visit for more information.

6. Barefoot Bay Marina. Pittsburg/Lake Bob Sandlin 
This award-winning, family-friendly waterfront resort offers an RV park as well as cabin rentals and tent sites, all adjacent to a variety of activities. There’s a boat ramp for those who want to bring their own, and paddleboats are also available. Located on the south side of Lake Bob Sandlin, unique in its connection to Cypress Springs Lake and Lake Monticello by earth dams, Barefoot Bay has a swimming beach, fishing area, sand volleyball and horseshoe pits. Other amenities include a game room, hiking trails, birdwatching, bike rentals, picnic pavilions, a hot tub, and a lively sports bar. The bar serves beer, wine and daiquiris as well as a full Americana menu of pizza, hamburgers, barbecue, sandwiches, Frito pie, burritos, and more. A jukebox plays all the latest hits and live bands perform for special events. For more information, call 903.856.3643 or visit  

7. Greer Farm. Daingerfield  (photo by Elizabeth Branca)
Touting its sustainable agriculture practices, Greer Farm puts out the welcome mat with lush pastures and towering pine and hardwood trees, gardens and animals accessible to guests, and ongoing cooking classes featuring farm fresh ingredients. Accommodations include four cabins equipped with kitchenettes and situated by a private 11-acre lake, plus a two-bedroom barn loft. Guests may rent paddleboats, kayaks, paddleboards and canoes, and fish off a dock.  Cabins are self-catered, but for groups of eight or more, private dining is available for dinner, and special arrangements are made for outdoor meals when the weather is nice. Focusing on an array of food and flavors, cooking classes involve hands-on participation, and, of course, enjoyment of the prepared food. Greer Farm is a no pets/no smoking venue, but the owners invite guests to help feed animals — viewing the ducks, pigs, geese, goats, sheep, lambs, and roosters; collecting eggs from chickens; and hand-feeding the horses. There are walking trails on the farm as well as a sand beach, volleyball, tetherball, and horseshoes. Bicycles are provided with cabin rentals, and May through mid-July, picking blueberries and blackberries is a favorite activity. To find out more about this adventure, call 903.645.3232 or visit for reservations.

8. Historic Jefferson
There are two quite-famous hotels in downtown Jefferson that make it easy to stay a few days and be part of this walkable Southern historic village. The Excelsior House Hotel takes guests back in time with its Southern charm and boasts an impressive roster of famous visitors like Ulysses S. Grant, Oscar Wilde and Lady Bird Johnson. The historic Jefferson Hotel offers Victorian charm and adjacent dining at Lamache’s Italian Restaurant. Downtown Jefferson guests have a variety of activities to choose from within walking distance of both two hotels. The city’s architecture is a major draw — commonly enjoyed during horse-drawn carriage rides — and attractions include Jay Gould’s Private Rail Car, the Jefferson Historical Museum, and the Jefferson Playhouse (with local theatre performances throughout the year). Golf carts are also available to rent downtown, and are street legal, and visitors frequently enjoy a ghost walk, historical tours, boat tours and train rides during their stays, while sampling the area’s shopping and dining options. For more information about a Jefferson getaway, call 903.665.3733 or go to

9. High Hill Farm. Arp 
High Hill Farm represents the dream of Jason and Sharon Romano, who designed an intimate vacation retreat inspired by their many travels to places like the romantic hillsides of Tuscany, the white-washed cottages of Santorini, Greece, the sophistication of Manhattan, and the charm of Seaside, Florida. Blending these styles together, they bring guests a captivating resort experience in the rolling wooded hills of East Texas. 

The resort combines its laid-back luxury with the natural beauty of the region. Visitors have access to 100 acres with winding, walking paths through a forest of ancient oak trees; a sparkling reflection pool with stunning views of the vineyards below; and casual dining with a farm fresh twist at Côte — serving a seasonal menu of simple yet flavorful dishes. Accommodations include charming bungalows nestled in the property’s picturesque hillside.  Call 903.730.5055 or visit to learn more or make reservations. 

10. Sabor A Pasion. Palestine 
This bed and breakfast and culinary getaway offers a peaceful and relaxing place to unwind. Situated on 25 acres, the scenic retreat includes full-service dining, spacious accommodations and gorgeous vineyard and garden views. Accommodation choices are four private cabins or two estate bedrooms — all generously-sized with private bathrooms, plush queen-sized beds, patio access and in-room dining.  For breakfast or dinner, guests may enjoy gourmet creations by Chef Simon Webster served in a variety of table settings.  Culinary and spa packages set the tone (and flavor) for a visit, and guests may join existing cooking classes that are regularly offered or have one specifically designed for a private group of at least six people. The spa services with licensed massage therapists are particularly popular, and yoga classes are also available for groups of six or more. With romantic packages for two that include flowers, chocolates, strawberries, champagne or a favorite wine, private dining may be arranged in the vineyard or B&B rooms. Learn more about this East Texas treasure or make reservations by calling 903.729.9500 or visiting  

11. Redlands Historic Inn. Palestine (Photo by Dave Schultz)
Situated in downtown Palestine, The Redlands Historic Inn offers overnight suites to groups and individuals. Built in 1914, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was at one time the headquarters for the International & Great Northern Railroad. Featuring great views from the rooftop patio, the inn is also home to The Redfire Grille, a fine dining establishment headed up by Executive Chef Christian Mailloux. With the award-winning chef’s extensive knowledge of wine and food pairings, Red Fire Grille serves up an evolving menu that keeps patrons coming back for more. For shoppers, The Redlands offers an eclectic collection of boutique fashions, candles, home fragrances, giftware, jewelry, and art by Texas artists. Just past the doors of the hotel are 12 square blocks of historical buildings,  including entertainment at the Texas Theater and welcoming possibilities at other restaurants, antique stores, Granny Muffin Wines, Eilenberger Bakery, the Texas Art Depot, Pint & Barrel Pub, and Sanctuary Retreat salon and spa —with occasional specials for Redlands guests. A good itinerary is a Saturday morning spa, afternoon shopping, a tour of the Art Tracks Outdoor Sculpture exhibit, and dinner. It’s a good idea to check with the Palestine Visitor Center to see what special events may be going on in the downtown area to help in planning this trip. For more information, call 903.729.2345 or visit

12. Pine Creek Country Inn. Nacogdoches (Daniel George Photography)
Located 10 miles west of Nacogdoches on 25 wooded acres, Pine Creek Country Inn is equipped with RV sites and cabins and creates a family-friendly haven that also welcomes pets under 20 pounds. Beyond a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and spa services that include massage, Pine Creek’s roster of activities includes archery, skeet shooting, outdoor games, swings and fishing ponds. The cabin rentals include in-room continental breakfast during the week and a Country Breakfast buffet at the Creekside Café on Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays. The Creekside Café is open Thursday-Saturday for dinner as well, offering salads, shrimp cocktail, lamb chops, salmon, beef bourguignon, Angus ribeye, burgers, and desserts like apple pie, bread pudding, and more. Guests are welcome to bring their own  alcoholic beverages, and the café offers menus for special events like Mothers Day Brunch and also accommodates groups by reservation. Call 936.560.6282  or visit for more information.  

Want to check out one of the RV getaways but don’t have an RV? There are several locations in the region that rent them:

  • 2 Guys RV and Storage. 7659 US Highway 69N, Tyler. 903.630.7400. 
  • Royce Rentals. Flint. 903.894.7978. 
  • Spring Hill RV Rental. Longview. 903.295.1608. 
  • S&R Rentals. Marshall. 903.935.1985.


1.  The Harbor. Rockwall
2.  Peninsula Ranch. Lake Tawakoni
3.  Mill Creek Ranch Resort. Canton
4.  Retreat in the Pines. Mineola
5.  Jellystone Park. Tyler
6.  Barefoot Bay Marina. Lake Bob Sandlin
7.  Greer Farm. Daingerfield
8.  Historic Jefferson
9.  High Hill Farm. Arp
10. Sabor a Pasion. Palestine
11. Redlands Historic Inn. Palestine
12. Pine Creek Country Inn. Nacogdoches

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